THE Wilton Centre on Teesside is the focus of a breakthrough project which would enable one of the world’s most commonly-used plastics to be recycled.

The company behind it – Lucite International – is so confident of success that it has well-advanced plans to build a recycling plant in mainland Europe which would be up and running in just three years time.

David Smith, who is leading the project, described it as “seriously game changing” and said: “For Lucite it’s one of the biggest projects in years, because if we get this right we don’t just add value to Lucite and Mitsubishi Chemical - Lucite’s parent company - we potentially add value to the world because we’re cutting down on CO2 emissions and reducing landfill, for example. The benefits are incredible."

The project team is using the laboratories and office space at the Wilton Centre near Redcar to develop a circular economy which it is calling molecular recycling.

It will take end-of-life acrylic products and reverse the production process to re-create the key raw material, Methyl Methacrylate (MMA) – the building block of all acrylic products.

Lucite International is the world’s biggest producer of MMA and its Cassel site in Billingham is the company’s largest plant. Acrylic was developed by ICI on Teesside in the 1930s and is used in a multitude of products, such as lighting, car number plates and tail lights, signage and medical equipment.