Environment minister Lord Taylor officially opened the £15m Hemswell, Lincolnshire-based Continuum Recycling plant yesterday, declaring the joint venture between Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) and ECO Plastics as “an innovative partnership”.
Taylor said the venture, which is set to last 10 years, was “the sort of thing the government wants to see” in terms of manufacturing and wealth creation, “bringing new jobs and growth to the area, while helping to save precious resources”.
“Recycling is a growth industry and investment in these types of projects not only makes good business sense, it will also help us achieve our ultimate aim of a zero-waste green economy,” he added.
The plant, said to be the world's largest and most sophisticated plastics recycling facility, will be capable of processing 150,000 tonnes of mixed plastics a year, including 40,000 tonnes of bottle-grade rPET.
Simon Baldry, managing director of Coca-Cola Enterprises, said the new plant would ensure that his company fulfills its commitment to incorporate 25% of recycled PET in all its plastic drinks bottles by the end of this year.
“Our [£5m] investment in Continuum Recycling shows that we are serious about setting the industry standard for sustainable packaging,” he added.
ECO Plastics chairman Peter Gangsted said the joint venture showed what was possible “with commitment and vision”, and he applauded CCE's foresight to partner the company for the next 10 years and for setting what he called a “benchmark for sustainability”.
But Gangsted also warned that while the UK consumer had embraced the concept of recycling, more was needed to be done to get the message across about what was actually recyclable, as well as creating the right environment for material collection.
“We must develop the infrastructure to cope and improve the quality of the material to be reprocessed,” he said. Gangsted argued that too much waste plastic was still being exported or going to landfill every year. “We are exporting and landfilling jobs when we should be creating value and wealth in the UK,” he added.
Jonathan Short, ECO Plastics' managing director, said the plant's opening was “a great day for the company and for UK recycling generally. It demonstrates the huge potential of working with global leaders like CCE, as well as the strategic value of long-term partnerships.
“Together they have provided us with the confidence to invest in the next-generation technology which will be crucial to our industry's future development,” he added.
Plastic flake produced at the Continuum plant will be used to make tens of thousands of new Coca-Cola drinks bottles, some of which could find their way back onto retailers' shelves, after being reprocessed, within six weeks of first being used.
The joint venture claims the decade-long programme will save around 33,500 tonnes of CO2 annually, while the partnership led to the creation of 30 new skilled jobs for the local area.
Coca-Cola, a leading sponsor for the London Olympics, expects to sell 20 million bottles of drink at the games, with every bottle collected for recycling being processed at the Continuum plant.