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Our plastic journey continues

20th May 2019 Posted by

Working through the Resource and Waste Strategy and its four consultation documents made me reflect on how busy we were irrespective of the policy process. One very active area has been the subject of plastics, their production, consumption, discarding and impacts when lost in the wider environment.

Plastic-to-dieselEnd-Of-Life-Plastic-Polymer

SUEZ has been collecting, sorting and recycling the more recognisable plastics for decades, and since 2010, we have been working on some of the more difficult streams. So nearly a 10 years ago we started on a project to build a chemical recycling plant in Avonmouth for the treatment of plastic films. The first plant was designed to prove that we could produce end-of-waste quality products and successfully delivered quality kerosene and diesel, and provided a 7,000 tonne per year test bed for us to understand the input and output issues of chemical recycling and the issues of refinement to products. Many samples and visits were taken by potential partners as we explored the opportunities for polymer-to-polymer recycling. This exploration continues not only with our own technology, but with multiple other technologies that offer opportunities for molecular reconstruction and recycling.

Flexible packaging

In 2014, we started a whole new work stream on how to collect and recycle flexible packaging through collection, sorting and recycling with partners including Enval, Nestle, Coca Cola Enterprises and Tesco UK. Here we ran three parallel collection trials in three different local authorities to see how we might engage the public in helping collect aluminised packaging (cat food pouches for instance) and how we might collect, consolidate, clean and ultimately recycle the materials. Enval used their chemical recycling process to recover the aluminium and to produce oil that could go to fuel or to molecule-to-molecule solutions.

CEFLEX-Circular-Economy-Flexible-Packaging-SUEZFollowing on from this we joined up with partners from Axion, Tomra, Dow Chemicals, Nestle and Unilever among others to work through the Innovate UK project on flexible packaging called REFLEX, which we started in 2015 and involved the whole value chain working through the opportunities and challenges inherent in trying to bring a solution forward. The conclusion of REFLEX was quite positive, with designed solutions and a costed business case.

Following on from the success of the REFLEX project we were one of the founding members of CEFLEX, which now has over 120 industrial members from manufacturers and producers to collectors and sorters and a plethora of others with an interest in delivering solutions in this area. Just over a year ago we were pleased to join the UK Plastics Pact, which has grown over the period to involve over 120 companies across the whole value chain.

Continuous improvement

As a group we have continued our investment in sorting plants and reprocessing facilities and developing the vertical integration that we think will be necessary to develop many of the new solutions and systems. Our partnership with Lyondellbasell in 2017 is showing a clear direction of travel and an industrial intent to develop new capacity to deliver more high quality recycled plastics.

So as we prepare for the next stage of works, we’re taking these and other partnerships and work programmes forward to deliver more of the solutions. We can see how problems can be managed through collaboration, through hard work and a restless attitude that drives continuous improvement and innovation. We are pleased to continue our relationships and contributions to CEFLEX, to RECOUP, to the UK Plastics Pact and to our customers who rightly demand solutions not only built on data and experience, but also founded on value and supply chains working together.

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