Biffa, a UK-based waste management company, is developing a new plastics recycling plant in Seaham, UK.

The planning approval for the plant was granted by the Durham County Council in February 2019.

The facility is being developed with an estimated investment of £15m ($17m) and will have a processing capacity of five tonnes per hour. It will be able to recycle more than one billion plastics bottles a year into clear polyethylene terephthalate (PET) flakes, which will be used for manufacturing drinks bottles and food trays.

Construction of the plant is expected to be commenced in early 2019, while opening is scheduled for December 2019. The plant will double Biffa’s processing capacity and generate 70 full-time jobs.

Biffa’s plastics recycling plant location

Biffa’s plastics recycling plant will be located in an existing vacant warehouse at the Foxcover Industrial Estate, which is situated to the south of Seaham and north-west of Dawdon.

The 2.47ha site is located within the Coalfield Low Risk Development Area and in close proximity to Spectrum Business Park and the Northumbrian Water sewage treatment works.

The building is a modern warehouse unit with a gross internal area of 12,292m². It includes a three-storey office and car park.

Biffa’s plastics recycling plant details

Biffa’s plastic recycling plant will be equipped with a polymer processing plant, along with additional infrastructure and equipment.

A ventilation chimney up to 97.5cm-high will be installed, along with roof vents and flue vents with fan housing to provide ventilation to the building. Three high-voltage transformers and associated compressors and chillers will also be installed.

“The plant will double Biffa’s processing capacity and generate 70 full-time jobs.”

The plant will include two quarantine areas and a pallet storage area for handling output material. Other upgrades include yard area skips for waste storage, mounted weighbridges, a gatehouse and fuel storage areas.

Process and technology at Biffa’s plastics recycling plant

The waste plastics will be segregated from other recyclable materials at material recycling facilities (MRFs) operated by Biffa before being baled and delivered to the new plant.

The first stage of processing involves unloading of the baled plastic at Biffa’s internal storage bays where they will be broken up. A near infrared (NIR) colour sorter will be used to recover PET plastics from other types of plastics.

The plastics will then be moved to a materials bunker, where the labels and sleeves will be removed. A second NIR will be used to sort coloured PET bottles and detect metals, followed by a third NIR to improve the quality of the process material.

Unwanted plastic types and waste residues will be removed through manual picking. The PET plastics will be fed into wet grinders to be converted into 12mm flakes, which will be washed in a turbo washer and sorted from the polyolefin flake from bottle caps.

The flakes will be dried in a drying centrifuge and passed through a wind sifter to remove any dust particles or labels. The clear PET flakes will be finally conveyed into large bags and transported.

Marketing commentary on Biffa

Biffa is an integrated waste management business operating in the UK since 1912. The company is currently operating two MRFs in London and Birmingham with a processing capacity of 400,000t a year. It also manages seven transfer stations with 50 vehicles for collection, treatment, and disposal of chemical and hazardous waste.

The company’s business also includes generation and sale of energy produced from waste. Biffa currently generates 530 million kilowatt-hours of energy a year by processing waste materials.

The company has an employee base of 7,500 in the UK.