With waste company Panda set to open a plastic recycling facility, Des Crinion, manager of its recycling division, talks about the firm’s efforts to reduce waste and how the public can help.
One of the biggest developments in the Irish waste-processing industry is set to happen next year when large volumes of plastic film generated in Ireland will be recycled within the country rather than being exported abroad or being disposed of in a non-sustainable manner.
The breakthrough is being made possible by Panda waste processing company, which is to develop a large facility to recycle plastic into plastic pellets at Millennium Park, Ballycoolin, in north Dublin, which can then be used in a wide variety of products.
“Plastic will be a very good news story for us ,” predicts Des Crinion, managing director of Panda Recycling Division.
They have ordered the plant needed in Italy, which will be in place in the first quarter of 2020 and producing plastic pellets from plastic film, such as shrink wrap around pallets collected from Irish companies. “That’s bringing the recycling back and actually doing it here in Ireland,” he explains.
This is hugely challenging because there is a huge variety of plastics involved, not to mention different colours. Once that is in place, they will process plastic films from domestic households, which is bit more challenging as it invariably comes with a higher degree of contamination.
The problem in Ireland is that there is little technical knowledge in plastics, and few companies involved in manufacturing plastic products, Crinion explains. Plastic bottles currently have a good market, while tops, tubs and trays are a little more difficult to trade. Films are the big problem in recycling terms, so they intend to start with the easy ones and then move to the more difficult ones.
Another significant new option will be the ability to soon use crushed rubble and concrete in mine remediation projects rather than sending it to landfill, he confirms.
Expansion and diversification
Panda started out with just three trucks in 1990. It was set up by Eamon Waters, adjoining his family’s filling station based at Beauparc (which later became the name of the umbrella utility company), near Slane, Co Meath.
The “pay-to-collect” model applied but it quickly become clear that cost of disposal was a critical factor and the imperative should be to process waste to add value. As Crinion recalls, it was very easy to be a “hump-and-dump” operation, but a combination of financial necessity and foresight meant the company soon began to regard waste as a resource.
“We are going to recycle as much as we can, we are going to make use of it, we are going to make a product out of everything we collect, we are going to dispose of as little as possible” in effect became the company mantra. He acknowledges that adding value emerged out of financial necessity, rather than a tree-hugging exercise.
Crinion joined the company in 2005, when it was continuing its diversification – and big consolidation in Ireland and abroad was to follow. Shortly afterwards, it became the first waste company in the Republic to install an automated line to process skip waste.