China to ban non-degradable plastic

China is phasing out the sale and manufacture of non-degradable plastic products, with the aim of curbing pollution in major cities.

In addition to setting timelines to ban or restrict single-use, non-degradable plastic products, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has pledged to ramp up recycling and introduce preferential policies to promote green packaging and express delivery.

According to a ministry statement, the country is expected to significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste sent to landfill and bring plastic pollution under control in major cities by 2025.

The production and sale of disposable foam plastic tableware and plastic cotton swabs will be banned by the end of this year.

The production of household chemicals containing plastic micro-beads will also be prohibited by the end of 2020, with the sale of those products banned by 2022.

“Bans on the sale of other non-degradable plastic products will be rolled out in phases in different levels of cities and major plastic-consuming sectors,” the statement reads.

“The use of non-degradable plastic bags, for example, is expected to vanish in some major consuming sectors, including shopping malls, supermarkets and restaurant takeout services, first in metropolises by the end of this year, and then in all major Chinese cities and urban areas in coastal regions by the end of 2022.”

China Plastic Processing Industry Association Secretary-General Weng Yunxuan has applauded the ban’s phased approach.

“The ban will not be imposed all of a sudden, but phase by phase. The current production capacity (for substitute products) in China will not fail to meet the market gap caused by the ban,” Mr Yunxuan said.

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UNSW students develop plastic reprocessing start-up

Local councils and community centres could soon be able to reprocess their recycled plastic through a subscription based service.

UNSW business school students have won the 2019 Big Idea competition’s postgraduate category with their start-up idea Closed Loop – a local-level plastic waste recycling business.

Closed Loop aims to address plastic waste by renting plastic reprocessing machines to community centres and councils, giving the public an opportunity to upcycle their plastic.

According to UNSW graduate student Lauren Hayes, the team acquired an open-source reprocessing machine from Precious Plastics, a global community for plastic waste.

“The greatest way to have impact is to reach out to community centres and the government,” Ms Hayes said.

“We are working to place a reprocessing machine in every community centre in Sydney. We are also in discussion with numerous councils and looking to put a machine in their space as well.”

Ms Hayes said rather than recycling plastic, the machine reprocesses it into new products.

“In terms of what the processing machine actually does, is it different to a recycle bin. Reprocessing is when recycled plastic re-enters the world as new materials – rather than being just re-used, reduced, recycled,” she said.

“We take recycled plastic and it goes into the reprocessing machine. What it does is that it can produce new products such as bowls, iPhone cases, pot plants and coasters – depending on which moulds are used in the machine.”

The process requires uncontaminated plastic that’s been cleaned and sorted, depending on various factors such as grade and colour. The material is then shredded into chips and transferred to a 3D printer.

“The community centre will decide what customised moulds they would want to create out of the reprocessed plastic,” Ms Hayes said.

“As part of the subscription service, the community centre can request up to three customised moulds. That’s where our consulting service comes in.”

Ms Hayes said the next step for the project is to raise capital funding.

“We’ve pitched our idea and are looking to raise funds through a GoFundMe campaign. We might also join an incubator to raise capital, as we want to ultimately expand Australia-wide,” she said.

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City of Yarra phases out single-use plastic

The City of Yarra is phasing out the sale of single-use plastic bottles and straws at all leisure facilities across the inner Melbourne municipality.

Following a July 2019 council resolution, Yarra City Council announced leisure centres would be the first council-run facilities to eliminate single-use bottles and straws, with other facilities set to follow.

According to a Yarra City Council statement, the phase out begun 1 January 2020, with staff now working with current suppliers to source plastic free product alternatives.

“By removing plastic bottles from our Yarra Leisure facilities, we expect to eliminate the consumption of approximately 17,000 plastic bottles each year,” the statement reads.

“This figure is based on our annual plastic bottle consumption across our facilities during 2018/19.”

Former Yarra Mayor Danae Bosler said going plastic-free is an important step in the council’s long-term ambition to become a zero waste city.

