Market must embrace circular plastics economy


Aerofloat is helping stakeholders in the food and beverage industry to better utilise their use of water while also being more efficient and sustainable, Food and Beverage Industry News reports.

The Pact Group continue to press ahead with its end goal of creating circular economies within Australia and its latest ventures in New South Wales and Victoria, and the work with Aerofloat, is proof of this fact.

Aerofloat general manager for Engineering and Projects, Michael Anderson, told Food & Beverage Industry News that the new sites had been propped up by government grants designed to create a more circular plastics economy.

“All of their plastics recycling projects that are happening around the country are born from the zero-waste ban that was put in by the Federal Government, which came on the back of China no longer taking our recycled plastic,” he said.

“Basically, all yellow bins would get shipped off to China and turned back into other products. The plastic was recycled over there, now China has said we’re not accepting anyone else’s rubbish from anywhere in the world.

“Australia had to come up with solutions to that problem, now that we’re going to have all this plastic, we have to do something about it.”

The China situation played a big part in the Federal Government opting to offer grants to create a localised solution to the new problem.

Out of this requirement a new joint venture, made up of Cleanaway, Asahi Beverages, Coca Cola Europacific Partners, was formed.

“They formed Circular Plastics Australia (PET) Pty Ltd and they got some of those government grants and built a plant in Albury and they are putting two more in Victoria, and they will be manufacturing rPET food grade resin for beverage bottles and also producing washed PET flake for use in rPET sheet thermoforming,” said Anderson.

“The first one is happening at Altona North, the washed PET Flake sheet material.

“Between the two plants that’s the output and basically they are brand new wash lines. The material comes from MRF’s (Material Recovery Facility) and the container deposit scheme, where people can drop off PET bottles, like Coke and water bottle made from clear PET plastic.”

The plants use water almost constantly, meaning Aerofloat’s role is critical

The plastics will be sourced from two key areas, including from the general curb side recycling pick-ups, (MRF) to the various plastic deposit sites around Australia.

“People can get a return for that at deposit centres. When you deposit the bottles, they go to this place where it is recycled and turned into a flake and that flake goes off and is made back into beverage bottles,” said Anderson.

“Some of it comes from the CDS but in other states it might have different names.”

Cleanaway was already in a prime position to source as much plastic as possible for recycling based on its role within the CDS in New South Wales.

“Cleanaway have the contract to collect that CDS plastic in NSW,” said Anderson.

“It’s taken to a specialised facility for consolidation into PET bales. The curb side material is sent to a MRF where the various materials are separated, (Plastic, Paper, Glass, Aluminium, Steel). The separated plastic is sorted, washed and chopped it into small flakes before it is converted into rPET resin before being sold for use in the manufacture of beverage bottles.

“What we are doing, because you can still get a lot of dirt and soluble contaminant from bottles, they wash it in giant tanks and shred them and that’s the wash line and they must continually add fresh water to the final rinse when it’s all chopped up, like a giant bath basically.”

And this is where the role of Aerofloat within the system really hits its stride.

Because these plants use water almost constantly, and require certain properties to ensure correct washing, Aerofloat’s expertise are needed.

“Because they keep adding hot caustic water to get the label off, turns it into a food grade resin because they rinse it with in town potable water as the final cleaning step,” said Anderson.

“What that means is, they are constantly adding new water into this loop to get the food grade quality of water so they can use it in food grade products, that means there’s a net input of water into the system which means water must go somewhere, in this case the sewer network.

“Our job is to clean that water before it goes into the sewer. We are taking the wash water from the facility and making sure it meets trade waste limits for Greater Western Water, the authority in the area.

“That is Aerfloat’s part of the puzzle. To make sure the water is compliant when leaving the site.”

Because of its expertise in wastewater treatment, Aerofloat is also capable of repurposing some of the wastewater back into the system, creating less waste in the process.

“We also have a second stage of our offering which is that we can recycle a portion of the water back into the wash line to then improve the quality of the water that they are washing which will reduce the impact of the amount of chemicals they need to use and can be used as a means for conserving water,” said Anderson.

The project is still in its early stages which currently means the focus for the client and Aerofloat is stage one, making sure the water leaves the site up to standard.

“In the project’s infancy, because they must fine tune the food grease resin, stage one for us is to make sure water leaves compliant and stage two is introducing a recycling stream to create water efficiencies,” said Anderson.

“We are entering the recycling stable in the next couple of months. Anderson said priorities shift as projects get further along, so it is critical to ensure each step is optimised.

“At the start in a brand-new mega facility there are so many hurdles for the operators to overcome that first’s things first is to get the plastic product out the door and once all their systems and operators and team and processes are working well, we start to optimise and put on environmental efficiencies,” he said.

The Pact Group is continuing its journey to creating a circular plastics economy

Anderson said Australia had to continue to work towards creating better recycling processes on the home front to avoid any potential issues moving forward.

“Creating things to serve our own waste generation problems is critical, it’s all about not sending the product to landfill,” he said.

“It’s about creating a circular economy for the environment and as such it’s an amazing economic booster for Australia because it will create many jobs and you are seeing advanced world first approaches to recycling of plastic, especially in Australia.”

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