Europe's largest plastic bottle recycling plant underway

Posted: 22 September 2008

Europe's largest plastic reprocessing centre, able to handle 2 billion plastic bottles and containers each year - is now fully operational following a £14 million capital investment programme.

The major upgrade to the plant at Hemswell, Lincolnshire, has quadrupled its capacity to 15 tonnes of plastic waste every hour - 100,000 tonnes annually. It is a big step towards fulfilling AWS Plastics' goal of becoming the leading UK provider of food grade recycled plastics.

It follows a £6 million grant from the Sustainable Technology Fund, which providesr UK companies developing clean and efficient industrial processes, through its Clean Tech private equity fund.

The Hemswell plant is able to segregate and process a wider range of plastics which previously had been baled and sent abroad for reprocessing or to landfill. Most bottles are now delabelled, granulated and washed at the plant. The resulting flakes are then sent on for use in new plastic products including fleece jackets, piping and packaging.

AWS chief executive Jonathan Short said: "Britain has lagged behind Europe in the recycling of plastic. There is currently very little recycling of mixed plastics as the capacity to reprocess has been limited.

"Mixed plastics represent at least 7 per cent of the domestic waste stream by weight with approximately 86 kilos thrown out per household per year in the UK, the vast majority ending up in landfill sites. The plastic that doesn't end up in landfill has historically been treated to a very basic degree here in the UK and then transported overseas to the Far East for reprocessing.

"Our new plant with its considerable extra capacity can take plastic waste from local councils, supermarkets and other users of plastic and recycle it into flakes of the highest quality for use in general manufacturing and plastic bags."

Zero waste

Next year the form will install a new processing line which will enable it to sort and process recycled plastics to the standard required by the food industry. Last year the UK's Food and Drinks Federation launched a special environmental plan which pledged that its members would send zero food and packaging waste to landfill effective by 2015.

AWS has plans to extend its operation further at Hemswell as well as opening new plants in the UK and Europe.