Viridor has joined forces with three major UK retailers – Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s – and food packaging manufacturer Faerch Plast to put recycled black plastic into new food grade packaging in a project welcomed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
The result is a circular economy solution to a previously challenging material which will initially see 120 tonnes of black plastic recycled each month starting in July.
The volume of material will be steadily increased over the next 18 months with Viridor’s specialist plastics recycling facility at Rochester in Kent becoming a centre of excellence for the initiative.
“This global leading scheme has the potential to mean the UK exports less of its waste, could divert huge amounts of plastic away from landfill and prevent virgin plastic entering the market in the first place,” said Mr Gove.
Viridor’s Commercial Director Paul Ringham said the collaboration was evidence of the goals of the UK Plastics Pact – of which the company was a founding signatory – being put into action to achieve the real change the public had been calling for.
The Pact sets out clear UK ambitions for a more responsible and resource-efficient approach to plastics by all sectors and provides the framework for collaborative action.
He said: “The project team, working together since January, has proven that black plastic from household mixed recycling can be recycled into high quality mixed coloured ‘jazz’ flakes to create food grade packaging.
“The breakthrough took place at two Viridor facilities, the plastics recycling facility at Rochester, which is one of the most advanced optical sorting facilities in the UK, and the polymers reprocessing plant at Skelmersdale in Lancashire which takes recycled plastic and creates flakes and pellets to be used in the manufacturing process.”
From next month, Viridor will start putting this material through the new process, adding black plastic to the coloured plastic stream already recycled, and it will be used in new packaging for M&S, Sainsbury’s and Tesco products.
Mr Ringham said the key to project was the collaboration across supply chain, with the retailers creating the sustained demand for the recycled material and the innovative packaging provided by Faerch Plast.
He said: “The project has proved a commercial process which can be extended across the UK.
“The more plastic collected, the more is made available to be recycled and put back into the circular economy. In this way, we all contribute to reducing the amount of virgin plastic entering the economy.”