• Qenos Olefins furnace in Altona, VIC.
    Qenos Olefins furnace in Altona, VIC.

Australia’s only manufacturer of polyethylene and polymers, Qenos, will partner with global advanced recycling technology companies Plastic Energy and Axens in a boost for the proposed Qenos Circular Plastic Project (QCPP). The companies will collaborate in planning the development of major advanced recycling manufacturing capability in Australia.

Plastic Energy UK, which specialises in advanced recycling of plastics using its Thermal Anaerobic Conversion (TAC) process and Axens (France), which has developed the leading-edge Rewind Mix process, will support the recently announced Qenos and Cleanaway joint feasibility study for the conversion of up to 100,000 tonnes of household soft plastic waste and mixed plastics back into circular polyethylene.

The QCPP is the largest proposed circular plastics project in Australia and is currently being considered for support under the federal government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative. The results of the feasibility study, due in July 2022, will inform the 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. Fully commissioned, the QCPP would secure a leadership role for the Australian manufacturing chain in this emerging global sector. 

Circular plastics manufacturing using advanced recycling is considered the next major phase in recycling and, according to figures supplied by Qenos, is forecast to attract $680 billion of investment globally.

Qenos CEO Stephen Bell said the establishment of local advanced capability will drive a new manufacturing sector worth $350 million annually, creating 3100 jobs over the longer term. 

The QCPP will establish manufacturing capability using advanced recycling to takes soft plastics and other hard-to-recycle plastic waste (which currently goes to landfill, incineration or escapes into the environment) and recycles this back into the same products. 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.

Bell said, “Qenos’ objective is to deliver a project of market leading scale which will meet customer expectations and deliver on recycled content targets by 2025. These partnerships are crucial – Plastic Energy and Axens are world class companies that also see this opportunity to partner with Qenos, and support the establishment of a new major manufacturing sector."

Founder and CEO of Plastic Energy, Carlos Monreal said, “We are pleased to be partnering with Qenos as the advanced recycling technology provider, along with Axens, for this study into the creation of a circular polyethylene capability in Australia. Our patented and proven recycling process for plastic waste has been in operation in Europe since 2016, exemplifying why we were identified by Qenos as a leader in the advanced recycling sector, and a reliable partner on this project.” 

Stephane Fedou, Axens Plastics Circular Economy director said “Axens is proud to have been selected by Qenos, a world class polyethylene manufacturer and specialty polymers supplier. This reveals all the potential of our alliance with Plastic Energy to provide, at scale, a complete and optimised solution, for advanced recycling of waste plastic, which otherwise would end up incinerated or landfilled, for the production of food-grade plastics while minimising carbon footprint.”

The announcement has been welcomed by the Australian Food & Grocery Council (AFGC), which is developing the National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) that aims to collect and recycle nearly 190,000 tonnes of soft plastic packaging per annum by 2025.

AFGC CEO Tanya Barden said, “Developing circular plastic-to-plastic recycling capability in Australia is essential to address the challenge of plastic waste and meet the National Packaging Targets.”

“This is an example of the collaboration, investment and technology needed to create an effective and sustainable circular economy for plastic packaging in Australia,” Barden said.

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