Sunday, June 26, 2022

Government investment to tackle hard to recycle plastics

The Federal Government has boosted the Recycling Modernisation Fund with a $60 million new funding stream targeted at advanced plastic recycling technology that will tackle hard to recycle plastics.

An additional $50M has been invested in CSIRO’s Ending Plastic Waste Mission funded through contributions by CSIRO, industry, government, university, and other organisations to develop cutting-edge science and innovation to change the way Australia makes, uses, recycles and disposes of plastics.

The announcements have been welcomed by food and grocery manufacturers and retailers.

Collaborative sustainability

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra said sustainability challenges, including plastics and packaging, are top of the priority list for the retail sector, as the next great business disruptor.

“The funding and focus being directed towards collaborative sustainability efforts between governments and industry are fantastic to see, and we are keen to see this increase significantly,” he said.

“Within the soft plastics area, the newly announced initiatives will help provide retailers with more options to embrace the circular economy, improve recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill.”

Mr Zahra also called for national consistency to enhance the efficiency, cost and speed of the schemes.

“Currently each state and territory are going it alone on their timeframes and approach, which just makes its harder and more costly to implement these important changes,” he said.

The ARA has recently launched its Net-zero Roadmap for the Australian retail sector.

Support for circular economy

Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) CEO Tanya Barden said the government funding will allow the development of onshore recycling capabilities for hard-to-recycle soft plastic packaging, such as bread bags and cereal box liners, and allow Australian manufacturers to source more food-grade recycled content for packaging here in Australia.

“Australia’s food and grocery manufacturing industry is committed to creating an effective and sustainable circular economy for plastic packaging in Australia,” Ms Barden said.

“Plastic packaging has an important role in keeping food safe and fresh, reducing food waste and keeping products intact. Our industry understands we must maximise recycling to reduce use of virgin plastics, build Australia’s advanced recycling capabilities and avoid harmful effects on the environment.”

Industry-led plastics recycling

The AFGC is currently developing the National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS), which will be Australia’s largest industry-led plastics recycling scheme.

Momentum is building in Australia’s advanced plastics recycling with food and grocery manufacturers such as Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars, Nestlé and Mondelez trialling recycled content in plastic packaging and the announcement of new soft plastic advanced recycling facilities in NSW and Victoria. Projects announced include:

  • plastics manufacturer Qenos and waste management giant Cleanaway conducting a joint feasibility study of establishing advanced plastics recycling facilities in Victoria and NSW, and
  • global plastics recycling company Brightmark has committed to establishing a $260 million advanced plastics recycling facility in Parkes, NSW.

At the same time the AFGC, through the NPRS, is working with industry and government to facilitate soft plastic packaging kerbside collection to increase community convenience and landfill diversion. Already there has been a successful trial of kerbside soft plastics collection on the NSW Central Coast and a new trial just announced in Newcastle.

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