Waste-management company Remondis is to lead Australia’s Big Bag Recovery scheme, a voluntary initiative for businesses to help divert and recycle “Big Bags” from landfills.
“Big Bags” are plastic bags that carry products and ingredients across different sectors like fertiliser, flour, animal feeds, salt, sugar, milk powders, gravel, mulch, and cement.
Around 60,000 tonnes of big bags are used in the country each year, with only 10 per cent recovered for recycling. A large percentage (around 90 per cent) ends up in landfills, burnt, or buried on farms – equivalent to 40,000 garbage truckloads. That amount comes at the cost of more than $150 million per year in environmental management costs and landfill replacement and creates the equivalent of nearly six million tonnes in CO2.
Previously, the country has exported a large amount of used big bags to other countries for disposal, with many, unfortunately, ending up in landfills. However, with these countries now deciding to restrict the import of junk and waste from other nations and Australia recently implementing its own export regulations, pressure has mounted for sustainable, local solutions.
As the sole logistics and collection partner for the Big Bag Recovery Product Stewardship Scheme (Big Bag Recovery), the company is assigned to collect, sort, count, and bail polypropylene and low-density polyethylene bulk bags and sacks.
After collection, the bags are processed into reusable resin pellets manufactured into new products such as feedstock, school seats, or even high-tech uses such as batteries.
According to the recycling company, one of its top priorities is to identify industries and regions across the country where these bags and sacks are commonly used, ahead of the staged establishment of drop-off points at the local council, commercial locations, and community groups to maximise retrieval.
In addition, the company’s in-house digital development team is currently working to create an app to assist with coordinating with the large network of contractors who will be the backbone of the program and improve reclaim rates.
MD of industry waste recovery, Stephen Richards, who established Big Bag Recovery, said the scheme embodies ‘circular economy’ best practice.
“This is a responsibility-based industry-led scheme, with massive environmental and social benefits as the end result,’’ said Richards.
“Pulling together businesses, consumers and collectors takes a lot of work and cooperation, but also provides the opportunity to maximise the plastic as a reusable resource, many times over.
“It’s about actions and outcomes that are measured, achievable, shared and repeatable,” he added.