Technological watch

UK's Coral Products investing in propylene recycling

From Brexit to the recent wave of circular economy ambitions, Mick Wood, the new CEO of the UK-based Coral Products Plc wants to make the business successful.

To that end, Wood, who took the helm at the Merseyside plastic parts supplier earlier this year, has cut a third of the workforce at Coral’s Haydock production facility, in northwest England.

The job cuts, Wood told Plastics News Europe, were across a myriad of employees, from team leaders, to engineers to factory floor workers, contributing to a £500k cost-saving programme at the facility.

“Haydock has been the Achilles heel of the group. For a few years now, that plant has made quite a lot of substantial losses, especially in the areas of stocks and costs,” noted the CEO who joined Coral last summer as the chief operating officer.

“There were some basic changes, like being able to keep count of things and making sure that the stocks balanced up really,” said Wood.

And, in addition to streamlining the business in Haydock, one of Coral’s two production units in the UK, Wood has found a new focus: recycling.

The manufacturer of extruded and blow-moulded products can see a healthy profit in recycling bins and boxes discarded by city councils, which already buy Coral’s bins for curbside collections. 

“I wanted to tell our customers, especially councils in the UK, that we were prepared to supply boxes, bins and caddies for their purposes. When those bins are not fit for purpose any more, I’d like to fetch them back…. And turn them, at Haydock, to bins and boxes again,” Wood added.

For that, Coral will pay the council a certain amount per tonne of bins and will pick up the bill for the collection of those end-of-life products from junk yards.

The company is already supplying plastic recycling and rubbish bins to a large number of the UK’s 418 principle councils, and with a conservative estimate, can see 700 tonnes of plastic recycled back into boxes and bins by during 2019.

“It doesn’t sound like rocket science, but I think it actually might be, when it comes to companies which are much bigger than us,” said Wood.

That, Wood explained, is completely down to the fact that Coral is a small business and making decisions are not complicated or time-taking there.

Coral has invested £350,000 in machinery, supplied by an unnamed Yorkshire-based machinery company, to set up the recycling plant at Haydock. 

The company expects to receive the equipment by the first week of December and operation is set to start by the end of the year.

Once fully operational, the recycling plant can process up to 4,000 tonnes of plastic waste per annum.

Coral has already got the agreement of some councils for the project, around 10-15 at this stage.

“We are already working with 160 councils and we have talked to some really big ones and told them about this process in place. The interesting point is that when you walk around the council yards, they are full all the bins, boxes and caddies and things we make on a daily basis. And there is no collection service for them,” Wood added.

Part of Wood’s concern stems from the lack of propylene recycling operations in the UK.

“For PP, I want to the be the first to the market with it and show that a little company can take all those products, recycle them and put them back onto the market,” the boss said. 

Elsewhere, Wood generally sees the business growing, with new orders coming from the automotive market, particularly following the integration of ICM, an injection moulder which it acquired March last year, and just recently, a large order for an online retailer. 

Asked whether the upcoming UK’s exit from the European Union, set for March 2019, will impact the business, Wood was cautiously optimistic.

“If it is going to be a hard Brexit, we have to understand that the UK is a little island and we import everything from resins and materials, even down to nuts and bolts… It all depends on tariffs and the impact on material costs.

“My take on this is that we prepare for the bad exit – in other words hard Brexit,” explained Wood.

A lot of what is going on at Coral at the moment, noted Wood, is about positioning ourselves in a place to ensure that, after all this is done, we will be the customers’ supplier of choice.

Publication date: 08/08/2018

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2020-07-14