The official opening in early February represented an important milestone in the expansion of Australia's soft plastic recycling capacity and a pivotal step towards the relaunch of soft plastic collections and recycling in Australia. The facility will allow Close the Loop to recover and recycle higher volumes of complex material streams from industry, retailer and council partners, while manufacturing high-value recycled plastic products that will be bought-back and used by partners through ‘circular contracts’.
Planet Ark has worked with Close the Loop as the resource recovery partner of the Cartridges 4 Planet Ark printer cartridge recycling scheme since 2003. With the support of participating manufacturers, the program has recycled over 50 million printer cartridges with zero waste to landfill, making it one of Australia’s most successful and long-running product stewardship schemes. This program offers free collection and recycling programs across Australia for print cartridges and other consumable products.
Close the Loop’s newest facility will take post-consumer soft plastics, printer cartridge toner recovered through the C4PA program and other complex materials and process them to create the patented TonerPlas, which is used to improve the performance and longevity of asphalt roads while lowering the carbon footprint.
This product has been used in resurfacing projects across Australia including the Monash and M80 freeway upgrades in Victoria. It is a method of creating more sustainable roads by extending the life of asphalt for improved durability and lowering the carbon footprint over the road's lifecycle. One of the more recent developments in this space is Reconophalt, a perpetually recyclable asphalt that contains TonerPlas®. One kilometre of two-lane road paved with Reconophalt will repurpose and divert from landfill approximately:
101,000 glass bottle equivalents
waste toner from 17,400 used printer cartridges
202 tonnes of recycled asphalt pavement
597,000 plastic bag equivalents
Soft plastics recycling has been limited in terms of scale and availability in Australia since the REDcycle program was closed in 2022. While public collections of soft plastics have yet to be reintroduced, the increased capacity for processing this facility will bring an important first step towards reintegrating soft plastic recycling habits back into the norm.
Some council areas, like the City of Greater Bendigo, have begun offering their own free soft plastics drop off points for residents. They have partnered with Close the Loop to collect soft plastics and will also buy the recycled product back for use in their regional road projects. Circular contracts such as these ensure there is not just a one-way flow of waste to the recycler, but also an end-market for the recycled material in the form of remanufactured products. This keeps valuable materials in the production stream and limits our reliance on landfills to manage waste.