Compacting plastic infrastructure: Wastech Engineering

With rapidly growing collection rates and rising public awareness, REDcycle relies on convenient compaction from Wastech Engineering.

When Downer opened its new soft plastics asphalt plant in June, Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser highlighted the facility’s ability to process thousands of tonnes of sustainable road material each year.

For every kilometre of two-lane Reconophalt road, the facilities flagship product, 530,000 equivalent plastic bags are diverted from landfill and repurposed into roadbase.

Australia’s infrastructure boom, paired with a renewed government focus on sustainable procurement, suggests Downer will require a consistent flow of soft plastic to meet demand.

Industry led product stewardship scheme REDcycle, which supplies the soft plastics used to produce Reconophalt, has collection bins in every Coles and Woolworths supermarket in the country.

According to the Coles 2019 Sustainability Report, since beginning in 2011, REDcycle has diverted more than 715 million pieces of flexible plastic from landfill. In the 2019 financial year, the volume of soft plastics collected by the program grew by 32 per cent.

Elizabeth Kasell, RED Group Director, says the program aims to provide Australian consumers with an alternative disposal option for plastic packaging that can’t be recovered through kerbside recycling.

To ensure material quality, Elizabeth says REDcycle operate a range of Bramidan Balers, supplied by Wastech Engineering.

“Another recycler recommended the Bramidan Baler range to us over 10 years ago, and REDcycle has been using them exclusively ever since,” she says.

According to Elizabeth, baling the material REDcycle collects is the most efficient transport option for the program, given soft plastic’s irregularity and tendency to hold air.

“At most of the stores, around 80 percent, the material is collected directly by us. We do have some regional stores that are well covered through a reverse logistics process,” Elizabeth says.

“After the plastic arrives at the depot, we conduct initial decontamination and sorting before baling the material and sending it to end market clients such as Downer and recycled plastic manufacturers Replas and Plastic Forests.”

Elizabeth says the compaction rate of Wastech’s Bramidan Baler range is well suited to film plastics.

“Due to the nature of our material, REDcycle compact’s a lot of plastic bags that are full of air, and the compaction rate of Bramidan Balers alleviates potential issues,” she says.

“We have multiple Bramidan Balers that have been running all day Monday to Friday for years, and they’re still in operation – they are very reliable.”

Elizabeth says the volume received at REDcycle depots is increasing, so the operational reliability of its Bramidan Balers is crucial. She adds that customers are dropping off roughly a million pieces of plastic each day, with the weight of bales produced by REDcycle averaging 260-290 kilos.

“We’ve been working with Wastech for many years, and while we know there are other balers on the market, their product is perfectly suited to our process,” she says.

“Plus, the support we get from Wastech ensures we can keep our processes operating at maximum capacity.”

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Cleanaway unveils new optical container sorting facility

Cleanaway has officially opened its new automated optical Container Sorting Facility at Eastern Creek, NSW.

The facility initially opened on 1 December 2017 and included a manual sorting line, which used magnetic sorting and manual picking to separate steel, aluminium, cartons and plastics with a capacity of 1.5 tonnes per hour.

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With construction of the new automated sorting line completed, the facility now has a capacity of eight tonnes per hour.

Optical sorters used in the plant identify containers based on their material type at thousands of reads per minute with air jets being used to separate them for compaction and baling.

These baled materials are then distributed domestically and internationally to be recycled back into food grade containers.

Since beginning operation last year, the facility has processed most of the 900 million containers collected by the NSW Return and Earn scheme.

The NSW Government’s scheme aims to reduce the volume of litter across the state by providing a 10-cent refund for each eligible container returned.

Cleanaway CEO and Managing Director Vik Bansal said schemes such as Return and Earn require the community to pre-sort containers for recycling, reducing the level of contamination at the source.

“With the new sorting technology installed at this facility, we are now able to improve the quality of the commodity streams even further,” Mr Bansal said.

“The Eastern Creek Container Sorting Facility is a critical part of our Footprint 2025. We’re committed to putting the infrastructure and facilities in place to deal sustainably with Australia’s waste, well into the future.”

Mr Bansal says the challenges facing the waste industry over the past 12 months have changed the way Australians view waste.

“It is more important than ever before that we work together to address these challenges. Return and Earn is a great example of that,” he said.

“It has been encouraging to see so many people getting involved and increasing the amount of recyclables being sorted at the source.

Coupled with a better network of facilities to sort the containers collected, we can produce commodity streams which are in demand, meaning more items are being recycled into new products,” Mr Bansal said.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the Return and Earn had been a great success, reducing litter across NSW by a third.

“I commend the people of NSW and congratulate Cleanaway on their state of the art facility that supports Return and Earn to provide a smart solution to reduce litter in NSW and contribute to a more sustainable future,” Ms Upton said.

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