The dairy industry has come out in strong support of a new $38m plastic recycling facility to be constructed in Laverton, Victoria as part of a joint venture between Pact Group and Cleanaway, and which will pave the way for increased use of food-grade recycled content in food packaging.
Set to trade as Circular Plastics Australia (PE), the new facility is pegged to become Australia’s largest post-consumer polyethylene (PE) recycling plant. It will convert locally collected kerbside plastic materials – more than 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year, or the equivalent of over 500 000K plastic milk bottles and food tubs – into high quality food grade rHDPE and rPP resins.
Construction of the plant will start towards the end of the year and it is expected to be fully operational by December 2022.
Cleanaway will provide the recycled plastic through its collection and sorting network, and Pact will provide technical knowledge, operate the plant, and buy recycled plastic resin from the facility to use in its packaging, with the balance sold to third parties. This will facilitate the inclusion of locally processed recycled resin into food, dairy and other packaging, enabling brand owners and retailers to deliver on their sustainability objectives.
For the milk bottling sector specifically, this means manufacturers will be able to include locally processed rHDPE in milk bottles going forward, although it’s not clear yet at what percentage. In the UK, rHDPE inclusion in new bottles has reached as high as 30 per cent. The ultimate goal, of course, is to achieve full bottle-to-bottle circularity.
Voicing support of the initiative, Bulla CEO Alan Hood, said: “We applaud Pact and Cleanaway for providing much needed local processing infrastructure to provide brands with food grade rHDPE. We know that our consumers care deeply about the environment and as one of Australia’s largest privately owned dairy companies, we are delighted to be able to offer recycled content in our packaging and make another important step towards achieving our 2025 APCO targets.”
Marc Anderson, COO at Brownes Dairy, too, is encouraged by the development: “Sustainability is at the core of what we do at Brownes and we are excited to have the opportunity to provide our consumers with a more sustainable option through the introduction of recycled content in our HDPE milk bottles. This is an outstanding initiative between Pact and Cleanaway. Brownes is making great progress toward its obligations under the Australian Packaging Covenant, and we can only get there through the research, commitment and investment of these organisations.”
For Pact Group, whose mission is 'leading the circular economy', the new facility highlights the progress the company has made in expanding its reuse and recycling capabilities.
This latest joint venture between Pact and Cleanaway complements the existing PET joint venture between Pact, Cleanaway and Asahi, with construction of the country’s largest PET recycling facility in Albury well underway and ahead of schedule for commissioning later this year.
“At Pact, we are committed to leading the way in creating a strong, local circular economy that diverts waste materials from landfill and uses them to deliver sustainably manufactured products, including recycled packaging solutions that are increasingly in demand, ” Sanjay Dayal, Pact’s managing director and CEO, said.
“With this is mind, we are delighted to be able to lead the development of this new industry in Australia, which will also create thousands of new jobs and support the national manufacturing industry.”
For Cleanaway, the opportunities presented by the circular economy are endless. Brendan Gill, Cleanaway’s CEO, said, “This 20,000-tonne plastic pelletising facility is a huge win for the environment by creating a high value, recycled raw material from plastics we collect and sort through our network.”
“This venture makes it possible to turn a milk bottle back into a milk bottle. This will provide our Melbourne councils and commercial customers with a great outcome for their recycling initiatives and contributes to the development of a domestic circular economy.”
The project is being supported by the Victorian government through its Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund and the Australian government through its Recycling Modernisation Fund.