The £10 million plant is located at the plastic recycling company’s site at Smethwick just off the M5 and is intended to reduce reliance on exports, the main route through which UK plastic waste film is sent for recycling.
Capable of handling up to 80,000 tonnes of film a year once fully operational, the facility has been running since October 2019 and can process 12 tonnes of film an hour.
Primarily designed to process film from retailers including major supermarkets, the plant has also begun to trial the sorting of films collected by local authorities and flexible packaging brought back by consumers in-store.
“In the past this site used to send containers of plastic waste to China and other South East Asian countries, however we took the decision a few years ago that our future is in the UK,” Jayplas operations director, Mike Maxwell told letsrecycle.com.
“The UK is taking ownership of its own plastic waste and creating jobs and investment. This ties in with public opinion on how plastic waste should be recycled and environmentally and ethically it makes sense for the UK to go down this route.”
“There will be about 40,000 tonnes going through the plant this year and it will go up to 80-85,000 tonnes per year at full tilt.”
Once shredded and sorted into its recyclable fractions and residual waste, the LDPE material is then transported to Jayplas’ wash plant in Loughborough where it is cleaned and turned into post-consumer LDPE granules.
These granules are then sent for extrusion and conversion into plastic packaging and supermarket Bags for Life at the company’s plant at Worksop in Nottinghamshire – therefore creating a closed loop for its suppliers.
Mr Maxwell said: “Jayplas will work with partners committed to having their waste recycled in the UK and using the washed granules created from their own waste plastic used in new plastic packaging products to ensure a minimum of 30% recycled material in transient plastic packaging and 90% recycled content in ‘Bags for Life’. This shows how we are committed to the UK circular economy.”
The fully automated Smethwick facility features Bollegraaf machinery, Lindner shredding equipment and a series of Pellenc optical sorters which use near infrared technology to sort the film into different polymer types and colours.
This technology takes away the need for intensive manual sorting which is how most exported films are currently sorted.
“This is the first sortation plant in the UK in which flexible films are sorted by polymer type and colour and then sent for recycling within the UK”, Mr Maxwell said.
“Previously this type of material has been either exported or sent for energy recovery and this plant will help the UK to increase its recycling rate under the aims of the Plastic Pact and greatly reduce the dependency on export which is not the sustainable long-term solution for the UK’s plastic waste.”
The investment by Jayplas – the trading name of the family-run plastics recycling firm J&A Young – comes ahead of Government plans to introduce a tax on plastic packaging with less than a 30% recycled content.
Mr Maxwell said that Jayplas plans a second LDPE wash plant for later in the year to meet the increased volumes being generated and has also increased its film extrusion capacity to meet the demand for recycled films to replace virgin products.
The company is also working closely with some of the major UK film blowers to provide them with high quality PCR pellets as a direct replacement for virgin plastic to be introduced into their plastic packaging products over the next 6-12 months.
He commented: “We will be opening more factories so that we remain at the forefront of plastics recycling in the UK.”