Focused on sustainability, Alpek expands into Europe by acquiring the PET plants at Wilton International

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Alpek, a leading petrochemicals business in the Americas, saw a massive opportunity to extend their operations into Europe when they acquired the PET facility at the Wilton International site in Teesside, UK. The company now has plans to develop the sustainability of their product and we interviewed Malcolm Horne, Manufacturing Director of Alpek Polyester UK, to find out more.

The APUK PET plant at Wilton International produces PET resin, which is used to make food grade plastic bottles and containers. The facility was originally owned and operated by ICI, sourcing PTA & MEG, its main feedstocks, from the same site. Now, progressively replacing these feedstocks with recycled PET is central to the company’s sustainability strategy.

Benefiting from Wilton International’s connectivity and logistics infrastructure

As a recent inward investor to Wilton International, Alpek saw the site’s logistics infrastructure and freight connectivity as key benefits.

“The proximity of Teesport and easy access to the UK’s road infrastructure are vital for the business,” says Malcolm Horne.

“We currently bring in the PTA feedstock by container ship to Teesport then onwards by lorry to the Wilton International site. A second feedstock, mono-ethylene glycol (MEG), is also imported by ship and discharged into storage tanks at North Tees, before being transported to the Wilton International plant by tanker. The majority of the finished product, PET resin, is distributed within the UK by road and the rest is transported to mainland Europe by container ship.”

APUK’s drive for sustainability is supported by national and local developments

APUK is committed to increasing the sustainability of its products and developing the UK circular economy, which includes incorporating recycled PET into its production process.

“Every tonne from recycling reduces the PTA and MEG feedstocks currently imported into the UK,” says Malcolm. “And it moves us further towards a ‘closed loop’ recycling economy here in the UK. Used plastic bottles disposed of irresponsibly can end up polluting the environment, but if we treat them as a valuable resource they can be recycled on a very large scale, forming part of the solution rather than the problem”.

“Our work on recycling initiatives is focused on giving us the opportunity to keep billions of bottles out of landfills and the environment”, Malcolm explains. “This also allows Alpek to support the UK government in achieving its plastic recycling targets”.

Things are changing fast. “Consumers are rightly demanding plastic waste reduction, brand owners are pledging increasing levels of recycled content in their packaging and recycle companies are investing in new sorting & processing plants.” says Malcolm.

“Our focus is on developing the Wilton assets to incorporate this recycle feedstock and deliver sustainable PET products which meet customer & consumer needs now and into the future.

Part of a welcoming and well-established industrial cluster

“Wilton International is a great location for Alpek’s first venture into Europe” says Malcolm. “The site, the local council and the wider cluster are very welcoming - and the shipping links are already in place to connect the plant with Alpek’s other facilities in the Americas, as well as mainland Europe. Our vision for the plant is exciting and we’re well placed here to take advantage of available high-quality recycled feedstock as the supply increases.”

As the UK seeks to improve sustainability, Malcolm sees great opportunities for Alpek and the Teesside industrial cluster as a whole. “Wilton International and the wider region, with available land and excellent local technical companies, have the critical mass to become a national hub for decarbonisation and recycling,” Malcolm says.

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