Plastics to oil recycling first

By Jonty Ralphsmith

A Dandenong South advanced recycling company is the first in Australia to receive technology that allows for soft plastics to be converted into oil.

The BioFabrik WASTX Machine is designed so that 100 per cent of the soft plastic that goes in can come out as something that can be reused – either oil, gas or asphalt material.

There are about 50 machines worldwide and after receiving its machine earlier in the year, APR will be able to recycle one tonne per day from early July.

It will also receive another machine later in the year which has the capacity to recycle five tonnes per day.

APR receives 800 tonnes of plastic per month.

To maximise effectiveness, Logan Thorpe special projects manager at APR plastics highlighted the importance of public education.

“Giving feedback allows for the best outcome possible,” Mr Thorpe said.

“Going forward it is about how we educate people and give them feedback about how they can get involved.

“Soft plastics have a QR code so residents can get feedback that it goes to a facility to get sorted then another facility to get be processed and turned into a new product.

“Allowing them to be part of the process give the warm and fuzzy feeling that what I’ve done is being recycled so I will keep doing that.”

As Australia targets a circular economy, the machine is key as it ensures hard to recycle soft plastics are diverted from landfill and enter a supply chain where they can then be repurposed by consumers.

With mechanical recycling currently successful, Mr Thorpe emphasised that plastics emphasised that the advanced recycling methods coming in will support – not threaten – existing recycling.

“We’re not targeting recyclables already being recycled, we’re targeting flexible packaging that have nowhere to go because it cannot be recycled in mechanical sense.

When you look at how many things are made out of plastic, you would see there is no way of slowing down plastic manufacturing, it’s in your cars, homes, offices, it’s everywhere so we need to work on how we recover and process it.”

In Australia, 3.5 million tonnes of plastic is made each year at a growing rate of 3.5 per cent.

For every kilogram of plastic put into the machine, a litre of oil is produced.

Improved recovery is reliant on collaboration within the supply chain.

“I think personally that we’re 10 years behind as a country in recycling efforts compared to Europe which has a lot more technology and processes set up over the years,” Mr Thorpe said.

“We’ll get there, everyone just needs to get in the same path and work together.”

The machine is also self-powering with the gas produced fed to the operation of the technology and therefore not causing emissions.

Careful not to promote the use of soft plastics, Greens councillor Rhonda Garad said she supported the work that APR were doing

This level of innovation is exactly what we need to be doing and this is something as a council we need to be supporting,” she said

“We still need to be deincentivising use of plastic but given we do have this plastic that can’t be recycled it is great that Dandenong is part of the initiative so we should do whatever we can to support this technology.

“These guys are looking at waste as a resource which is what we should all be doing so all power to them.”

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