Making plastic fantastic
Operating from a state-of-the-art material recovery facility in West Yorkshire, Bright Green Plastics is a plastic reprocessing firm that recycles over 40,000 tons of household and commercial waste each year
Formerly a subsidiary of the LINPAC Group, Bright Green Plastics is a company making a difference to the way plastic is recycled. Benefitting from a team with over 100 years’ combined experience in the recycling industry, Bright Green Plastics turns post-consumer materials into recycled pellets and compounds. These can be used for a wide range of practical applications, thus helping to reduce the degradation of our planet.
“We are a major contributor to the UK’s circular economy as we take waste and scrap plastics and recycle them back into compounds that are then used to manufacture new items,” explains Stephen Spencer, the company’s Managing Director. “The types of plastic we recycle include household items such as yoghurt pots, margarine tubs, shampoo bottles, and bleach bottles, as well as industrial scrap such as food trays, plastic drums, flower pots and storage boxes. We then supply recycled pellets to various industries such as the automotive, horticultural and construction sectors.”
Through use of a compatibilization technology called BrightFusion™, Bright Green Plastics is able to improve the performance of the mixed plastics it recycles. BrightFusion™ guarantees superior mechanical and impact properties for even the most heavily sorted, single-source polymers and allows for the recycling of stubborn materials that would otherwise not be compatible for processing.
“PP and PE are immiscible and incompatible in the melt phase,” Stephen says. “If compounded, the product would have few end uses as the material is inherently weak. The two polymers are often difficult to separate due to their similar densities, presenting a challenge for the recycling industries. That’s where BrightFusion™ comes in. It allows us to recover a higher proportion of plastic waste compared to standard recycling. By working with the latest technologies, we can improve the properties of recycled consumer plastic.”
In 2018, BrightFusion™ was employed to produce the world’s first 100 per cent post-consumer resin paint pot. Molded by Emballator in Bradford, the pots were used by Crown for their 2.5L and 5L plastic packs, as well as all 10L packs. The development marked a significant step in the evolution of recycled resin, as typically only around 25 per cent recycled resin is been added to virgin material for paint pots.
In an effort to further the firm’s progressive agenda, Bright Green Plastics recently invested £750,000 in a brand-new Material Recovery Facility. The plant, installed at the company’s Castleford site, will enable the firm to take bales of mixed plastics and 3D materials collected from the curbside and sort them by polymer type, color, and even sift out metals, paper and other residual waste for additional recycling.
“Alongside the new Material Recovery Facility, we have two wash lines on site,” Stephen adds. “These lines wash and granulate the sorted wastes ready for them to be melted at the next stage of the process. We also possess seven extrusion lines that melt the waste, mix different wastes together, and occasionally incorporate additives if needed to create a compound ready to be used to manufacture new plastic products.”
Earlier this year, in May 2020, Bright Green Plastics secured £6 million in funding from Bibby Financial Services (BFS). Bolstered by the cash injection, the company is now looking to expand its presence into continental Europe.
“Our growth plans are primarily based on us being self-sufficient in relation to investment in new equipment and new technologies, but the funding facility is there if we need it and gives us comfort,” Stephen declares. “We were impressed by the level of flexibility that BFS were able to offer, particularly in the current climate. We’re very happy to partner with the team as we take the business into a new phase of growth. Our next move is to open a small granulating facility in Poland with a view to installing an extruder or two in the near future. We want to be able to offer our products to the European market, however, with the uncertainty following Brexit and increasing transport costs, we know we need to have a plant centrally located to be able to do this.”
As an industry leader in plastic recycling, Bright Green Plastics is not only green by name. Due to the nature of its materials processing activities, the company has an inherently positive impact on the environment. Still, that doesn’t mean that Stephen and his team are not working hard to make the firm an even stronger force for good in the industry and the world at large.
“As you can imagine, wash lines use a huge amount of water and so we continue to improve our internal water recycling system,” Stephen reports. “We have a whole host of similar social responsibility initiatives, including an electricity usage improvement project and a commitment to reusing consumable parts such as shredder blades by re-sharpening them internally.”
One particularly pressing topic for Bright Green Plastics in 2020 is the need for reform of the plastic recovery notes (PRNs) system. Sold by accredited plastic reprocessing companies, such as Bright Green Plastics itself, PRNs are purchased by packaging producers and act as regulatory evidence notes showing that a business has financed the recovery and recycling of packaging materials in proportion to the amount they have placed on the market. However, Stephen and his team are afraid that the system in its current form could ‘jeopardize the future of the recycling industry’, and as a result, in June this year, Bright Green Plastics joined forces with a number of reprocessing firms to urge reform. Alongside various issues the company has with the system, a recent drop in oil prices has caused manufacturers to purchase virgin plastic over more expensive recycled plastics. Stephen addressed the flaws of the PRN system in a recent statement.
“Due to the pandemic, UK reprocessors have been operating at a reduced capacity in recent months, and with suppliers and customers on lockdown, levels of material for export and reprocessing have been massively reduced. Yet the data says that PRNs have been produced at a higher rate than this time last year. How is this possible?” he argued.
Recycling companies have recently asked MPs to discuss the PRN dispute in parliament. To further support the drive, Bright Green Plastics has generated a Change.org petition calling on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to urgently review the system.
One positive development on the horizon for the firm is the impending introduction of the UK Plastic Packaging Tax that will see any packaging produced in, or imported into, the UK liable for tax if it does not contain a minimum of 30 per cent recycled material. Due to Bright Green Plastic’s ability to produce products using BrightFusion™ technology to co-join different polymers, Stephen believes the new tax will give the business a competitive edge over its competitors.
“We have a robust expansion plan including significant investment in new equipment so we can stay ahead of the demand for our products,” he asserts. “The demand will be driven by the introduction of the plastics tax and we should be encouraging it to be implemented sooner in the UK as manufacturers are currently buying virgin polymers over recycled materials due to the low oil prices caused by Covid-19. Unfortunately, this is jeopardizing the short-term viability of recyclers in the UK, so we would certainly welcome more government support in this area.”
Though there will always be external factors beyond any company’s control, Bright Green Plastics can move forward, safe in the knowledge that it can rely upon a highly skilled and experienced workforce to lead the firm into the future; a future in which the company hopes to inspire lasting, positive change.
“People are extremely important here,” Stephen proclaims. “Their knowledge and experience in this industry is invaluable. We have many employees that have worked here for more than 20 years. I have always been open and honest with the team here and I have had the same in return. It has meant we have been able to respond to challenges quickly, especially since AIAC acquired the business last year as they have fully supported the plan we presented to them from the outset.”
Bright Green Plastics
Services: Plastics reprocessing business