CONSTRUCTION is underway in the North-East on a plastic recycling plant which uses a revolutionary "hydrothermal" process to turn it back into oil – which could help in efforts to reduce single use plastics.

The plant at Wilton International in Teesside will see Mura Technology's advanced recycling process – called called HydroPRS – which is designed to tackle plastic which cannot currently be recycled, used for the first time.

The project, which has been given Government funding, is being developed by ReNew ELP and has been backed by environmental groups, including Ocean Generation.

It is hoped it will be operational in 2022 and will be able to process 80,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year.

Dr Steve Mahon, chief executive of Mura Technology, said: “We are at the tipping point of an environmental catastrophe – it’s time to seize the initiative and put an end to plastic pollution across the world.

"HydroPRS™ represents a win-win for the environment, economy and society, helping keep our environment free from plastic and oil where it belongs – in the ground.

“We need to act now and that’s why we’re taking a global-first approach – to scale fast and meet the challenge head on.

"We’re working with global partners to deploy our unique HydroPRS™ process where it’s needed, today, to create a sustainable future and eliminate plastic pollution.”

The company is planning other sites in Germany, the US and Asia and wants to be able to have the capacity to process one million tonnes by 2025 – the equivalent to nearly half the plastic packaging waste produced in the UK each year.

The process uses supercritical steam to convert plastics back into the oils and chemicals they were made from, ready to be used for new virgin-grade plastic products.

It can recycle all forms of plastic – including ‘unrecyclable’ products such as multi-layer, flexible plastics used in packaging – with no limit to the number of times the same material can be recycled.

This means, the company says, it has the potential to eliminate single use plastic and make the raw ingredients for a circular plastics economy, creating value, not waste.

The UK currently produces 2.4m tonnes of plastic packaging and 79 per cent of plastic ends up in landfill or the environment, including 8m tonnes which ends up in the world's oceans.

Last year, the Teesside project was given £4.42m by the Government through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging programme.

Rebecca Pow MP, Under-Secretary of State for Defra said: “The Government is committed to both clamping down on the unacceptable plastic waste that harms our environment and ensuring more materials can be reused instead of being thrown away.

"By investing in these truly ground-breaking technologies, we will help to drive these efforts even further, and I look forward to seeing them develop and deliver real results.”

Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar, said: “ReNew ELP’s plastics recycling facility is the first of its kind in the world and represents the very future of how we deal with currently unrecyclable materials.

“I’m delighted that this is being achieved by a company based in Teesside. It means more jobs and investment and it puts our region on the map when it comes to state of the art, new technologies. Due to the huge potential that HydroPRS™ represents, this isn’t just great news for Teesside, it’s great news for the planet.

“The Government backed the ReNew ELP project last year and they were right to do so. Following the recent announcement of a freeport in Teesside, there has never been a better time for companies like ReNew ELP to invest in our region.”

To support the Teesside project, Mura has had investment from Igus GmbH.

Wood has been appointed as the EPC contractor.