UK firm to build world's first commercial-scale Cat-HTR plastics recycling plant

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The world’s first commercial-scale plastic recycling plant using Cat-HTR technology is to be built in the UK thanks to an Innovate UK grant of £4.42m.

Image by VIVIANE MONCONDUIT from Pixabay

Teesside-based ReNew ELP will use the funding to build an initial plant that will recycle 80,000 tonnes of waste plastic annually when complete.

Recycling plant to generate profit from waste plastic

Cat-HTR (Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor) technology uses supercritical water, heat and pressure to convert waste plastic considered ‘unrecyclable’ through mechanical means back into chemicals and oils that can be used by the petrochemical industry to produce new plastic and other materials.

In use, Cat-HTR is able to recycle multi-layer, flexible plastic materials such as films, and pots, tubs and trays (PTT). Furthermore, new materials made from ReNew ELP’s feedstock are suitable for use in food-contact packaging.

According to the company, the process starts by shredding end-of-life plastic and removing contaminants such as glass, metals, grit and stones. The shredded plastic, which does not need to be dried, is then heated and compressed, combined with supercritical water and further heated. It then enters the Cat-HTR where the water acts breaks down the polymeric bonds, releasing hydrogen to create short-chain, stable hydrocarbons, which are separated and stored.

Up to 85 per cent of the mass of plastic is converted to hydrocarbon products and further environmental benefits include minimal waste, as impurities such as colourants and additives in the plastic feedstock fall out into the heavier hydrocarbon feedstocks, which can be used in construction. As a non-combustion process, Cat-HTR does not produce toxic by-products such as dioxins.

“This grant demonstrates we are in line with government policy and its drive towards achieving increased recycling targets in the UK,” ReNew ELP Managing Director Richard Daley said in a statement. “It will increase investor confidence, help innovative technologies such as ours break through and establish the Advanced Recycling Industry in the UK, helping ReNew ELP to emerge as a global leader in plastic recycling.”

WMG at the University of Warwick is partnering on the project.