Resource Use

New plastics recycling partnership launched as cost of Scotland’s packaging waste hits £11m

A new £3-million plastics recycling partnership aims to tackle Scotland’s packaging waste, which was recently revealed to cost local authorities more than £11 million a year.

The new partnership, called Project Beacon, was announced today (6 June) by resource efficiency organisation Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS), which has provided £1.7 million of funding from its Circular Economy Investment Fund (with another £1.7m coming from private investors). ZWS claims the project ‘has the potential to recycle all plastics in Scotland and beyond – even those that currently can’t be recycled’.

New plastics recycling partnership launched as cost of Scotland’s packaging waste hits £11m
Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham with ZWS Chief Executive Iain Gulland at the Binn Farm recycling centre
The announcement comes against the backdrop of startling new figures on the extent and cost of Scotland’s plastic food and drink packaging waste, released by the Scottish Government on World Environment Day (5 June). Despite Scotland’s recycling rate recently having reached 61 per cent, ZWS revealed that more than 64,000 tonnes of plastic food packaging and bottles are thrown into residual waste each year, equivalent to 27 kilogrammes per household. Not only does this cost Scottish authorities around £5.3 million to send to landfill, but they are losing out on a further £5.7 million that could be made through recycling the items.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of ZWS, described the plastic waste as an “opportunity”, saying: “Plastic is a valuable resource, and one which can help generate additional income when recycled properly, yet we are throwing it away, adding to pollution in Scotland and wasting public money that could have been invested in schools, parks or local facilities.

“There’s an enormous opportunity to turn single-use plastic bottles into a valuable resource if placed in the correct recycling bins. We have come so far with our recycling capabilities, so when it’s not possible to reduce or reuse plastic we ask everyone to put their used plastic bottles and food packing into the relevant recycling bin where they can. This simple step not only saves the environment, it saves council tax funds and generates money for your local authority area.”

As part of the battle against plastic waste, Project Beacon will operate out of Binn Farm in Perthshire, central Scotland, where a new sorting and recycling centre will see waste management firm Binn Group and three reprocessors, PI Polymer Recycling, Recycling Technologies Ltd, Impact Recycling Ltd join up to drive the project.

Innovative technologies being used include ‘state of the art’ separation systems to support mechanical recycling, and a thermal cracking process which can apparently deal with some of the most difficult-to-recycle plastics including black plastic, laminated plastic and rigid plastics like those used for toys. These are products which can currently only be processed in a few specific facilities in the UK, if at all – most end up in landfill.

Recycling Technologies will be installing its first commercial RT7000 chemical recycling machine at the site, which turns supposedly non-recyclable plastic products – like black plastic – into a crude oil equivalent.

A first demonstration facility will be operational by late 2018, aiming to process between 15,000 and 25,000 tonnes of plastics a year and creating upwards of 70 new jobs.

Speaking on the project, Gulland said: “I am delighted not only that our financial support is helping create a potentially world-leading recycling facility here in Scotland, but that Zero Waste Scotland’s expertise has been instrumental in bringing it about. Project Beacon has the potential to transform plastics recycling in Scotland and beyond, and at a time when people are increasingly concerned about eh impact of plastics dumped in our environment, I’m excited to watch this circular economy business grow and develop.”

New plastics recycling partnership launched as cost of Scotland’s packaging waste hits £11m
The new facility will be able to process notoriously hard-to-recycle black plastic
Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham added: “Initiatives like Project Beacon have the potential to be potentially ground-breaking as they are finding new uses and economic potential for hard-to-recycle plastics which could make a significant contribution to reducing waste and increase recycling.

“Project Beacon’s ethos and partnership approach supports our work to tackle Scotland’s throwaway culture which includes our commitment to a deposit return scheme and the recent appointment of an expert panel to look at single-use items.”

John Ferguson, Director of PI Polymer Recycling, commented: “Project Beacon is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate how technology and system innovation can form part of the complex range of solutions needed to address this global plastics crisis.”

This year has been one of action for the Scottish Government on plastic waste. A range of other measures have been announced against the most polluting plastic products in circulation, including plans to ban plastic cotton buds and drinking straws – before the European Commission proposed a range of EU-wide single-use plastic bans on 28 May.

The Scottish Parliament has also pledged to ban disposable coffee cups in its main buildings, which it claims will divert 450,000 cups from landfill. In addition, Scotland was the first UK nation to commit to a deposit return scheme (DRS) on plastic bottles, back in September 2017, a policy which has now been taken up by the central UK Government.

More information about Project Beacon can be found on the ZWS website.

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