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.

Related stories:

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.”

Related stories:

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.”

Related stories: 

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.”

Related stories:

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.

Related stories:

Indonesia sends back waste containers

The Indonesian Government has announced that it will ship 547 containers of contaminated waste back to their countries of origin, including 100 housing Australian material.

According to a Fairfax Media report, customs officers, police and environment department officials opened containers of contaminated Australian waste for the media on 18th Sept.

The containers contained mostly plastic, with some food waste and visible liquid.

Indonesian Customs Director General Heru Pambugi said three Australian companies had imported the contaminated plastic waste, including one that did not posses required import documents.

Nine containers have already been shipped, with the remainder to follow in separate shipments.

In response, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said WMRR acknowledges and agrees that Australia should be managing its own waste and resources.

Ms Sloan said while Australia does recycle millions of tonnes of waste on-shore, it needs to grow its demand and use of recovered resources.

“Global shifts have resulted in Australia needing to find homes domestically for our recyclables and this is certainly a positive aspiration,” Ms Sloan said.

“Industry does not want to export these materials, and we know that there are many good reasons to sell these materials right here in Australia and turn them back into packaging.”

Ms Sloan noted that contamination, which is a concern for international importers of recycled materials, is primarily a result of people using their household bins incorrectly.

“Of course, industry and government can and should do more, but so can every citizen by being more diligent about what they put into the yellow bin,” Ms Sloan said.

“What is still lacking in Australia, which is the fundamental reason material has been exported in the past, is greater certainty of remanufacturing pull.”

Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Shmigel said media reports about Australian recyclate material being returned by Indonesian authorities inappropriately undermines recycling efforts

“Less than 1.5 million tonnes of material from kerbside recycling was exported to overseas companies to make into products. Of that, some 65,000 tonnes went to Indonesia because buyers there bought it as feedstock for their factories – and there’s a lack of local demand for it,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Some 500 containers marked to be sent back by Indonesia that apparently don’t meet technical specifications is not substantial in the successful scheme of Australians’ recycling efforts.”

Mr Shmigel said off-spec material occurs in every industry.

“It is totally wrong to suggest that Australian recyclate export material is ‘toxic’. It is more likely to be material from our households that’s been earnestly but mistakenly put in the yellow bin,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Moreover, under the Prime Minister’s leadership, COAG has very recently decided – and industry has strongly welcomed – that material should no longer be exported and that we should become fully responsible for and more sovereign with our recycling.”

Related stories: 

Balancing the good and the bad of plastics

There is a raft of potential changes and interventions that can be made to better position plastics as the remarkable material that it is, writes Matt Genever, Director Resource Recovery, Sustainability Victoria.

I recall not too long ago seeing a 1950s TV advertisement from the United States promoting the virtues of disposable plastics. A typical American family seated around the dinner table, enjoying a meal on plastic tableware – off the plaid orange and brown tablecloth (classic 50s!) – and sweeping the whole lot into the bin when they’re done…plates, bowls, knives, forks…all of it.  Selling the dream of a “hassle-free” life.

Thankfully things have changed, somewhat, since then. We saw the first global plastic waste revolution in the 80s – then in the 90s, with the move away from traditional glass packaging spurring the creation of the first kerbside recycling programs. More recently, the focus has been on the significant impact of poorly managed plastic entering our marine environment and the accumulation of microplastics.   

It is fair to say that the balance isn’t quite right yet. This useful, flexible, malleable and now ubiquitous material can play an infinitely useful role in our world, from lightweight prosthetic limbs to 3D models printed seemingly from mid-air. On the flipside, its use has also become a pervasive vehicle to feed our throwaway culture.

In Australia, we generate around 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, that’s around 100 kilograms of plastic waste for every person in the country. Despite the options for reuse and recycling, almost 2.2 million tonnes (87 per cent) are sent to landfill (National Waste Report 2018). However, recently shoots of new growth have emerged, signalling a dramatic change in the way we use, recover and, ultimately recycle plastic globally.

There is a raft of potential changes and interventions that can be made to better position plastics as the remarkable material that it is.

Demand and supply both need a kick start

There has been a good deal of talk on the role of government procurement in stimulating growth in the recycling sector, and rightly so. This is a fundamental step we need to get right in order to grow a healthy recycling ecosystem.

One of the things that strikes me is the fragmented nature of our current secondary manufacturing market for recyclables. On one side, there are materials that have well developed markets that need little or no intervention at all – like the use of recycled aggregates in roadbase and other civil construction. On the other side, there are markets that, even if government sent a strong procurement signal, would not necessarily be ready to respond immediately.

