Going hard on soft plastics recycling
Nestlé and Australian recycler iQ Renew have announced a trial to find a way to collect, sort and process soft plastics. The trial will see soft plastics collected from over 100,000 homes through kerbside recycling and diverted from landfill.
The announcement comes alongside the federal government’s National Plastics Summit, which aims to identify new solutions to the plastic waste challenge and mobilise further action from governments, industry and non-government organisations.
Soft plastics make up about 20% of the volume of Australian household landfill bins and are often found incorrectly placed in recycling bins. In order to meet Australia’s National Packaging Targets — including the goal of recycling 70% of plastic packaging by 2025 — significant expansion of plastics recycling is needed. Soft plastic can be recycled via physical recycling, which turns soft plastic into other items such as heavy-duty outdoor plastic goods and roads; and chemical recycling, which turns soft plastic back into oil that can be used for making new plastic resins for fuel and other purposes.
iQ Renew CEO Danial Gallagher said there is an opportunity to turn soft plastic from a waste to a resource. “Most material recovery facilities can’t separate soft plastic from other items in household recycling, so while soft plastic can be recycled, what we lack is a robust, scalable system to collect and process it using existing kerbside collection,” Gallagher said.
“We’ve designed the trial so that at the front end, it will support householders to pre-sort their soft plastic and get it into a recycling stream, while behind the scenes, we’ll test using the sorted soft plastic as a resource in a range of different manufacturing processes,” he said.
Nestlé Australia CEO Sandra Martinez said Nestlé wanted to find sustainable paths to recycle packaging.
“While we are working to make all our packaging recyclable, we know that soft plastics is an area that needs greater focus and collaboration. We need to find ways to drive more recycling here,” Martinez said.
“As Nestlé plans to reduce our virgin plastic use and increase the amount of food-grade recycled plastic packaging we use, we need plastic to be collected.
“Given the low amount of soft plastic collected from consumers today, we hope this trial can unlock the significant potential for soft plastic packaging to become a resource.”
Martinez said Nestlé also wanted to help people to recycle effectively.
“Australians are enthusiastic recyclers and want better recycling systems that take plastic packaging out of landfill. This trial will uncover how households understand soft plastics collection and answer critical questions about how it affects their in-home recycling behaviour.
“We have a vision for Australia to have a waste-free future,” she said.
The project will initially pilot 2000 households, then plans to expand to over 100,000 households later in the year, processing around 750 tonnes of soft plastic that would otherwise be sent to landfill.
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