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Microplastic pollution: Tonbridge business QMRE turning plastic waste into oil in effort to save world's oceans

A Kent company is doing its bit to save the world's oceans - by vaporizing tonnes of plastic.

Microplastics are a big problem for the environment, with many trillions of minuscule particles floating in our oceans, killing marine life and threatening our health.

Many trillions of particles of plastic are floating in the world's oceans. Picture: iStock
Many trillions of particles of plastic are floating in the world's oceans. Picture: iStock

The issue is one which is set to get worse if recycling efforts are not stepped up - globally 322 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, a figure which is forecast to grow to 1.2 billion by 2050.

The UK is now banned from sending its rubbish to China, meaning waste is mounting up and just 9% is recycled.

The rest is sent abroad and either incinerated or buried in landfill sites, compounding the pollution issue.

Tonbridge-based start-up QM Recycled Energy (QMRE) has a solution.

It is feeding shredded plastic into a giant heater and turning it back into the oil it was made from.

The technique uses a method called pyrolysis to break down the long polymers found in plastics.

A QMRE operative filling the hopper with waste plastic
A QMRE operative filling the hopper with waste plastic

QMRE's container-sized machine, nick-named Marie, can process up to a tonne of unsorted waste plastic every day, heating it in a thermal kettle to 400C to break it down. The result is a carbon ash and a heavy duty fuel oil, suitable for use by shipping or heavy industry.

Tunbridge Wells-based Kentec, a print management and international mailing services business, was persuaded of the benefits of the new technology after visiting QMRE's demonstration plant at Longfield.

Terry Gash of Kentec said: "As part of our business we take in a lot of plastic in the form of pallet wrap and polythene used for wrapping mail on the fulfilment side.

"Normally this would go to waste, but when we heard about QMRE we decided to speak to them and see if we could reach a better solution to the problem of plastic waste.”

The company will in future deliver all its plastic waste to QMRE.

Tim StClair-Pearce, head of QMRE, said: “The initial delivery of plastic waste from Kentec was probably the equivalent of up to 20 waste disposal bins not having to go to landfill.

"Good for Kentec, good for QMRE and most certainly good for the environment.”

For more information visit the company's website.

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