Fiberight, a resource recovery company, will lead the Uncaptured Unrecycled Plastics (UP) project, a three-year demonstrator consortium partially funded by Innovate UK and focused on the capture, recovery, and recycling of plastic packaging currently lost to landfill or incineration.
The project is reportedly worth around £10 million in total, with £4.2 million in co-funding from Innovate UK’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge (SSPPC). Fiberight says it has also secured £100k in funding from the Welsh Government towards a £200k plastics R&D project aiming to commercialise a near-to-market application for flexible plastics.
According to Fiberight, the UP project will establish and operate a commercial-scale demonstration facility that processes post-consumer plastic packaging from mixed waste streams, such as reject material from Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs). The Swansea facility will apparently use feedstock from local MRFs, initially comprising contaminated MRF films and contaminated rigid plastics, before beginning to process MRF reject materials.
Fiberight says that the capacity of the facility will be up to 60,000 tonnes per year and in the long-term, the plant will create 40 jobs.
Project partners include Impact Recycling, which will reportedly be involved in demonstrating a holistic water-based separation process for the recovery and recycling of different plastic types and packaging formats by integrating its BOSS polymer separation system with Fiberight’s HYDRACYCLE technology.
In addition, rigid plastics recycling company Moulding Solutions says it will be the key off-take partner for recycling the recovered rigid plastics. The company claims it will use plastics recovered from the Swansea facility to complement its production of high-quality extruded pellets for use by UK manufacturers of products such as utilities pipes, bins, and packaging.
Ranela Recycling Services, a flexible plastic recycling specialist, adds that it will advise on product quality, recycling equipment, and routes to market for finished flexible or film-based plastics products. Meanwhile, the fourth partner, ProAmpac, will apparently provide technical advice and support to the project.
In terms of end markets and applications for the recycled materials, multiple UK sectors will be targeted, including non-food contact packaging, heavy gauge refuse sacks, pipes and buckets, lumber and roadside furniture.
Paul Davidson, challenge director – Smart Sustainable Plastics Packaging at UK Innovate, comments: “We are delighted to offer funding to Fiberight and the project partners.
“Capturing and recycling plastic packaging that otherwise would be sent for incineration as part of a MRF reject stream will help the UK to increase its plastic recycling rate and reduce the environmental impacts associated with disposal. This large-scale demonstration will prove if this technology is capable of achieving that and at commercial scale.”
Nick Thompson, co-founder and managing director of Fiberight, concludes: “The UP project will showcase the full value chain collaborating to establish a new way of recycling plastic packaging in the UK, capturing the lost resources and realising significant environmental benefits.
“It will play a key role in increasing the recycling of plastics in the UK by establishing much-needed infrastructure. By 2028, we aim to increase the amount of flexible plastics recycled in the UK by 300% – compared to 2021 levels of recycling.
“Ultimately, we are confident the project will showcase a game-changing innovation in the waste and recycling industry, thereby enabling access to finance for future commercial ventures.”