Unilever has teamed up with Recycling Technologies, a specialist plastic recycling technology provider, and renewable fuels firm Neste to recover and reuse plastic packaging that is currently incinerated, buried in landfill, or exported from the UK.
The joint project has been awarded a £3.1 million (€3.41 million) grant from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to develop chemical recycling by combining the expertise of these global leaders in their respective business areas to make hard-to-recycle plastic packaging recyclable.
During the three-year project, Recycling Technologies will take waste plastic packaging and process it using its machinery to turn it into an oil called Plaxx®. This material will then be delivered to Neste to analyse and test its quality and suitability for further upgrading it into high-quality drop-in feedstock for the production of new, virgin-quality plastics, such as packaging. Unilever will bring insight on design for recycling for packaging.
Sebastian Munden, executive vice-president at Unilever UK & Ireland, said: “We are really pleased to be part of this collaboration with Recycling Technologies and Neste, developing a solution for plastic which is currently difficult to recycle, including plastic films and flexible packaging.
“As part of this collaboration, we have committed to looking at the design of our products for greater recyclability, as well as the possibility to use the recycled material back in our product packaging, which would create the end market and value for the materials.
“Unilever is committed to halving the amount of virgin plastic we use in our packaging by 2025, including increasing our use of recycled plastic. Collaboration between partners and industry experts is so important, as together we can develop solutions with innovations that are effective and scalable.”
The grant will help assist, support, and refine the testing and any improvement of Recycling Technologies’ chemical recycling plant being built in Perthshire, Scotland. This collaboration will allow the company to improve its systems to process waste plastic optimally to upgrade the Plaxx so it can be easily further refined at Neste’s facilities into high-quality feedstock for the manufacture of new plastics.
The alliance will demonstrate new added-value applications for hard-to-recycle waste plastic materials, such as films, sachets, and pouches, using them to create output that can be used to make new packaging.
“We are delighted to have been awarded this grant from UKRI to move the UK to the forefront of the next generation of plastic recycling systems,” said Adrian Griffiths, founder and chief executive of Recycling Technologies.
“Our collaboration with Neste will allow us to refine and improve our technology to produce valuable feedstock from waste plastic that can be incorporated into the petrochemicals industry supply chain to increase the content of recycled plastic in new plastic production.
“Our work with Unilever will identify hard to recycle plastics from current mechanical recyclers and how to evolve their design construction to improve their recyclability, ensuring compatibility with our chemical recycling process, for incorporation into new packaging.”