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Polymers were first manufactured on Teesside at the Wilton Site and to this day we still find many polymers and polymer intermediates produced here.

The Wilton site is dominated by SABIC’s huge £300 million investment into Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), the largest such plant in the world that has turned the UK into a net exporter of the material. Polyethylene terephalate – or PET as it is known – is also manufactured on the very large scale on the site by the Korean owned Lotte Chemical UK.

Next door, one of the newer innovations in global recycling is taking place, where the patented technology enables the now owner, Biffa Polymers, to provide 17 per cent of the polymer used in UK milk bottles as a recycled material.

Elsewhere on Teesside, Ineos Nitriles make the raw materials for Nylon and manufactures PVC polymer. Lucite International, now part of the Mitsubishi Group, are the biggest producers in the world of MMA (methyl-methacrylate), the precursor of Perspex Acrylics, which again was first manufactured here in North East England. MMA is the driving force behind the global Perspex brand.

Meanwhile, DuPont Tejin Films, who make specialist materials such as cling film and electronic tapes, still have a major R&D activity here. In the speciality polymer area, the very hard and useful engineering polymer PEEK is manufactured by Victrex at Seal Sands.

It is not surprising therefore that many of the above high-tech manufacturing facilities and the R&D teams that underpin them, are working from the Wilton Centre in Redcar. Here they are generating new materials and processes for the plastic electronic sector, which are finding applications as flexible television and monitor screens, printed circuits, photovoltaic cells and leading edge lighting equipment.

Many of these companies are collaborating in these new technology areas with the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), who can support developments in new polymers through the National Industrial Biotechnology and Sustainable Process units, which house scale up equipment to enable company’s trial their new products and processes. CPI also manages the National Plastic Electronic Centre in Sedgefield, where many new product innovations are taking place.

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