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Looking into the Recycling Future 

9 October 2019

Have you ever wondered what happens to the paper, cardboard and plastic you put into your yellow recycling bin once it leaves Ballarat?  The answer is simple, and it’s a good news story.  Your recyclables are being made into egg cartons, fruit and wine trays, and plastic pallets. 

 Ballarat’s recyclables are once again being fed back into the circular economy and are quickly being repurposed.  All the material is being recycled by Victorian companies into a range of useful products which are finding markets around the country.   

Darren Thorpe, Managing Director of Australian Paper Recovery (APR) - the Victorian company which is now taking Ballarat’s paper, plastic and cans - says Ballarat is leading the local government sector with its decision to take glass out of all yellow residential recycling bins and should be applauded for leading by example. 

“Ballarat is the largest Council in Victoria to have the foresight to separate glass out of all residential kerbside recycling bins. My prediction is that much of the rest of Victoria will follow Ballarat’s lead.  

“Separating glass out from other recyclable materials is increasingly becoming the norm.  The commercial reality is that the remanufacturing industry - the end users of the recyclable material - want material which is glass-free. 

“APR sorts recyclables for reuse by Victorian remanufactures. These companies are demanding clean product. By that I mean paper and plastics which don’t have shards of broken glass in them. It’s not possible to reuse paper and cardboard to create moulded fibre products, things like egg cartons or fruit trays which are used to carry food, if there’s any chance they may have pieces of broken glass stuck in them.  Imagine getting an egg out of the egg carton and being pricked by a piece of glass”. 

Darren Thorpe has been in the commercial waste paper industry for 35 years. 

 “It takes about 13 trees to make a tonne of paper.  APR deals with about 180,000 tonnes of paper a year from the commercial and industrial sectors, that’s around 2.34 million trees each year.  Statewide, across the commercial and industrial sectors around 700,000 tonnes of paper are recycled. 

“In fact, the clean paper and cardboard supplied by the residents of Ballarat will help remanufacture over five million egg cartons each week, just one example of how clean recyclables can be reused.” 

 He started up in APR in 2002 and ventured into the domestic recycling market 18 months ago when China introduced its National Sword Policy, its strict regulations on the importation of waste had a big impact on Australia. 

“We’re working to fill the gap in the residential recycling market.  It’s satisfying to work with people who are equally committed to ensuring recycling material is handled in the right way, so its recycling potential is maximised.  We work closely with our suppliers – organisations like Ballarat City Council - and our end product users, to ensure we provide clean recyclable material of a good enough quality that it will sustain a circular economy. 

 Mr Thorpe has been trading in plastics since 2002 and says its great seeing plastic milk bottles being turned into plastic pallets - a far more sustainable alternative to timber pallets - by a Victorian manufacturer.  He says there is always a market for aluminium and steel cans which can be recycled repeatedly by the metal industry. 

City of Ballarat, along with 30 other Victorian councils, was caught up in the national recycling crisis earlier this year when recycling giant SKM collapsed leaving massive stockpiles of recycling material in warehouses around the state. China and Malaysia’s decision to stop taking Australia’s recyclables compounded the problem. 

Ballarat Mayor, Cr Samantha McIntosh says City of Ballarat’s new agreement with APR is a welcome outcome, with both organisations sharing a strong commitment to the circular economy.   

“Ballarat has been a strong leader in Victoria’s recycling space.  When SKM collapsed Council refused to send the contents of yellow recycling bins to landfill. We took a ‘go it alone’ approach, working with local businesses to set up our own interim sorting facility.  We are leading again with our decision to separate out glass. 

“We continue to negotiate with industry operators to find a long-term sustainable market for Ballarat’s glass. Our ambition is to secure an agreement with an Australian glass remanufacturer who will make new bottles from our glass recyclables.  

“Until then we’re encouraging residents to take their glass bottles and jars to one of several glass drop-off sites so it doesn’t end up in kerbside rubbish bins or in kerbisde recycling bins. This glass won’t go to landfill. Council is using the glass to embark on research and development remanufacturing opportunities”. 

“Removing the glass from the yellow recycling bins improves the likelihood that the rest of the bin’s contents will find their way back into the circular economy, and it maximises the potential for the glass to find its own market in the circular economy.” 

“Separating out glass is being increasingly accepted around the nation, with state and federal governments now exploring in more depth the collection systems required and the industry support required, to escalate the transition to a circular economy which includes glass”. 

Cr Samantha McIntosh says all Victorians should recycle the paper, plastic and cans they use at home.  

“We all need to make sure the paper, cardboard, cans and plastic we use at home go into our recycling bins so it can be reprocessed and given another life. It’s such a terrible waste when perfectly good recyclables are put into rubbish bins and end up in landfill. 

“Assessments at the Smythesdale Landfill have shown up to 750 tonnes a year of paper and cardboard from our residential kerbside services end up in landfill after people have put it in their rubbish bin instead of their recycling bin, so we need to get better about what we are recycling”. 

As part of the City's waste education program, Kerbside Recycling Advisers will help residents understand better what can and can’t be recycled.