UKRI invests in recycling technology for UK

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced an investment of £20 million to boost funding for state-of-the-art recycling technologies in the UK.

The investment has been made as part of UKRI’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, along with £65 million of industry investment, and will subsidise four recycling plants across the UK.

Recycling Technologies plant in SwindonThe recycling plants will aim to increase the range of recyclable plastics and divert waste from landfill, incineration or export overseas.

Projects funded will include ReNew ELP’s Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR™) and Poseidon Plastics’s PET recycling facility, which will both be based in Teesside.
ReNew ELP’s plant is planned to convert 20,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) (increasing to 80,000 tpa on completion of the site) of end-of-life plastic into chemicals and oils for the production of new virgin grade plastics.

Richard Daley, Managing Director of ReNew ELP, said: “This grant demonstrates we are in line with government policy and its drive towards achieving increased recycling targets in the UK.

“It will increase investor confidence, help new and innovative technologies such as ours break through and establish the chemical recycling industry in the UK, and as a global leader in plastic recycling.”

Poseidon Plastics’s PET recycling facility will have a capacity of 15,000 tpa and will aim to demonstrate how post-consumer and post-industrial packaging, film and other hard-to-recycle PET wastes can be chemically recycled back into new consumer end-use goods.

Martin Atkins, CEO of Poseidon Plastics, said: “This initiative is an opportunity for the PET supply chain to come together to solve one of society's most pressing environmental challenges, validating the full circularity and closed-loop processing of difficult-to-recycle polyester plastic wastes.

“Poseidon’s new technology for converting waste PET back to monomer is a key milestone for the UK’s plastic packaging industry and an opportunity for global deployment.”

Recycling Technologies has won funding for a chemical recycling plant, based in Perth, Scotland. The facility is designed to process 7,000 tpa of hard-to-recycle mixed plastic waste by thermal cracking and produce a hydrocarbon oil, which can be used to replace crude oil in plastics production.

Adrian Griffiths, Founder and CEO of Recycling Technologies, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this grant from UKRI to move the UK to the forefront of the next generation of plastic recycling systems.

“Our work with Unilever will identify hard-to-recycle plastics from current mechanical recyclers and how to evolve their design construction to improve their recyclability, ensuring compatibility with Recycling Technologies’ chemical recycling process, for incorporation into new packaging.”

In collaboration with Unilever, Charpak Ltd and HSSMI, Veolia will also develop the UK's first dual PET bottle and tray recycling facility. If initial trials are successful, the proposed facility will process 35,000 tpa of mixed PET packaging waste at an existing Veolia site.

Sebastian Munden, Executive Vice President, Unilever UK and Ireland, said: “We’re really pleased to be developing a solution for plastic which is currently difficult to recycle, including plastic films and flexible packaging, and with Veolia on recycling PET pots, tubs, trays and bottles to create non-food contact recycled material for use in our home and personal care product packaging.”

Paul Smith, Managing Director of Charpak Ltd, said: “This UKRI grant will allow Charpak Ltd to fully research and test the process before launching to the wider market. The benefits for the environment are huge, with less plastic waste being burnt, landfilled or shipped abroad.

“We are hopeful that this project will lead to a true tray-to-tray recycling scheme to create better circularity with the attendant cut in emissions keeping this precious resource local to be used again and again. Anything that improves recycling rates is to be applauded.”

The funding from UKRI forms part of the UK Government body’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) challenge, which aims to increase the amount of recyclable plastic packaging and lower the amount of plastic waste entering the environment, as well as to place the UK at the forefront of plastic packaging recycling.

Paul Davidson, challenge director of the SSPP challenge, said: “The work of our four demonstrator winners will go a long way to reinstate plastic as a sustainable packaging choice.

In particular, our winners demonstrated they have a lifecycle approach to plastics packaging, thinking through the use of a material from its raw state, through to its transport, its use by consumers and its disposal.”

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “By investing in these truly ground-breaking technologies we will help to drive these efforts even further, and I look forward to seeing them develop and deliver real results.”