Circular Plastics Australia (PET), the trading name for the JV between Pact Group, Cleanaway, Asahi and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), is officially open for business. The much-anticipated PET recycling plant in Albury-Wodonga will process the equivalent of around 1bn PET beverage bottles per year.
The $45 million plant in Albury-Wodonga, the largest of its kind in the country, will provide a boost to the local circular economy increasing the amount of locally sourced and recycled PET in Australia by two thirds, from around 30,000 tonnes to over 50,000 tonnes per annum.
It's a boost for the regional economy too. During its construction and installation, the plant supported around 225 jobs and now will employ about 40 people, mostly Albury-Wodonga locals, for its 24/7 operations.
Annually, the plant will recycle about 30,000 tonnes of PET, converting it to recycled raw material to produce new beverage bottles plus other food and beverage packaging in Australia, contributing to closing the loop on recycling. Cleanaway will provide the plastic to be recycled through its collection and sorting network, Pact will operate the facility and provide technical and packaging expertise, while Asahi Beverages, CCEP and Pact will buy the recycled plastic from the facility to use in their packaging.
Further important environmental benefits will be delivered by the plant, including reducing Australia’s reliance on virgin plastic and recycled plastic imports.
Solar energy is used to power part of the facility, and a water treatment unit and rainwater tanks will reuse and recycle as much water on site as possible.
Pact Group managing director and CEO, Sanjay Dayal, described the new facility as a "game changer" for Australia’s plastic recycling industry .
"We are proud to be part of a sustainable solution to divert plastic waste from landfill and ensure we are recycling and manufacturing our drink bottles and food packaging here in Australia without the need to import plastic material from overseas."
He said Pact Group will continue to work with industry partners and governments to build a strong, local circular economy.
While competitors in the beverage market, CCEP and Asahi Beverages have come together for this joint venture to deliver a significant increase in the volume of PET plastics recycled in Australia.
Asahi Beverages’ Group CEO, Robert Iervasi, said this recycling plant is a testament to the sustainability commitment of each organisation involved.
"It can’t be underestimated how significant this project will be – we are providing an industry-wide solution that will benefit all Australians. Asahi Beverages already has a large beverage manufacturing plant in Albury, and we are excited to expand our presence, helping create more local jobs. Our consumers told us they wanted more recycled bottles, and together we have worked out a way to do that that will make a real impact," Iervasi said.
Peter West, Coca-Cola Europacific Partner’s vice president and general manager Australia, Pacific and Indonesia, confirmed CCEP is committed to playing a leading role in Australia’s circular economy.
"With our partners, we are working towards creating a closed loop for our bottles where they are used, collected and given another life. This plant, and the future Victorian plant, will complete this loop, help to solve the national rPET shortage and create new jobs for Australian workers. It is a proud moment in our corporate history.”
Presiding over the official opening today was Federal Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley and NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage, James Griffin, and the Mayor of Albury City, Kylie King. The facility, which is located at the Nexus Precinct, 10km north of Albury-Wodonga’s CBD in NSW, is among the first businesses located at the new industrial precinct.
The Albury-Wodonga project was supported with about $5 million from the NSW Government’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, with the support of the Australian Government’s Recycling Modernisation Fund.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said that as Australia works internationally and domestically to reduce plastic waste it is good to see practical action and commitment coming to fruition in Albury.
“Pact Group made a $500 million commitment at our first national plastic summit in 2020 and they, along with their JV partners Cleanaway, Asahi Beverages and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, have made that a reality today. This demonstrates commitment to our national packaging targets when the supply chain and government work together,” Minister Ley said.
NSW Environment Minister James Griffin said: "Through our $337 million Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, the NSW Government contributed $4.8 million to this facility, and another $495,000 for specialised equipment inside the plant. This investment is helping us achieve our target of tripling plastics recycling in NSW by 2030, and transitioning to a circular economy."
Adding the Cleanaway perspective, chief financial officer Paul Binfield said: "This bottle-to-bottle plastic recycling facility brings the circular economy on-shore to Australia giving everyone a chance to participate in making a sustainable future possible by recycling their bottles and buying beverages in recycled plastic packaging. Together with our partners, Cleanaway is working on a network of plastics recycling facilities integrated with our leading collection and sorting infrastructure to provide our customers with the most sustainable and circular solution for their plastic recycling."
The joint venture is building a second PET plastic recycling facility which will also have the capacity to recycle the equivalent of around 1 billion PET beverage bottles each year. Construction on the $50 million plant in Melbourne’s west is scheduled to begin in April 2022 and be completed in 2023.