“Single-use plastics have a terrible impact on our environment, particularly our waterways, and our community expects us to take real action on this issue,” she said.

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Federal Government to host first national plastic summit

The Federal Government is set to host Australia’s first national plastic summit in 2020.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the summit will explore new remanufacturing methods in an effort to build a wider understanding about the importance of recycling strategies.

Ms Ley said approximately 200 leading retailers, industry representatives, state governments, local government associations, infrastructure companies and researchers will be invited to Canberra in early March to take part in the national summit.

“Delegates will be invited to showcase solutions, mobilise actions and address the National Waste Policy Action Plan target of phasing out problematic and unnecessary plastics over the next five years,” Ms Ley said.

“Consumer and community education will be a key focus, along with the role of school children and young adults in influencing household behaviour, and in highlighting the link between industry action and community interests.”

Ms Ley said the Federal Government will be looking for commitments from industry that will create jobs, research opportunities, education initiatives and practical community outcomes.

“The Federal Government is investing more than $167 million in our national Recycling Investment Plan, and all governments have taken a significant step agreeing to ban the export of unprocessed mixed plastic waste from 2021,” Ms Ley said.

“As we hit the peak plastic packaging time of the year, now is an opportunity for all Australians to consider the ways we can think about the plastic we use and, importantly recycle.”

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Recycled plastic used to resurface Melbourne streets

The City of Melbourne is using plastic previously destined for landfill to resurface five prominent city streets.

According to Lord Mayor Sally Capp, the first road to be re-surfaced with asphalt made with recycled plastic was Flinders Street, with works occurring between Exhibition Street and Spring Street in October.

“We collect 11,000 tonnes of residential recycling each year. Using a mix of plastic to resurface our streets is one way we can support the circular economy and reduce landfill,” Ms Capp said.

“The paving on these historically significant streets will look exactly the same as any other street. The difference is that using plastic in the asphalt creates demand for recycled products.”

Sections of Anderson Street in South Yarra have also been resurfaced, with further works on Alexandra Avenue to be completed this week.

Ms Capp said works will also be completed on sections of Spring Street next year, between Little Collins Street and Little Bourke Street and Flinders Street and Collins Street.

Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood said the paving consists of 50 per cent recycled plastics and other recyclable materials such as slag aggregates and recycled asphalt products, with the remaining made of virgin materials.

Mr Wood said the trial will allow the city to assess whether it can use more recycled materials and plastic for road resurfacing.

“The City of Melbourne uses 10,000 tonnes of asphalt annually, and we resurfaced eight kilometres of road last year. This trial will help us understand whether it’s possible to use recycled plastic in more of our major projects,” Mr Wood said.

“By using recycled plastic and other recycled materials on our roads we’re creating more sustainable infrastructure and showing there are local markets for recycled materials.”

The trial is a joint initiative from the City of Melbourne, its subsidiary Citywide, and the Citywide North Melbourne Asphalt Plant, with plastic waste sourced from metropolitan Melbourne.

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National recycling scheme launches for batteries and plastic pens

Officeworks has launched a new way for customers to dispose of batteries, pens and markers, as part of upgrades to recycling stations across most of its stores over the next 12 months.

The program was launched by Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans at Officeworks Osborne Park store in Perth, Western Australia.

“Australians can now recycle their batteries, pens and markers at Officeworks, in addition to e-waste, computers and accessories, ink and toner cartridges and mobile phones,” Mr Evans said.

“It is another step forward in Australia transitioning towards a more circular economy, in which we recognise the value of our waste resources and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.”

Mr Evans said every Australian, including all levels of government, has a part to play in the waste and recycling “revolution.”

“I am delighted that Officeworks is playing its part to improve our environment, and assisting customers to dispose responsibly of unwanted technology items for free in their stores at dedicated recycling collection points,” Mr Evans said.

“Recycling old batteries and plastic pens and markers is one very practical and easy thing we can all do.”

