“Hard-to-recycle” soft plastics, such as film, will be converted into reusable materials at a pioneering plant which has opened in Fife.

The facility in Glenrothes aims to develop a greater plastics recycling infrastructure in the UK, to keep the material in a “closed loop” and save it from being exported overseas, according to those behind the project.

The site is co-owned by supermarket group Morrisons, and was constructed and will be operated by recycling plant specialist Yes Recycling.

Other organisations including Nestlé UK & Ireland and Zero Waste Scotland have also been involved in the development of what those behind the project describe as a “ground-breaking” recycling plant.

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The new plant uses patented technology, developed over the last seven years.

It will turn what is described as “hard-to-recycle” flexible food packaging into plastic flakes, pellets and new “Ecosheet” that can be used in the likes of construction and agriculture.

At full capacity, the site will recycle 15,000 tonnes of “post-consumer plastic packaging” per year.

The hard-to-recycle soft plastic – including chocolate wrappers, crisp packets and food film – will be sent to the plant from Morrisons' distribution sites and stores, and by Cireco Scotland, which operates Fife Council’s household kerbside collection service and also separates out the plastics ready for recycling.

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Fife is one of a limited number of local councils to collect and segregate hard-to-recycle plastic from customer collections and send it to a recycling facility, those behind the new plant noted.

Unlike “high-grade” plastics – which are more valuable and have been harvested for many years – “low-grade” soft plastic has not been recycled widely because of technological limitations in converting this material into commercially viable products.

It has typically been incinerated, ended up in landfill, or “even been exported overseas – often to countries whose infrastructure cannot accommodate it”, those behind the Glenrothes recycling facility noted.

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The Fife plant will create around 60 jobs.

Omer Kutluoglu, co-owner of Yes Recycling, said: “The UK is in desperate need of more plastic recycling capacity and, in particular, for the so-called hard-to-recycle plastic waste such as flexible food packaging."

He added: "Our new, next-generation recycling plant, which we’ve developed over the last seven years, is designed to tackle exactly these materials.

"It is a blueprint for the future and will help to kick-start the UK’s plastics recycling industry. It will mean we can keep plastic in our own country’s circular economy and out of our seas and oceans.”

Jamie Winter, procurement director at Morrisons, said: “We’ve done a significant amount of work to reduce our plastic use and now we want to help build a UK infrastructure to recycle the plastic that we may still need to use.

"By recycling these problematic plastics here in the UK we can give them a new life.”