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Hand-picked from prison

Prisoners are being recruited by PVC Recycling to help sort, segregate and process contaminated plastic for further recycling.

Manchester based PVC Recycling launched a pilot of the private/public sector social enterprise with HM Prison Service last month. The pilot involved 30 men working up to 37 hours a week at Buckley Hall Prison in Rochdale and is part of the Working Prisons Initiative.

The prison will divert up to four tonnes of material – or 40 cubic yard skips - from landfill each day, which will be taken to PVC’s Stalybridge plant and processed into chip or melt-filtrated pellet and can be used to manufacture new products.

“Hand-sorting is part of the initial recycling process for this material, because technology is not available to deliver the quality the manufacturer requires - which is why we have chosen this challenging, but ultimately practical route,” says PVC Recycling md Ian Murray.

If the pilot is successful it could be rolled out to local hubs throughout the UK.

“This not only adds to their resettlement opportunities, but they enjoy the work which helps time to pass quickly. It’s a very positive partnership,” says Governor of Buckley Hall Prison, Susan Kennedy. “The Prison Service is keen to work with commercial partners on projects such as enterprises involved in recycling, and develop initiatives that contribute to the wider Green Agenda.”

The products made from 100% recycled PVC perform exactly the same as those made from virgin material and has a 94% lower carbon footprint.

Murray says: “This cost-effective scheme addresses rising volumes of low-grade waste PVC that are currently being landfilled at an increasing cost to both the environment and for companies disposing of this unwanted, and hitherto unrecycled, material.

“It also taps into the unique labour pool that HMPS can supply in terms of sorting, handling and eventually processing a recyclable material to a standard that is fit for purpose for eventual re-manufacturing into new products here.”

Pre-consumer derives from the manufacture of a window frame, which creates a 45 degree off-cut of prime unused PVC – a valuable recyclate due to the lack of contamination. This material has been successfully recycled since 1980.

However, Murray adds, post-consumer PVC is derived from a windows fitted in a house or factory since the late 1970’s and 1980’s and started to reach the UK waste recycling industry since 2006. Because it is so contaminated, it is a difficult material to recycle.

Regain Polymers in Castleford, West Yorkshire, has spent £1m on expanding its capacity and buying competitor Express Recycling and Plastics.

The business based in Rainham, Essex, specialises in the separation and reprocessing of rigid end of life plastics and has been renamed Regain Recycling and Plastics. Regain said the move increases the business’ overall geographic reach and should help it attract more raw materials for both recycling plants.

“We are actively seeking opportunities to expand our business and this new venture will increase both our capabilities and capacity to supply the market,” says Regain Polymers md Ian Porter.

As part of expanding its capacity at the Castleford site, Regain has bought a state-of the-art twin screw extruder that is due to be installed by the end of the month. This will increase extrusion capacity by 40% to over 45,000 tonnes a year.

 “Our strategy is one of growth, and these investments will give us both the technology and capacity needed to ensure that we are well placed to achieve this in 2012,” says technical sales director Mark Roberts.

Improved sorting facilities resulted in Runnymede Borough Council by mutual consent terminating its recycling contract with Biffa Waste Services. The council plans to introduce a comingled service, which it said will be easier for residents to use, from this October. Householders will have just one wheelie bin for all their dry recyclates that will be collected fortnightly.

“Technology at recovery facilities has improved hugely over the last few years and it is now possible to derive high quality material from collections of co-mingled recycling products,” says Runnymede Council’s Leader, Councillor Patrick Roberts.

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