Recycled plastic wood products business set for growth following funding from Santander UK

Recycled plastic wood products firm Plastecowood, whose carbon-negative products collectively remove some 40m unwanted plastic items annually from the UK’s waste stream, is set for significant expansion.

Santander UK has provided the manufacturer, based in Rhyl, North Wales, with a £1.3m funding package to support its expansion. The business has also shifted its day-to-day banking to Santander UK.

The funding supports Plastecowood’s purchase of two additional processing lines, which will triple its output of Smartawood® – a carbon-negative alternative to timber – lumber and assembled products from 2,000 tonnes annually to 6,000 tonnes. In line with this increased manufacturing capacity, the business is targeting an increase in annual turnover from £2.3m currently to £6m-£10m in the next few years.

Plastecowood creates Smartawood® at its manufacturing facility in Bodelwyddan from mixed recycled plastic packaging waste that is often rejected by other businesses because it is contaminated, or they are unable to recycle it. The business estimates that each tonne of Smartawood® manufactured uses up more than 25,000 pieces of plastic packaging waste, saves 700kg of carbon from landfill or incineration, and prevents, on average, two and a half trees from being felled. Last year, it recycled 40m waste plastic bottles and containers as part of its manufacturing process. Smartawood® lumber and assembled products, including outdoor benches, picnic tables, planters, decking, boardwalks, shipping crates, stillages and fencing, can themselves be recycled again by Plastecowood at the end of their life in its current form. The business largely sources the waste plastic used in its manufacturing process from commercial waste collectors.

Plastecowood is expanding its product line with the development of a ‘living wall’, a vertical fence or partition with in-built space to grow plants, which it is adapting for use in three formats:

A sound barrier, which, in addition to reducing noise, traps air pollution and offers space to grow plants, for use along motorways and railway lines.
A vertical garden that doubles as a wall, fence or partition for small gardens.
Bespoke design living outdoor classrooms and performance areas that include stages, sheltered seating and socialising areas as well as raised planters for growing vegetables and flowers.
Plastecowood was founded in 2014 and employs a staff of 40. The business won the 2021 Santander X Global Environmental Challenge1, which is designed to support entrepreneurs committed to the environment and with innovative ideas to build a more sustainable future. Last year, it also attended the UN COP26 Climate Conference, exhibiting a sculpture of a fire-ravaged forest created from Smartawood® by renowned UK artist Mark Weighton.

Henning von Spreckelsen, Technical Director, Plastecowood said: “Santander UK has demonstrated belief in Plastecowood, from the very first contact through to our current corporate facility. The loan facility is transformational and allows us to work toward our long-term vision of building a Smartawood® factory outside every major city in the world. Every city globally shares the challenges of responsibly managing mixed plastic packaging waste and finding a carbon-negative alternative – such as Smartawood® – to products made from steel, wood and concrete, allowing our existing living forests to continue absorbing carbon dioxide.”

Benjamin Earls, Relationship Director at Santander UK, said: “Plastecowood is not only removing difficult to recycle plastic from the UK’s waste stream, but is also putting it to great use in the manufacture of a carbon-negative alternative to timber, steel and concrete products. We are thrilled to become Plastecowood’s banking partner and provide it with funding that will significantly increase its manufacturing output. Santander UK is proud to support companies such as Plastecowood that are creating innovative and environmentally sustainable products.”

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