According to Mr Evans, Officeworks existing recycling program has already collected more than 10 million ink and toner cartridges and 4800 tonnes of e-waste.

“Officeworks is planning to have battery recycling available in all its stores, and pen recycling in most stores, by the end of 2020,” Mr Evans said.

“Officeworks will recycle batteries in partnership with Envirostream, and pens and markers in partnership with BIC.”

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Coca-Cola and Veolia to establish Australian plastic recycling plant

Coca-Cola Amatil and Veolia are considering opportunities to establish a recycled plastic processing plant in Australia.

The potential recycling plant will focus on PET plastic, which is used to manufacture plastic bottles.

Coca-Cola Amatil’s Group Managing Director Alison Watkins said a joint project team has been established by the two companies, which will consider the plant’s economic feasibility, size, scale and location, end-to-end requirements and potential integration into each company’s value chains.

Ms Watkins said the joint project team will leverage each company’s expertise and experience in respective parts of the production and recycling process.

Veolia Australia and New Zealand CEO and Managing Director Danny Conlon said the project team will make recommendations to their respective companies in the short-to-medium term.

“We’re delighted to be working with our Amatil colleagues on this important initiative,” Mr Conlon said.

“It comes at a critical time for Australia where we need to be doing more to resolve ongoing issues around plastics and their potential to be recycled. I look forward to future announcements on circular economy solutions.”

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QLD releases Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan

The Queensland Government has released a statewide Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, which features a proposal to ban single-use plastics.

According to Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch, to effectively tackle plastic pollution, Queensland needs to reduce plastic through the design, manufacturing and packaging of products and their ultimate disposal.

“As part of Queensland’s transition to a circular economy, where waste is avoided, reused and recycled to the greatest possible extent, a fundamental shift in the way that we design, use, reuse and process plastics is needed,” Ms Enoch said.

“The majority of Queenslanders, seven out of ten, already take steps to reduce their use of single-use plastics, but there is always more we can do to tackle pollution.”

Ms Enoch said the state government has undertaken extensive consultation with industry and the community.

“This plan is an Australian first in its scope and structure, and takes a holistic approach to the complex nature and impacts of plastic throughout its supply chain, and identifies actions that can be taken,” Ms Enoch said.

“One of these actions is to introduce legislation next year, subject to consultation through a Regulatory Impact Statement, to ban the supply of plastic products including plastic straws, cutlery, plates and stirrers.”

Other actions include expanding on the Plastic Free Places in Queensland program, excluding specific single-use plastic from Queensland Government sponsored events from 2020 onwards, using government purchasing power to reduce plastic use and providing $3 million in community grants for projects geared towards long-term behavioural change.

“We will also identify and develop new businesses and markets to transform the way plastic is recovered, reused and recycled—creating new jobs and industries for Queensland,” Ms Enoch said.

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly said APCO commended Minister Enoch and the entire Queensland Government on the plan.

“It’s been fantastic for APCO to have been closely involved with the consultation and evolution of this approach, driven by the wonderful team at the Queensland Government,” Ms Donnelly said.

“It is vital that we continue to see such strong leadership from our state governments on this critical issue, and it’s been a pleasure to actively work with solution-orientated and collaborative stakeholders in Queensland to address our collective plastics issue and drive long term, sustainable change.”

Ms Donnelly said a key consideration for the state government should be identifying opportunities for leadership in the Asia-Pacific region, with a focus on improved plastic packaging design, collection and processing systems and innovation.

Ms Donnelly said APCO is working in partnership with the Queensland Government, industry and stakeholders to delver a number initiatives identified in the plan.

Initiatives include developing a voluntary sustainable shopping bag code of practice, and working towards the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“The Queensland Government is committed to supporting APCO meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets, and has played an important national leadership role in areas including work on more sustainable options for heavyweight plastic shopping bags and stewardship for agricultural plastic packaging,” Ms Donnelly said.

