UK set to get more food grade plastic from recoverable waste

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Recycling Uk

UK-based Alternative Waste Solutions (AWS) said that it is set to become a major producer of food grade plastic, following a £14m upgrade to its plant.

The investment will enable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottles and high density polyethylene (HDPE) milk bottles to be recycled back into bottles and film suitable for food packaging.

The firm claims that, by the first quarter of next year, its facility at Hemswell, Lincolnshire will be Europe’s largest recycling facility, reprocessing 100,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year.

AWS managing director, Jonathan Short told that the company plans to process up to 30 to 35 per cent of that plastic waste into food grade plastic in 2009.

“However, by 2010, food grade plastic will represent 70 per cent of our recovered plastic output,”​ said Short.

Approval process

According to Short, its first food grade pellets will be ready by January 2009, following the plant’s receipt of £8m of new equipment and the challenge testing process, which is required for the Fraunhofer Institute food grade compliance approval.

The recycled plastic has to be cleaned of residues before it can be used in contact with food and drink.

The anticipated 2009 food grade output has already been pre-purchased by a preform bottle manufacturer who supplies the leading beverage companies in the UK, claims Short.

AWS won £1.5m in funding from the Sustainable Technology Fund run by investment company E-Synergy as well as securing £400,000 from another investment specialist, NorthStar Equity Investors, and £100,000 from a private investor.

Recycling growth

AWS also announced its intention to open further plants throughout the UK and in Europe.

The AWS expansion follows the announcement last week from Closed Loop Recycling that it is to open a second recycling facility in the UK.

Nick Cliffe, marketing manager, Closed Loop Recycling told that the new plant in Flintshire, Wales will open in October 2009 and will be larger than its London operation, with planned capacity being 50,000 tonnes a year.

“The two plants will be able to process over 1 billion plastic water, milk and soft drink bottles annually into new food grade packaging,”​ claims Cliffe.

Waste reduction

Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP​), a government-backed programme charged with ensuring that the UK meets EU requirements on reducing waste, claims that the use of recycled food grade plastic in packaging will not only reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfill but will also substantially cut CO2 emissions.

WRAP said that its research also shows that consumers display a preference for recycled content in packaging, thus using the material in packaging can help to build brand loyalty.

According to the UK’s Local Authority Plastics Collection Survey 2008, the total number of plastic bottles entering the UK waste stream is approximately 525,000 tonnes a year, which is equivalent to 13 billion bottles.

The study found that 4.5 billion bottles were being recycled but an estimated eight billion were being exported or sent to landfill.

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