Hundreds of jobs are set to be created if plans for a new plastics recycling plant get the go-ahead in Sunderland.

Norwegian recycling specialist Quantafuel has announced plans to expand its operations into the UK with a series of processing plants that would create high value products from low value plastic waste.

The news comes as a landmark report into the economic benefits of the UK’s net zero agenda ranked the city as one of the best positioned cities to capitalise on decarbonisation.

The first of Quantafuel's UK plants is planned for the Port of Sunderland, which, subject to planning approval, could be up and running in a few years.

The company has submitted a preliminary planning application this week and is in advanced talks with the Port of Sunderland and Sunderland City Council about the proposal.

Quantafuel transforms plastic waste into sustainable products that are in high demand and contributes to solving the global plastic waste problem."

The Northern Echo: The proposed siteThe proposed site

Interim CEO Terje Eiken said: “This is an important step because we see strong potential in the UK market. By upgrading used plastic waste into valuable products, we will contribute towards the circular economy and help to improve the UK’s plastic recycling rates.

“We’ve identified an excellent site in Sunderland and are grateful for the positive welcome from the port and the city council. We look forward to pushing circular plastics in the UK.”

Quantafuel has chosen a prime 12-acre site on the eastern edge of the port due to its close proximity to shipping berths, transport links, and presence of local skilled workforce.

The plant will be designed to process more than 100,000 tonnes of plastic per year and could create hundreds of jobs during construction and provide business for local suppliers. It will also create around 50 jobs once operational. Plastic waste from across the north of England will be processed at the facility.

Councillor Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council and Chair of Port of Sunderland, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that Port of Sunderland has been chosen as the preferred location for Quantafuel’s first UK operation.

“Sunderland is a city transforming, and investments like this, allied with other significant developments in the city centre, Washington and the Coalfields, give an increasing confidence in the economic future of our city.

“There has been a concerted drive to stimulate investment in the city in general and the port in particular, with a huge programme of infrastructure works carried out to make parts of the estate shovel-ready. Quantafuel’s decision to locate to Sunderland vindicates this work and is testament to the ambition of the Port of Sunderland and the city council as its municipal owner.”

A frontrunner in the industry, Quantafuel recycles plastic waste by breaking it down chemically to produce oil that can be used in the production of virgin-grade recycled plastic.

Chemical recycling of plastics replaces products from crude oil, helping more countries to reach their plastic recycling goals, making the entire value chain circular.

The Northern Echo: Patrick MeliaPatrick Melia

Research from the Social Market Foundation released last week ranked local authorities by a number of factors, such as proximity to top universities; closeness to green business clusters; proximity to major developments and the population percentage of skilled workers.

Knowsley, just north of Liverpool, finished in top spot, with Sunderland finishing a close second, due to its high proportion of workers that are employed in roles that are well positioned for transition, with over one in ten people in the city boasting the transferable skills required to help the UK achieve net zero.

The ‘Zeroing in’ report also revealed that Sunderland benefits from a high proportion of low and medium skills. 

Cllr Miller said: “We all have a role to play in helping the UK meet its ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040 and we’re delighted to learn that all of the work we’ve put in over recent years - to position Sunderland as a leader in green energy - is starting to bear fruit."