Will the new Victorian recycling process plant impact us?

When Victoria announced last week the opening of a $20m plastic recycling processing plant, I had quite a few people send me a link to the news article. Surely this must be a great thing?

My quick answer: good for the environment, but I’m not sure yet if they’ll be able to help my need for recycled plastic feedstock.

For those who are unaware of the process of recycling, there’s usually one company (Company A) that collects and sorts the things we place in our household recycle bins.

Then, there’s another company (Company B) that buys these bails of sorted plastic.

Image result for plastic bales
Sorted recycled bails

Company B may process it into flakes and/or beads as show below. However up until recently, lots of these bails in Australia were sold to another company (Company C) and exported to Asian countries to be processed.

Plastic flakes and pellets that are the raw stock for making plastic products.

Since many of these countries are no longer taking our plastic rubbish, the bails have lost a lot of value in the after market because there isn’t enough demand in Australia. The most dramatic example is for mixed plastic which dropped from $225/tonne to just $75/tonne the last time I checked.

Therefore, to have another processing plant in Australia is a great thing for this issue as long as there are manufacturers willing to purchase their processed recycled feedstock. Ironically, this is exactly why I started The Refoundry in the first place – to increase demand for Australian recycled plastic.

The articles are not completely clear to me, but looking at the Advanced Circular Polymers website it seems that they are offering various kinds of recycled flakes which larger manufacturers often mix in with virgin plastic to create things like water bottles.

Having the plastic sorted into one kind of plastic like PET rather than mixed plastic is really important if they want to sell it. That’s because each type of plastic has different material properties like flexibility, strength, UV protection and even colour.

At the moment, we ‘re looking for a clear or white coloured HDPE (#2 – think milk jugs), but leaning towards PP (#5 – like ice cream buckets). My manufacturer has existing relationships with other processors that can supply it as long as we don’t go over 10k units a month.

Right now, it looks like the Victorian company is offering both types of feedstock, but I don’t yet know of what quantity or colours (especially for PP) or price.

These are all factors that must be considered when using recycled plastic, but it is definitely good to have more processors in Australia to ensure that less plastic is going into the tip. How this particular company will impact us though needs to be considered further.

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Tammy Ven Dange

IT Consultant for the Not for Profit Sector | Host of "Executive with a Cause" Podcast

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