Deep Dive #4: Plastic Fantastic

Biffa operates two of the most technically advanced plastic reprocessing facilities in the world. In June 2021, we were fortunate enough to be invited to visited one of these: Biffa Polymers
in Seaham. Located on Durham’s Heritage Coast, Seaham is a seaside town 6 miles south of Sunderland and 13 miles east of Durham. Like many small towns in the Northeast, Seaham has a mining heritage, which sustained the local economy for much of the 20th century. Seaham’s three pits had all closed by 1992 and the town sank into depression throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s, the deprivation of the area recalling the opening passage of Lord Byron’s Hebrew Melodies, which he wrote while staying in the area:

“Upon this dreary coast we have nothing but county meetings and shipwrecks; and I have this day dined upon fish, which probably dined upon the crews of several colliers lost in the late gales. But I saw the sea once more in all the glories of surf and foam”.

The final sentence of Byron’s passage is fitting, because amid the gloom that followed the closure of the mines, the sea and coastline offered the glimmer of regeneration. The “Turning
the Tide” project was a group of fourteen organisations that came together between 1997 and 2002 to regenerate the coast of Durham, leading to its designation as a heritage coast.  Seaham beach was entirely restored and in 2002 the project shared a prize for “Outstanding Achievement in Regeneration” in the annual Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors awards, alongside Cornwall’s The Eden Project.

This theme of regeneration continues today. Half a mile inland from the coast, a world class recycling site has come to the area: Biffa Polymers PET, Seaham.

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