World First Recycling Process Delivers More Environmentally Friendly Plastic Milk Bottles

The first successful commercial trial of plastic milk bottles containing recycled HDPE, using world first technology, is announced today by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme).

The trial, which involved the production of 60,000 recycled content milk bottles for commercial sale, is the culmination of a three-year project and builds on early research by Linwood Foods. Initiated and funded by WRAP to develop a recycling process capable of producing food grade polythene from milk bottles, the project was delivered by an international team including Nampak Plastics, Dairy Crest, the Fraunhofer Institute, Sorema, Erema and Nextek. The team also co-operated closely with the Food Standards Agency.

The world first commercial demonstration of
eclosed loopf recycling for milk bottles takes post-consumer scrap bottles from both kerbside and bring schemes in the UK and recycles them back into new milk bottles. With some 130,000 tonnes of plastic milk bottles in use, this technology could significantly improve the future of plastics recycling in the UK.

Jennie Price, Chief Executive of WRAP, says:
gThis is a major breakthrough for UK recycling. Incorporating recycled plastic into everyday products like milk bottles is vital if we are to gain the maximum environmental benefit from recycling, and is great news for the growing numbers of people who are recycling their plastic bottles.h

Once collected, the post-consumer bottles are sorted by infra-red detectors and by hand to separate out natural HDPE bottles. The sorted bottles are flaked and washed in a 2% caustic solution at 93C to remove all surface dirt, paper labels and adhesive. The flakes are then dried and colour sorted before the dried flakes are put through a esuper-cleanf recycling process. The new food grade polymer is then added to virgin HDPE at 30% and made back into polythene milk bottles.

Following extensive testing to ensure compliance with food packaging legislation, the project team worked with Marks & Spencer and produced and filled 60,000 4pt plastic milk bottles containing 30% recycled content which went on sale in M&S stores in December last year as a trial. No consumer reaction on packaging quality was received, demonstrating that the recycled content bottles were indistinguishable from their virgin counterparts.

Paul Davidson, Plastics Technology Manager for WRAP, says:
gThis large scale trial proves beyond doubt that milk bottles containing recycled material from this process are every bit as good as 100% virgin bottles. They meet all the necessary criteria, both in terms of safety, production, filling and transportation, and, critically, consumer acceptance. We are now looking forward to seeing milk bottles containing recycled plastic becoming a common occurrence on UK supermarket shelves.h

Nicole Lander, Communications Director, Dairy Crest says: gDairy Crest Limited is delighted to see that the hard work put in by ourselves and the project partners has delivered this world leading technology. Dairy Crest Limited is committed to taking a leading position in the Dairy industry in order to minimise packaging waste and will continue to work with retailers to ensure these changes are in line with consumer expectations and needs.h

James Crick, Commercial Director, Nampak says: gThis exciting initiative is totally in line with our policy of being at the forefront of introducing environmental initiatives and improvements into the UK milk packaging industry.

gThe aim of this project is to dramatically increase the recycling rate of plastic bottles in the UK. By working with our project partners, we are making a major contribution to boost UK plastics recycling rates.h

WRAP is now negotiating contracts to provide financial support to potential recyclers to get the process commercially established in the UK.

Editor's notes:

  1. WRAP works in partnership to encourage and enable businesses and consumers to be more efficient in their use of materials and recycle more things more often. This helps to minimise landfill, reduce carbon emissions and improve our environment.
  2. Established as a not-for-profit company in 2000, WRAP is backed by Government funding from Defra and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  3. Working in seven key areas (Construction, Retail, Manufacturing, Organics, Business Growth, Behavioural Change, and Local Authority Support), WRAPfs work focuses on market development and support to drive forward recycling and materials resource efficiency within these sectors, as well as wider communications and awareness activities including the multi-media national Recycle Now campaign for England.
  4. More information on all of WRAPfs programmes can be found at www.wrap.org.uk

Sarah Dunn
Senior Press Officer
Tel: 01295 819695

About WRAP @@(Waste & Resources Action Programme)

WRAP is a not for profit company created in 2000 as part of the Government's waste strategies across the United Kingdom.

Our initial mission, and the focus of our first three year Business Plan, was to create new markets for the additional materials which would be collected and recycled as part of the drive to reduce the volume of waste which was sent to landfill.

In our second plan (2004 to 2006) our scope was broadened to encompass some work on waste minimisation, to provide advisory services on best recycling practice for local authorities and, most importantly, to help to influence public behaviour by programmes of communication at local and national level.

This is WRAP's third Business Plan. It details our approach to contributing to the UK's environmental targets through three key objectives to be delivered by March 2008: