Licella, supported by Amcor, Coles, iQ Renew, LyondellBasell and Nestle, has released a report highlighting the potential for establishing a local circular economy for flexible plastic, using advanced recycling as an alternative for plastic that is difficult to recycle mechanically, such as food packaging.
Advanced recycling, the report says, will allow soft plastic waste, such as confectionery wrappers and bread bags, to be turned back into oil, then made into new food-grade packaging in Australia.
The report comes as a result of a feasibility study that demonstrated a circular economy for plastic will be key in enabling the country to meet its National Waste Policy commitments.
The study found that using the oil created from waste plastic, in the local plastic packaging supply chain, will deliver a 64 per cent CO2 reduction compared to crude oil, which is why the Licella report calls for the country to build up capabilities in this space.
It identified Altona in Victoria as the location best placed for an advanced recycling facility, given the location’s existing infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities, and proposed to incorporate at its core the Cat-HTR (catalytic hydrothermal reactor), which is a form of hydrothermal liquefaction technology (HTL) developed by Licella.
The advanced recycling facility would be an Australian-first if built and, according to the study, presents the opportunity to divert up to 120,000 tonnes – or 24 per cent – of the waste plastics sent to landfill every year in Victoria alone.
Initially, the proposed facility would process 20,000 tonnes per annum of plastic, producing 17,000 tonnes of oil, reducing the need for virgin oil, and long-term, after planned expansions of capacity, will result in the production of nearly 100,000 tonnes of recycled food-grade plastics per year.
The study said the facility would also provide a boost to local industry, has the potential to create new 300 jobs in Victoria in the next five years, and could contribute over $100 million to the state’s economy every year.
“Our study partners all represent important pieces of the puzzle, and I am grateful to them for coming on the journey with us,” said Dr Len Humphreys, CEO of Licella Holdings.
“We’ve come together with a shared vision for a more sustainable future for plastic, and we all understand that we can do more together than we can individually.”
In a statement from Amcor, the company says the system-wide transformation required for Australia to meet its plastic recycling targets needs local initiatives to come to fruition, and collaboration across industry and government is essential to drive this change.
“The demand for recycled plastic continues to accelerate around the world, and enabling advanced recycling is critical to generate circularity for flexible packaging,” said Simon Roy, vice-president and GM for Amcor ANZ.
“End-consumers’ needs are constantly changing and we are proud to be part of the solution. We are committed to the development of, and access to more sustainable packaging, better waste management infrastructure, and improved recycling education.”
With over $100 million invested over 13 years, the Cat-HTR technology is already commercial-ready, and has been tested for its efficiency across a wide range of feedstocks, including mixed end-of-life plastic.