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Food Grade Recycled Plastic Success Story

Monday, 11. May 2020

Posted by Mike Horrocks

What does the London Tube have to do with food grade recycled plastic? UK company Veolia UK's Dagenham Plastics Facility receives post-consumer PET and HDPE plastic bottles from the Greater London Authority (GLA). Post-consumer (used) plastic containers are gathered from having been deposited into an expanded network of recycling containers by travelers on the system.

The plastic containers are collected by the Authority and hauled to the Veolia Recycling plant in Dagenham to be processed back into food grade recycled plastic containers. Major brands including Marks & Spencer and Britvic are already using Veolia's rPET and rHDPE to make new food contact safe containers.

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor of London's environment director said: "The Mayor's vision of putting the 'village' back into the city is all about creating a cleaner and greener capital. We are absolutely committed to recycling which is why we have put more bins on London's Tube network and send all of the contents off for sorting and recycling. It is great news that plastic bottles placed in bins on the tube are being recycled within the capital, contributing towards London's economy and job market."

The Veolia Recycling Dagenham plant opened in 2008 and at that time produced 11,000 tons of rPET and 6,000 tons of rHDPE in a year. Due to the demand for its food grade recycled plastic, the plant was expanded in 2014 to provide additional capacity with the ability to convert an additional 25,000 tons of PET into rPET.


The Veolia UK Dagenham Plastics Facility Recycling - Food Grade Recycled Plastic Process

The process to turn post-consumer plastic into food grade recycled plastic includes four steps:

The incoming bales of used plastic containers are first sorted. The sorting process includes placing the incoming plastic containers on a rotating conveyor system where centrifugal forces separate dirt and contaminant clumps, loose paper and lids from the incoming bottles. A combination of sorting using optical automation systems and manual sorting then separates the incoming plastics into five types, clear PET bottles, light blue PET bottles, HDPE bottles, colored PET bottles and other plastics. 

Then the sorted plastic goes through a granulating and washing process.  The sorted post-consumer containers are then run through granulators which grind them into small flakes. A combination of air processing to remove anything lighter than the flakes and liquid processing to remove anything heavier than the flakes ensures that the flakes moving to the next step are of the right composition. The flakes are then chemically washed to remove any remaining glues, labels or other non-plastic contaminants.

The flakes are then melted and passed through a filter system to remove any solid contaminants and then the EREMA VACUREMA® process, which uses a combination of low pressure and heat to draw off vapor residue from any remaining contaminants. 

The resulting highly pure plastic is then extruded and sliced into pellets, which are cooled and packaged for shipment to be used in food grade recycled plastic containers.

You can see some of the food grade plastic recycling steps in action here:



Food Grade Recycled Plastic Technology

Veolia uses three VACUREMA® Advanced 1716 TE systems which provide highly efficient, food contact compliant decontamination upstream of the extrusion process and an additional extruder degassing phase. The patented pre-treatment of the HDPE flakes at raised temperature and in high vacuum before the extrusion process removes moisture and contaminant materials from the pellet feedstock.

The food contact compliance parameters are monitored by Veolia and the data are continuously saved for later reporting. The automatic operating mode with Food Contact Control (FCC) supervises the recipe data stored and if levels go beyond defined limits an alarm is triggered automatically and (optionally) material flow is diverted away from current production.

Besides closing the loop from post-consumer plastic containers to food grade recycled plastic containers, the facility incorporates solar panels and roof mounted wind turbines for hot water and electricity services. The plant includes a 500KW CHP (Combined Heat and Power) plant which generates energy by recovering waste heat from the recycling process and driving turbine-generators. These systems further contribute to the plant’s impact of reducing the overall carbon footprint of the London area.


Learn about the FDA Letter of No Objection process here.


You can see videos of rPET food grade plastic recycling from our Discovery Day in-plant demonstration here.


You can learn about the technical ins-and-outs of advanced PET recycling technology here.


You can learn about bottle-to-bottle PET recycling at large scale here.



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