The crowd gathered for the opening of the upgraded soft plastics recycling line at Close the Loop's Reservoir facility speaks volumes for the milestone that this marks for finding a solution for hard-to-recycle materials. The development was welcomed by peak industry bodies, the Soft Plastics Taskforce, and the wider industry with a stake in solving Australia's soft plastics waste problem.
As the facility comes online in February and ramps up production throughout 2024, it will be operating at over one tonne per hour, four to five times the capacity of the previous line which succumbed to a fire in 2022.
Close the Loop is part of the ASX-listed Close the Loop Group (CLG), which has positioned itself as a leader in “circular economy” innovation. Speaking at the opening, CLG CEO Joe Foster said, “Through this line, the company will manufacture its patented TonerPlas and rFlex materials, made from complex, post-consumer materials, keeping them out of landfill and in use within high performance applications. In fact our facility prides itself on its promise: zero waste to landfill.”
TonerPlas, an award-winning engineered asphalt additive made from recycled toner powder (plastic) from printer cartridges. and post-consumer soft plastics, melted together and extruded on the line in a proprietary process, using Australian developed technology.
TonerPlas improves the performance and longevity of asphalt roads, while lowering the carbon footprint. It has already been included in numerous council road projects across Australia, as well as major freeway upgrades including both the M80 and Monash Freeways in Melbourne.
Close the Loop's core business is running the recycling for the Cartridges for Planet Ark program, and one of the VIP speakers of the day was Planet Ark CEO Rebecca Gilling. She was joined by APCO CEO Chris Foley, and Sustainability Victoria's head, Matt Genever, among other speakers.
Head of Circularity at Close the Loop, Steve Morriss, who is also the founder of the company, was MC for the event, and spoke at length about the collaboration being the cornerstone of the company's success to date, noting that it had worked with key partners for over 20 years to develop processes, products and markets for complex waste streams.
Morriss said Close the Loop has plans to roll-out its business model to other states, so that “local people can turn local waste soft plastics into high value products for local markets”.
He also spoke of the importance of developing what he called “circular contracts”, so that it's not just a one-way flow of waste to the recycler, but that the company sending in the waste commits to buying back the recycled material to be used in a remanufactured product, whether that is new packaging, injection-moulded supermarket trolleys, or roads, to name a few options.