Sales Director Lorcan Mekitarian is extremely proud of these figures, and is enthusiastic about being part of the circular economy. He told us: “It’s in our DNA. We have spent the last 15 years perfecting the technology to recycle post consumer waste polythene film such as bale wrap and pallet wrap and, at the front end of our business, design sacks that are market-leading in terms of performance and competitiveness. Now that China has banned these grades of waste film it’s vital that the UK has the infrastructure and the markets to deal with PCW polythene film.”

We began our factory tour by putting on high visibility jackets, protective footwear and caps and following a clearly defined route into the facility, complete with safety barriers and protective railings. Lorcan continued: “The safety of our employees is our top priority for 2018: we want to eliminate forklift trucks in the areas of our factory where our work colleagues are most at risk of injury. Automation and rethinking how we do things will make our work environment safer.”

Our first stop was dominated by the EREMA Intarema, the largest recycling machine in Europe, which is at the heart of RPC bpi’s recycling process. Waste polythene film is first shredded and washed to remove dirt, paper and other types of plastics such as PET, before being loaded onto the Intarema. The polythene flakes are then melted down in an extrusion process to form small plastic pellets.

Once in pellet form, they’re transported to another machine which extrudes and blows them into shape as a tubular film, and stretches the material out. This film is converted into refuse sacks by sealing the bottom of each sack and including a perforation under each seal so that the bags can be torn off at the reel. The sacks can come in multiples of 10 or 20, or whatever the customer requires, and the rolls can be customised with a printed paper roll label and packed in cardboard or polythene packs.

It is not just refuse sacks that RPC Group manufacture, as four other processes lead to a

variety of different products. Injection moulding can create paint buckets, whilst coffee capsules are thermoformed. Bleach bottles are created using extrusion blow moulding, while large fish boxes are rotationally moulded.

The scale of the operation is impressive and efficient, with quality checks lining the route from the initial recycling station through to packaging and loading onto pallets. The refuse sacks have been certified to CHSA standards, but RPC bpi’s commitments to recycling don’t begin and end with production.

The company received ‘Zero Waste to Landfill’ accreditation from Valpak at three of its four manufacturing sites across the UK. An extremely demanding goal for any recycling business, each site put staff training on waste management and waste segregation at the top of its priorities list, along with annual waste reduction targets. This resulted in a limited amount of waste being sent to energy from waste (EfW) and nothing reaching landfill.

In recognition of environmental initiatives like this, RPC bpi recycled products recently won a Green Apple Environment Award 2017, which was presented at a carbon-neutral presentation ceremony at The Houses of Parliament, London.

Commenting on the win, Lorcan said: “Creating a sustainable culture is a core commitment and part of our group strategy, with dedicated investment, targets and measures in place. Our Green Apple Award success is a testament to our green credentials and to the hard work and dedication of our employees. We hope our best practice in achieving zero waste to landfill will inspire other companies to do the same.”

Every tonne of polythene recycled saves 1.8 tonnes of crude oil, reduces energy usage by two thirds, entails 90% less water and cuts sulphur dioxide emissions by 33%. As the largest polythene film recycler in Europe, RPC bpi recycled products is a leading example of environmental innovation. FEATURE | 31

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