A UK-first recycling plant for polythene bags that developers say will produce a high quality clean plastic granulate for remanufacturing has been unveiled in south London.
Development of the PlasRecycle plant has been led by former Sterecycle director Duncan Grierson, who claims to have developed a technology to reprocess polythene bags and packaging films to produce a plastic granulate that can replace virgin polymers in the production of new plastic bags.
A total of £10.7 million in funding has been secured for the plant, coming from sources including the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the Foresight Environmental Fund and the London Waste & Recycling Board (LWARB), which has provided around £3,455,000 for the facility.
Former Veolia deputy chief executive Paul Levett has helped to attract funding for the plant, and brings plastics sector experience to the project after joining Dagenham-based bottle reprocessor Closed Loop Recycling to advise on the expansion of its facility in May 2011 (see letsrecycle.com story).
The 20,000 tonne-a-year capacity plant, which is located in the Thamesmead area of south London, will take in bags from waste management firms, local authorities and retailers, but Mr Grierson explained to letsrecycle.com that the company is currently analysing sources to ensure it can secure a high quality input.
He said: We will get feedstock from a combination of MRFs and retailers, but it comes down to economics we dont want too much contamination and there is quite a lot of variety in terms of the quality of material that is coming out of MRFs so we will be selecting carefully where we take it from.
Currently bags collected for recycling either separated from other plastics at materials recycling facilities (MRFs) or through in-store retailer collection points – are usually sent overseas for processing, with China the biggest buyer of the material.
But, plastics recycling experts say that post-MRF polythene bags often contain high levels of contamination meaning it has become more difficult to export in light of the Chinese governments Green Fence initiative – which has led to some UK exporters charge gate fees of up to 40 per tonne to take in the material. This fee helps cover some sorting work.
PlasRecycle told letsrecycle.com that prices for feedstock will be determined by the amount of contamination with lower quality material likely to incur a gate fee.
A supply agreement has already been put in place with a UK-based bin liner manufacturer to take plastic granulate produced from the plant, but PlasRecycle refused to reveal the identity of the company.
The announcement comes just days after the government announced that it is set to impose a 5p charge on single-use carrier bags from larger retailers in England from autumn 2015 – coupled with plans to incentivise the use of biodegradable plastic bags which recyclers claim could undermine the recycling process (see letsrecycle.com story).
Mr Grierson said that he felt that the levy would have little effect on the amount of material available for the plant as levies tend to result in higher usage of longer life bags, but admitted that the introduction of an incentive for biodegradable bags is a concern, and called instead for greater focus on collection infrastructure for recyclable bags.
Lord de Mauley
The opening of the plant has been welcomed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson and resource minister Lord de Mauley – who said the development of the plant provided an example of the economic opportunity available in the waste sector.
Resource management minister, Lord de Mauley, said: “This new recycling plant shows that dealing with waste and recycling properly is not only good for the environment but can boost economic growth and create jobs. I’m delighted to see this sector growing and improving our ability to recycle more here in the UK.
Mr Johnson added: “It is fantastic to see more of this kind of recycling here in London, in this case turning plastic film back into useable plastic a UK first. This burgeoning new sector, supported through the London Waste and Recycling Board and the Foresight Environmental fund is helping to save huge sums of money while supporting new jobs and growth, and reducing carbon emissions in the capital.”
Nigel Aitchison, partner at Foresight Group added: “There is an exciting market opportunity for PlasRecycles pioneering technology. This is a significant investment for Foresight Environmental Fund and we are looking forward to making further investments and to driving growth and job creation in Greater London.”
The plant is currently in the final stages of testing, and will become fully operational later in the year.