Licella, supported by Amcor, Coles, iQ Renew, LyondellBasell, and Nestlé, have released a report highlighting the potential for establishing a local circular economy for soft plastic, with a focus on difficult to mechanically recycle plastic such as food packaging.
Advanced recycling allows 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 found that using the oil created from waste plastic, in the local plastic packaging supply chain, delivers a 64% CO2 reduction compared to crude oil.1
The study identified Altona in Victoria as the location best placed for 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.
If the new facility was constructed, it would provide 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 $100 million a year to the Victorian economy.
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% recycled content in packaging by 2025, the demand for recycled content, especially food-grade plastic, is expected to grow significantly.2
The advanced recycling facility would be an Australian first if built and presents the opportunity to divert up to 120,000 tonnes, or 24%, of the waste plastics sent to landfill every year in Victoria alone. 3 With over 500,000 tonnes of plastic going to landfill in Victoria each year1, the proposed facility would be an essential step towards a more sustainable future for plastic in Australia.
The proposed advanced recycling facility would use innovative Australian technology called Cat-HTR™ (Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor), a form of hydrothermal liquefaction technology developed by Licella.
If built, the proposed facility would initially process 20,000 tonnes per annum of plastic waste, producing 17,000 tonnes of oil a year, 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 per year.
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.
1 Based on Primary Research conducted by consultancy Lifecycles (2021)
2 2017-18 Australian Plastics Recycling Survey – National Report
3 Based on the National Waste Report 2020 Data and Primary Research conducted by consultancy Envisage Works (2021)