News | March 21, 2012

Prisoners Capturing Low-Grade PVC For Recycling

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Prisoners are to capture rising volumes of low-grade PVC in a unique private/public sector social enterprise between a Manchester-based plastic recycling firm and HM Prison Service. Low-risk offenders will sort, segregate and process the worst-contaminated plastic for further refining by PVC Recycling Ltd and eventual re-manufacturing into new products by UK-based manufacturers.

Raw material feedstock, such as low-grade waste PVC guttering and cable protection products, is sourced from local waste transfer stations by PVC Recycling. This is sorted in a secure workshop within the prison by prisoners who had been fully trained by PVC Recycling. Pre-sorted waste is cleaned and reduced to suitable sizes for granulation. Granulation is carried out at Buckley Hall using pre-installed equipment and bagged for transportation. PVC Recycling purchases at market value granulated material for melt-filtration at its recycling plant to produce high-grade black polymer pellets for use in new pipe, rainwater goods and building products.

For imported or re-imported PVC
This polymer offers UK manufacturers a competitive advantage over imported goods made from higher-priced virgin PVC polymers or our waste PVC transported to China and imported back again as an even-cheaper product. As a sustainable re-use of recovered plastics with a corresponding reduction on environmental impact, this creates new markets, for a previously-ignored, low-value waste stream in the UK.

Ian Murray, Managing Director of PVC Recycling Ltd, the UK's largest independent PVC recycler, said: "Hand-sorting is part of the initial recycling process for this material, because technology is not available to deliver the quality the manufacturer requires - which is why we have chosen this challenging, but ultimately practical route."

Four tonnes each day processed
The pioneering scheme was launched in February with a pilot project involving 30 men working up to 37 hours per week at Buckley Hall Prison, Rochdale. Up to four tonnes of material diverted from landfill would be processed at the jail's facilities each day – equivalent to two 40 cubic yard skip deliveries - and sent back to PVC Recycling's Stalybridge plant to create a high quality recyclate.

Once proven, this Business Model could be repeated and rolled out to local 'hubs' throughout the UK – providing a sustainable waste solution and new training/work opportunities for prisoners. Processing this low-grade waste stream close to its origination is the best way of generating return on investment.

Working well and cost-effective
Susan Kennedy, Governor of Buckley Hall Prison, said the scheme, part of the Working Prisons Initiative, is working well and providing a great opportunity for prisoners to develop a work ethos within a realistic working environment. "This not only adds to their resettlement opportunities, but they enjoy the work which helps time to pass quickly. It's a very positive partnership. The Prison Service is keen to work with commercial partners on projects such as enterprises involved in recycling, and develop initiatives that contribute to the wider Green Agenda," she said.

Ian Murray added: "This cost-effective scheme addresses rising volumes of low-grade waste PVC that are currently being landfilled at an increasing cost to both the environment and for companies disposing of this unwanted, and hitherto unrecycled, material. It also taps into the unique labour pool that HMPS can supply in terms of sorting, handling and eventually processing a recyclable material to a standard that is fit for purpose for eventual re-manufacturing into new products here."

SOURCE: PVC Recycling Ltd.

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