QLD opens consultation on single-use plastics ban legislation

Queensland is taking the next step in removing single-use plastics from the environment, opening consultation on a state-wide ban that will initially focus on straws, drink stirrers, cutlery and plates.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said single-use plastic was an increasing problem, damaging the state’s environment and marine life.

“It’s time to decide the future of single-use plastics in Queensland. Plastic pollution in our environment affects every aspect of our lives – from the water we drink and the food we consume, to the plants, animals and outdoor places we all love and enjoy,” she said.

“We are looking to limit and, where necessary, ban the supply of most single-use plastic products starting with straws, stirrers, plates, cutlery and cups.”

Ms Enoch said the state government’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, released in 2019, committed to introducing enabling legislation in 2020, subject to consultation, to ban the supply of specific plastic products.

“In the future we’ll also consider other forms of single-use items such as coffee cups, heavyweight plastic shopping bags and polystyrene containers, but right now we’re focused on straws, stirrers, plates and cutlery,” she said.

According to Ms Enoch, the state government wants to hear as many perspectives as possible. She added that the needs of people with disability and the age care sector would be taken into account.

“Over 75 per cent of rubbish that is removed from Australian beaches is made of plastic. Our government has already taken steps to reduce plastic with the ban on single-use plastics bags and the introduction of Containers for Change,” she said.

“Those initiatives have seen hundreds of millions of individual plastic products kept from entering the environment, and now we’re looking ahead. We want to hear from Queenslanders as we take this next step.”

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Study highlights greater pollution than previously estimated

Plastic waste in the ocean is making its way back to land and increasing pollution on Australia’s beaches, according to new research from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

According to a CSIRO statement, the research explains why estimates of waste entering the ocean each year are 100 times larger than the amount of plastic observed floating on the surface, and suggests waste management strategies on land need to accommodate larger volumes of pollution than previously estimated.

“These findings highlight the importance of including the entire width of coastal areas in studies to understand how much – and where – debris gets trapped,” the statement reads.

“This is critical for developing targeted waste management policies, particularly in areas with large regional populations, to reduce litter ending up in our oceans and along our coasts.”

CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Denise Hardesty said researchers collected data on the amount and location of plastic pollution every 100 kilometres around the entire coast of Australia between 2011 and 2016.

“The highest concentrations of marine debris were found along the coastal backshores, where the vegetation begins,” Dr Hardesty said.

Utrecht University’s Arianna Olivelli, who led the analysis, said findings indicate that coasts are a major sink for marine debris, particularly for larger debris items.

“The debris recorded along the coasts was found to be a mix of littering and deposition from the ocean,” she said.

“The results suggest that plastic is moving from urban areas into the ocean, and then being transported back onshore and pushed onto land, where it remains.”

Ms Olivelli said onshore wind and waves, together with more densely populated areas, influences the amount and distribution of marine debris.

“The further back we went from the water’s edge, the more debris we found,” she said.

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Washing billions of bottles: Applied Machinery

With onshore plastic processing set to grow, Daniel Fisher, Applied Machinery, details the streamlining ability of high-energy washing.

The onshore consequences of the upcoming waste export ban could see the domestic resource recovery industry swamped by mountains of plastic.

To fully capitalise on this, Daniel Fisher, Applied Machinery Project Manager, says plastic recycling operators need to invest in efficient and high-capacity washing systems.

“The significance of washing is often understated, with importance placed on seemingly more complex processes such as sorting and granulating,” Daniel says.

“But, given the nature of most plastic waste, and the fact it often takes the form of packaging, removing contaminants and impurities efficiently is critical to sustained operations.”

According to Daniel, Applied Machinery’s range of plastic-washing systems are designed for high-performance recovery of rigid and flexible plastics derived from a variety of sources.

“We’re able to facilitate modular systems to tackle HDPE and PET bottles, and depending on application requirements, can provide bale breakers, infeed conveyor belts, pre-shredders for wet or dry size reductions, pre-washers and screw washers,” he says.

In particular, Daniel says Applied Machinery’s HDPE Bottle/Container Washing System is well suited to operators hoping to take advantage of the upcoming domestic plastic processing boom.

