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During a tour of Plaswire Limited in Lurgan, Environment Minister Edwin Poots met with Chief Executive Andrew Billingsley and senior management to discuss the importance of recycling to the local economy.

The plastic waste reprocessing facility processes other commercial plastics such as old aircraft interior furnishings. In keeping with circular economy principles, the waste plastics are shredded into small plastic pieces that can then be used as raw materials in the creation of new plastic products thus saving resources and reducing plastic ending up in landfill.

Officials within the Department of Agriculture, Environment and rural Affairs (DAERA) have also held preliminary discussions with Plaswire around the potential for processing end of life fishing gear to reclaim otherwise difficult to recover and recycle plastic content.

The company is currently seeking options for diverting low grade plastic waste away from landfill, including proposals to manufacture recycled construction products to replace concrete, as well as localised energy generation avoiding the need for export.

Minister Poots said, My emphasis for recycling is to realise the value of it to the local economy and thereby deliver both environmental and economic benefits.

“The Northern Ireland household waste recycling rate for 2018/19 is 50%, meeting the waste management strategy target of 50% by 2020 nearly two years ahead of schedule. I will build on this success.”

Plaswire is also exploring the process of Pyrolysis, which uses high temperatures to convert waste plastic back into its building blocks. The process is also referred to as thermal cracking.

Commenting, the Minister said, “It is important to apply the waste hierarchy and only waste which cannot be prevented, reused or recycled should be considered for energy recovery.

“My officials have been engaging with a number of companies in relation to this and other processes of waste treatment which could assist Northern Ireland in moving away from landfill and incineration.“

During the visit, the Minister also discussed the review of the PRN (packaging waste recovery notes) system to incentivise local reprocessing/recycling. The system ensures that ‘obligated producers’ meet mandatory recovery and recycling targets by requiring them to prove, through the purchase of PRN’s, that they have financed their prescribed tonnage of packaging recycling each year.

Concluding Minister Poots said, “I recognise that plastic waste is a scourge and we must find better ways to deal with it so it does not end up as harmful plastic pollution.

“Other UK administrations have introduced or consulted on the introduction of legislative measures (bans) on single-use plastics and I and my officials are presently looking at whether it would be appropriate to introduce similar measures for Northern Ireland.

“Whilst this legislation has an important role, changing mind-sets and lifestyles away from single use and thoughtless disposal is equally, if not more important.”