Record plastics recycling could fill the MCG five times

Tuesday, 15 January, 2008

An independent national survey has found the recycling rate for plastics packaging has equalled last year's record result and continues to meet environmental improvement commitments.

The PACIA 2007 National Plastics Recycling Survey found that during 2006, Australian industry and consumers recycled a record 30.5% of plastics packaging for the second consecutive year.

The overall plastics recycling rate (for plastics used in all applications) was 15.9%. The recovery of plastics packaging coded 4–7 increased to 24%, thanks to an increase in kerbside collections.

In 2006, total plastics consumption in Australia was 1,533,475 tonnes, of which a record 244,011 tonnes (15.9%) was recycled — that's enough plastic to fill the MCG five times. Of that 244,011, 150,999 tonnes were reprocessed locally and 93,012 tonnes were exported for reprocessing. This is more than double the recycling rate recorded in 1997, the first year of the PACIA National Plastics Recycling Survey, when a recycling rate of 7% (93,547 tonnes) was recorded on total consumption of 1,336,386 tonnes.

In 2006, a total of 178,351 tonnes of the plastic recycled was packaging material. The total consumption of plastic used for packaging applications was 585,296 tonnes, giving a packaging recycling rate of 30.5%.

The PACIA 2006 National Plastics Recycling Survey was conducted by independent research group Hyder Consulting. It was commissioned by the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association (PACIA) with funding support from Sustainability Victoria, the Department of Environment and Climate Change NSW, the Queensland Government Environmental Protection Agency, Western Australia's Department of Environment and Conservation and Zero Waste SA.

PACIA chief executive Margaret Donnan said the recycling rates shown in the survey meant Australia was among the world's best in plastics recycling, but acknowledged there's more we can all do for the environment.

"As a comparison, the European Union recycling target for plastic packaging is 22.5% by the end of 2008. Australia has again passed this target by recycling 30.5% of plastic packaging in 2005 and again in 2006. This achievement demonstrates the success of cooperative agreements such as the National Packaging Covenant that involve governments, industry and communities and works towards PACIA's policy of eliminating plastics waste to landfill — and that's good news for the industry, for the community and for the environment."

"By increasing away from home recycling programs and considering how we might recover the energy from plastics as well as the plastic itself, similar to the Europeans, Australia can continue to reduce our reliance on landfills," Ms Donnan said.

"It's interesting to note that while the EU's current mechanical recycling rate (18% in 2005) is slightly higher than Australia's (15.9%), they also report their energy recovery rate (29%).Our policy position is to eliminate plastic waste to landfill.

"These are great results, and ... it's important for all of us to continue our recycling activity whether entertaining at home or away from home. Increased recycling reduces waste going to landfill and preserves our resources and energy.&quote;

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