Resource management company Veolia in the UK is launching an initiative aimed at substantially boosting the amount of recycled plastic used in milk bottles. A new project will see over 100 million new recycled bottles created each year, and at the same time will serve to close the UK-to-UK recycling loop for the UK dairy industry. It encompasses the entire cycle of production distribution, consumption, collection, sorting, washing and reprocessing, followed by the production of new bottles in the UK.
Every year three hundred million milk bottles arrive at Veolia’s plastic recycling facilities. After being collected and compressed into bales, the bottles are ground into flakes and then washed several times to remove label residue and clean the plastic. Infrared sorters then separate the transparent HDPE body of the bottle from the cap, which is separately recycled, and the transparent HDPE is then formed into premium grade pellets ready for conversion into new bottles.
As recycling these into new containers uses up to 75% less energy than using virgin material the process will lower carbon, and support the UK Dairy Roadmap initiative.
Calling the project ‘another significant step towards building a circular economy and a greener, lower carbon future’, Tim Duret, Director of Sustainable Technology at Veolia UK and Ireland said, “To kickstart the green recovery, the environment and climate change must be priorities and by capturing, converting and reusing this material in the UK we can deliver a local recycling loop and support the sustainability goals of the UK dairy industry."
The new agreement is also an important step towards achieving the goals set by the UK Plastics Pact. The Pact has three main goals for 2025: 100% of plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or biodegradable; 70% will be efficiently recycled or composted; and all plastic packaging produced will contain 30% recycled material.
Key to limiting the environmental impact and carbon emissions is effective waste management to treat packaging at its end of life, and recycling always wins over virgin production on all environmental indicators. For plastics, it has been shown that recycling saves between 30% and 80% of the carbon emissions that virgin plastic processing and manufacturing generate.