Victoria’s biggest PET plastic bottle recycling plant opens

A new $50 million facility capable of recycling the equivalent of up to one billion 600ml PET plastic beverage bottles a year has commenced operations in Melbourne.

The Circular Plastics Australia (PET) plant will convert used beverage bottles, into high-quality food-grade resin, which is then used to make new recycled PET beverage bottles and food packaging such as meat trays and fruit punnets.

The facility is the biggest of its kind in Victoria and equipped with state-of-the-art equipment capable of producing 2.5 tonnes of recycled PET resin per hour.

Multiple infrared and optical sorters firstly separate out any non-PET material, such as bottle lids, labels, and metals. The PET bottles are then shredded, ground, and washed, before the flaked material goes through a two-stage heating and drying process.

The washed flake finally undergoes an extrusion and purification process to produce the recycled PET resin certified to US FDA standards.

When fully operational, the plant will be able to produce around 20,000 tonnes of recycled PET resin each year, equivalent to the weight of two Eiffel Towers.[1]  

At full production, the facility is expected to employ about 45 people for its 24/7 operations and supported around 60 full time jobs during its construction.

This is the second Circular Plastics Australia (PET) recycling facility now operational in Australia, with the first, a similar sized plant in Albury NSW, commencing operations in March 2022.

Circular Plastics Australia (PET) is a joint venture between Pact Group, Cleanaway Waste Management, Asahi Beverages, and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) and was formed to provide a bottle-to-bottle solution to help accelerate the local plastic circular economy.

Pact managed the build and now operates the two recycling facilities. Cleanaway provides used PET plastic to be recycled through its collection and sorting network. Asahi Beverages and CCEP use the recycled resin from the joint venture to make new 100% recycled PET beverage bottles while Pact manufactures recycled food and beverage packaging for its customers.

By recycling plastic waste locally, the two Circular Plastics Australia (PET) plants are helping to create a “closed loop” solution for plastic beverage bottles and reduce Australia’s reliance on virgin and imported recycled resin.

Pact Managing Director and CEO, Sanjay Dayal, said: “Pact is proud to be part of a sustainable solution where we are making, recycling and remaking plastic beverage bottles in Australia. Together, the two Circular Plastics Australia (PET) recycling facilities are able to process up to two billion plastic bottles a year which helps keep thousands of tonnes of plastic waste out of landfill.”

Cleanaway CEO Mark Schubert said: “Cleanaway is proud to be part of building Victoria’s circular economy through this bottle-to-bottle recycling facility. Cleanaway’s leading integrated network of collections and infrastructure assets provides our customers with high circularity / low carbon solutions and great customer service.”

Asahi Beverages CEO Amanda Sellers said: “This plant helps ensure soft drink bottles collected via the Victorian CDS and recycling bins get another life as beverage bottles or food packaging. It’s a big step towards creating a truly circular economy in Victoria. Already, all our 450ml and 600ml water and soft drink bottles are made with 100 per cent recycled plastic (excluding caps and labels).”

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Australia Managing Director, Orlando Rodriguez, said: “CCEP is determined to be a leader in Australia’s circular economy. Through this investment, alongside the introduction of Victoria’s CDS, we have made great strides in closing the loop on beverage packaging locally. Seven out of 10 of our PET bottles are now made from 100 per cent recycled plastic (excluding caps and labels).”

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