UKRI invests to increase plastic recycling systems in the UK

UKRI invests to increase plastic recycling systems in the UK

The funding will be invested in cutting-edge recycling technology and to reduce landfill and incineration.


UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Swindon, England, is investing 20 million pounds ($25.8 million) in four recycling plants to increase the available recycling capacity in the United Kingdom and expand the range of plastics being recycled, as opposed to being sent to landfill or incineration, or exported overseas for disposal. 

The investment from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, along with more than 65 million pounds ($84 million) of industry investment, represents the largest investment the U.K. 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 depolymerizing facility that extracts color from waste allowing easier reuse. 

The projects include:

  • Veolia, in collaboration with Unilever, Charpak Ltd. and HSSMI, will develop the U.K.'s first dual polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle and tray recycling facility capable of recycling 100 percent 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 optimize the facility and identify potential commercial challenges. If initial trials are successful, the proposed facility would process 35,000 tons per year of mixed PET packaging scrap at an existing Veolia site.  
  • ReNew ELP proposes to set up a plant centered on a Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) at Wilton, Teesside. Once up and running, the plant would convert 20,000 tons per year (increasing to 80,000 tons per year 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 7,000 tons per year of hard-to-recycle mixed plastic scrap, producing 5,200 tons per year 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 Corp. 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 commercialize its enhanced recycling technology through the construction of a 15,000-ton-per-year 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 postconsumer and postindustrial packaging, film and other hard-to-recycle PET scrap can be chemically recycled back into new consumer end-use goods. Through collaboration with the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University of York and polyester fiber users O’Neills Irish International Sports Co. and GRN Sportswear, the consortium aims to demonstrate and optimize a closed loop, circular economy for all polyester materials.

“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," says U.K. Environment Minister Rebecca Pow. “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.”