The report, Advanced recycle technologies to address Australia’s plastic waste, which was released today, assesses ways to convert plastic waste that cannot be recycled with existing methods, into new resources to build the circular economy of Australia.
It is estimated that 130,000 tonnes of plastic leak into the Australian marine environment each year. Less than 12% of plastic waste is recycled and around 85% ends up in landfill.
Advanced plastic waste recycling, also known as raw material, molecular or chemical recycling, converts plastic waste into its chemical building blocks and into plastic or other useful resources such as fuel.
CSIRO researcher Sarah King said that with new plastic waste export rules in place, new technologies were essential to support increased recovery and recycling of plastics.
“Advanced recycling technologies could transform hard-to-recycle plastics, such as blended, multi-layered, flexible, or contaminated plastics, into recycled food-grade plastics or into other products through chemical, thermal or biological processes,” Ms King said.
“It is suitable for soft or soft ‘crumpled’ plastics used for food packaging, such as food bags and chocolate wrappers. Once collected, these types of plastics can be contaminated with food or mixed with other materials and therefore currently cannot be recycled.
“Advanced recycling could process this plastic waste to increase opportunities for the polymer and waste manufacturing sectors by supporting new industries. The North American market is estimated at $ 120 billion, demonstrating that there is economic potential for the adoption of advanced recycling in Australia.
Australia has set a national target of 70% recycled or composted plastic packaging by 2025, and an 80% average recovery rate of all waste streams by 2030.
Chemistry Australia Director of Strategy, Energy and Research Peter Bury, who collaborated with CSIRO on the report, said advanced recycling is an important and complementary technology capable of advancing a circular economy Australian plastics.
“Mechanical recycling methods are our core and very effective technologies for a range of well-sorted plastics used for food and other packaging. Advanced recycling can add to these to further strengthen Australia’s recycling capabilities for plastics that cannot be processed through existing channels, ”Bury said.
“Australia already has the critical industrial capacity in polymer manufacturing, steam crackers and refineries, to integrate advanced recycling outputs to produce new polymers. Above all, we have the talented and skilled people in place to introduce and develop this additional technology. “
The report and the opportunities to adopt advanced recycling technologies are key elements of the development mission of the CSIRO Ending Plastic Waste Mission to reduce plastic pollution entering the Australian environment by 80% by 2030.
“Our report aims to raise awareness of advanced recycling technologies, their application to different types of plastics and the key factors enabling the adoption and scale-up of these technologies in Australia,” said Ms. King of CSIRO.
“Pollution and plastic waste are challenges that we must solve. Advanced recycling will improve the recovery, recycling and reuse of materials, in line with a circular economy. “
The report was produced in consultation with Chemistry Australia, LyondellBasell and Qenos.
Read the report