Developed by Guangzhou-based equipment manufacturer Genox, the HDPE washing line is designed for rigid plastics.

Daniel says the washing system’s wear-resistant design works to maximise operating time and throughput via consistent processing.

“The high-speed washing system works to liberate plastic flakes from contaminants,” Daniel says.

“The washing tank’s under-water force-washing paddles then work to amplify washing efficiency, while mechanical and thermal drying systems reduce end product moisture.”

Shredding and washing are set at calculated intensities, Daniel says, to avoid over friction and material loss.

“Label separation can also be achieved through advanced wind separation,” he adds.

The system features an inclined friction washer, float-sink washing tank and vertical dewatering machine, before material passes through a zig-zag classifier.

In the current economic and political waste climate, Daniel says investing in a Genox HDPE Bottle/Container Washing System can deliver significant returns on investment.

“The Australian resource recovery industry will see major opportunities over the next few years, so the time is right for facilities to upscale their operations and capitalise on the next generation of plastic processing.”

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NSW proposes levy amendments and mandated govt procurement

The NSW Government will investigate waste levy amendments to ensure regulatory settings remain fit for purpose, according to the state’s newly released 20-Year Waste Strategy consultation paper.

According to the paper, the state government will review waste levy boundaries, levy exemption for problem wastes, national levy harmonisation and complementary price-based instruments such as pay-as-you-throw initiatives.

The paper also proposes standardised collection systems for households and businesses, place-based infrastructure development, waste benchmarks for the commercial sector and potential government procurement targets.

The announcement comes as the state government opens consultation on two draft strategies: the 20-Year Waste Strategy and Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW.

Citing 2018 waste generation figures, Environment Minister Matt Kean said the state’s waste industry needs to be more sustainable, reliable and affordable.

“We need a smarter approach that makes use of all the levers available to us. We need to drive sustainable product design and waste reduction, and maximise the amount of used material that is recirculated safely back into the productive economy,” he said.

According to Mr Kean, the 20-Year Waste Strategy canvasses options to reduce waste and increase recycling, outlines opportunities and strategic direction for future waste and recycling infrastructure and seeks to grow sustainable end markets for recycled materials.

“The 20-Year Waste Strategy will be a vehicle that not only enables the state, businesses and the community to improve our approach to waste. It is also intended to generate new economic opportunities, reduce costs to citizens and businesses through a smarter approach, and increase our resilience to external shocks,” he said.

The NSW Plastics Plan, Mr Kean said, outlines a clear pathway to reduce single-use, unnecessary and problematic plastics.

According to the discussion paper, potential priority directions include making plastic producers more responsible for collection and recycling, and mandating 30 per cent minimum recycled content in plastic packing by 2025.

“It sets the stage for the phase-out of priority single-use plastics, tripling the proportion of plastic recycled by 2030, reducing plastic litter by a quarter and making our state a leader in plastics research and development,” Mr Kean said.

“Lightweight plastic bags are proposed to be phased out six months from the passage of legislation, with other timelines to be determined after feedback from the public consultation process.”

Local Government NSW President Linda Scott said the proposals were far-ranging and far-sighted, offering smart and innovative state-based solutions to Australia’s growing “waste and recycling crisis.”

“Together, NSW local governments have been campaigning to save recycling since 2018 – and it is clear Environment Minister Matt Kean and the Premier have not only listened, but heard our call,” she said.

“For two years councils have been asking for the waste levy to be reinvested for the purpose it is collected, and the Premier’s announcement that this levy will now be reviewed is very welcome news.”

According to Ms Scott, steps to reduce waste, including banning plastic bags in 2021, will play a critical role in helping to create a circular economy.

“Joining with the Commonwealth to fund council-led waste and recycling infrastructure proposals will help ensure our waste is managed more sustainably, creating jobs in NSW,” she said.

“Increasing state and local government procurement of recycled goods, while leveraging off existing procurement platforms, is long overdue. Local governments are also very supportive of state-wide education campaigns so everyone is able to do their bit to reduce waste and increase recycling.”

Waste Management & Resource Recovery Association Australia CEO Gayle Sloan said with plastics at the forefront of the community’s mind, it’s encouraging that NSW is looking to align with other jurisdictions to design out unnecessary single-use items.

