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UK government invests in black plastics recycling process

Innovate UK has provided a grant of £800 000 (US$ 1 million) to fund a black plastics recycling project.

The R&D project is a collaboration between recycling compliance scheme Ecosurety, plastic innovations specialist Impact Solutions, reprocessors Impact Recycling and plastics injection moulder company McLaren Plastics.

At the heart of the partnership is Impact Solutions’ recycling technology, PolyMet. This process enables the removal of pigment in coloured, rigid plastics without damaging the original plastic polymer.

Ready for phase two

Even today, black plastics are still a tricky material to handle. An estimated 1 million tonnes of black plastic packaging is landfilled or incinerated every year. It is hoped that the PolyMet technology will secure new markets for this ‘low value’ plastic by converting it into a reusable plastic feedstock. Also, the technology could help producers comply with the proposed plastics tax on packaging containing less than 30% recycled content.

The process has been in development for the last two years. PolyMet completed a proof of concept design in 2018. It is confident that the funding will help scale-up the solution. Ultimately, it will become a low-cost technology that can be ‘easily incorporated’ into existing recycling facilities.

A shared vision

‘Finding a solution to the 3.5 million tonnes of plastic material currently being dumped in landfill by the UK each year was a challenge we couldn’t resist,’ comments Tom Rose, Innovation Manager at Impact Solutions. He sees the £800 000 investment as ‘welcome recognition’ of the hard work undertaken so far. ‘We look forward to working with Ecosurety, Impact Recycling and McLaren Plastics over the next two years with the shared vision of creating a new technology that can transform the UK recycling market through increased capacity, revenue and jobs,’ Rose adds.

Moreover, Ecosurety argues that even a slight increase in the amount of plastic available for recycling could notbaly impact the UK’s current producer responsibility regime for packaging. As a result, this could boost the number of Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs) available for purchase by producers as proof of recycling. In fact, a 1% increase in the number of PRNs could prompt a potential 10% reduction in their price. This would ‘stabilise’ the cost of purchasing recycling evidence for producers.

If you’ve eaten sushi recently, you’ve probably encountered black food trays.

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