Circular economy approach to waste

NEW AGE SEATING: Council’s Manager of Environmental Services Paul Minett with the new bench seat made from the equivalent of more than 15,000 plastic bags.

NEW AGE SEATING: Council’s Manager of Environmental Services Paul Minett with the new bench seat made from the equivalent of more than 15,000 plastic bags.

A bench seat made entirely from recycled plastics has signalled a new approach to managing waste for Dungog Shire Council.

The council is taking a “circular economy” approach to waste disposal where recyclable waste is processed into a usable product rather than being landfilled.

“In this example, a bench seat has been manufactured from soft plastics collected from the communities of Dungog Shire, representing the closing of the resource energy loop and reducing the loss of a resource,” said Council’s Manager of Environmental Services Paul Minett .

“The seat consumed 62kg of waste plastics or the equivalent of 15500 plastic bags.”

The Council, in partnership with Plastic Police and community group Boomerang Bags started its soft plastics recycling project 18 months ago.

“One of the biggest issues facing waste management in Australia is finding sustainable end markets for recyclable materials,” Mr Minett said.

“In recent times, this issue has been exposed by the China Sword Policy, which saw the option of China as a receiver of Australia’s recyclable waste severely restricted. Without export markets such as China, there is a need for the Australian recycling and waste industry to look to internal solutions and these solutions will take time to develop. A local industry that processes waste plastics into furniture is an example of this.”

Since June 2017 the Council has delivered more than 10 tonnes of soft plastics to the Plastic Police. Along with the furniture manufacturer, the plastics have also been used in a successful trial of a road built with soft plastics and glass at Engadine.

“Whilst Dungog Shire has been proactive in developing circular economy projects through its partnership with Plastics Police, the impacts of the China Sword crisis has led to all levels of government revisiting past practices and policies to support a sustainable recycling industry in Australia and remove the reliance on those diminishing overseas options,” Mr  Minett said.

Soft plastics drop off locations are at  Dungog Waste Management Facility, Council administration centre, Dungog Library, Shaws Café and Bakery in Clarence Town and Twin Rivers Cafe in Gresford.

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