UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) have announced £20 million of funding to help the UK develop revolutionary new plastic recycling systems. This will allow new technologies to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and incineration.
Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging
This funding forms part of UKRI's Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) initiative, which aims to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the environment. The initiative incorporates schemes which are aiming to increase the amount of recyclable plastic packaging and improve productivity in plastics in the UK.
In December 2019, the SSPP launched a competition for four innovative new recycling projects to win the funding from UKRI, and the winning projects have now been announced. They include a hydrothermal liquefaction process to convert waste plastic into chemicals and oils for use in the manufacture of new plastic, and a thermal cracking procedure to transform end-of-life plastics into hydrocarbon oil that can be used in plastic production. The funding will now allow these projects to become reality, and will allow the businesses to scale up their operations.
One of the projects to successfully secure funding is Veolia's collaboration with Unilever, Charpak Ltd and HSSMI. The innovative new facility will be the UK's first dual PET (Poly Ethylene Terephthalate) bottle and tray recycling facility, and will be capable of recycling 100% of clear rigid PET in a closed-loop system.
This will make 'bottle to bottle' or 'tray to tray' recycling possible, and will have a big environmental benefit - one metric ton of recycled PET flakes is equivalent to avoiding 1.5 metric tons of CO2 emissions. As the circular economy becomes ever more present in the consciousness of businesses and individuals, this facility will represent real progress towards closing the loop.
An exciting future for plastic packaging
The four projects to receive funding represent the biggest investment in modern recycling technologies to date, and will significantly increase the UK's plastics recycling capability. This funding follows over £65 million of industry investment by UKRI's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
With the Plastic Packaging Tax launching in April 2022, these projects are launching at a time when the UK's plastic waste and recyclability are really coming under the spotlight, and represent a step forwards to more innovative solutions to our recycling needs.