Ten years of research and development has led to a recycling process capable of making a wide range of heavy-duty composite products, in place of tropical hardwood, creosote treated softwood and concrete, using plastic packaging waste, currently landfilled.
This comes at a time when news about plastics contaminating our oceans has dominated the headlines via the BBC Blue Planet 2 series. With a clear need for urgent solutions to be found the products made using this technology offers large scale, sustainable end uses turning plastic waste into a valuable resource. The announcement last week that the Chinese will stop taking our plastic waste further exacerbates the problem. During the past ten years the UK has depended on exports to the Far East, contributed 60% of the total annual plastic recycling to meet DEFRA targets. This technology enables the UK to recycle its own plastic waste.
Their use will reduce dependence on landfill and provide a sustainable way to stop destruction of our tropical rain forests, the lungs of our planet. The process is safe to operate and does not emit anything to damage air, land or water. The products offer 95% savings in carbon emissions helping to meet climate change targets.
The Environment Agency recognise the important uses that can be made of these composite products in construction of groynes and sea walls to protect our coastline from erosion; inland as drainage channels, sluice gates, weirs and flood barriers from the increasing catastrophic weather events we are experiencing.
The ban on use of creosote, used as a softwood preservative, will come into force in 2018. It has alerted the rail, power and telecoms sectors to find an environmentally acceptable and cost effective solution, to which these inert, longer lasting composite products meet their criteria. Used in the form of structurally engineered rail sleepers, bearers and utility poles they offer a longer lasting maintenance free, cost effective alternative.
Protecting rail and road infrastructure can be helped with use of these composites to construct crib walls, revetments, noise barriers, cable troughs, fencing and road kerbs all made from plastic waste. The size and scale of end use applications allows for hundreds of thousands tonnes of plastic waste generated each year to be utilised in an environmentally safe manner.
Given these factors the products are price competitive with the wood and concrete they replace, are recyclable and offer significantly better whole life performance. The only factor to be overcome is the investment needed to build the first of a series of plants to start to deal with the problem.