“It also appears that NSW is prepared to go further, with mandated recycled content of 30 per cent by 2025, and emphasis on designing out waste and making producers take greater responsibility for collecting and recycling in NSW, including the possible use of more extended producer responsibility schemes,” Ms Sloan said.

“These are all positive policies that may result in less reliance on councils and householders to meet the costs of these schemes.”

Consultation closes 8 May.

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Pact Group announces $500M investment in plastics recovery

Pact Group, one of Australia’s largest rigid plastic product manufacturers, will invest $500 million into plastics recovery infrastructure, research and technology over the next five years.

Pact Group Non-Executive Chairman Raphael Geminder made the pledge at the first National Plastics Summit at Parliament House this week, following news the company plan to develop a plastic pelletising facility with Cleanaway and Asahi.

According to Mr Geminder, the company will partner with government and industry to invest in new facilities for sustainable packaging, reuse and recycling initiatives.

“Our stated vision is to include 30 per cent recycled content across our product portfolio by 2025. Across our business, this would be the equivalent of keeping nearly two billion plastic containers out of landfill,” Mr Geminder said.

“Just as importantly, we will be creating jobs for Australians in the circular economy – a new and growing sector where we believe Australia can lead the world.”

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the commitment was encouraging, with industry leadership to reduce plastic waste, increase recycling and create jobs a critical outcome of the summit.

“Pact’s announcement at the National Plastics Summit follows announcements from major brands McDonald’s and Nestlé, with McDonald’s committing to phase out plastic cutlery by the end of 2020, removing 585 tonnes of plastic waste per annum,” Ms Ley said.

“This adds to McDonald’s previous commitment to phase out 500 million straws every year and takes the total annual plastic reduction to 860 tonnes.”

Furthermore, Nestlé will partner with waste management company IQ Renew on a soft plastics collection trial, to be tested at 100,000 homes.

“The recycling economy starts here, this is where we take what are now seen as problems and turn them into assets that create remanufactured products, which create jobs and which grow our economy,” Ms Ley said.

Additional commitments include $650,000 from PepsiCo to support Greening the Green, a program aimed at educating consumers on soft plastics, and Unilever announcing it will halve its use of virgin plastic in production and packaging by 2025.

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation announced it would lead the development of the ANZPAC Plastic Pact, a new program within the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Plastics Pact Network.

“ANZPAC will provide the significant intervention required to meet Australia’s national plastic packaging target – that 70 per cent of all plastic packaging will be recycled or composted by 2025,” Ms Ley said.

According to Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans, the summit was an important step in working with industry to drive long-term practical outcomes, such as increasing Australia’s recycling rates and domestic reprocessing capabilities.

“We are looking towards fundamentally changing the way we think about and manage our waste, and creating new markets for recycled products,” he said.

“This transformation towards a circular economy will both create jobs and help our environment.”

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Federal Govt commits to dollar for dollar infrastructure investment

In a speech to the first ever National Plastics Summit in Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged to match industry investment in recycling infrastructure dollar for dollar.

With Australia’s recycling facilities “under severe strain”, the Prime Minister said the Federal Government would invest in technological innovation to maximise the value of recycled products.

“I will have more to say on this closer to the up-coming budget, but the Commonwealth stands ready to work with the states, to co-invest in these critical infrastructure facilities, and with industry,” Mr Morrison said.

“We are working with state and territory governments to identify and unlock the critical upgrades that will lead to a step-change in their recycling capacity. And we will invest in these facilities with governments and with industry on a one-to-one-to-one basis.”

Furthermore, Mr Morrison announced plans to strengthen the Commonwealth Procurement Guideline, to ensure “every procurement undertaken by a Commonwealth agency considers environmental sustainability and the use of recycled content as a factor in determining value for money.”

In his address, Mr Morrison highlighted demand as central to long-term industry sustainability.

“We know that banning the export of waste plastics will keep more of the raw stock here for use, and lifting industry capacity will increase our ability to use these materials constructively. But to make the system really hum, we need to build the market,” he said.

