• Members of the research team with Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic.
    Members of the research team with Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic.

The Australian government has funded a co-operative research centre as part of its project to combat plastic waste. The research centre is a collaboration involving eleven Australian universities, CSIRO and more than 33 industry and other end-user partners, and aims to transform how plastic is designed, used, and recycled.

The Solving Plastic Waste Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) says it will enable the transformation of how plastics are designed, manufactured, used and recycled, and will work to develop a solution to remove microplastic pollution in soil.

Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, confirmed the Solving Plastic Waste CRC, one of two national CRCs to be funded in the current CRC Program selection round, would be established with $40 million in federal funding. However, the total resources available to the Solving Plastic Waste CRC is valued at $140.6 million, including the CRC Program grant and contributions from partners.

“Plastics play a major role in the global economy, benefiting a wide range of industries like agriculture, healthcare, packaging, construction, and transportation,” Interim CEO Dr Ian Dagley said. 

“But the existing linear plastic value chain is unsustainable. It sees most of the end-of-life value of plastics lost and the result is plastic waste pollution, which poses a major environmental challenge,” he added.

Professor Thomas Maschmeyer, Licella co-founder and member of the University of Sydney Nano Institute said: “The University of Sydney and its partner Licella Holdings have been engaged since 2007 to develop and commercialise the revolutionary Cat-HTR process, which allows the conversion of any plastic, including mixed end-of-life consumer plastic, into oils that can be returned to the petrochemical value chain creating new plastics, enabling true circularity.”

“They were joined in 2015 by its global licence holder (outside ANZ) and Joint Venture Partner MURA Technology who is currently deploying 5 scale projects outside ANZ. This CRC will help significantly to further improve and deploy the process, based on the fundamental scientific studies it enables, and strongly support Licella's local commercial efforts around two plants,” he said.

Dr Alex Yuen, Professor Maschmeyer's co-chief investigator from the University of Sydney said: “Advanced chemical recycling is a transformative technology by which we can truly keep plastics in the circular economy of the future, without compromising on materials’ performance or sustainability.”

This funding comes as part of a broader $127 government investment into tackling methane emissions and plastic pollution, as part of the government’s broader ambitions to achieve net zero by 2050 and tackle plastic waste.

Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic said: “The CRC Program is about transforming Australian know-how into practical outcomes for Australian businesses, and delivering economic, environmental, and social outcomes for Australia.”

“There are very few challenges more crucial than achieving net zero emissions and tackling plastic pollution. I wish these two new CRCs every success in achieving the important objectives they have set.”

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