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Ground-breaking South West project sees Viridor power plastic recycling with non-recyclable waste

30th May 2019

The FTSE 250 Pennon Group, parent company of Viridor, the UK’s biggest recycling company, has announced a ground-breaking project which will harness the electricity created from non-recyclable waste at its £252 million energy recovery facility at Avonmouth, near Bristol, to power a new £65 million plastic recycling plant.

In year one, the UK's biggest multi-polymer plant will produce 60KTPA of recycled plastic a year from 81KTPA feedstock (1.6 billion bottles, pots, tubs and trays), rising to 89KTPA (1.7 billion bottles, pots, tubs and trays) in year three, producing 63KTPA of recycled material.  The new plastics recycling plant will be powered by energy created which uses non-recyclable waste as its fuel, creating a true circular economy energy park.

Pennon’s 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.

Sarah Heald, Pennon’s Director of Corporate Affairs and Investor Relations added:

“This is an extremely important investment for the South West. It will create a centre of excellence for UK recycling right here in the region, showcasing leading edge innovation and technology, and bringing knock-on benefits to the regional economy.

As one of the South West’s largest private sector investors and employers we are delighted to be able to invest in a South West recycling powerhouse which will significantly reduce the amount of plastic sent to landfill and help to protect the environment.

The recycling and reprocessing plant will be a world-class facility which creates a recycling powerhouse in the South West, where Viridor and Pennon have their headquarters. The plant is an early sign of Viridor’s continuing commitment to UK plastics conversion, coming 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.

This co-location of a plastic reprocessing plant with an energy recovery facility is a real 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) back in the economy every year as a viable and sustainable solution to virgin plastic. 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 its green credentials with the addition of a £2 million water treatment plant, which has benefitted from the input and expertise of another Pennon company, South West Water Business.

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

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