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Urgent need for capacity sees planned Irish plastic recycling plant relocate to UK

A new plastic recycling facility is to be built in Warwickshire after Beauparc Utilities chose the UK site instead of Dublin, apparently due to permit delays for the build in Ireland.

Much of the Ireland’s waste management industry comes under the consolidation of Beauparc, with subsidiaries including the large recycling and renewable energy businesses Panda and Greenstar. The conglomerate, which was founded in 1990, first expanded into the UK market in 2016 when PandaGreen (part of the larger Panda Group) acquired New Earth Solutions’ five waste treatment sites, followed in 2017 by WSR Recycling in Widnes.

Beauparc plans to build a €15 million (around £13.2 million) facility near Rugby, Warwickshire. Commenting on the announcement, Eamon Waters, Beauparc’s Chief Executive, said: “We are disappointed not to be locating the new facility in Ireland… Unfortunately the regulations governing waste management in Ireland mean that we could take more than two years to obtain the necessary approvals to establish a recycling facility here, whereas the UK regulator has ready to go protocols in place to allow us start development on an approved site immediately. Operations are expected to commence in August (2018).”

Urgent need for capacity sees planned Irish plastic recycling plant relocate to UK
The new plant will recycle plastic film from the UK and Ireland
The crucial driving force behind the decision, Waters added, was the impact of China’s new, stricter import measures for waste material - as part of a crackdown on pollution, the country has banned 24 types of solid waste, including post-consumer plastics, with a contamination limit of 0.5 per cent on other waste. “China has moved extremely quickly to close its borders to plastics from Europe,” Waters said, “and we must react quickly in order to continue to collect our customers’ recycling bins.”

The firm plans to have the new plant, with around 40 employees, operational by the end of 2018.

Beauparc has relied heavily on China as a destination for waste plastics, as does Ireland as a whole - in 2016, more than 95 per cent of its plastic waste was sent to China. The country is Europe’s top producer of plastic waste, generating 61 kg per person every year, nine kilogrammes more than the next offender, Luxembourg.

Ireland currently does not have the capacity to recycle much of its own waste; while some of the plastic can go to new export destinations, with Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand just some of the markets emerging from under China’s shadow, the ban has shone a light on the need for expanded recycling facilities closer to home, to counter possible stockpiling issues and increased pressure on landfill and incineration.

In December, Beauparc-owned company Irish Packaging Recycling (IPR) announced its intention to launch a new plastics-focused company, Irish Plastic Manufacturing, to process up to 15,000 tonnes of plastic per year, specifically low density polyethylene (LDPE) film. At that time Des Crinion, Managing Director of IPR, spoke of the benefits of the project for “the creation of more job opportunities and providing Irish manufacturers with direct access to plastic materials”.

Waters confirmed that the Rugby facility would be processing LDPE from both Ireland and the UK, but with Brexit looming on the horizon it is unclear how easy this will remain. The UK waste trade is currently mired in uncertainty; in a letter to Resources Minister Therese Coffey, the Lords’ Sub-Committee for EU Energy and Environment recently raised concerns that Brexit would negatively affect the UK’s trade in waste with Europe and elsewhere, with fears that new barriers could increase the cost and difficulty.

As well as finding new destinations for plastic and improving local recycling facilities, Crinion told the Irish Times that there also needs to be a focus on improving the quality of exported materials, both by reducing contamination at source and by improving segregation at IPR’s Materials Recovery Facility. 

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