Advanced recycling technologies could reduce plastic waste

Advanced recycling

Image credit: CSIRO

Chemistry Australia and members LyondellBasell Australia and Qenos have collaborated with CSIRO on a new report into advanced recycling, a set of technologies that can increase the recovery and recycling of Australia’s valuable plastic resources. 

CSIRO’s Advanced recycling technologies to address Australia’s plastic waste report looks at a range of advanced recycling technology pathways, increasingly being used overseas to convert plastic waste into high-value recycled plastics and other products. 

The report takes an in-depth, technology-neutral approach to explaining advanced recycling and the opportunities created to strengthen a plastics circular economy in Australia. 

“CSIRO has produced a well-researched and comprehensive report that provides a credible, laypersons reference and guide to advanced recycling for plastics,” Chemistry Australia director of Strategy, Energy and Research Peter Bury said. 

“It builds awareness of the different technologies available, which are still relatively new to Australia. The report will serve as a valuable resource for industry, policy makers and communities looking for practical opportunities to strengthen Australia’s recycling capability.” 

As a good example of advanced manufacturing, advanced recycling could help bring about an Australian Plastics Circular Economy. 

“It presents a further opportunity for Australia to reduce plastic waste going to landfill and significantly improve its plastics recycling to support national waste policy objectives and recycling targets,” Bury said. 

“The report found that advanced recycling is complementary to our foundation mechanical recycling technologies. It provides the capability to manage used plastics that can’t be processed through existing channels. These can now be saved from landfill and up-cycled into new plastic resins for manufacturing.” 

The report also identified the potential for advanced recycling to help industry meet demand for recycled food-grade plastics and other recycled products both here and overseas. This would create new domestic and export opportunities for Australia, where small and larger scale technologies can be used. 

“We already have the critical industrial capability and polymer manufacturing infrastructure to integrate advanced recycling feedstocks into existing production. Importantly, we have the talent and highly skilled workforce in place to develop and integrate this new technology,” Bury said.  

“Advanced recycling technologies align well with federal government policy objectives in the National Plastics Plan, Modern Manufacturing Initiative and the Technology Investment Roadmap, which are designed to stimulate business investment and ensure industries have access to new technologies that create jobs, grow the economy and reduce environmental impacts.” 

The CSIRO report highlights how important scientific research is in supporting government and industry initiatives to manage Australia’s waste. 

“Our report describes advanced recycling technologies and how they can be implemented in Australia to recycle a range of plastic wastes which currently can’t be recycled,” CSIRO report lead author Sarah King said. 

“It evaluates advanced recycling pathways to convert plastic waste into new resources to build Australia’s circular economy and to divert waste from landfill.” 

Chemistry Australia has also partnered with CSIRO to develop its Ending Plastic Waste Mission, which aims to use science and technology to develop solutions to prevent waste entering the environment and transform the way Australia uses, re-uses and recycles plastics at their end of life. 

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