A pilot scheme of 2000 households on NSW’s Central Coast will collect soft plastics through kerbside collections to divert from landfill. If successful it will extend it to 140,000 homes.
The objective is to find ways to collect household soft plastic and turn it into a resource. Soft plastics comprise 20% of the volume of Australian household landfill bins and are too frequently found incorrectly placed in recycling bins.
Participating households will collect their clean soft plastics in a purpose-made bright yellow ‘Curby’ bag, then when the bag is full, tie it up, tag it and place it in their yellow recycling bin for pick up with their regular recycling collection.
Tags will identify the bags and help to improve the sorting process, ensuring they can be separated from other recyclables. The soft plastics will then be shredded and become a resource for use in other plastic products, chemical recycling, and energy recovery.
iQ Renew CEO Danial Gallagher said that the trial will test how collecting and processing soft plastics can be scaled up. He said it was important that people not participating in the trial continue to use return to store programs for their soft plastics.
We are keen to partner with Nestlé and launch the Curby soft plastic recovery solution on the Central Coast. By piloting the Curby solution, residents of the Central Coast will help demonstrate that preventing soft plastic ending up in landfill is not only possible, but simple and highly achievable,” Mr Gallagher said.
The trial will help answer a few questions – how will the community adopt this? Can we keep loose plastics out of other recyclables? Will the bags survive the truck? Can we use regular shopping bags?
We’ve been testing ways to separate and recover soft plastic from other items in household recycling, which is challenging for sorting facilities. This trial will allow us to test that at larger scale, with the hope of bringing much needed recycling innovation to all Australians.”
Nestlé Australia CEO Sandra Martinez said that with soft plastics making up 30 per cent of the plastic packaging used in Australia, the company wanted to be part of finding new approaches to boosting recycling soft plastic packaging.
While Nestlé wants to reduce its use of virgin plastics and increase our use of recycled packaging, this won’t happen without robust collection, sorting and processing systems.
Experience in Australia and round the world shows that people are more likely to recycle when it’s easy to access, and that kerbside is most successful,” Ms Martinez said.
Ms Martinez said that since the trial was first announced at the National Plastics Summit in March, the company had had many approaches from the waste and recycling industries, local governments, packaging manufacturers and other companies making packaged goods wanting to know more.
We already know Australians want better access to recycling for their soft plastics. Seeing this enthusiasm shared by so many is encouraging, as collective action by those with a shared vision for a waste free future will be critical to solving this complex challenge at scale.”
Central Coast Council’s Director Roads Transport and Drainage Boris Bolgoff said the Council is pleased to be piloting new ways to recover soft plastics using existing services and facilities at no additional cost.
Right now more than half of Central Coast residents’ household waste is sent to landfill, with soft plastics being common due to difficulties in separating it from other types of waste and recyclables and limited markets for the product,” Mr Bolgoff said.
Soft plastics not only pollute our land but they also cause significant damage to our environment and marine life – which is something our residents value immensely.”
Residents in the Central Coast Council area can sign up to be part of the initial phase of the trial at curbythebilby.com.au
Soft plastics, or flexible plastics, can generally be scrunched into a ball. They include empty packaging with the ‘Return to Store’ or ‘Store Drop Off’ Australasian Recycling Label the same material collected by REDcycle, the collection program for soft plastic with drop off points in supermarkets other similar soft plastic packaging.
In Australia soft plastic packaging can be recycled into other products like outdoor plastics (such as park benches and bollards), however it cannot be recycled into soft plastic packaging.
Chemical recycling converts soft plastic to its original oil, from where it can be used for a variety of uses including making food grade recycled plastic packaging. While Australia does not have a commercial chemical recycling facility, some plastics collected in the trial will be processed at the Licella Cat-HTR™ trial plant at Somersby, NSW.
Energy recovery converts wastes into energy.
In contrast to soft plastics, Rigid plastics – such as PET bottles (typically clear bottles used for soft drinks and water) and HDPE bottles (such as those used for milk) can be readily recycled via household kerbside collection, and in some instances, via state container deposit schemes.