The technology turbocharging recycling in Victoria

Published: 5 September 2022

We want to reshape Victoria with recycled materials: a future where we use recycled materials anywhere and everywhere, from the roads you drive on to the bottles we drink from.

But processing your recycling – those plastic containers, carboard boxes and glass bottles – is sometimes more complex than we think.

The best and brightest brains – scientists, engineers and manufacturers – are working tirelessly to explore how we can innovate and shape a recycling system of the future.

On behalf of the Victorian Government, we’ve partnered with industry and the Australian Government to invest in the latest technology for new recycling infrastructure, ensuring we can process and use more recycled materials locally.

This new technology is turbocharging our ability to locally recycle and reuse those items in your bin.

Hot bath for plastics promises ‘bottle-to-bottle’ recycling

Infographic of PET hot wash flake system with statistics: Can process 24,700 tonnes of Post Consumer Mixed PET each year | Equivalent to 823 million plastic bottles | Enough bottles to fill 16 Olympic swimming pools

Thanks to a multi-million funding partnership with Melbourne company Martogg, new plastic processing technology in Dandenong South will help transform waste plastics from kerbside collection into high quality, food-grade plastic for reuse.

The challenge

While we should always put things into our recycling bin as clean and empty as possible, to reuse recycled plastic from household waste, such as drink bottles and food containers, it needs to be treated to move label glue, grease, oils, leftover liquids, and other messy leftovers.

The tech we’ve invested in

It turns out hot baths can be cleansing for plastics, too! PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is a lightweight plastic that is widely used for packaging. PET hot wash flake technology involves washing recycled plastic flakes in a heated bath with a caustic washing solution to remove contaminants. This produces recycled plastic flakes of higher value.

The impact

The technology is expected to process and sort up to 24,700 tonnes of post-consumer mixed PET plastic each year. With the capacity to hot wash 17,300 tonnes, that’s the equivalent of 16 Olympic swimming pools filled with 823 million 500 ml PET bottles.

Hot washed PET flakes are suitable for remanufacturing into new packaging for food and drinks – it’s a true ‘bottle-to-bottle’ solution for plastics recycling.

Where you’ll see recycled materials

Besides seeing recycled PET plastic in bottles, jars, tubs and trays you eat and drink from, you might also see it used in cosmetics packaging and household products.

Gentler pulping technology to recycle 40% more paper and cardboard

Infographic of drum pulper machine with statistics: Can process 95,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard each year | Equivalent to 4,000 semi-trailer truck loads | An increase of more than 40% in the amount of paper and cardboard we recycle in Victoria

We partnered with Visy to invest in Australian-first drum pulper technology at the Coolaroo Paper Mill in Melbourne’s North.

The challenge

When we vigorously pulp our waste paper and cardboard to recycle it, fibres are lost, leaving less material behind for us to reuse.

The tech we’ve invested in

The continuously rotating drum pulper reduces the loss of fibres during the pulping process. This technology can also reduce energy use and carbon dioxide emissions compared to other types of pulpers.

The impact

The drum pulper at Coolaroo will allow us to recycle 40% more paper and cardboard here in Victoria. Up to 95,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard will be processed each year – equivalent to 4,000 semi-trailer truck loads!

Where you’ll see recycled materials

This high quality paper and cardboard will be used in new paper-based products, from pizza boxes to plasterboard lining used in construction.

Road-friendly recycled glass a product of regional Victoria

Infographic of PET hot wash flake system with statistics: Can process 5,000 tonnes of glass per year | Equivalent to 20 million glass beer bottles | Enough beer bottles to fill 83,330 wheelie bins or 6 Olympic swimming pools

A glass recycling boom in Bendigo is on the horizon. Regional Victorian recycling stalwart, ASQ Group will install a high-tech glass washer capable of producing a recycled product that meets specifications for use in roads in both Victoria and New South Wales.

The challenge

Recycled glass can be crushed into a sand product and used in roads and pavement. However, to use it to its maximum potential in infrastructure, it must meet certain quality specifications – for example, requiring it to be free of contaminants.

Glass contamination comes in many forms, including paper, organics, metals and plastics. Washing glass increases its value and allows it to be used in more products.

The tech we’ve invested in

ASQ will install a new glass washing facility to wash recycled glass products diverted from landfill. The washing facility will remove sugars, yeast and organic traces from the glass, improving the quality of the end product and making it available to a wider market as a sand replacement.

The impact

The glass washer will process up to 5,000 tonnes of glass per year. That’s equivalent to 20 million glass beer bottles – enough to fill 83,330 wheelie bins or 6 Olympic swimming pools.

Where you’ll see recycled materials

The end product can be utilised in asphalt, road and footpath construction, as well as potential applications in the construction of railway tracks and building products. Most importantly, this recycled glass will be in demand and can be supplied to the asphalt and construction industries and local councils.

These projects were co-funded through the Victorian government’s circular economy policy, Recycling Victoria: a new economy and the Australian Government’s Recycling Modernisation Fund.

Please note the illustrations in this article are representative only, and not intended to reflect the exact configurations of grant recipients.

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