18 May 2021

Leading the way in soft plastic recycling

Hunter Water is set to become the first business partnering with a community-driven initiative to completely offset its soft plastic use.

Over the past three years, we have collected and diverted more than three tonnes of soft plastic from landfill through our participation in Plastic Police – a local engagement program that collects, recycles and reuses soft plastics.

We have implemented soft plastic recycling at our Honeysuckle, Tarro, Tomago and North Lambton sites, and our procurement rate is now 69 per cent, meaning we are well on our way to recycling more soft plastic than we use.

This achievement comes as major supermarket chains and multinational brands join forces with more than 60 other organisations to sign a plastics pact to drastically reduce waste in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

The ANZPAC pact, which boasts big brand signatories such as Coles, Woolworths, Nestlé and Coca-Cola, has been three years in the making.

It pledges to reach four major targets by 2025. These include: eliminating unnecessary packaging; making all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable; increasing the amount of plastic packaging collected by 25 per cent; and increasing the amount of recycled content used to make packaging to 25 per cent.

In 2018-19, about a million tonnes of plastic was sold in Australia but only 18 per cent of it was recycled, according to the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO).

Here at Hunter Water, a recent project saw us obtain 200 posts made from 2.1 tonnes of recycled soft plastic.

The sturdy, steel-reinforced posts, which will be used as markers to locate underground valves, have replaced virgin steel, saving resources and reducing costs by half.

Manufactured by Plastic Forests in Albury, the posts are built from 85 per cent recycled plastics, including soft plastic and coffee cups, 10 per cent Australian-made steel, and 5 per cent processing aids and UV stabilisers.

Hunter Water Sustainability Program Officer, Jordan Montgomery, said purchasing the posts was an easy decision.

“It’s not only reducing our environmental footprint, but we’re also benefitting from cost savings.
Jordan Montgomery, Hunter Water Sustainability Program Officer

“This project was driven by great teamwork from Molly Walker in Engineering and the dedicated team at Plastic Police, which connects us to different suppliers in their network,” said Mr Montgomery.

Apart from the posts, we also installed two recycled plastic table settings at our Honeysuckle office in 2019 for employees to enjoy and to showcase our recycling efforts.

Plastic Police has recently completed a waste management review for Hunter Water to assist us in finding solutions to other waste streams, such as hard hats and High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipe.