Today Resources and Waste Minister Jo Churchill MP officially opened Viridor’s state-of-the-art Resource Recovery Centre at Avonmouth near Bristol.
Viridor, one of the UK’s leading resource recovery and waste management companies, is now able to fully recycle in the UK over 90% of the plastics it had previously exported. The Avonmouth Resource Recovery facility will cut UK plastic waste exports by c. 8% and is integral to delivering Viridor’s commitment to end plastic waste exports and invest in British recycling infrastructure.
Viridor has forecast that five additional plastics reprocessing facilities on this scale in the UK are needed to end all plastic waste exports from the UK. These reprocessing facilities would support investment of a third of a billion pounds and create jobs in communities across the country and make a significant contribution to the country’s Net Zero goals.
Avonmouth is a UK first, co-locating plastics reprocessing and an energy recovery facility (ERF) in one building. The ERF will divert 320,000 tonnes of non-recyclable household waste from more polluting landfill every year, generating over 300 GWh of electricity per year, enough to power 84,000 homes. The plastics reprocessing facility will reprocess over 80,000 tonnes of plastic every year - more than 1.6 billion bottles, tubs, and trays – creating recycled raw material to return to the economy.
Plastic recycling at the facility will save 126,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, the equivalent of taking over 67,000 cars off the road. It has created 125 new jobs and over 500 people were employed onsite at the peak of its construction. 20 principal contractors were engaged during the build, with 40% of orders being placed with firms from South West England and Wales.
Viridor’s CEO Kevin Bradshaw said: “The scale of what we are doing at Avonmouth shows that ending the export of plastic waste from UK shores can become a reality. It is right that consumers who pay for recycling see the benefits in local investment and jobs. Five more reprocessing facilities like Avonmouth could end UK plastic waste exports and generate a third of a billion pounds in new investment. This will create over 600 jobs in communities across the country, and put the UK on track to deliver critical targets for recycling and net zero.
“We are leading this effort and want to build more state-of-the-art facilities like Avonmouth. DEFRA’s ambitious and vital policy reforms have the potential to create the stable investment environment to realise this ambition and align job creation with doing the right thing for the environment.”
Viridor analysis published in November 2021, “Closing the Loop: Viridor’s roadmap to a truly circular plastics economy”, demonstrated that around 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year could be saved by increasing plastic packaging recycling rates to 70%, up from 51% today, the equivalent of taking c.685,000 cars off the road.
Kevin Bradshaw added: “Avonmouth is a clear statement of Viridor’s commitment to the UK’s decarbonisation and levelling-up agendas. Our investment is also a major step forward for our company as we work towards achieving net zero emissions by 2040 and become the first net negative emissions waste management company in the UK by 2045.”
Resources and Waste Minister Jo Churchill said: “Viridor’s ambitious new facility will be a game changer in our work recycling more of our waste and to reduce our use of polluting plastics – cutting exports of waste and making better use of our resources.
“This Government is taking firm action to eliminate avoidable plastic waste and go further to reduce, reuse and recycle more of our resources. Through our new Environment Act, we will create a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, introduce tougher controls on waste exports and make manufacturers more responsible for their packaging.
“The new Avonmouth site shows we can create jobs that have a positive impact on our environment, cut our CO2 emissions and give our plastics new life.”
Viridor’s Circular Economy report, made the following pledges to create a circular economy for waste plastics in the UK:
- End plastic waste exports
- Drive an infrastructure market for recycling
- Expand operations to hard-to-recycle materials
- Extract plastics from general waste and drive novel reprocessing techniques
- Drive innovation and regulatory improvement to achieve complete plastic circularity
In addition, Viridor has urged that the plastics used by industry, especially in food and packaging, should be restricted to just four types: drinks bottles (PET), milk bottles (HDPE), bottle caps/tops (PP) films (LDPE) to make plastic recycling and reprocessing easier - for the recycling industry, waste management/collection companies and consumers. This would mean banning the routine use of plastics like PVC (e.g. in yoghurt pots), expanded polystyrene (e.g. packaging for fragile materials) and oxydegradable plastics (sometimes used in plastic bags).
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