Plastic plant aims to close 'recycle loop'

HAMISH MCNICOL
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014

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A 106-year-old company has set its sights on closing the local "recycling loop" on the same day it opened a New Zealand-first $3.5 million plant.

Wellington-based Flight Plastics officially opened the first domestic recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging plant at its new Lower Hutt site yesterday.

The redeveloped Griffin's factory in Lower Hutt would be the first plant in New Zealand to manufacture food grade PET packaging from recycled PET products.

The process essentially turns recycled drink bottles and food packaging, which are broken down and "washed" into flakes offshore, into reusable food packaging.

Flight Plastics has used the technology in the United Kingdom since 2009.

About 17,000 tonnes of PET plastics are consumed in New Zealand each year, mostly in food and beverage packaging.

Flight Plastics director Derek Lander said the new plant would give New Zealand food producers a local source of recycled packaging made from imported PET.

"Being able to manufacture RPET plastic products right here at the exact size and volume required means we can respond quickly and efficiently to changing customer demands."

The company would now look at expanding the plant further, he said, to incorporate a wash plant which would close the "recycling loop" and mean it would not need to import the PET flakes.

Of the 17,000 tonnes consumers used, 36 per cent went directly to a landfill and the balance was recycled "almost exclusively" offshore, he said.

"The logical next step to be considered is expanding the plant further to produce the recycled PET flakes from PET drinks containers and food packaging collected at kerbside here in New Zealand.

"We are currently looking at the economics of installing a wash plant to do this.'

The plant was officially opened yesterday by Prime Minister John Key, following three years of redevelopment at the 10,000 square-metre site.

Flight Plastics is part of the Flight Group, and had moved from its Lyall Bay site of 50 years where it was "bursting at the seams", Lander said.

It employs 180 people in New Zealand and also has interests in timber processing, with sites in Australia as well as in the English county of Hampshire.

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