A new PVC recycling strategy for Australia
The Vinyl Council is pleased to release its new Recycling Strategy 2016-2018. Developed in conjunction with members, industry and government the strategy forms the prioritised work plan and activities for the VCA and industry in Australia.
Collaborating for a step change in recycling and end markets
Encouraging recycling of PVC is a core part of the Vinyl Council's strategy, so much so that the association has its own special Recycling Strategy.
In Australia, PVC accounts for 1/3 of plastics used, and the VCA estimates around 66,900 tonnes of recyclable PVC product goes to landfill each year. This is wasted material that could be reprocessed into new quality product by Australian workers and firms, improving Australian productivity, economy and the environment. The VCA estimates that about 15% of this is short-lived material ie packaging and medical products, and 85% is longer life product ie stormwater pipe, cable insulation, window profiles and flooring.
The VCA and its members are committed to advancing PVC recycling and reprocessing. This includes collaborating with partners, finding end markets, forming working groups and undertaking trials for new reprocessed product. The VCA also holds networking events and advocates for action beyond 'business as usual'. The VCA has established successful vinyl recylcing programs and looks to continue give other products a new life.
The VCA has now coordinated two popular PVC ReSource Summits (2011 and 2015) engaging with diverse and influential stakeholders. These forums have assisted increase recycling by forming valuable networks and business relationships. Working together, the Council and partners have been implementing a strategy to address barriers, share knowledge, data, expertise and innovation on reprocessing, product design and recycling capability.
Key elements in the 2016 Strategy
There are six parts to the strategy and three especially form the foundation:
- Data and information = power. We cannot manage if we cannot measure it. More data and knowledge is required for effective recycling of PVC.
- Collaboration between willing partners creates change. Systemic change requires partners working together, and strong PVC reprocessing is required in NSW, SA and WA, in addition to Vic and Tas.
- End markets; there is no recycling if there is no end market. This requires connections between demand and supply, new products and substitution for virgin or other less sustainable materials.
The VCA thanks all those who contribute to the success of PVC recycling in Australia and looks forward to working with many more to achieve the Priority Actions and improve Australia's recycling rate, productivity and manufacturing future. For the Strategy click here.
Recent successes with the strategy
- Advocating for continuation of the annual National Plastics Recycling Survey including both packaging and durables, and public access to the data-rich report.
- Gaining grant funds from NSW Environment Trust to find reprocessing, end markets and supply chain solutions for both PVC coated fabric (advertising banners) and commercial vinyl flooring.
- Growing the Hospital PVC recycling program to 60 hospitals in Vic, Tas, NZ and a few in NSW, with trials underway in Perth and Brisbane.
- Continual response to queries for recycling and new products for PVC, with over 70 queries in 12 months
- Ongoing responses to support hospitals with recycling, with 59 queries in 12 months.
2015 ReSource Summit
In 2015, the Council ran a follow-up PVC ReSource Summit bringing over 65 people from a number of States to explore opportunities to improve cost effective recovery and recycling of end-of-life PVC into new products.
At this event, examples of successes in PVC recycling as well as of challenges from the perspective of both product suppliers and recyclers were presented. A State government policy perspective was provided and an overview of product stewardship approaches in other industries provided a broader context in which to explore opportunities for change in the PVC industry.
Stakeholders then explored specific issues and opportunities in seven sector-based working groups covering Medical, Pipe and profiles, Cables, Coated fabric, Packaging, Flooring, Policy and Programs.
One of the key values of this forum was the valuable networking and business connections made. Click on the Infographic below for a summary of outcomes from the event.
Some of the major challenges in Australia for recycling PVC were identified as:
• the low cost of landfill (low deterrent to waste)
• low cost of virgin polymer
• disinterest of major waste sorting facilities and recyclers in separating co-mingled plastics for local reprocessing
• comparative high costs of reprocessing and product development due to market scale
• minimal government involvement, policies or programs supporting PVC recovery, and reprocessing in Australia as not considered a major waste stream
However, major opportunities in recycling PVC in Australia emanate from:
• strong stewardship ethic in key PVC companies
• reasonable data on PVC product lines and market trends
• highly focused, proactive industry association (in the VCA) stakeholders and supply chains willing to collaborate, invest and innovate.