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Thinkpac is providing a circular solution for soft plastics – from  recycling through to manufacturing of a new end product – under one roof.

Thinkpac offers a unique opportunity as Australia aims to reach National Packaging Targets by 2025.

The packaging company has been manufacturing soft plastic products since 1988 and began its own recycling arm in 2011. Now it’s looking to upscale and build a circular economy with industry players.

The aim is to repurpose soft plastic ‘waste’ into packaging for the same supply chain, diverting them from landfill in the process. 

Calvin Ng, Thinkpac Managing Director says it’s the “business model of the future”.

“We’re not just recyclers,” he says. “We go beyond recycling and provide a fully integrated circular packing solution. We do this by collaborating with waste management companies to convert soft plastic ‘waste’ and repurposing them into end user products, all within the same supply chain. 

“This process encompasses the true essence of a circular economy. It’s really unheard of in Australia so far.”

“Our current recycling facility has the capacity to process more than 1500 tonnes per month of low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Soft plastics are washed, processed into pellets and then sent through the manufacturing plant. 

“Many of the end products are supplied into the Australian market.”

soft plastics
Calvin Ng, Thinkpac Managing Director.

Second-generation business owner Calvin established a sales and warehousing operation in Melbourne to foster a better understanding of the local market and build deeper relationships with industry stakeholders. He also plans to build a local recycling and processing plant using Thinkpac’s circular business model in Australia. 

Calvin says having a vertically integrated recycling-manufacturing process “under the one roof” results in a cleaner stream of recycled material and assures the quality of end products.

“We provide scalability and predictability to waste collectors. It’s a win-win-win for the end user of soft plastic, for waste management and the environment,” he says. 

“This is a huge opportunity for Australia to bridge the gap between its low recycling rates and decrease the number of recyclable plastics that would otherwise end up in landfill.”

Flexible plastics make up 32.7 per cent of all plastic packaging in Australia, but as of 2018-19 had a recovery rate of 10.7 per cent, according to the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation. Australia has set ambitious National Packaging Targets to have an average of 50 per cent recycled content included in packaging, for 70 per cent of plastic packaging to be recycled or composted and 100 per cent of all packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

APCO’s Collective Impact Report November 2021, states that the recovery rate of plastics has remained relatively stable since 2017 and more work needs to be done to increase the recovery rate if Australia is to be serious in achieving the targets.  

Modelling predicts that at the current trajectory, and without further intervention, not all of the targets are achievable. PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is the only polymer expected to reach a 70 per cent recovery rate by the target date.

Calvin says the packaging targets have created a sense of urgency but it’s clear “if we don’t do anything differently, we are not going to meet the targets”.

He says while phase two of the plastic waste export ban, which comes into effect on July 1 2022, has forced many in the industry to react, Australian recycling infrastructure is still years away from coping with the soft plastics the country generates.

soft plasticsCalvin says years of manufacturing and recycling experience at Thinkpac gives the company a deep understanding of the product design and suitability for the Australian market.

He says Thinkpac has a “solid plan” to invest more in recycling and manufacturing in Australia but needs industry collaboration. 

He wants to encourage businesses and waste collectors to take a closer look at what Thinkpac can do and to make it easy for them to pass on their soft plastics.

“Right now, soft plastics are going to random places and are not going back to their supply chain. 

“We’re not saying our solution will fix the problem. We need a combination of solutions to solve the problem, but we have one part of the solution covered.

“We need people to be on board. The resources are there. The soft plastics are there. We can take a product of value, make something of higher value and return it back into the supply chain.”  

For more information, visit: www.thinkpac.com.au

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