BLOG: Turning waste plastic into hydrogen – is this the future?

Myles Kitcher, Managing Director at Peel L&P Environmental talks about the planned roll out of pioneering plastic to hydrogen technology with the first plant to start construction at Protos later this year.

Hydrogen rarely seems to be out of the news these days. In the last few weeks the Government announced £139m for hydrogen and carbon capture to fuel the green recovery; £1m was committed to push ahead with hydrogen trains at Alstom’s Widnes facility; and the Liverpool City Region identified their Hydrogen Economy Programme as part of its economic recovery plans to build back better. With a Hydrogen Strategy expected from Government imminently it does really seem to be hydrogen’s time.

Here in the North West we’ve a plethora of hydrogen projects from trains and buses, to industrial fuel switching to hydrogen storage. The opportunities are endless and the innovation is breathtaking.

At Peel L&P Environmental we’ve been working with PowerHouse Energy who have developed a world first plastic to hydrogen technology. The first plant at Protos, our strategic energy and resource hub in Cheshire, is due to start construction later this year. It will take unrecyclable waste plastic – destined for landfill, or worse export overseas – and use it to create a local source of clean hydrogen to fuel buses, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and cars. Not only will this help reduce air pollution and improve air quality on local roads, it’s helping us deal with the pressing problem of plastic waste.

The project epitomises everything that Protos is about – innovation (with the technology developed next door at Thornton Science Park); creating sources of clean energy; and more sustainable ways of managing our waste and resources. The plant will form part of a wider ‘Plastic Park’ at Protos where we’re looking to provide a range of solutions for treating plastic waste.

Protos is set to be the first of many plastic to hydrogen facilities (quite fitting that the name Protos is derived from ancient Greek and means ‘first’!). We’re looking to roll out 11 facilities across the UK in the next few  years with over 60 to follow which could be an important part not only of our green recovery but make a significant contribution to our legally binding net zero emission targets. With 4.9 million tonnes of waste plastic produced in the UK every year there’s certainly no shortage of source material. Imagine the impact if these facilities were commonplace nationally.