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Australasian firms showing more interest in plastics recycling

By: Kate Tilley

March 19, 2013

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Geof Pile said Australia’s plastics industry, like most manufacturing industries, is slow to take up recycling technologies. Instead, they opt to export their waste.

“It’s too easy to chuck it in the tip,” because landfilling is inexpensive in the region, he said. “If the economics don’t stack up, [businesses] don’t do it.”

But that trend may change. For example, Melbourne-based packaging manufacturer Visy Industries Australia Pty. Ltd. has spent A$50 million (US$51.8 million) on a new plastic recycling plant in Smithfield, 18 miles west of Sydney’s central business district. Visy manufactures PET, cardboard and metal containers, and collects and processes recycled materials.

The plant, which opened in November, is expected to produce about 34,000 tons 75 million pounds of recycled plastic a year when it reaches full production.

Pile, a principal with Melbourne-based Koga Recyclingtech, the specialized recycling consultancy arm of project advisory firm Koga Pty. Ltd., said a growing number of recycling installations are planned or operating in Australia.

“The drivers [are] economics, virgin polymer costs, recycled polymer quality, carbon offsets, [and] corporate conscience,” he said.

Higher oil prices also are causing plastic manufacturers to find ways to cut production costs, including increased recycling, he said.

Pile said another company in the region is poised to invest in plastics recycling.

A New Zealand customer is slated to be the first buyer in the region for an Austrian company’s machine that cleans used plastic, he said.

Austrian-based Maschinen und Anglagenbau Schultz GmbH (M.A.S.) released its DRD (double rotor disc) machine in Europe in 2006. The equipment uses waterless cleaning and thermal drying to improve the saleability of a range of recycled plastics.

Pile, whose firm represents the equipment in Australasia, said the first installation will most likely be in New Zealand cleaning agricultural silage wrap.

Despite no DRD equipment being installed in Australasia, the technology scored M.A.S. and Koga a first runner-up prize at the 2012 Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo’s awards in the best innovation category late last year.