Plastic is a great example of this. The emerging opportunities are endless, from compressed plastic railway sleepers to companies like Advanced Circular Polymers who are producing food-grade recycled rPET and rHDPE. But in reality, there are only a handful of companies currently producing domestic, market-ready recycled products at scale in Australia.

So, it is important for government and industry to work together to make sure that the supply side is getting the support it needs to scale up as the demand grows through procurement mechanisms.

Industry has the momentum in its supply chain

One of the key factors that helped the United Kingdom to turn around its recycling system was a shift in the supply chain.

Specifically, the major supermarket chains like Tesco and Sainsbury’s moved to control more of the waste and recycling flows in and out of their businesses, in some cases becoming quasi-recyclers in their own right.

In recent months, reflecting on the meetings I’ve had around investment in plastic recycling, it’s encouraging to see how many of these are from the packaging industry and food and beverage supply chain itself rather than from traditional recycling businesses. The convergence of public attitude toward plastic, new national packaging targets and the diminishing export market for mixed plastics is generating huge momentum.

You can’t spell circular economy without “jobs”

It is equal parts frustrating and astonishing that collectively we have not made a stronger link between recycling and the creation of new “advanced manufacturing” jobs in Australia. With a minimum wage of almost $19 and hour and wholesale energy prices sitting around 300 per cent higher than the US, it’s unlikely that we’re going to be a country that goes back to low margin mass-producing widgets. There is a huge opportunity for high-margin, bespoke plastic products to be made locally from recycled materials and exported internationally.

In its Advanced Manufacturing Roadmap, CSIRO notes that Australia could position itself as a sustainable manufacturing hub, focusing on high-value advanced materials and applications. At the core of these materials and products will be polymers, both natural and synthetic.  The options are there for us to either feed from energy-intensive virgin materials or plug in directly from a well-developed, domestic Australia recycling sector.

This paradigm isn’t new. Ten years ago, it was concrete. Five years ago, it was glass. We’ve built businesses, infrastructure and end-uses for these materials and we’ll do the same for plastics.

Related stories:

Pacific Environment Ministers meet in Samoa

Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Assistant Minister Trevor Evans has meet with representatives from 21 Pacific Island Nations, New Zealand, the United States, France and the United Kingdom, to discuss key environmental issues facing the region.

Mr Evans attended the Talanoa Dialogue in Samoa, which is designed to facilitate participatory conversations about complex issues, as part of the 29th Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

SPREP Ministers called for urgent action to support the Pacific Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter 2018-2025, and urged members to accelerate policies and actions that embrace sustainable materials management and drive sustainable practices to reduce plastic pollution.

“A healthy and clean Pacific Ocean is essential to the quality of life and economic security of all Pacific Island Nations, and Australia is working with our Pacific family to make this happen, including investing $16 million to fund the Pacific Ocean Litter Project to tackle plastics polluting the region’s marine environment,” Mr Evans said.

“There are some tough and critical issues and no easy answers. But reaching shared solutions means having the conversation and mapping out agreed practical actions.”

According to Mr Evans, an Australia minister has not attended the biennial meeting in over a decade.

“Australia’s presence here builds on the outcomes of the recent Pacific Islands Forum, and reinforces Prime Minister Morrison’s message that Australia appreciates the issues faced by the Pacific are real and immediate,” Mr Evans said.

“Australia is fully engaged and strongly committed to working through these shared challenges in our region.”

Related stories:

Applications open for $20M CRC grants

The Federal Government has committed $20 million to innovative projects designed to grow Australia’s domestic recycling industry.

Funds are available through round eight of the Cooperative Research Centre grants program, which opened 13 August.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the funding was part of government’s commitment to work with the states and establish a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

“We are committed to protecting our nation’s environment while also building our capacity to turn recycling into products that people want and need,” Mr Morrison said.

“By engaging industry and researchers, we can make sure we’re seeing these changes introduced in a way that cuts costs for businesses and ultimately even creates jobs.”

Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said the funding would help create Australian jobs, while also reducing global plastic pollution.

According to Ms Andrews, recent figures suggest only 12 per cent of the 103 kilograms of plastic waste generated per person in Australia is recycled each year.

“This funding will strengthen Australia’s recycling industry and help us achieve higher recycling rates,” Ms Andrews said.

“Boosting our onshore plastic recycling industry has the potential to create over three times as many jobs as exporting our plastic waste, ensuring a more sustainable and prosperous future.”

Applications close 24 September 2019.

Related stories:

X