Novel plastic recycling gives food firms fuel for thought

By Graham Holter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Recycling

Novel plastic recycling gives food firms fuel for thought
A pioneering scheme to turn waste plastics into diesel could save food processing companies thousands of pounds.

That’s the claim of SITA UK, which says it has already held talks with food companies in Scotland and southwest England about the project.

The first plant will be built next summer at Avonmouth near Bristol and will be capable of transforming one tonne of low-grade plastic into 700 litres of diesel. SITA, a specialist in waste recycling, has plans for nine further schemes across the UK and Europe.

Development manager Phil Holland told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We anticipate the waste industry will deliver the bulk of our recyclable material. But it’s evident that the food industry has a very significant issue with plastic recycling and we can certainly see a strong commercial opportunity in this sector.

“We would be seeking a gate fee for plastic collection but firms would save an awful lot in landfill tax. We can convert that waste plastic to diesel or kerosene and arguably they can use it to their own credit in terms of PR.”

Bags of opportunity

SITA will not be using higher-grade plastics such as PET in the process. Instead it will focus on the polyethylene typically used in wrapping film and plastic bags, as well as end-product packaging that is discarded due to contamination or for other reasons.

Holland said there was already “some considerable interest” in the new technology from the food processing industry.

“We’ve identified that there are significant tonnages of waste plastic from the sector – something like 5,000-6,000 tonnes a year in Scotland alone,” ​he said.

“We’ve also talked to food processors in the Southwest who have significant problems with plastic.”

The location of SITA’s second plastic-to-diesel plant is yet to be decided. South London, Scotland, the north west and the north east are all possibilities.

The technology originated in Australia and Japan, but was not developed on a successful commercial scale in those markets, Holland said.

Irish technology company Cynar brought the concept to Europe and has been working with SITA to refine it further.

If all 10 plants are built, SITA expects to produce 42 million litres a year of diesel, and up to 15 million litres of kerosene for use in commercial boilers.

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