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I have been to Swindon and seen the Future

Once again on Thursday last week we had another outbreak of “Plastic Paranoia” from the media with the supermarkets being pilloried for selling too many plastic bags to their customers (what will they think of next?). On the same day I was lucky enough to be in Swindon viewing the perfect cure for “Plastic Paranoia”.

I was at Recycling Technologies, a Swindon based business who have developed a pilot plant which is currently recycling post-consumer plastic waste back into oil. The resultant oil can then be reused to produce plastic or virtually any other oil-based product.

In summary, this process (pyrolysis) is effectively closed loop recycling, with only some 20% of the original material lost in the process. The waste plastic is first dried, shredded and then fed into a thermal cracker, where it is vapourised before being refined and recycled back into oil. As indicated, this can then be reprocessed and reused in a range of oil-based products including plastic.

The unique features of the operation are

  1. It can accept all types of waste plastic material, including polystyrene, black, laminated or metallised plastic etc. In effect all the flexible plastic that cannot be mechanically recycled.
  2. These plants can be prefabricated and delivered in “kit form” to existing waste treatment plants and erected in a matter of months. Thus all types of plastic can be recycled in one location.
  3. Each plant can process up to 9,000 tonnes of otherwise non-recyclable plastic waste producing 7,000 tonnes of oil per plant.

Each plant would cost around £7 million to install and, as a consequence, we could ensure no plastic waste ever goes to landfill. This process also results in a major saving of greenhouse gas emissions when compared with incineration.

Currently, every supplier of plastic packaging pays their contribution to the £250-300 million per year tax for recycling of plastic. This money is a recycling tax which is collected through charging for Packaging Recovery Notes (PRN). As much of this money goes to plastic exporters why doesn’t the Environment Agency redirect just a fraction of this money to accelerate the development of this chemical recycling technology?

Whilst the plastic recycling cost to the industry increases year by year, the public are not informed so think we are doing nothing. There is potential to put one or more of these plants in every UK town and city, totally eliminating the need for landfill and incineration of plastics and saving millions of tonnes of carbon emissions. The public and the media would then appreciate the financial contribution the supermarkets and the industry are making to fund plastic recycling.

Wouldn’t that be great if it happened with the BBC and the media focused on the industry’s solutions for handling plastic waste rather than the alleged problems we create?

Plastic is not evil. It does not grow legs after use and jump into the Oceans! It is valuable material, lightweight, low cost, moisture proof and infinitely variable. The perfect packaging solution for the protection and preservation of most food products.

Will the media ever tell this to the public?

As ever I welcome your views on any of the points made and why not join me on LinkedIn for more regular contact.



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Graham Parker

Many thanks for this article. Do you know where I can find out more information for further reading? This is something that I will pass onto my colleagues as it seems clear that the mainstream media won't tell anyone.

David Bradford

Wholly agree, government/Environment Agency should be diverting a fraction of plastic PRN revenue to implement more of these, and the BBC should be raising awareness with the general public. What's the view from those organisations entrusted with collecting and segregating waste? they need to be supporting this technology and playing their part.

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