Enterprise, vision and financial support – a recipe for success
Wednesday, 16th May 2012
Dr Liz Goodwin, CEO, WRAP
There’s been some great coverage over the past few days of the opening of new rigid plastics recycling plant in Lincolnshire.
ECO Plastics badges itself as Europe’s leading ethical plastic bottle recycler and its newly-opened plant, an extension of an existing facility - will more than double the capacity for food grade plastics recycling in the UK.
I’m more than a little proud to note that a £1.15 million loan from WRAPplayed a part in ensuring this ambitious project got off the ground. I believe that getting the right reprocessing infrastructure in place is critical if we’re going to turn interest from local authorities in mixed plastics recycling collections into a reality. And let’s remember that the interest is driven largely by demand from all of us as householders to be able to recycle all our packaging.
The investment we have made here dovetails perfectly with the joint venture ECO Plastics formed in 2011 with Coca-Cola Enterprises, and means that the company will now be able to handle a total of 150,000 tonnes of plastic packaging (including 15,000 of rigid plastics) every year. That means that it’s not just bottles, but items like tubs, pots and trays, that will be recycled.
The ECO Plastics expansion is a perfect example of what can be achieved with the right mix of entrepreneurship, vision and financial support, and, as Lord Taylor said at the opening, is the kind of partnership the government is keen to see more of.
He told his audience that the government was committed to being ambitious on the waste and recycling agenda, and that while plastics was a challenging material, the combination of technology and innovation across the supply chain would help increase the amount being recycled.
Interestingly, when WRAP announced the £1.15m loan, ECO Plastics managing director Jonathan Short had this to say:
"The processing of non-bottle rigid plastics packaging is the next logical step in UK plastics recycling infrastructure. But it is vitally important that we don’t run before we can walk - the processing infrastructure must be in place before we encourage further non-bottle rigid plastics collection across the UK. Even after this investment, current collections far outweigh the available processing capacity, which remains a serious risk to the whole industry.
“We support WRAP's vision to see this growth occur in the medium term, allowing companies like ECO Plastics to develop markets for the non-bottle plastic recyclate. It is an essential ingredient for a successful industry.”
Meanwhile, new Waste (Scotland) Regulations will require all businesses in Scotland to separate paper and card, plastic, metal, and glass for recycling by January 2014.
Householders will also see changes to kerbside collections as councils will increase services to include separate recycling for paper and card, plastic, metal, glass and, with the exception of certain rural areas, food. (You can find the full details of the regulations here)
This again demonstrates the important role processing infrastructure like the ECO Plastics facility will have to play in the future if we’re to successfully deal with the challenges of plastics recycling and the increasing amounts being collected.
That’s why we’ve just launched new guidance for local authorities wanting to collect rigid plastic packaging (pots, tubs and trays).
Currently, only a tiny fraction of non-bottle rigid plastics are collected from households, despite the environmental savings of recycling one tonne of this material representing 0.5 tonnes CO2 equivalent. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the price for these plastics is around £40 per tonne so there is value here waiting to be unlocked.
The challenge for local authorities is how to best collect these materials and help householders understand what can / can’t be collected. We know people are keen to recycle more of their plastic packaging and that increasing numbers of local authorities want to collect it, but the challenge is how to collect and recycle it effectively.
For example, if non-bottle plastics are simply added to the plastic bottle recycling stream without the right sorting infrastructure, they will become a contaminant and probably end up in landfill. Which means it's important to get it right.
Our new guide aims to help local authorities maximise the benefits and avoid the pitfalls.
Local authorities can find out where their nearest rigid plastic processing facility is by using the British Plastic Federation’s directory.
Our guides on plastic bottle and rigid plastic packaging collections are here.