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‘Recycled in Dagenham’: cutting-edge recycling plant officially opens

PUBLISHED: 17:37 20 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:48 21 September 2017

The plant officially opened on Tuesday. Picture: Grainge Photography Ltd

The plant officially opened on Tuesday. Picture: Grainge Photography Ltd

Grainge Photography Ltd

All of London’s plastic milk bottles are now being recycled in Dagenham following the opening of a new plant.

The plant officially opened on Tuesday. Picture: Grainge Photography LtdThe plant officially opened on Tuesday. Picture: Grainge Photography Ltd

200 million plastic milk bottles will now be processed every year at the site in Choats Road, creating 40 new jobs.

Politicians rubbed shoulders with industry gurus as they joined for a celebration of all things plastic - the “cheap, light and easily transported material.”

London’s deputy mayor for business, Rajesh Agrawal, was on hand to officially open the plant on Tuesday, using his speech to stress the opening was not only good for the environment but is also a good bit of business.

“Forget Made in Dagenham - this is recycled in Dagenham,” proclaimed Mr Agrawal at the start of his speech.

The opening of the new plastics facility at the Veolia plant in Dagenham.The opening of the new plastics facility at the Veolia plant in Dagenham.

The opening represents increased investment in the UK by French company Veolia - something the mayor’s office argues is a sign London is open and is still an attractive place for foreign companies to do business.

Mr Agrawal said: “London continues to be the leading destination for European companies looking to scale up.

“Clearly, London remains open to talent, investment and business from around the world.”

He also lauded the economic opportunity in London’s outer boroughs, saying economic prosperity doesn’t only have to come from zone one.

Bottles ready to be recycledBottles ready to be recycled

“There are many opportunities for businesses in London’s outer boroughs and Veolia’s investment in Dagenham will bring jobs and prosperity to the area,” he said.

Aurelia van Dommelen from London & Partners, a company seeking to boost the global profile of London and its attractions, said she hoped the new plant would show those in the borough who backed Brexit that European investment can benefit them.

On display at the opening were innovative uses of recycled plastic being championed at other plants by the company, including plastic made using chemical extracts from human excrement and truck wash made from industrial waste products.

The plant was taken over from Closed Loop and the equipment and capacity have been upgraded.

When bottles first arrive they are cleaned and shredded into small pieces, no bigger than a square centimetre.

The plastic is then sorted depending on colour. The vast majority is translucent, off-white plastic - but this must be separated from the shredded bottle caps.

Sophisticated sensors do this. The shredded plastic cascades down a chute while cameras pick out the coloured flakes of lid plastic. Air streams then blast the coloured pieces away, separating out the different colours.

The plastic is then treated and purified before being turned into “high grade” pellets which are sold back to manufacturers.

It now costs no more to recycle plastic than it does to make from virgin materials, claim Veolia.

London assembily member, Unmesh Desai, said: “I thought it was very impressive and it is good for Dagenham to have businesses like this setting up here.”

Whilst lots of recyclable waste is transported long distances or even exported, this plant shows London is taking steps to become self-sustainable.

In the UK 44 per cent of all plastic bottles do not get recycled - this represents around 300,000 tonnes of waste every year.

At the official opening were a number of plastics industry professionals - and for Estelle Brachlianoff, senior executive vice president of Veolia UK & Ireland, collaboration between different parts of the industry are key to promoting sustainability.

She argues manufacturers, suppliers and recyclers need to work together to mitigate their environmental impact.

She said: “We owe it to future generations to make circular living our priority not only for today but more importantly tomorrow and the future.”

And there is still work to be done. If plastic continues to be dumped in the ocean at the current rate, by 2025 it will contain more plastic than fish.

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