Waste management firm Viridor is developing a polymer separation plant in Rochester Kent – increasing a trend for the construction of advanced plastics sorting facilities in the UK.

Investment in the polymer separation facility at Rochester, which the company says will ‘enhance product quality and continue to differentiate Viridor in the sector’, is likely to total around £15 million.

Viridor's planned facility will increase the number of advanced sorting facilities operating in the UK
Viridor's planned facility will increase the number of advanced sorting facilities operating in the UK

Viridor’s sorting plant is being built at a site which it already uses at the Medway City Estate. The company is installing two external conveyors and an air filter plant for sorting plastics on the site alongside additional storage capacity.

The facility would be the fifth large-scale facility with advanced polymer sorting capability operating in the UK – sorting plants are already operated by Veolia Environmental Services at Rainham, J & A Young at South Normanton in Derbyshire, and at ECO Plastics’ reprocessing facility in Lincolnshire.

Veolia’s Rainham plant, known as the ‘Parrot’ POLY-mer separation facility, was opened in November 2012 and has the capability to separate up to nine different grades of plastic – with a sorting capacity of 50,000 tonnes per year.

Viridor also operates a similar sorting facility at Skelmersdale in the North West, which has the capacity to sort 36,000 tonnes of plastic per year.

J & A Young’s Derbyshire plant has the capacity to sort and separate around 78,000 tonnes of HDPE, PET, polypropylene, polystyrene and PVC waste. Meanwhile, ECO Plastics’ Hemswell bottle sorting facility has the capacity to process up to 140,000 tonnes of plastic bottles per year.

Increase

Commenting on the development of sorting facilities, Stuart Foster, chief executive of Recoup, said that a further increase in the amount of polymer separation plants operating in the UK could well be needed, if the 2017 target to recycle 57% of plastic packaging is to be met.

He said: “Traditionally there have been three stages to plastics recycling in the UK – with collection, MRF sorting and then reprocessing. With sorters and reprocessors investing in more sophisticated technology this has now evolved into four stages: collection, material sorting at a MRF, plastics sorting at a PRF, and reprocessing.”

Mr Foster noted that the most recent Recoup report estimated that a total of 440,000 tonnes of household plastic packaging (mostly bottles and PTT) was collected for recycling in 2012.  But considering that 800kt of household plastic packaging may be needed to help meet the 2017 packaging recycling target of 1.2mt, it suggested that more plastic sorting infrastructure will be needed.

Economies

“This trend is not just being driven by demand for quality material,” he added. “It is also about finding efficient and commercially viable ways to handle plastics. Sending material to a central plastics sorting site can achieve economies of scale and allow investment in appropriate levels of technology and processes that may not be possible at individual MRFs, particularly when handling a wider range of plastic types.

Source- http://www.letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/plastics/viridor-to-ramp-up-plastics-sorting-volumes 

TPI are providing a construction management service on this project- http://www.tpiltd.co.uk/Current/Plastics-MRF149/