“The global recycled plastics market is expected to grow at 7.9 per cent annually over the next decade, they are phenomenal figures, and be worth almost $67 billion in 2025. Industry is not blind to the incredible potential here.”

Of the summit, Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) CEO Pete Shmigel said the Federal Government was creating an unprecedented opportunity to reduce Australia’s plastics and greenhouse gas footprint.

“Prime Minister Morrison and his Ministerial colleagues have acted with total clarity and fast pace to put plastic waste minimisation near the top of their agenda,” he said.

“A summit that puts substance before stylistics is what we need to deal with the plastics problem, including our comparatively very low recycling rate of some 12 per cent and our lack of domestic recycling capacity.”

According to Mr Shmigel, improved plastic recycling is an affordable and accessible way to take practical and positive climate action.

“Support for putting recycled content plastic into irrigation pipes, channel lining and rainwater tanks would be a great way to assist drought-proofing while supporting Australian manufacturers,” he said.

“From all players involved in plastics management, from the government to brand owners to recyclers to the community, it’s time for real action not rhetoric, and that’s what the summit will be judged by.”

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Cleanaway, Pact and Asahi to develop plastic pelletising facility

Cleanaway, Pact Group and Asahi Beverages have signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly develop a plastic pelletising facility in Albury/Wodonga.

According to a joint statement, the facility is anticipated to process up to 28,000 tonnes of plastic bottles and other recyclables into flake and food grade pellets.

“The cross value chain collaboration uniquely combines the expertise of each participant,” the statement reads.

“Cleanaway will provide available feedstock through its collection and sorting network. Pact will provide technical and packaging expertise, and Asahi Beverages and Pact will buy the majority of the recycled pellets from the facility to use in their packaging products.”

Pact Managing Director and CEO Sanjay Dayal said the facility would service markets across the East Coast, and create approximately 30 local jobs in regional Australia.

“I am thrilled with this arrangement and the opportunity to work with Cleanaway and Asahi in making a meaningful step in improving the plastics value chain,” he said.

“The arrangement is clearly aligned with our vision to lead the circular economy, and will support Pact in achieving our 2025 Sustainability Promise to offer 30 per cent recycled content across our packaging portfolio.”

According to Cleanaway Managing Director and CEO Vik Bansal, the partnership will create valuable raw materials from the recyclables Cleanaway collects and sorts.

“It is a natural extension of our value chain and expands our footprint of prized assets,” he said.

Asahi Beverage Group CEO Robert Iervasi added that the venture would allow Asahi to utilise Australian sourced recycled plastic resins to assist its transition to using only recycled plastics.

“I am excited by the opportunity to participate in a market winning strategic alliance that closes the loop of the circular economy, and contributes to a sustainable plastics supply chain by combining our strategic capabilities,” he said.

The project is supported by an Environmental Trust grant awarded to Cleanaway, as part of the NSW Government’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.

The facility is expected to be operational by December 2021.

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Genox PE Film Washing Lines: Applied Machinery

Applied Machinery’s PE/PP plastic washing system facilitates high-performance recovery of difficult-to-recycle plastic films.

The PE/PP Film system is designed for washing plastic films with contamination levels exceeding 80 per cent. The process works to minimise the recycling waste flow rate and evaporation losses.

The process begins with pre-shredding and pre-washing, which removes a large portion of abrasive material, such as sand and grit to protect the rest of the system. Underwater force-washing paddles in the washing tanks then work to maximise washing efficiency.

Next, a high-speed washing system optimised according to specific material type liberates and separates contamination from film flakes. This is followed by mechanical (centrifugal and squeezing) systems that control the moisture content of the finished product. At less than five per cent moisture, the material output is suitable for high-quality pelletising.

The system features a film press, float-sink washing tank, centrifugal dryer, inclined friction washer and pre-washer. Intelligent system automation ensures all component actions are sequenced and monitored.

The correct combination, sizing and equipment configuration of the equipment results in a reliable, efficient plastic recycling system producing high-quality materials ideal for sale.

The system is suitable for agricultural films, films recovered from MSW or MRFs, films recovered from landfills, post-industrial or post-consumer films and large raffia bags.

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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