A WASTE management company is planning to start recycling more than a billion single use plastic bottles a year at a new facility in County Durham.

Biffa Waste Services was granted planning permission to turn an industrial unit in Seaham, in east Durham, into a plastics recycling and processing facility.

The new facility will create 70 jobs and will house a state-of-the-art polymer processing plant, which will re-process single use drinks bottles back into food contact material.

Members of Durham County Council’s county planning committee backed the scheme unanimously.

Cllr Mark Wilkes said: “This facility would be able to recycle up to a billion bottle a year. That sends a message this county is doing what it can to sort out the problem.

The Northern Echo:

The unit on Foxcover Industrial Estate, Seaham, which is being turned into a plastics recycling facility

“In an ideal world we wouldn’t be using them but let’s start on this problem.”

The company was given permission for a change of use for a unit on the Foxcover Industrial Estate, which will allow it to install the recycling and processing facility, which it described as “cutting edge”.

When it is up and running, it will reprocess single use polyethylene terephthalate (PET) drinks bottles back into a food contact material.

Clear PET flakes would be produced which would then be transported off site to be used to produce new drinks bottles and food trays, which would be supplied to manufacturers in the region, nationally and internationally.

The facility would be capable of processing enough clear PET flakes to produce about three million bottles per day, equating to more than one billion bottles per year

Cllr John Clare asked if the council could arrange a site visit to the premises when it is up and running so members of its environmental scrutiny group can see how it works.

He said: “When I read about the process I thought I’ve never read anything so exciting in my life.

Cllr John Robinson said: “It’s good news for County Durham and it’s good news for the country.”

After the meeting, Mick Davis, managing director of resource, recovery and treatment at Biffa, said: “The UK currently uses around a 13.5 billion plastic bottles a year but can only process half of this, with the rest diverted to landfill or overseas.

"This new site represents an exciting opportunity to boost our recycling capacity here at home and supports the country’s long-term plan to find new ways to reuse plastics, as detailed in DEFRA’s recent Resource & Waste Strategy.

“Our proposals for the Seaham plant were the result of months of careful consideration and we are keen to build on our already excellent reputation for recycling in the north east.

"We are delighted Durham County Council recognised the importance of this site to the region, as well as the wider waste industry, and we now look forward to seeing these plans come to life.”