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UKRI funding puts UK at the forefront of next generation plastic recycling


UKRI funding puts UK at the forefront of next generation plastic recycling

£20m investment in cutting edge recycling technology, to reduce landfill and incineration.

Projects to reduce landfill and incineration of waste plastics and schemes to recycle waste into new, sustainable plastics have received a funding boost today.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is investing £20m in four cutting edge recycling plants.

These plants will increase the available recycling capacity in the UK and expand the range of plastics being recycled, as opposed to being sent to landfill or incineration, or exported overseas for disposal.

The £20m investment from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, along with over £65m of industry investment, represents the largest investment the UK has made in plastic packaging recycling technologies.

The technologies include a hydrothermal liquefaction process to convert waste plastic into chemicals and oils for use in the manufacture of new plastic, a thermal cracking procedure to transform end-of-life plastics into hydrocarbon oil that can be used in plastic production, and a depolymerising facility that extracts colour from waste allowing easier reuse.

Funded projects 

ReNew ELP proposes to set up a plant centred on a Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR™) at Wilton, Teesside.

Once up and running, the plant would convert 20,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) (increasing to 80,000tpa on site completion) of end of life plastic into chemicals and oils for use in the production of new virgin grade plastics including naphtha, waxes, and a bitumen-like residue suitable for use in road construction.

Recycling Technologies has been awarded funding for a chemical recycling plant that uses thermal cracking to recycle a wide range of plastic waste that cannot be recycled by conventional methods.

The plant is designed to process 7,000tpa of hard-to-recycle mixed plastic waste, producing 5,200tpa of a hydrocarbon oil which can replace crude oil in plastics production - allowing plastic to be recycled an unlimited number of times.

It will be based in Perth, Scotland.

With partners, Neste Corporation and Unilever, this project combines the expertise of these three global leaders in their respective business areas to develop chemical recycling and make hard-to-recycle plastic packaging, such as films, sachets and pouches, recyclable.

Poseidon Plastics aims to commercialise its novel enhanced recycling technology through the construction of a 15,000 tonne per annum PET recycling facility.

Partnering with waste collection and mechanical recycling experts Biffa and PET resin producers Alpek Polyester UK and DuPont Teijin Films UK, this project aims to demonstrate how post-consumer and post-industrial packaging, film and other hard-to recycle PET wastes can be chemically recycled back into new consumer end-use goods.

ReNew ELP and Poseidon Plastics projects are located at the Wilton international site at Teesside, close to other plastic packaging and recycling infrastructure.

These projects have the potential to create around 200 jobs in the Teesside area, a significant boost to the economy in the North of England.

Through collaboration with the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University of York and polyester fibre users O’Neills Irish International Sports Company and GRN Sportswear (Presca), the consortium further aims to demonstrate and optimise a closed-loop, circular economy for all polyester materials.

Veolia in collaboration with Unilever, Charpak Ltd and HSSMI, will develop the UK's first dual PET bottle and tray recycling facility (supported by a digital twin created by HSSMI), capable of recycling 100% of clear rigid PET in a closed-loop system.

Unilever will investigate the non-food contact recycled PET produced from this facility in its home and personal care range, so avoiding the use of food contact grade material in these non-food products.

Charpak Ltd will use the flakes produced in its trays, making tray to tray recycling a reality.

This will create a new, complementary non-food closed loop for recycled PET and widen availability of the material for use in bottles and trays. 

Through the development and use of the digital twin, HSSMI will pioneer a virtual engineering approach in the waste industry, which will help optimise the facility and identify potential commercial challenges.

If initial trials are successful, the proposed facility would process 35,000tpa of mixed PET packaging waste at an existing Veolia site. 

Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging

The funding forms part of UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) challenge, which aims to increase the amount of recyclable plastic packaging and improve UK productivity in plastics, leading to a reduction in plastic waste entering the environment.

Paul Davidson, challenge director of the SSPP challenge, said:

“To help protect the planet from waste pollution it is critical that plastics are more readily recycled and sustainable. The plastic packaging industry is changing, to become more responsive to our environmentally conscious concerns.

“The work of our four demonstrator winners will go a long way to reinstate plastic as a sustainable packaging choice. In particular, our winners demonstrated they have a lifecycle approach to plastics packaging, thinking through the use of a material from its raw state, through to its transport, its use by consumers and its disposal.

