SA trialling advanced soft plastics recycling scheme
Led by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) in partnership with the Central Adelaide Waste and Recycling Authority (CAWRA), and the Cities of Adelaide, Charles Sturt and Port Adelaide Enfield, a kerbside recycling trial in South Australia is part of designing an industry-led scheme for recycling soft plastic packaging in Australia. The scheme aims to create an advanced recycling industry, producing recycled, food-grade soft plastic packaging, which currently isn’t made in Australia.
In the trial, set to hit a small number of SA households, residents in designated areas will receive kits with specially designed bags to be filled with eligible soft plastic packaging, such as bread and frozen vegetable bags, ice-cream wrappers and toilet paper wrap. Full bags go into the household recycling bin for the regular council kerbside collection, after which the special bag will be sent to manufacturers for processing.
This trial is one of a number being conducted as part of the National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) project, co-funded by food and grocery manufacturers and state and Commonwealth governments. The trials are designed to help validate the model for kerbside collection and sorting, one that provides a clean stream of used soft plastics and can be scaled up for an emerging advanced recycling industry.
Different bags are being tested by the three councils, with the Cities of Adelaide and Port Adelaide Enfield both testing the yellow ‘Curby’ bags and the City of Charles Sturt testing an orange, translucent bag. Soft plastics cannot be recycled in the trial unless they are placed in the coloured bags. In total, 4000 households will participate in the trials across the three councils.
AFGC CEO Tanya Barden said the trials are a key part of capturing soft plastic packaging as a resource to help meet demand from Australia’s food and grocery manufacturers for food-grade recycled packaging.
“Soft plastic packaging plays a vital role ensuring the freshness and protection of food, personal care and home care products,” Barden said. “Manufacturers use soft plastics because they are strong and light with a low carbon footprint and the industry is committed to further improving the environmental profile of this material.”
The advanced recycling process will break clean, shredded soft plastics back down into new products such as oil — from which plastics are made from in the first place. That oil is then refined and made back into new plastics.
The NPRS trials are supported by funding from the Australian food and grocery manufacturing industry and the Australian Government while the South Australian trials have received funding from Green Industries SA and the participating councils.
Work on the recycling scheme has stimulated new investment in advanced recycling infrastructure since securing a grant under the federal government’s National Product Stewardship Investment Fund in 2020. There are now four facilities either in development or operation.
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