Viridor launches a plan to achieve “zero exports of plastic waste”
UK recycling, resource and waste management company Viridor has launched its ‘Vision for zero plastic waste export’.
Viridor is investing in the recycling and reprocessing capacity of its soon-to-open Avonmouth plant, which it says will cut its plastic waste exports by 90%.
Viridor is also calling on the UK government to put in place policy measures that will allow multi-million pound investments in state-of-the-art recycling and reprocessing facilities that will allow the UK to process all of its plastic waste nationwide and play a central role in the UK’s decarbonisation plans.
Viridor says his vision is spelled out in his report on the circular economy for plastics and offers a “cradle-to-cradle” approach to recycling that he says will “dramatically increase” the number of times plastics can be recycled, as well as a ban on all plastics that are “difficult to recycle”.
Close the loop
The “Closing the Loop: Viridor’s roadmap towards a truly circular plastics economy” report is integrated with that of Viridor decarbonation plan (released earlier this year), which sees Viridor strive to achieve net zero emissions by 2040, making it the UK’s leading ‘net negative emissions’ waste and recycling company by 2045.
The circular economy for plastics report highlights the important role plastics recycling can play in ensuring the UK reaches net zero, Viridor said.
The report “Closing the Loop: Viridor’s roadmap to a truly circular plastics economy” was launched at an event hosted by Viridor’s stakeholders at its Avonmouth plastics reprocessing and recycling plant, which will open in early next year.
Avonmouth (near Bristol) will reprocess over 80,000 tonnes of plastic, over 1.6 billion bottles, jars and trays, creating recycled raw materials back to the economy.
The UK’s ambitious goals for net zero will only be met if we tap into the resources we all throw away today and if we improve recycling rates and capacity in the UK to build a smarter economy. circular.
The plastics recycling and reprocessing plant, which is in its final stages of commissioning, is a first in the UK as it will also be powered by the treatment of non-recyclable household waste in the same building.
Once operational, more than 90% of Viridor’s plastics exports will be recycled within the country, reducing the UK’s total plastic exports by up to 8%, according to Viridor.
The £ 317million in recycling and reprocessing of plastics and energy from the waste plant will create 135 new jobs and save 126,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, the equivalent of taking over 67,000 cars off the road.
“Circular economy of plastics”
In addition to ending the export of plastic waste, Viridor’s report “Closing the Loop: Viridor’s roadmap to a really circular plastics economy” highlights what Viridor calls the “significant environmental and economic contribution” that the circular economy of plastic could make up if all UK plastics waste was recycled and reprocessed in the UK.
Extending the length of recycling contracts to at least 10 years would create long-term stable revenues for recyclers, spur significant infrastructure investment across the UK, bring the industry to net zero and grow jobs.
Viridor says the following could be achieved:
- About 1.3 million tonnes of CO2Annual emissions could be reduced by increasing the UK plastic packaging recycling rate from 51% to 70%, the equivalent of taking around 685,000 cars off the road.
- If five state-of-the-art plastic recycling plants, similar to the Avonmouth plant, were built, UK exports of waste plastics could end. These factories, with an estimated investment of £ 1.5 billion, alone would create nearly 700 construction and operation jobs.
- To achieve this ambition for the UK, Viridor recommends that plastics used by industry, especially in food and packaging, be limited to just four types: beverage bottles (PET), milk bottles (HDPE ), Bottle Caps / Stoppers (PP) (LDPE) to facilitate plastic recycling and reprocessing – for the recycling industry, waste management / collection companies and consumers. This would amount to prohibiting the current use of plastics such as PVC (eg in yoghurt pots), expanded polystyrene (eg: packaging for fragile materials) and oxidizable plastics (sometimes used in plastic bags).
Currently, the UK recycles 51% of its plastic waste, 1.17 million tonnes annually, with recycling rates for some plastics such as food jar film being as low as 7%.
Over 600,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling and reprocessing are currently exported.
Kevin Bradshaw, CEO of Viridor, said: “Examining how we extract raw materials, manufacture products and consume them is a critical but often missing part of how we must tackle climate change.
“The UK’s ambitious goals for net zero will only be achieved if we harness the resources we all throw away today and improve recycling rates and capacity in the UK to achieve a more circular economy.
Viridor’s new strategy is a prime example of the ambitious plans we need to see from the industry if we are to move to a more circular economy
Ending the export of plastic waste can become a reality by boosting investment in recycling and reprocessing infrastructure and working more collaboratively between industry, local and central government.
Defra Resources and Waste Minister Jo Churchill said: “Viridor’s new strategy is a prime example of the ambitious plans we need to see from industry if we are to move to a more circular economy, where we significantly reduce our dependence on plastics and recycle more of our waste.
“The government’s action is showing the way to help businesses make this transition. Following the passage of our landmark environmental law, we are creating a deposit system for beverage containers, introducing tighter controls on waste exports, and making manufacturers more responsible for their packaging.
“Together, these measures make significant progress towards our goal of preventing all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.”
To unlock multi-million pound investments in state-of-the-art recycling and reprocessing facilities, Viridor recommends:
- The recycling and reprocessing industry must have similar contractual arrangements that underpin other infrastructure sectors such as waste power and offshore wind. This would include longer-term contracts of at least 10 years that create the stable income needed to make investments worth millions of pounds. Currently, the sector has average contract terms of between 3 and 5 years. In contrast, the offshore wind sector has 15-year “contracts for difference” that guarantee a fixed price to energy suppliers, giving them the confidence and security to invest in new wind farms.
- The Waste and Resources sector should be designated as “critical infrastructure” alongside water, health, energy and defense, in recognition of its vital role in keeping the country clean and safe.
Viridor’s circular economy ambition has made the following five key commitments as part of its contribution to the creation of a circular economy for plastic waste in the UK:
- Stop the export of plastic waste
- Animating an infrastructure market for recycling
- Expand operations to hard-to-recycle materials
- Extract plastics from general waste and develop new reprocessing techniques
- Stimulate innovation and better regulation to achieve full plastic circularity