The companies have agreed an initial five year deal for the supply of a range of recycled plastic from the plant, which is due to come online in 2020/2021.
A Viridor spokeswoman explained that the deal was not exclusive but was ‘significant’.
The move by Unilever follows a commitment first made by the Government in its Budget 2018 to impose a tax on recycled packaging which uses less than 30% recycled content from April 2022. Unilever owns brands including Dove, Lynx and Hellmann’s.
This has seen prices for some grades of recycled plastic, and food grade PET in particular, commanding ‘significantly higher’ prices than virgin material in recent months, with demand showing no sign of abating.
‘Limited availability’: Sebastian Munden, Unilever UK & Ireland general manager, said: “Unilever has committed to increase its use of recycled plastic and close the loop on plastic packaging.
He added: “Limited availability of high-quality recycled content has, though, remained a challenge and that’s why we’re so pleased that our collaboration with Viridor will bring extra capacity on-line in the UK. This will be essential towards creating a more circular market, as well as contributing to the UK Plastic Pact targets.”
Flake: Once operational, the Avonmouth plant near Bristol will process 81,000 tonnes-a-year of plastic feedstock such as bottles, pots, tubs and trays into 60,000 tonnes-a-year of recycled PET, HDPE and PP in flake and pellet form.
Viridor Resource Management managing director, Keith Trower, said: “Viridor and Unilever are committed to helping the UK achieve its recycling and sustainability targets and this contract demonstrates how we are translating that ambition in action.
“To do this in a meaningful way Viridor has acknowledged the UK plastic reprocessing capacity gap and our Avonmouth investment is our response to that market demand.”
Plant: Artist’s impression of the Avonmouth Resource Recovery Centre Viridor managing director, Phil Piddington, said the Avonmouth plant was an important next step in the company’s plastic recycling strategy. The plant will be powered by Viridor’s new adjacent £252 million Avonmouth energy-from-waste plant.
He said: “The unique design of the site – incorporating sophisticated energy recovery and recycling technology – allows for the transfer of power and heat to serve the recycling and reprocessing site, creating a truly resource and energy-efficient waste management solution.
“Reprocessed plastic uses 50% less electricity than virgin plastic, which is already a very persuasive argument in favour of recycled materials. When we reduce our energy consumption further by tapping into the low carbon power created through energy recovery, we can achieve even greater sustainability and environmental efficiency.”
Pact: Viridor and Unilever, who are both founding members of the UK Plastics Pact, have previously worked together with Nextek Ltd on detectable black plastic packaging for Unilever’s TRESemmé and Lynx personal care brands.