A milk bottle with ten lives

Posted on 19 March 2019.

Just outside London Veolia's Dagenham recycling center turns used high density polyethylene plastic bottles into new bottles. A cycle that can be repeated up to ten times.

For Veolia, the Dagenham center is an important step towards achieving the goals set by the UK Plastics Pact, of which the Group is a member.

In December 2017, the release of the last episode in the BBC’s Blue Planet II series drew viewers’ attention to ocean pollution and the ravages caused by plastics on marine life. It had a huge impact. According to a study by Waitrose & Partners, a British supermarket chain, 88% of people who watched this episode then changed their behavior!
But well before the "Blue Planet effect", Veolia had already begun taking action. All around the world, the Group has over the last few years been developing solutions to prevent marine pollution by reducing land-based sources of pollution via a circular economy approach. One of these solutions consists of replacing virgin plastic with recycled plastic. The latest example is the Dagenham recycling center in the UK, which turns used high density polyethylene (HDPE) milk bottles into new bottles.

Bottle (of milk), you will become a bottle again

Every year three hundred million milk bottles arrive in Dagenham from all over the UK. In 2017, Veolia took over this plastic bottle recycling plant in London’s suburbs, upgraded it with new technologies and re-launched production at full capacity. Goal? To produce 10,000 metric tons of HDPE pellets annually and use them to make new milk bottles and yoghurt pots. The Group works with the dairy industry and encourages consumers to collect and recycle their used milk bottles.
After being collected and compressed into balls, 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 - the body of the bottle – from the cap, which will also be recycled. The transparent HDPE is then formed into pellets ready to be shipped to the dairy industry. The process can be repeated up to ten times – that’s ten milk bottle lives instead of one!

30% recycled milk bottles

For Veolia, the Dagenham center is an important step towards achieving the goals set by the UK Plastics Pact, of which the Group is a member. Created in April 2018 to fight plastic pollution, this collaborative initiative lays the foundation for a circular plastics economy. Its members include 40 leading brands representing the entire plastics value chain, UK government institutions and NGOs.
"The UK Plastics Pact is very important because it encourages plastic packaging manufacturers not only to use more recycled materials, but also to ensure that the plastic products they design are recyclable," says Richard Kirkman, Veolia’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer for the UK and Ireland.
The UK Plastics 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. The first results are expected by the end of 2019, notably with 30% recycled milk bottles.

More efforts to fight plastic pollution:

> Veolia is a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste and its CEO, Antoine Frérot, is one of the two vice-presidents.
The creation of the Alliance was announced in London on January 16, 2019. It brings together some thirty global companies from the plastics and consumer goods value chain in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The Alliance aims to help eliminate plastic waste in the environment - particularly from our oceans.
> In October 2018, Veolia signed the "Global Commitment" initiated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with UN Environment to eradicate plastic waste and the pollution it generates at source.