The Vinyl Council of Australia welcomes the Federal Government’s commitment of $190 million into a Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) that is expected to ‘drive a billion-dollar transformation’ of Australia’s waste and recycling capacity.
The RMF will support innovative investment in new recycling infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture materials, including mixed plastics.
“We believe this funding is much needed, well targeted and an excellent opportunity to refine the current systems,” says Sophi MacMillan, Chief Executive of the Vinyl Council of Australia. “Australia lags Europe and numerous other countries around the world in terms of sorting, recovery and recycling of mixed plastics and this fund has the potential to help bridge this gap.”
The Vinyl Council has long been calling for this waste to be sorted more thoroughly, enabling plastics such as vinyl to be recycled.
The third most commonly used type of plastic, vinyl (or PVC as it is also known) is used in virtually every sector of the economy from healthcare devices, consumer goods, food and agriculture to education, building and infrastructure. Due to its excellent durability, vinyl is mostly used in long life applications but also some niche packaging applications for its specific functional properties. Although relatively small volumes present in the waste stream annually, these low volumes have often mitigated against investment in developing collection, sorting, and processing infrastructure.
The Vinyl Council believes new investment is needed in a range of systems and technologies to enable recovery, material separation and recycling across our communities and sectors, as well as improved policy drivers that address and incentivize the system holistically from managing waste as a valuable resource to use of recyclate in well-designed, high value, new products.
Since 2002, the Vinyl Council’s PVC Stewardship Program, which commits participating companies to strive for continuous improvement in the environmental footprint of PVC products, has encouraged improved recycling practices for vinyl products in Australia. Signatories have committed to using recycled PVC in new products, particularly in industrial, building and infrastructure products, as well as minimising production wastes and packaging waste sent to landfill.
Annual reporting has found the amount of PVC being recycled by local manufacturing Program signatories grew for a third successive year in 2019 and is now more than double the amount used in 2016.
Ensuring sufficient, consistent local supply of quality recyclate for these manufacturers going forward is a challenge. The Vinyl Council is optimistic that the funding package announced by the Honourable Sussan Ley, Minister for the Environment, will help address this and enable the vinyl resource stream to be retained within the productive economy.
“As our core purpose is to enhance the industry’s opportunities for sustainable growth, we have been working with members and stakeholders to improve PVC recycling,” MacMillan explains. “Our PVC Circularity Taskforce brings together industry and government representatives to drive the industry’s circular economy objectives.
“Working with this forum and with the support of the Federal Government and interested State jurisdictions, we believe we can fast track new technologies that produce suitable clean and sorted PVC for remanufacture locally”, she adds.
Further investment in source separation of wastes and secondary sorting facilities would support the recovery of, for example, rigid PVC packaging materials, which are readily recyclable but often not separated from the co-mingled plastics waste stream.
“We look forward to mobilising and realising these opportunities with interested State Government agencies to improve environmental outcomes and stimulate employment, particularly given the current economic challenges,” MacMillan adds.
“Our members are committed to the circular economy, which has the opportunity to grow substantially if all levels of government harness their purchasing power to support those companies that are active participants in product stewardship schemes and are manufacturing recycled content products.”