“This funding is just the start and we are planning further competitions in the near future.”

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

“The Government is committed to both clamping down on the unacceptable plastic waste that harms our environment and ensuring more materials can be reused instead of being thrown away.

“By investing in these truly ground-breaking technologies we will help to drive these efforts even further, and I look forward to seeing them develop and deliver real results.”

The Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) aims to establish the UK as a leading innovator in smart and sustainable plastic packaging for consumer products with £60m in funding from ISCF which will be complemented by £149m from industry. The challenge will deliver cleaner growth across the supply chain, with a dramatic reduction in plastic waste entering the environment by 2025.

Briefing event

Registration is now open for the Future Plastic Packaging Solutions competition briefing event on 3rd November, hosted by KTN and UKCPN

Further information

About the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Future Plastic Packaging Solutions competition

The ISCF SSPP Future Plastic Packaging Solutions competition offers grants between £50,000 and £150,000 to projects including, but not limited to the re-design of existing goods, services or business models, or the design of new products that serve an existing need. Projects must aim to help make the plastics packaging supply chain more circular; deliver the targets of the UK Plastics Pact; improve on current state-of-the-art plastic packaging, or supply chain data; embed life cycle thinking/end of life in packaging design and decisions.


Richard Daley, MD of ReNew ELP, said:

“This Grant demonstrates we are in line with Government Policy and its drive towards achieving increased recycling targets in the UK. It will increase investor confidence, help new and innovative technologies such as ours break through and establish the Chemical Recycling Industry in the UK, and as a global leader in plastic recycling.”


Poseidon Plastics

Martin Atkins, CEO of Poseidon Plastics, said:

“This Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) initiative is an opportunity for the PET supply chain come together to solve one of society's most pressing environmental challenges, validating the full circularity and closed-loop processing of difficult-to-recycle polyester plastic wastes. Experts in recycling and waste management, PET manufacturers and end users will all come together to demonstrate the UK’s first advanced recycling (monomer recycling) technology in Teesside. Poseidon’s new technology for converting waste PET back to monomer is a key milestone for the UK’s plastic packaging industry and an opportunity for global deployment.”


Recycling Technologies

Adrian Griffiths, Founder and CEO at Recycling Technologies said:

“We are delighted to have been awarded this grant from UKRI to move the UK to the forefront of the next generation of plastic recycling systems. Our collaboration with Neste will allow us to refine and improve our technology to produce valuable feedstock from waste plastic that can be incorporated into the petrochemicals industry supply chain to increase the content of recycled plastic in new plastic production. Our work with Unilever will identify hard to recycle plastics from current mechanical recyclers and how to evolve their design construction to improve their recyclability, ensuring compatibility with Recycling Technologies’ chemical recycling process, for incorporation into new packaging.”


Unilever UK & Ireland

Sebastian Munden, Executive Vice President, Unilever UK & Ireland, said:

“We’re really pleased to be working in collaboration with Recycling Technologies and Neste, developing a solution for plastic which is currently difficult to recycle including plastic films and flexible packaging, and with Veolia on recycling PET pots, tubs, trays and bottles to create non-food contact recycled material for use in our home and personal care product packaging.

“Unilever is committed to halving the amount of virgin plastic we use in our packaging by 2025, including increasing our use of recycled plastic. Collaboration between partners and industry experts is so important, as together we can develop solutions to the biggest barriers to recycling with innovation that is effective and scalable.”


Charpak Ltd

Paul Smith MD of Charpak Ltd said;

“As a business, Charpak Ltd has been at the forefront of driving sustainability in plastic packaging. UK retailers across their range are looking to improve the sustainability of packaging. This UKRI grant will allow Charpak Ltd to fully research and test the process before launching to the wider market. The benefits for the environment are huge, with less plastic waste being burnt, landfilled or shipped abroad. We are hopeful that this project will lead to a true Tray to Tray recycling scheme to create better circularity with the attendant cut in emissions keeping this precious resource local to be used again and again. Anything that improves recycling rates is to be applauded.”


Savina Venkova, Circular Economy Lead at HSSMI said:

“HSSMI has been at the forefront of new developments in circular economy from a manufacturing perspective, and we are excited to participate in this project. It represents an opportunity to improve the sustainability of packaging on the UK landscape. At the same time, it tests digital tools used by other industries in the waste industry. Any positive outcome to these tests has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of any recycling facility in the UK.


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