$60m in grants to help boost recycling of hard-to-recycle plastics

Wednesday, 19 July, 2023

$60m in grants to help boost recycling of hard-to-recycle plastics

Australians dispose of about 2.7 million tonnes of plastic each year but currently we’re only recycling about 13% of this waste.

The Albanese Labor government has now launched a new $60 million fund to help boost recycling of hard-to-recycle plastics, including soft plastics like shopping bags, bread bags, cling wrap and chip packets.

The funding will support new or upgraded recycling infrastructure projects such as:

  • advanced recycling to turn plastic back into oil for re-use in food-grade packaging
  • commercialisation of trial technology targeting ways to keep hard-to-recycle plastics in use
  • extraction and processing of plastics from e-waste into valuable products
  • diverting more plastics from landfill using advanced sorting, separation and de-contamination technology such as optical or robotic machinery.

The government has also announced a consultation process to help with the development of a national framework for recycled content traceability. The framework will be designed to help guide businesses in recycled content supply chains to improve traceability of recycled materials.

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) welcomed the announcements for funding for hard-to-recycle plastics and a traceability framework to boost confidence in recycled materials. Tracing recycled content is a welcome step that can expose greenwashing, while shining a light on the great work done by Australian recyclers. 

“A national system for tracing recycled content throughout the supply chain will showcase the depth and breadth of the fantastic recycling done in Australia by our sector, and support the confidence needed to procure Australian recycled material,” said ACOR’s CEO, Suzanne Toumbourou.

“At the same, time, the Australian Government’s commitment of $60 million towards hard-to-recycle plastics addresses a key capability gap in our recycling infrastructure, aligned with the national priority of addressing plastic waste.”

AFGC CEO Tanya Barden said the two announcements by Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek will boost the ability of food and grocery companies to use recycled materials in packaging.

“Food and grocery manufacturers want to use more recycled packaging content, including food-grade recycled plastics, in their packaging to increase sustainability while maintaining the quality and safety consumers expect,” Barden said.

“The AFGC is developing the National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) to keep soft plastic packaging out of landfill and to recycle that packaging into new, food-grade material.

“This funding will support the development of a new re-manufacturing industry for packaging through investment in advanced recycling technologies, including those that turn plastic back into oil for reuse in food-grade packaging. Such technology is currently the missing part in the supply chain and is central to the NPRS as a sustainable solution for soft plastic packaging, developed by the AFGC with major brands.

“Traceability standards are also essential to reduce the use of virgin materials. The AFGC has called for a nationally consistent framework for recycled packaging content and this move helps all parts of the supply chain to have confidence.”

Applications for the Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) Plastics Technology stream are now open until 13 November 2023. For more information on how to apply for grants of between $1 million and $20 million visit: The RMF Plastics Technology stream - DCCEEW.

To have your say on the traceability framework, feedback must be submitted by 31 August 2023.

Image credit: iStock.com/AzmanJaka

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