Plastic recycling plant to be powered by non-recyclable waste in industry first

Pennon and Viridor start new sustainability projects alongside one another – literally.

The world of recycling has taken another, much-needed step towards even greater efficiency and sustainability. The environmental infrastructure company, Pennon, and Viridor, the UK’s largest recycling company, have announced that they’ll be co-locating projects. In an industry first, circular-economy-inspired move, Pennon will use its new £252 million energy recovery facility to power Viridor’s £65 million recycling plant to recycle 1.6 billion plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays each year.

Pennon, specialists in water and waste management and parent company of Viridor, will use its new recovery facility to generate electricity from 320,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste, saving it from landfill and generating 32 megawatts (MW) of electricity. For reference, 32MW is the equivalent of powering 44,000 homes in the UK.

The technical term for this approach is called a ‘circular economy’, which involves making business decisions with the ambition of reducing environmental impact through intelligent planning. This can be in the form of co-locating facilities, as is the case here, or re-using materials as many times as possible. A circular economy is starkly different to the consumer economy we know so well, which encourages a ‘take, make, dispose’ mentality. Instead, it embraces a culture of ‘cradle to cradle’, which in this story is powering Viridor’s recycling plant with non-recyclable waste. However, it can be as basic as taking parts from old products and using them for new ones.

The results of the Avonmouth-based project will be the production of 60,000 tonnes of recycled plastic. Not only will this save a large quantity of plastic from going towards further oceanic plastic pollution, but it also helps offset carbon emissions and energy usage. Currently, creating usable recycled plastic requires 50% less electricity compared to making virgin plastics.

Pennon’s decision to work so closely with Viridor is an industry first and is based on reducing the volume of plastic the UK exports each for recycling. As it stands, two-thirds of UK plastic is sent overseas to be processed and recycled.

“Unless action is taken now and investment in infrastructure is made, a plastic capacity gap will undermine UK ambitions and the sustainability targets of retailers.” Says Pennon’s CEO Chris Loughlin. “We are, therefore, delighted to be leading the way.”

Recycling and sustainability are topics close to us here at Point 6 and we’re incredibly proud to work with European Recycling Platform on a number of projects in an effort to help improve the world we live in. As well as this, circular economics is something championed by our lighting client, Signify, the world leader in lighting.

Related links:

European Recycling Platform

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