• Dave Hodge, managing director Plastic Forests
    Dave Hodge, managing director Plastic Forests

The head of Australia’s largest vertically integrated soft plastics recycler says the plastic recycling industry has been gearing up to meet the challenge of the 1 July waste export ban.

Staying in Australia: Waste soft plastic for recycling at the Plastic Forests plant in Albury

David Hodge, CEO of award-winning Plastic Forests, said, “The industry has had years to prepare, and there are several recyclers including ourselves that have invested tens of millions of dollars into soft plastic recycling in recent times.’

The ban on exporting waste overseas came into force last Friday, and Hodge is hopeful that the federal government will enforce the ban, without exemptions, so that the recycling industry has the confidence to continue investing in Australia’s plastic recycling capacity.

Hodge said, “Our own plant in Albury now has the capacity to handle up to 8000 tonnes a year of waste soft plastic annually, and there are several other recyclers investing strongly.”

Other recyclers who have indicated they are investing in soft plastic lines include Close The Loop Group, and Polymer Processors in Melbourne, which is spending $30m on new plant, as well as Olympic Polymers,  Sustainable Plastic Solutions, and IQ Renew.

Hodge said, “A major decision for recyclers is what to do with the recycled material. Some opt to turn it into resin which they are now exporting to Europe, where there is high demand thanks to its stringent new legislative requirements to use recycled plastics, while Plastic Forests has developed a huge range of products that we recycle waste soft plastic into, everything from fencing to wheel stops to garden beds to underground electrical cable cover, that we sell through distributors and retailers such as Bunnings and Reece Plumbing.”

Most soft plastic for recycling comes from food packaging, but none is allowed to go back into direct food contact packaging.

Industry insiders say that sky-high prices for Australian soft plastic waste from countries including Vietnam, which has recently been paying up to $800 a tonne for baled waste film compared to $200-$300 a tonne a year ago, has kept some waste management companies from finding soft plastic recycling solutions, with those companies now seeking ministerial exemption from the export ban, an exemption that many recyclers hope will not be forthcoming.

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