Australia’s largest PET recycling plant has opened in Albury-Wodonga with the capacity to recycle the equivalent of around one billion PET beverage bottles per year.

The $45 million plant has boosted regional jobs, supporting around 225 jobs during construction, and will employ about 40 people, mostly Albury-Wodonga locals, for its 24/7 operations.

The world-class facility is a joint venture partnership between Pact Group, Cleanaway Waste Management, Asahi Beverages, and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP).

It is helping to build a domestic circular economy by increasing the amount of locally sourced and recycled PET in Australia by two thirds, from around 30,000 tonnes to more than 50,000 tonnes per annum.

The recycled raw material will produce new beverage bottles plus other food and beverage packaging in Australia, contributing to closing the loop on recycling.

Further important environmental benefits will be delivered by the plant, including reducing Australia’s reliance on virgin plastic and recycled plastic imports. Solar energy is used to power part of the facility, and a water treatment unit and rainwater tanks will reuse and recycle as much water on site as possible.

The plant was constructed using the knowledge and expertise of each member of the joint venture, which is trading as Circular Plastics Australia (PET).

Cleanaway will provide the plastic to be recycled through its collection and sorting network, Pact will operate the facility and provide technical and packaging expertise, while Asahi Beverages, CCEP and Pact will buy the recycled plastic from the facility to use in their packaging.

The joint venture is building a second PET plastic recycling facility, which will also have the capacity to recycle the equivalent of around one billion PET beverage bottles each year. Construction on the $50 million plant in Melbourne’s west is scheduled to begin in April 2022 and be completed in 2023.

The Albury-Wodonga project was supported with about $5 million from the NSW Government’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, with the support of the Australian Government’s Recycling Modernisation Fund.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said that as Australia works internationally and domestically to reduce plastic waste it is wonderful to see practical action and commitment coming to fruition in Albury.

“Pact Group made a $500 million commitment at our first national plastic summit in 2020 and they, along with their JV partners Cleanaway, Asahi Beverages, and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, have made that a reality. This demonstrates commitment to our national packaging targets when the supply chain and government work together,” Minister Ley said.

Pact’s Managing Director and CEO, Sanjay Dayal, said the new facility is a “game changer” for Australia’s plastic recycling industry.

“We are proud to be part of a sustainable solution to divert plastic waste from landfill and ensure we are recycling and manufacturing our drink bottles and food packaging here in Australia without the need to import plastic material from overseas. Pact Group will continue to work with industry partners and governments to build a strong, local circular economy.”

Cleanaway’s Chief Financial Officer, Paul Binfield, said creating a circular economy gives everyone a chance to participate in creating a more sustainable future.

“Together with our partners, Cleanaway is working on a network of plastics recycling facilities integrated with our leading collection and sorting infrastructure to provide our customers with the most sustainable and circular solution for their plastic recycling.”

Asahi Beverages’ Group CEO, Robert Iervasi, said the new recycling plant is a testament to the sustainability commitment of each organisation involved.

“It can’t be underestimated how significant this project will be – we are providing an industry-wide solution that will benefit all Australians. Asahi Beverages already has a large beverage manufacturing plant in Albury, and we are excited to expand our presence, helping create more local jobs and helping lead the acceleration of Australia’s circular economy. Our consumers told us they wanted more recycled bottles, and together we have worked out a way to do that that will make a real impact.”

CCEP’s Vice President and General Manager Australia, Pacific and Indonesia, Peter West, highlighted the company’s commitment to playing a leading role in Australia’s circular economy.

“With our partners, we are working towards creating a closed loop for our bottles where they are used, collected and given another life. This plant, and the future Victorian plant, will complete this loop, help to solve the national rPET shortage and create new jobs for Australian workers. It is a proud moment in our corporate history.”

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