Avonmouth plastic recycling plant will create world-leading ‘circular economy’ energy park

May 31, 2019

A £65m plastic recycling plant – the largest of its kind in the UK – is to be built at Avonmouth by utility group Pennon in what it is describing as a prime example of the ‘circular economy’.

The plant, pictured in a CGI, will handle plastic 1.6bn bottles, pots, tubs and trays in its first year of operation – a total of 81KTPA (kilo tonnes per annum), from which it will produce 60KTPA of recycled plastic. 

By its third year this will have risen to 89KTPA (1.7bin bottles, pots, tubs and trays), producing 63KTPA of recycled material.

The plant will improve recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste sent for export at a time when many developing countries are protesting about being used as dumping grounds for waste from Europe.

The plant will be built alongside Pennon’s £252m non-recyclable waste facility at Avonmouth and use electricity produced from it in what the group says creates a true circular economy energy park.

As a result, the whole scheme is being lauded as an industry first, creating the opportunity to create even greater sustainability and environmental efficiency. 

The project will put 60,000 tonnes of recycled plastic from bottles, pots, tubs and trays in PET, HDPE and PP flake and pellet form each year back into the economy as a viable and sustainable alternative to virgin plastic, pictured.

It will be powered by diverting 320,000 tonnes of waste from landfill and generating 32MW of electricity – the equivalent energy used to power around 44,000 homes.

Recycled plastic uses 50% less electricity than virgin plastic and sourcing power from non-recyclable waste takes energy efficiency one step further and gives this material a real purpose.

The project also adds to the site’s green credentials with the addition of a £2m water treatment plant, which has benefitted from the input and expertise of another Pennon company, South West Water.

Two-thirds of plastic collected for recycling in the UK is exported while just 46% of plastic packaging is recycled against a target of 75%.

Pennon recycling subsidiary Viridor said it would become a world-class facility which created a recycling powerhouse in the South West, where Viridor and Pennon have their headquarters.

The firm also said the plant was an early sign of its continuing commitment to UK plastics conversion and comes within months of the government’s Resources and Waste strategy and a year on from the UK Plastics Pact, of which Viridor was a founding member.

Pennon chief executive officer Chris Loughlin said: “Pennon is dedicated to working in ever-more sustainable ways and we are extremely excited to be announcing this first-of-its-kind investment in plastics recycling.

“By using waste which cannot be recycled as the fuel to create low-carbon electricity which will power plastics recycling, we are creating a truly resource and energy-efficient waste management solution.

“There is a clear ambition from both UK consumers and politicians to improve recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste which is sent to export. Our research shows that 80% of people believe the UK should find a way to deal with its own recycling without having to ship it to other countries.

“Unless action is taken now and investment in infrastructure is made, a plastic recycling capacity gap will undermine UK ambitions and the sustainability targets of retailers and the big consumer brands. We are, therefore, delighted to be leading the way.”

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