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Aussie plastic packaging stakeholders release local circular economy report

In Australia, Licella, supported by Amcor, Coles, iQ Renew, LyondellBasell, and Nestlé – all companies in the plastic packaging supply chain – has released a report highlighting the potential for establishing a local circular economy for soft plastic, with a focus on chemical recycling of difficult to mechanically recycle plastic packaging waste such as food packaging.

In Australia, Licella, supported by Amcor, Coles, iQ Renew, LyondellBasell, and Nestlé – all companies in the plastic packaging supply chain – have released a report highlighting the potential for establishing a local circular economy for soft plastic, with a focus on chemical recycling of difficult to mechanically recycle plastic such as food packaging (photo courtesy Licella).

Advanced chemical recycling enables soft plastic waste, like confectionery wrappers and bread bags, to be turned back into oil, then made into new food-grade packaging in Australia.

The study “The opportunity for a local circular economy for plastic” found that using the oil created from waste plastic, in the local plastic packaging supply chain, delivers a 64 percent carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction compared to crude oil, based on primary research conducted by consultancy Lifecycles (2021).

The study also identified Altona in Victoria (VIC) as the location best placed for such an advanced recycling facility, given the area’s existing infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities. It is an opportunity to establish Victoria, and Australia, as a leader in this emerging new industry.

Meet National Waste Policy commitments

The report comes as a result of a feasibility study that demonstrated a circular economy for plastic is not only possible but is essential for Australia to meet its National Waste Policy commitments.

With Australia’s National Packaging Targets requiring industry to use an average of 50 percent recycled content in packaging by 2025, the demand for recycled content, especially food-grade plastic, is expected to grow significantly according to the 2017-18 Australian Plastics Recycling Survey.

According to National Waste Report 2020 data and primary research conducted by consultancy Envisage Works (2021), over 500 000 tonnes of plastic goes to landfills in Victoria each year.

The proposed advanced recycling facility would use Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) technology, a form of hydrothermal liquefaction technology developed in Australia by Licella.

If built, it would initially process 20 000 tonnes per annum of plastic waste, producing 17 000 tonnes of oil that could be used in the local plastic supply chain. The facility can be expanded to process 120 000 tonnes of plastic waste per annum, resulting in the production of nearly 100 000 tonnes of recycled food-grade plastics annually,

Boost the local circular economy

Such a facility would be an Australian first presenting the opportunity to divert up to 24 percent of the waste plastics that are sent to landfills every year in Victoria alone, providing a boost to local industry.

With the potential to create over 300 new jobs in Victoria over the next five years, the facility could also contribute over AU$100 million a year to the Victorian economy.

The system-wide transformation required for Australia to meet its plastic recycling targets needs local initiatives, such as those outlined in this report, to come to fruition. Collaboration across industry and government is essential to drive this change.

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