The 2019/20 Annual report from Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) shares the wins, challenges and the vision of the industry funded product stewardship organisation that has a new feel and re-invigorated focus to it.
In this series of interviews of WARR industry leaders, Inside Waste talks with Vinyl Council of Australia’s chief executives Sophi MacMillan.
The Australian Government will soon release a revised Sustainable Procurement Guide and updated Commonwealth Procurement Rules so that every one of its near 100 agencies must consider buying recycled. This was initially flagged by the Prime Minister at the National Plastics Summit in March.
SeatCare, a program to safely dispose of used child car safety seats for recycling will come into life with a grant from the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund (NPSIF).
Imagine 200 billion chocolate wrappers being recycled. That’s how much soft plastic packaging will be processed under just one of the proposals funded through the Federal Government’s National Product Stewardship Investment Fund (NPSIF).
Research by the UNSW Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre has found a way that could start a new ‘green aluminium’ manufacturing revolution.
The new technique to recover aluminium from complex, multilayered packaging is based on the microrecycling science pioneered by the SMaRT Centre under the leadership of its director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla, and builds on their waste materials innovations including Green Steel and Microfactorie® technologies.
The research, published across two international scientific journals, demonstrates there is now a way to sustainably recycle polymer-laminated aluminium packaging (PLAP) materials, such as post-consumer food and coffee packaging, into high-quality aluminium and be a potential source of high-energy hydrocarbon products.’
“We developed Green Steel technology where we extract hydrogen and carbon from old rubber tyres and plastic as an innovative and green pathway in steel making , and we now can develop new ‘Green Aluminium’ with our novel technique called Thermal Disengagement Technology (TDT),” Sahajwalla said whose SMaRT Centre is part of the UNSW Science Faculty.
“Recycling using new technologies can be a foundation for the manufacturing of high-quality materials from our waste resources, as we seek to develop greater sovereign capability along with economic prosperity.”
Thermal Disengagement Technology
The new Thermal Disengagement Technology, described in scientific publications Springer Nature and the Journal of Cleaner Production, offers an innovative, efficient, and sustainable microrecycling technique to separate the materials in complex polymer-laminated metal packaging waste. TDT can transform the aluminium into a clean and green metal, allowing it to be extracted in a way that means it can be used as a high-quality material for manufacturing, while minimising residual waste.
According to Sahajwalla, “Green Steel and green manufacturing are capabilities we have been pioneering for over a decade. The jobs and sustainability revolution our government wants to create as announced in its 2020 Budget can get a boost from some of these sort of existing innovations where industry and researchers are already successfully partnering.
“Using waste-reforming technology can create new supply chains and jobs, especially in regional locations, because it doesn’t have to be large scale nor expensive. That is why I see a future where recycling and manufacturing are aligned, where waste and recycling become part of the manufacturing supply chain, and that is important in this new COVID era where we now highly value ‘sovereign capability’.
In one demonstration of how SMaRT is helping to create these new supply chains and aligning these sectors, it has connected an e-waste recycler directly with a steel maker enabling undervalued metals and plastics destined for overseas, landfill or incineration, can be used as feedstock.
Key research findings
Waste polymer laminated aluminium packaging (PLAP) material were analysed by Thermal Disengagement Technology (TDT) to explore the prospect of recycling the metal-polymer multilayer materials with minimum contamination and zero waste of metal (aluminium). Laminated polymers on the metallic surface essentially demand some extra effort and energy to recycle the metal in its original form. In these studies, the effect of the laminated polymers of the aluminium surface to protect the surface contamination by means of oxidation was explored. The rate of the transformation of the polymers in the air atmosphere is higher than the rate can be achieved in an inert atmosphere.
TDT to recycle the polymer laminated Aluminium packaging with and without an inert gas supply has been developed to produce specifically high-quality aluminium. The oxidation of the aluminium surface in air media was higher and non-uniform compared to the inert media. At 550 degrees centigrade, the complete degradation of the polymers was observed within 20 min and the recovery of the aluminium was achieved without any metal loss with a very high purity. The surface analysis of the laminated and non-laminated TD aluminium confirms that the rate of oxidation in oxygen-rich atmosphere for disengaged aluminium from PLAP is 80-90% lower and the polymers can act as the protection against the oxidation of the aluminium surfaces even after the complete degradation of the polymers by leaving the carbonaceous residues behind onto the surfaces.
The level of purity of recovered Aluminium is achieved ~96-99% with minor impurity/alloying elements of C, Si, Fe, etc. Oxidation of the recovered aluminium was controlled and detected less than 1% by our new and innovative TDT. The cleaner aluminium produced by this process has the desired scalability which is required for taking laboratory batch reactions towards industrial production.
The recycling of PLAP materials demands a process where whole materials can be processed and recycled with a minimum waste of energy and materials. TDT overcomes these constraints. Several recycling techniques including traditional smelting have been practiced by the researchers and professionals. But the major problems associated with the traditional smelting of PLAP materials are excessive material loss and lack of controlling aids during the smelting.
In many countries, waste polymer laminated metal packaging materials along with other municipal solid waste going to landfills or incineration and some of the materials are recycled in metallic forms from the bottom ash components by industrial separation. The low value packaging materials containing polymers and aluminium found in the MSW draw no interest from recyclers.
Paintback, the industry-led initiative designed to divert unwanted paint and packaging from ending up in landfill and vital waterways, has appointed Lucia Cade as chair of the board of industry leaders and experts.
It was while she watched a documentary at the University of New South Wales that revealed the impact that e-waste from western countries was having on the health of the population of African countries, that Celine El‑Khouri made a deep commitment to the WARR industry.
Chemistry Australia and its Plastics Stewardship Australia initiative have partnered with CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, to “transform plastic waste in Australia”.
This year, 45 organisations from across nine industry sectors have been recognised for their sustainable packaging innovation and leadership, including their dedication to meeting the 2025 National Packaging Targets.