Resource Use

UK’s ‘first’ plastic bag recycling plant to open


(L-R): PlasRecycle's Chairman Paul Levett and CEO Duncan Grierson holding plastic bags (input) and recycled pellet (output)

Plastic recycling company PlasRecycle, has announced that it has built the UK’s ‘first’ facility for reprocessing post-consumer polythene bags and packaging films.

Based in Woolwich, London, the plant is expected to process 20,000 tonnes of plastic film per year, which it will source from waste companies and retailers, to produce a ‘clean’ plastic granulate that can be used for manufacturing new black sacks and carrier bags.

According to PlasRecycle, the plant – which received £10.7 million of finance from investors such as the Foresight Environmental Fund, London Waste and Recycling Board and WRAP – will create 32 new ‘green’ jobs, and should be fully operational in ‘the fourth quarter of 2013’.

PlasRecycle has reportedly spent the last three years developing a ‘high tech’ proprietary process, which is ‘environmentally friendly’, and converts ‘what has historically been regarded as a waste material into a useful product’.

‘Pioneering project’

Speaking of the new plant, Chief Executive of PlasRecycle, Duncan Grierson, said: “This pioneering project is a UK first and as well as recycling bags back into a high quality plastic pellet for reuse, we are creating over 30 new 'green' jobs. Scientific research by the Environment Agency confirms that polythene carrier bags have a much better carbon footprint than alternatives such as paper bags. We are pleased to be making a contribution to the UK meeting the environmental targets set by the EU’s Waste Framework Directive and the Climate Change Bill”.

Paul Levett, Chairman of PlasRecycle, added that the plant will provide a ‘green option’ to local authorities and businesses that previously had to export, landfill, or incinerate their waste plastic bags and film. 

Environment Minister, Lord de Mauley, also commented: “This new recycling plant shows that dealing with waste and recycling properly is not only good for the environment but can boost economic growth and create jobs. I’m delighted to see this sector growing and improving our ability to recycle more here in the UK. There is a huge global market for waste and recycling and I want to see UK businesses leading the way on this and helping us compete in the global race.”

Furthermore, Chief Executive of the Packaging and Films Association (PAFA), Barry Turner, said that the plant will “help to divert plastic material from landfill and provide recyclate from a UK source, which will mean carbon savings”.

He added: “Plastic packaging keeps goods fresh for much longer and helps saves valuable resources.”

England set for plastic bag levy

PlasRecycle’s announcement comes just days after the UK government announced that England is to have a five pence mandatory charge for plastic bags from Autumn 2015.

Speaking at the time, Lord de Mauley said: “We have all seen the effects of discarded plastic bags caught in trees and hedges or ending up in rivers where they harm animals. Introducing a small charge for plastic bags will make people think twice before throwing them away. Year on year, the number of bags issued by retailers has been rising. Without a charge, the problem could escalate out of control and see our environment and animals suffer enormously.”

The announcement brings England in line with the rest of the UK; previously, it was the only member country not to have plans to introduce a plastic bag levy.

Scotland also recently announced it would introduce a plastic bag levy in October 2014, which it hopes could save the country £7 million a year, totalling £90 million over the course of the 15-year ‘forecast period’.

Read more about PlasRecycle.