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Australian plastics manufacturer Qenos has partnered with leading waste management company Cleanaway for a joint feasibility study into plastic-to-plastic advanced recycling in NSW and Victoria.

The study will investigate the feasibility and environmental benefits of converting up to 100,000 tonnes per annum of Australia’s household soft plastic waste and mixed plastics, which would otherwise end up in landfill, into feedstock for use in Qenos’ existing manufacturing facilities to produce circular polyethylene. 

Circular polyethylene has identical properties to virgin polyethylene and can be used in food contact and high-performance applications, thereby supporting local packaging and food manufacturers to achieve the 2025 APCO National Packaging Targets. 

Stephen Bell, Qenos CEO, said the joint venture leverages the combined resources of the nation’s leading companies in the fields of plastics waste management and plastics manufacturing. 

“Qenos is uniquely positioned to help solve our country’s soft plastics waste problem, as the only operator in Austtalia with the complete suite of assets required for the creation of circular plastics through advanced recycling,” he continued.

“Without polymer manufacturing, advanced recycling stops at plastics-to-oil.”

Qenos will lead the study for one or more advanced recycling plants using its existing steam cracker and polymerisation facilities, which would convert plastic waste pre-processed by Cleanaway.

Cleanaway will leverage its existing collection and processing infrastructure, and investigate new methods of collecting, sorting and pre-processing post-consumer soft plastics to provide the required volumes of suitable feedstock for advanced recycling. 

“Through our already established Circular Plastics Australia partnership, we are well progressed in developing the leading mechanical plastics reprocessing platform for PET, HDPE and PP, and potentially LDPE,” said Mark Schubert, Cleanaway CEO. 

“We are pleased to now partner with Qenos to study advanced recycling, which would complement our existing reprocessing platform to process mixed plastics that cannot be mechanically recycled.

“It would enable us to offer our customers higher resource recovery rates and more sustainable, circular outcomes for their waste.”

Cleanaway is one of Qenos’ partners in a bid submitted for the Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) Collaboration Stream to support the plastic-to-plastic advanced recycling project. 

Incorporating 50 consortium partners and supporters across the entire supply chain, from raw material production to supermarket shelf, federal government assistance would see a new sovereign manufacturing sector secured in Australia. 

“This project will be a huge step towards a plastics circular economy in Australia and achieving the National Packaging Targets from local inputs.

“Qenos and Cleanaway are playing a leadership role in seeking to ensure Australian manufacturing fully participates in a new global industry, which is forecast to attract $680 billion in investment by 2050.”

The joint feasibility study is expected to be completed by July 2022, and a final investment decision to be made later this year. 

Pending a successful outcome, the first of the advanced recycling facilities is expected to be operational by 2025.

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