Pelletising polypropylene: Applied Machinery

Daniel Fisher, Applied Machinery Project Manager, wants to revive domestic plastic recycling through sustainable Polystar pellets. 

The recycling conversation is becoming more layered and complex by the day, with notoriously problematic plastic often taking centre stage. While the problem of plastic waste is widely understood, manufacturing processes still heavily rely on the material.

Daniel Fisher, Applied Machinery Project Manager, says responsibly processing plastic while keeping up with demand requires straightforward remanufacturing options. He adds that one such option is recycled plastic pellet production.

Daniel says to implement a wider uptake of recycled pellets in the manufacturing industry, resource recovery operators need simple-to-use equipment.

“When dealing with a difficult waste stream such as plastic, it’s common for operators to think that a more complex system will perform better,” Daniel says.

“But as the exclusive Australian distributor of Polystar Machinery, Applied Machinery is committed to supplying customers with straight forward and cost-effective solutions.”

Applied Machinery has worked with the Taiwan-based recycling equipment manufacturer for four years.

Polystar manufactures a range of one-step machines designed to reprocess multiple waste streams, notably polyethylene and polypropylene flexible packaging material.

Polystar technology is designed to be simple to operate and easy to maintain.

“The recycled output result is high-quality plastic pellets that can be repurposed back into manufacturing straight away,” Daniel explains.

“The pellets save waste disposal costs by producing a saleable product, while also offering an alternative to raw material extraction.”

Applied Machinery can offer customers the full suite of Polystar products, including the Polystar HNT and the Polystar Repro-Flex.

“HNT machines are typically suited for flexible, post-industrial film and have the added benefit of being able to produce quality pellets from even the most heavily printed packaging material.”

Daniel says the Polystar Repro-Flex is suited to multiple recycling applications including plastic bags, film scraps, bubble wrap, shrink film and laminated film.

“Repro-Flex machines also work well for post-industrial film waste, as the system can process washed flakes, scraps and pre-crushed rigid plastic waste from injection and extrusion,” he adds.   

Both the HNT and Repro-Flex feature an integrated cutter compactor, which removes the need for pre-cutting.

“The cutter compactor, which generates frictional heat during the compacting process, also helps remove moisture from the material.”

According to Daniel, eliminating moisture is a particularly significant feature when generating recycled plastic pellets, as even minimal water can render a whole batch unusable.

Daniel says the integrated Polystar system also eliminates the need for separate crushers and the common problem of inconsistent feeding.

“The integration of the cutter compactor and extruder ensures extremely fast and stable feeding, as the tangentially connected extruder is continuously filled with pre-compacted material.”

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EU signatories commit to using recycled plastic

More than 100 signatories from across the plastics supply chain have signed a declaration that commits to using 10 million tonnes of recycled plastic in European Union manufacturing by 2025.

The declaration falls under the Circular Plastics Alliance, which was launched by the European Commission in December 2018 to promote a sustainable recycled plastics market, via voluntary actions.

The declaration outlines how the alliance will reach the 10 million-tonne target, as set by the European Commission’s 2018 Plastics Strategy.

Strategy action points include improving the design of plastic products to make them more recyclable, and identifying investment gaps and untapped potential for plastic waste collection, sorting and recycling.

Additionally, signatories will work towards building a research and development agenda for circular plastics, and establish a transparent and reliable monitoring systems to track the flow of plastic waste.

Circular Plastics Alliance First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for sustainable development, said he welcomed industry’s commitment to rethinking the way it produces and uses plastic.

“By efficiently recycling plastics, we will clean up the planet and fight climate change, by substituting fossil fuels with plastic waste in the production cycle,” Mr Timmermans said.

Circular Plastics Alliance Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, who is responsible for internal market, industry and entrepreneurship, said there was potential to make European industry a world leader in recycled plastics.

“We should fully seize it to protect the environment, create new jobs in this sector and remain competitive,” Mr Timmermans said.

The declaration will remain open for more signatories to join over time.

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