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World’s first commercial-scale recycling plant will use Cat-HTR technology

27 October 2020

ReNew ELP has been awarded £4.42 million as a grant from Innovate UK to build the world’s first commercial-scale plastic recycling plant using Cat-HTR technology.

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Focusing on the UK Government’s priority to drive economic growth through new technology, the award comes through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging programme. It recognises the commercial-scale feasibility of the technology and potential of the advanced recycling sector to help meet ambitious plastic recycling targets. The grant will aid ReNew ELP in the construction of the initial plant, which commences build in Q1 2021 and will see c. 80,000 tonnes of waste plastic recycled annually upon completion.

The technology, Cat-HTR (Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor), uses supercritical water, heat and pressure to convert waste plastic considered ‘unrecyclable’ through traditional mechanical means back into the valuable chemicals and oils from which it was made, for use in the petrochemical industry in the production of new plastic and other materials. This helps to create a circular economy for waste plastic.

A key benefit of the Cat-HTR technology is its ability to recycle multi-layer, flexible plastic materials such as films, and pots, tubs and trays (PTT), considered unrecyclable through traditional mechanical recycling, and are instead sent to landfill or incineration. Vitally, new materials made from ReNew ELP’s advanced recycling feedstock are suitable for use in food-contact packaging material, a problem area for mechanical recycling systems whose products do not meet European Food Standard Agency requirements.

In-line with the Government’s policy of ‘Producer Pays’, Cat-HTR offers a solution to producers, retailers and brand owners levied with the expected Plastic Packaging Tax, which enforces a 30% recycled content requirement for all plastic packaging in both the UK and pre-filled from overseas from 2022, alongside

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which challenges those in the plastic value chain to pay the full net cost of waste material collection and recycling. Advanced recycling company ReNew ELP offers a beneficial technology to help increase the recycled content of packaging and provide a recycling solution for plastic packaging materials such as flexible films, pots, tubs and trays.

Alongside diverting plastic away from polluting the environment, the Cat-HTR technology represents significant overall environmental benefit. Initial independent studies have already shown that advanced recycling can reduce CO2 emissions by 1.5 tonnes for every tonne of plastic waste processed when compared to incineration. This means that the completed ReNew ELP site at Wilton will save approximately 120,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, when compared to incineration. Environmental benefits include:

Reducing plastic pollution of the natural environment

• 5 tonnes CO2 emissions saving per tonne of plastic processed via advanced recycling when compared to incineration
• An increased scope of recyclable plastics, including those classed as ‘unrecyclable’
• As Cat-HTR is not a combustion process, it does not produce toxic by-products such as dioxins
• A reduction on fossil sourced feedstock for the manufacture of new plastics
• High yields – up to 85% of the mass of plastic is converted to hydrocarbon products
• Minimal waste is produced – impurities (colourants, additives, fillers etc.) in the plastic feedstock fall out into the heavier hydrocarbon feedstocks, which can be used in construction

WMG at the University of Warwick partner on the project, conducting detailed Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) to quantify the benefits of advanced recycling across multiple environmental indicators.

The technology demonstrates a complementary solution to sit alongside traditional mechanical recycling to create a circular economy. It also offers those in the plastic supply chain an alternative means for disposing of their flexible and multi-layer plastic packaging, which no longer needs to be incinerated or sent to landfill but can instead be recycled. This new process goes hand in hand with efforts to reduce single-use plastic and helps to create a plastic-neutral society.


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