Business

Jonathan Short leaves ECOPlastics Recycling

The founder and Deputy Chairman of plastics reprocessing company ECOPlastics Recycling, Jonathan Short (pictured, right), has left the company, just three months after it was bought out.

The Lincolnshire-based plastic bottle recycling company confirmed to Resource today (31 March) that Short had left the business, but that operations continue as usual.

The company has said that it does not expect to replace Short. He had held the position of Deputy Chairman at ECOPlastics Recycling Limited (the new name for the company that was originally known as ECO Plastics, following its acquisition by investment company AURELIUS in December 2014). Chris Brown will continue to run the company as Chief Executive, alongside AURELIUS Director, Kimberley Whitaker.

Short stated: “I have decided to step down from my role at ECOPlastics to pursue new projects. The time is right to move on to pastures new. ECOPlastics has accomplished a great deal since its humble beginnings and I would like to thank all of my colleagues within the company and the industry for their support over the years.”

Chris Brown, CEO of ECOPlastics Recycling, said that as well as founding ECOPlastics, Short has "also played a leading role in the industry over many years".

He added: "We thank Jonathan for this invaluable contribution to the business and he leaves with our very best wishes for the future, both personally and professionally."

The company has been undertaking a review of the business, and last month launched a consultation to assess a potential restructuring. This could include shift changes and the loss of 44 job roles, including sort line operators, lab technicians, production managers and wash/extrusion operators. The review is still ongoing.

ECOPlastics Recycling background

Short set up his first waste processing company, Alternative Waste Solutions, in the year 2000. Originally, it supplied baling equipment that enabled packaging companies to recycle paper and plastic and then sold bales on to reprocesses. 

In 2006, the newly-named AWS Eco Plastics opened a bottle-sorting plant on a converted WWII airfield in Hemswell, Lincolnshire, which became one of the first in the UK to sort plastic bottles by colour and polymer. The company expanded exponentially, and in 2012, the newly-named ECO Plastics officially launched its joint venture with Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), Continuum Recycling – making it the ‘world’s largest plastics processing facility’.

However, the company began facing financial difficulties, and in December 2014 it announced that it was looking for a buyer, following ‘operational challenges and unfavourable market conditions’. Just a few days later, it was announced that investment company AURELIUS had acquired the company, leading CCE to pull out of the Continuum Recycling joint venture.

The drinks company instead entered into a long-term agreement to source recycled PET from the company, which now trades as ECOPlastics Recycling.

Recycled plastics market facing ‘unprecedented challenges’

The UK plastics reprocessing industry has come increasingly under threat due to competition with virgin plastics, the prices of which are falling along with the price of oil. Indeed, plastics reprocessor Closed Loop Recycling issuing a statement on Friday that it would “inevitably” enter administration if it did not receive government and industry support.

The Chief Executive of the UK’s biggest producer of recycled plastic for milk bottles, Chris Dow, said: “Our customers want to buy recycled plastic but they don’t want to pay more [than virgin plastic]. Without the support of the industry or the government it is inevitable we will go into administration.”

The statement comes amidst news that the recycled plastics market is currently experiencing ‘unprecedented challenges’ due to manufacturers switching from recycled to virgin plastics in their packaging, despite it being just 0.1p less expensive per bottle (based on calculations from plastics reprocessing company Closed Loop Recycling).

As such, members of the waste and resources industry have been issuing urgent calls for retailers and manufacturers to ‘switch back’ to using recycled plastic to help protect the ‘vital UK recycling infrastructure’.

Indeed, Closed Loop says it that if businesses would pay 0.1p more for a two-pint plastic milk bottle, it would secure the future of the company. The marginal increase in the price of milk has already been supported by the public, with a YouGov poll released on Wednesday (25 March) finding that 68 per cent of people would pay more for milk in recycled packaging.

Speaking earlier today (31 March), Dow said that he has been “overwhelmed by the support across the supply chain for the UK plastic recycling industry”.

Find out more about the troubles at Closed Loop Recycling.

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