Circular Plastics Australia’s recycling plant opens in Albury-Wodonga

Circular Plastics Australia, the joint venture between Pact Group, Cleanaway Waste Management Ltd, Asahi Beverages, and new partner Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), has opened a $45 million PET recycling plant in Albury-Wodonga.

The site is the largest PET recycling plant in the country, aiming to substantially reduce Australia’s plastic waste by recycling the equivalent of around 1 billion PET beverage bottles each year.

The plant also boosts regional jobs and is helping to build a domestic circular economy, along with increasing the amount of locally sourced and recycled PET in Australia by two thirds, from around 30,000 tonnes to over 50,000 tonnes per annum.

During its construction and installation, the plant supported around 225 jobs and will employ about 40 people, mostly Albury-Wodonga locals, for its 24/7 operations.

About 30,000 tonnes of PET will be recycled each year and will become recycled raw material to produce new beverage bottles plus other food and beverage packaging in Australia, contributing to closing the loop on recycling.

Further important environmental benefits will be delivered by the plant, including reducing Australia’s reliance on virgin plastic and recycled plastic imports. Solar energy is used to power part of the facility, and a water treatment unit and rainwater tanks will reuse and recycle as much water on site as possible.

Cleanaway will provide the plastic to be recycled through its collection and sorting network, Pact will operate the facility and provide technical and packaging expertise, while Asahi Beverages, CCEP and Pact will buy the recycled plastic from the facility to use in their packaging.

Pact Group managing director and CEO Sanjay Dayal said the opening of this state-of-the-art facility in Albury-Wodonga is a game changer for Australia’s plastic recycling industry.

“We are proud to be part of a sustainable solution to divert plastic waste from landfill and ensure we are recycling and manufacturing our drink bottles and food packaging here in Australia without the need to import plastic material from overseas. Pact Group will continue to work with industry partners and governments to build a strong, local circular economy,” he said.

According to Cleanaway chief financial officer Paul Binfield, this bottle-to-bottle plastic recycling facility brings the circular economy on-shore to Australia, giving everyone a chance to participate in making a sustainable future possible by recycling their bottles and buying beverages in recycled plastic packaging.

“Together with our partners, Cleanaway is working on a network of plastics recycling facilities integrated with our leading collection and sorting infrastructure to provide our customers with the most sustainable and circular solution for their plastic recycling,” he mentioned.

Asahi Beverages Group CEO Robert Iervasi said the recycling plant is a testament to the sustainability commitment of each organisation involved.

“It can’t be underestimated how significant this project will be – we are providing an industry-wide solution that will benefit all Australians. Asahi Beverages already has a large beverage manufacturing plant in Albury, and we are excited to expand our presence, helping create more local jobs. Our consumers told us they wanted more recycled bottles, and together we have worked out a way to do that that will make a real impact,” he said.

Coca-Cola Europacific Partner Australia, Pacific and Indonesia vice-president and general manager Peter West said the company is committed to playing a leading role in Australia’s circular economy.

“With our partners, we are working towards creating a closed loop for our bottles where they are used, collected and given another life. This plant, and the future Victorian plant, will complete this loop, help to solve the national rPET shortage and create new jobs for Australian workers. It is a proud moment in our corporate history,” West added.

Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley, NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage, James Griffin, and Mayor of Albury City, Kylie King officiated the opening of the facility.

“Pact Group made a $500 million commitment at our first national plastic summit in 2020 and they, along with their JV partners Cleanaway, Asahi Beverages and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, have made that a reality,” Ley said.

“This demonstrates commitment to our national packaging targets when the supply chain and government work together.”

The Circular Plastics Australia joint venture is also building a second PET plastic recycling facility, which will also have the capacity to recycle the equivalent to around 1 billion PET beverage bottles each year.

Construction on the $50 million plant in Melbourne’s west is scheduled to begin in April 2022 and be completed in 2023. The Albury-Wodonga project was supported with nearly $5 million from the NSW Government’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, with the support of the Australian Government’s Recycling Modernisation Fund.

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