New UK Plastics Facility to Handle 50 Percent of Recyclables

Sometimes, you really can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. In August 2009, the AWS Eco Plastics facility in Lincolnshire, UK burned to the ground. But management saw opportunity amid the ashes and created a new £13 million ($20.5 million US) plant that will work better with the low-carbon economy being created in the UK.

The new plant is state of the art and can process enough plastic bottles to fill the Royal Albert Hall every two weeks. In straight figures, that works out to 100,000 metric tons of plastics annually. The company is looking to invest another $23.6 million to expand capacity to 140,000 metric tons of recycled bottles annually — which would represent approximately one-half of all the plastic currently recycled in the UK.

“The fire last year was a major blow, but there was a silver lining to it,” said Peter Gangsted, Chairman of AWS Eco Plastics. “It allowed us to redevelop and introduce the next-generation machinery that we have today — machinery that is the most sophisticated in the world.”

Like every other developed nation in the world, the UK consumes far more plastic than it recycles. The 260,000 metric tons that was recycled represents only 40 percent of the country’s total usage. Most plastic still gets exported to China, and that’s hardly an ideal situation. Additionally, the company suggests that products made with recycled plastic from the AWS Eco Plastic facility are 68 percent less carbon-intensive than packaging made with virgin materials.

So AWS Eco Plastics believes they’re in a perfect position to grow their business.

“There is huge potential in the UK market and this can only grow as the demand for low-carbon food and drink packaging increases,” says the Jonathan Short, managing director. The new facility employs 110 workers, but the expansion should add another 75 employees to the payroll in an area that could certainly use the jobs.

Paul Wheatley, head of economic regeneration programmes at Lincolnshire County Council, said AWS was “a hidden asset of Lincolnshire […] It’s therefore really good news that they are up and running again and any expansion plans can only add to this. New jobs are always welcome and employment opportunities in green industries are of particular prestige.”

Richard is a writer and editor based in Halifax, Nova Scotia who specializes in clean technology and climate change. He's the founder of One Blue Marble, a climate change activism blog and web site.

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