Recycling and circular economy, Green Fibre International, Romania

Integrated recycling group using PET[1] from discarded plastic bottles to produce PSF[2]

Total project cost: EUR 22.7 million; EIB loan: up to EUR 7.5 million, EFSI guarantee.

[1] PET – Polyethylene Terephthalate - one of the commonest materials for plastic bottles.

[2] PSF - Polyester Staple Fibre, produced using converted PET as the feedstock.

There is increasing public awareness of the environmental risks posed by plastic waste: from litter in the street to plastic pollution in the oceans. However, one of the answers may just be to stop calling it waste. If we consider one-way plastic packaging as a resource, and the starting point for new products, it would be more highly valued and more of it would be recovered. Green Fibre International is building its future on this type of material in Romania.

This project supports a relatively new company that started out making PET flakes from old plastic bottles. As it grew, its know-how developed until it became one of Europe’s market leaders. Now Green Fibre will expand its PET activities upstream and downstream. One of the problems for re-processors is to get a consistent supply of plastic feedstock (old bottles). Part of the project is therefore to create 125 public collection units. At the same time, the company is establishing relationships with national collection systems, and importing materials from other countries which do not have processing capabilities. These inputs will feed into a new processing unit which convert the PET flakes itself into fibres, for use in a range of products, depending on the quality of the input material. Furthermore, having established a collection system, Green Fibre will also operate a Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment processing unit that will take old appliances, devices and cables, repair what is repairable, extract reusable components, and prepare other materials for recycling. The company recycles other materials too, for example glass and light bulbs, with a high focus on traceability, to facilitate reporting on recycling achieved. By securing part of their feedstock through their own collection channels, and focusing on quality, the company is able to compete with Asian markets that have lower labour costs.

Although Green Fibre is a major processor of recovered plastics, it is still small in absolute terms and the project is a bold step in its development. Growing companies need both additional working capital to fund growth and investment financing to expand their capacity. The EIB’s SME/mid-cap loan, backed by EFSI, was therefore critical for the company’s development programme.