Viridor has announced it is working with a number of leading highstreet retail brands to ensure product packaging can survive the sorting process at its UK polymer recycling facilities.
According to Viridor, collaboration across the supply chain is becoming “increasingly important,” particularly in light of the Budget announcement of a tax on plastic packaging, which uses less than 30% recycled content.
Consumer brand companies, such as Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, PZ Cussons, Lush and Boots are examples of some of the businesses Viridor is consulting in a bid to ‘close the loop’ and increase recycling rates.
Viridor’s head of recycling assets (polymers & papers), Jez Blake, explained that making a product from recyclable material is just one step in a “bigger picture”.
“Assuming the material goes into the right bin during the collection process, it must then survive a series of sortability stages, otherwise its journey could end prematurely and enter the residual waste stream,” he said.
Mr Blake gave an example of small items, such as bottle lids, which he explained “can get lost in screens designed to remove glass, and thin plastic can get mistaken for paper”.
He also highlighted challenges created by “composite materials” – made from multiple materials/polymer types, “especially those with metal components, which can contaminate metals”.
Mr Blake continued: “Even if a product does survive the process, there must be an end commercial market who can make use of the pellets. This can be a problem when everyone is looking to use clear plastics to make their product, even if they are then dyed another colour.”
“Even if a product does survive the process, there must be an end commercial market who can make use of the pellets.”Jez Blake
The company recently announced its collaboration with major supermarket retailers, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s as well as manufacturer Faerch Plast in a bid to find an answer to black plastic, which is commonly invisible to optical sorters (see letsrecycle.com story).
Viridor says this partnership has seen eight million items of black plastic recycled each month since July at its Rochester plastic recycling facility in Kent. The company explains this is thanks to the advanced optical sorting processes at the facility.
The plastics sorting facility at Rochester was officially opened by Viridor in 2014 (see letsrecycle.com story) – a £12.5 million investment, permitted to handle around 75,000 tonnes of mixed plastics per year.
At the time, the company noted the facility was capable of separating mixed plastics from contaminants such as metal, paper and glass, as well as separating plastics by polymer.