Veolia set to produce more than 100m recycled plastic milk bottles each year

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

The project will see more than 100m new recycled bottles created each year.  Pic: Veolia
The project will see more than 100m new recycled bottles created each year. Pic: Veolia

Related tags Recycling Plastic Milk

UK resource management company Veolia is set to make a major increase to the amount of recycled plastic used in milk bottles and close the recycling loop for the UK dairy industry.

The project will see more than 100m new recycled bottles created each year by ensuring they are produced, distributed, consumed, collected, sorted, washed and reprocessed and made into bottles in the UK. 

Every year, 300m milk bottles arrive at Veolia's plastic recycling facilities. After being collected and compressed into bales, the bottles are ground into flakes. They are washed several times to remove label residue and clean the plastic. Infrared sorters then separate the transparent HDPE body of the bottle from the cap, which will also be recycled, and the transparent HDPE is then formed into premium grade pellets ready for conversion into new bottles.

As recycling these into new containers uses up to 75% less energy than using virgin material, the process will lower carbon, and support the UK Dairy Roadmap initiative. If all plastic were recycled this could result in annual savings of 30m to 150m tonnes of CO2​ and can both curb the growing life-cycle GHG emissions from plastics, and also prevent plastics from entering the marine environment.

The new agreement is also a step towards achieving the goals set by the UK Plastics Pact. Created in April 2018 to fight plastic pollution, the collaborative initiative lays the foundation for a circular plastics economy and its members include 40 brands representing the entire plastics value chain, UK government institutions and NGOs.

The pact has three main goals for 2025: 100% of plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or biodegradable; 70% will be efficiently recycled or composted; and all plastic packaging produced will contain 30% recycled material.

Tim Duret, director of sustainable technology at Veolia UK and Ireland, said, "This marks another significant step towards building a circular economy and a greener, lower carbon future. To kickstart the green recovery, the environment and climate change must be priorities and by capturing, converting and re using this material in the UK we can deliver a local recycling loop and support the sustainability goals of the UK dairy industry."

Veolia said key to limiting the environmental impact and carbon emissions is effective waste management to treat packaging at its end of life, and recycling always wins over virgin production on all environmental indicators.  For plastics, it has been shown recycling saves 30% to 80% of the carbon emissions virgin plastic processing and manufacturing generate.