6 February 2019 by Will Date

Biffa gets green light for Durham PET recycling facility

Biffa has been given the green light to develop a 37,000 tonnes-per-annum capacity PET plastic bottle reprocessing facility in Seaham, County Durham.

The company was awarded planning consent for the development by Durham council yesterday (6 February), and is expecting to begin construction on the plant in summer 2019. Commissioning may begin in December 2019, the company says, if the plant is delivered on schedule.

The facility will have the capacity to process 37,000 tonnes of PET bottles per year

Processing around 5 tonnes of clear PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) per hour – believed to be equivalent to around 1 billion plastic bottles per year – the facility will produce a food-grade PET flake, which will be used in the manufacture of new bottles and food trays. A total of £15 million is being invested in the facility.

The facility will be located in a vacant 130,000 sq ft warehouse on the Foxcover Industrial Estate, close to the A182 Seaham Link Road.

Commenting on the development, Mick Davis, managing director of resource, recovery and treatment at Biffa, said: “The UK currently uses around a 13.5 billion plastic bottles a year but can only process half of this, with the rest diverted to landfill or overseas. This new site represents an exciting opportunity to boost our recycling capacity here at home and supports the country’s long-term plan to find new ways to reuse plastics, as detailed in Defra’s recent Resource & Waste Strategy.

“Our proposals for the Seaham plant were the result of months of careful consideration and we are keen to build on our already excellent reputation for recycling in the north east. We are delighted Durham county council recognised the importance of this site to the region, as well as the wider waste industry, and we now look forward to seeing these plans come to life.”

Recycling

The bulk of the feedstock for the plant will come from Biffa’s network of materials recycling facilities (MRFs) around the UK.

According to documents submitted ahead of the planning meeting yesterday, mixed material will pass through three near infrared (NIR) sorting lines to detect and separate different polymer materials, followed by a manual picking line.

Around 5 tonnes of PET bottles per hour will be processed in the plant (Picture: Shutterstock)

Clear PET will be fed into wet grinders to flake into 12mm flakes, prior to being washed and mechanically dried in a drying centrifuge.

The Seaham site will complement Biffa’s Redcar polymer processing facility, which has the capacity to produce a total of 18,000 tonnes of food-grade rHDPE (recycled High Density Polyethylene) plastic – the type used in the manufacture of plastic milk bottles.

Other facilities producing rPET in the UK include Jayplas’ Corby facility, which has the capacity to process over 30,000 tonnes of material per-year, the Clean Tech (formerly ECO Plastics) plant in Lincolnshire, while Roydon also processes around 25,000 tonnes of material at a site in South Wales.

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