Hornsby Shire Council Faces Soft Plastics Recycling Crisis

Hornsby Shire Council

Community Recycling Centre Supervisor, Nathan Chen, in the CRC garden which is furnished with a table, benches and decking made from recycled products.

From 27 January 2023, users of Hornsby Shire Council’s Community Recycling Centre (CRC) at Thornleigh will need to demonstrate they reside in the Local Government Area (LGA) by showing a copy of their NSW driver licence or rates notice in order to recycle soft plastics, hard plastics and Styrofoam. Quantity limits for residents of one normal shopping bag full of soft plastics (40cmx40cm bag) per week have also been put into place.

The change comes off the back of the November 2022 collapse of soft plastics recycler, Red Cycle which collected soft plastics from Coles and Woolworths. With the close of this service, councils and residents across Sydney are struggling to find alternative collection services for their soft plastics as they try to maintain their recycling practices.

Due to the scarcity of alternative collection systems in Sydney, Council’s CRC, which has a viable soft plastics recycling service, has faced an unprecedented spike in users of the facility. The quantity of soft plastics has more than doubled since November 2022 and based on the increasing trend, it is estimated the CRC facility will accept around 50-80 tonnes of soft plastic material over the next twelve months.

Council has established a strong partnership with Plasmar, a plastics recycling specialist, which sorts soft plastics, pelletises them and then makes a broad range of products including posts, boards, sleepers, bollards, wheel stops and other construction materials. Plasmar’s Sydney factory has a limited capacity to accept soft plastics generated by our community and, with the rapidly increasing demand on its services, needs to urgently cap the quantities being accepted. Plasmar must ensure it only accepts quantities of soft plastics its manufacturing plant can process and that the products it produces can find resale markets to ensure a sustainable business.

“Restricting our reception of soft and hard plastics and Styrofoam to residents of Hornsby Shire is the first lever we have to pull in an effort to ensure that our recycling processes are not overwhelmed,” said Hornsby Shire Council’s Manager, Waste Management.

Residents from outside Hornsby Shire will no longer be able to drop off their soft plastics, hard plastics and Styrofoam at the Thornleigh CRC. Residents from outside the Shire should contact their local council to find out more about recycling services within their LGA.

Council’s Mayor, Philip Ruddock AO has called on both the State and Federal Governments to do more to urgently address the soft plastics crisis.

“Both State and Federal levels of government have Plastics Action Plans and it is critical that further funds are invested in recycling services that allow the sorting, processing and remanufacturing of our soft plastics into beneficial products that can be used in our circular economy,” Mayor Ruddock said.

“It is time that government looks to regulate the packaging industry and to heavily invest in the necessary remanufacturing facilities that can turn our waste into useful resources”.

Following on from the Global Recycling Crisis caused when China and other countries ceased accepting plastics from Western countries, it is critical that onshore recycling and remanufacturing capacity is developed to ensure Australia’s waste does not need to be exported again.

Mayor Ruddock continued: “If our recycling systems are going to meet community demand, State and Federal Governments must invest in the rapid expansion of soft and hard plastics sorting and remanufacturing facilities such as Plasmar’s”.

Users of the CRC from outside the Hornsby Shire LGA will no longer be able to drop off their soft plastics, hard plastics and Styrofoam at the facility. However, they are still welcome to bring other materials for recycling including cardboard, paint and e-waste.

Residents will also be subject to a weekly limit of one normal shopping bag full of soft plastics (40cmx40cm bag) per week.

The new rules came into effect as of 8:30am on Friday, 27 January 2023. CRC facility staff will accept either a Hornsby Shire Council issued rates notice or driver’s license proving residence in Hornsby Shire.

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