Plaswood, a brand of Berry Global, has manufactured and delivered the UK’s first picnic bench made from plastic recovered from a riverbed.

The accomplishment forms part of a partnership project between West Cumbria Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency.

The River Keekle restoration project - the largest of its kind in the UK - involves the removal of an environmentally damaging plastic liner from a 2.5km stretch of the Cumbrian river. Nine tonnes of plastic have been removed from a 170-metre trial site in the recently completed first phase of the project and the riverbed restored with stone.

The plastic, which is causing erosion and pollution, was destined for landfill until Plaswood heard about the scheme and stepped in to help.

Plaswood, which manufactures outdoor fencing, furniture and decking using recovered plastic, offered to collect the material from the site to demonstrate how it could be recycled to create useful second-life products.

To mark the achievement, the company has donated a picnic bench made from the collected plastic to the West Cumbria Rivers Trust. The bench now takes pride of place on the riverbank near to where the plastic was recovered.

Katherine Lorek-Wallace, General Manager at Plaswood, said: “We’ve helped to turn a potential environmental problem into a solution by creating second-life Plaswood benches that can be enjoyed by the public for years to come.

“Our work with the West Cumbria Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency is a great example of the circular economy.”

All the plastic removed from the River Keekle was sent to Plaswood’s recycling plant in Dumfries for shredding, cleaning and remanufacture into recycled plastic lumber, from which the company makes its end products. The process diverts waste from landfill and provides a valuable, sustainable and long-lasting alternative to hardwood, that itself can be recycled at the end of its use.

Luke Bryant, Project Manager for West Cumbria Rivers Trust, said: “We’re already seeing massive positive changes in the restored section. There’s natural gravel, cobbles and sediment deposition in places, which is proof that the river is re-naturalising itself now the plastic isn’t in the way.

“We estimate that 100 to 150 tonnes of plastic will be removed this year, leaving the full 2.5km stretch restored, with the potential to become great habitat for fish spawning.”

The project is part of the Environment Agency’s River Restoration Programme in Cumbria – one of the biggest portfolios of river restoration projects in the UK.

Lorek-Wallace added: “Plastic is widely recyclable and it’s essential that we get this message across. The River Keekle project gives us the opportunity to demonstrate the importance and usefulness of plastic recycling - and this is one of the best ways to encourage even more recycling across the country.”