Viridor’s parent company is claiming an industry first after revealing plans to power its latest plastics recycling plant with non-recyclable waste.

Pennon Group plans to use energy produced at its £252m energy-from-waste (EfW) facility in Avonmouth, near Bristol, to power a co-located £65m plastics recycling facility. Pennon said the facility will be the UK’s biggest multi-polymer plant, taking PET, HDPE and PP.

In year one it will produce 60,000 tonnes a year of flake and pellet from 81,000 tonnes of feedstock. This will rise to 63,000 tonnes a year produced from 89,000 tonnes in year three. This amount of feedstock is roughly equivalent to 1.7 billion bottles, pots, tubs and trays.

As part of the project, Pennon will also build a £2m water treatment plant working alongside another one of its companies, South West Water.

Pennon 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.”

Recycled plastic uses 50% less electricity than virgin plastic, and sourcing power from non-recyclable waste this way, argued Pennon, takes energy efficiency one step further. The company described the co-location of a plastic reprocessing plant with an energy recovery facility as an “industry first”.

The facility will divert 320,000 tonnes of waste from landfill and generate 32MW of electricity, enough to power 44,000 homes

Loughlin added:

“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.”

Director of corporate affairs and investor relations Sarah Heald added that the project was “extremely important” for the south-west and will create a “centre of excellence” for UK recycling in the region, “showcasing leading edge innovation and technology, and bringing knock-on benefits to the regional economy”.

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