£6.1m injection will see up to 50,000 tonnes of packaging waste recycled into construction products

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Thanks to an injection of £6.1 million, including the help of PRN funding, the UK’s largest producer of damp-proof membranes is increasing its capacity for recycling ethylene-based plastics by 66 per cent. 

Mercers, which is based in Bolton, transforms plastic packaging waste, such as HDPE and LDPE, into 100 per cent recycled damp-proof membrane. The new, high-tech equipment will allow it to recycle up to 50,000 tonnes of plastics each year, making sure that UK waste is dealt with responsibly in the UK.

Ben Richardson, procurement director at compliance scheme Valpak, a Reconomy Group company, which worked with Mercers to secure the funding through a long-term contract to supply PRNs, said: “This is exactly the kind of investment we need to ensure that UK packaging waste is securely recycled on these shores. As a manufacturer, as well as a recycling business, Mercers offers additional circularity by guaranteeing a market for the material recycled.

“Across the industry, we are seeing greater demand for UK-produced PRNs, while upcoming legislation, such as the Plastic Packaging Tax, is driving demand for recycled material. At Valpak, 65 per cent of our PRNs are sourced from UK reprocessors – compared with a UK market average of 48 per cent – and we support UK recycling wherever possible.”

Managing director at Mercers, Doug Mercer, said: “We see stories in the news about UK packaging waste being dumped in the Far East. This investment will help to make sure that UK waste packaging stays in the UK, where it can be properly recycled. The new machines are also more carbon-friendly. They provide a 30 per cent saving on the energy needed for recycling.” 

The system shreds ethylene-based plastics waste, such as HDPE and LDPE, before heating it until it becomes a liquid. It is then filtered, pelletised and moulded to produce Toughsheet’s damp-proof membrane.

The equipment is in the commissioning stage, and expected to be fully up and running by January 2022. The company will also employ an extra 26 employees, to join the existing staff of 74.