Morrisons will become the first supermarket to own its own recycling operations through the acquisition of a significant stake in a new recycling site in Fife. The site will reprocess ‘hard-to-recycle’ soft plastics. Uniquely within the industry, Morrisons already owns 18 of its own food making sites.
Morrisons has also committed that by 2025, it will recycle and reuse the equivalent amount of plastic it puts on to the market within its own recycling facilities, to develop greater recycling in the UK. It has already announced it will reduce its own brand plastic packaging by 50 per cent by the same year.
The Fife site is the first of its type in the world. It is co-owned and being constructed by recycling plant specialists Yes Recycling. The plant will turn hard-to-recycle flexible food packaging into plastic flakes, pellets and boards. At current capacity, the site will take 15,000 of tonnes of flexible plastic packaging a year*.
The hard-to-recycle soft plastic – including chocolate wrappers, crisp packets, and food film – will be sent to the site from Morrisons distribution sites**and by Cireco Scotland who process kerbside collection material. In the past, this material may have gone to a landfill or been incinerated for energy.
Morrisons is also looking at ways to use the recycled material from the site for a range of applications, including store fixtures and fittings. In addition, new Ecosheets*** are being manufactured at the site for use in the agriculture and construction industry.
The new site is a major step forward for the British recycling industry – as the government pushes a ‘green industrial revolution’ following the coronavirus pandemic. It will create around 60 new jobs.
Jamie Winter, Procurement Director at Morrisons, said: “Lots of work has been done by retailers to reduce plastic, but little to recycle what remains. We’re taking on that challenge and making a significant investment in a state-of-the-art soft plastic recycling site. It’ll take problematic plastics, recycle them here in the UK, and give them a new life. And by 2025 we want to increase our capability to be able to recycle and reuse the equivalent amount of plastic we put out on to the market within our own facilities.”
Omer Kutluoglu, Co-owner of Yes Recycling, said: “This is a ground-breaking site which uses new patented plastic recycling technology, which we’ve developed over the last seven years. It is a blueprint for the future and will help to kick-start the UK’s plastics recycling industry. It will mean we can keep plastic in our own country’s ‘circular economy’ and out of our seas and oceans.”
Helen Bird, Strategic Technical Manager in Plastics at WRAP, said: “It’s very encouraging to hear of the investment made by UK Plastics Pact member Morrisons in the Yes Recycling plastic bags and wrapping recycling facility. While we need to reduce unnecessary plastic, when it comes to recycling we need to make it as simple for people as possible. Packaging design needs to be improved and we need to get collection services rolled out across the nation – from people’s homes in the future and from supermarkets in the interim. But ensuring the material is actually remanufactured into new products or packaging is key – that is after all the whole point of recycling.”
The Fife recycling plant will take all low grade plastics including sweet wrappers, crisp packets, salad bags, and non PET food film. When these materials enter the site, all of the plastic material is washed and sorted. It is then broken down and turned into flakes and pellets which can be used to make new plastic products in a ‘closed loop’. Other pellets are compressed into Ecosheets which can be recycled again at the end of their life.
Morrisons has a target of reducing its own brand plastic packaging by 50 per cent and making all own brand plastic packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. Since 2017 Morrisons has reduced its own brand plastic packaging by over 8,000 tonnes a year and replaced another 7,000 tonnes so that it is fully recyclable. Morrisons was the first supermarket to ditch plastic carrier bags in favour of paper carrier bags, to use traditional paper bags for loose fruit and vegetables, and to introduce a refillable container service on fish, meat and deli counters to reduce single-use packaging. However, in food retail, plastic can also play an important part in protecting and prolonging the shelf life of a product, helping to significantly reduce food waste.
* The plant will initially recycle 15,000 tonnes per annum.
** Morrisons Bellshill distribution centre.
*** Ecosheet is an environmentally friendly alternative to plywood. It can be used in the agriculture industry to build animal barns and stables. It requires no deforestation and little energy to make, lasts 10 times longer than plywood, and is fully recyclable at end-of-life. The UK imports approximately 35 million sheets of plywood every year.