Biggest plastic recycling facility to process half of UK’s plastic bottles

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

AWS Eco Plastics Europe’s biggest plastic sorting and recycling facility, which has recently opened in North Lincolnshire, aims to process half of the UK’s plastic bottles by the middle of next year and address the growing demand from industry for low carbon packaging.

AWS Eco Plastics, devastated by a fire 14 months ago, officially reopened on November 23, 2010 as a new £17 million state-of-the-art facility capable of processing more than two million plastic bottles a year.

The Hemswell factory – the largest of its kind in Europe – aims to process almost 50 per cent of the UK’s entire plastic bottles going to waste by next year, when it increases processing capacity at the site to 140,000 tonnes. The UK is projected to recycle 300,000 tonnes of plastic bottles per year by the end of the year.

One of the key attractions of the facility is its ability to recycle plastics through the facility that are 68 per cent less carbon-intensive than packaging made from virgin materials. Demand for food-grade recycled plastics has increased in recent years as retailers and brand owners have sought to increase the recycled content in their products.

According to a report by the Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) this year, UK demand for food-grade recycled plastics continues to outstrip demand, with prices typically ranging up to £40 a tonne.

State-of-the-art equipment means AWS Eco Plastics has a flexible output of eleven different streams of plastic, ensuring that it is virtually zero-waste and able to address the growing demand from the food and beverage industry for food-grade recycled plastics.

TITECH sensor-based sorting systems means bottles can be sorted by polymer type and by color, thereby achieving levels of purity and quality for food-grade recycled plastics.

"There is huge potential in the UK market and this can only grow as the demand for low carbon food and drink packaging increases. This is a growth industry in which the UK has the potential to be a world leader, a prime example of the Government’s low carbon economy," said Jonathan Short, managing director of AWS Eco Plastics.

The new facility employs over 130 people with 110 of those employed on the processing site itself.

It must be said that it is good to see that Britain is – finally – beginning to lead in some sectors of the environmental business field and maybe, just maybe, this facility will stop the stupid practice of sending plastic bottles around the world to China for them too be processed there back into plastic which then is shipped back to us.

And maybe, just maybe, this might give the impetus for this country to also become the leader in recycling other materials in facilities here, at home, instead of shipping the stuff abroad. It is about time.

© 2010