In the UK, the recycling industry has received an unprecedented funding boost in the form of a £20m by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in four advanced recycling plants.
These plants will increase the available recycling capacity in the UK and expand the range of plastics being recycled, as opposed to being sent to landfill or incineration, or exported overseas for disposal.
The technologies include a hydrothermal liquefaction process to convert waste plastic into chemicals and oils for use in the manufacture of new plastic, a thermal cracking procedure to transform end-of-life plastics into hydrocarbon oil that can be used in plastic production, and a depolymerising facility that extracts colour from waste allowing easier reuse.
The four projects - from Veolia, ReNew ELP, Recycling Technologies and Poseidon Plastics - won their funding by submitting applications outlining prototypes for innovative new recycling technology as part of a UKRI competition launched in December 2019. The grants will now help them turn theory into practice, bringing the plants online and scaling up their operations.
Working in collaboration with Unilever, Charpak Ltd and HSSMI, the Veolia project will develop the UK's first dual PET bottle and tray recycling facility (supported by a digital twin created by HSSMI), capable of recycling 100% of clear rigid PET in a closed-loop system. Unilever will explore the use of the non-food contact recycled PET produced from this facility in its home and personal care range, so avoiding the use of food contact grade material in these non-food products. Charpak Ltd will use the flakes produced in its trays, making tray to tray recycling a reality.
ReNew ELP proposes to set up a plant centred on a Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) at Wilton, Teesside. Once up and running, the plant would convert 20,000 tonnes per annum, increasing to 80,000tpa on site completion, of end of life plastic into chemicals and oils for use in the production of new virgin grade plastics including naphtha, waxes, and a bitumen-like residue suitable for use in road construction.