Tasmanian Country Article - 14th October 2022 - Wasted opportunity

14 October 2022


Wasted Opportunity

As featured in the Tasmanian Country publication 14th October 2022

Wasted Opportunity

In July 2019 a good news story for waste management and Tasmanian industry appeared in the media. Envorinex, Tasmania’s first soft plastic recycling plant, was setting up aprocessing centre in Bell Bay industrial hub. According to Jenny Brown, Envorinex Managing Director, the plant was custom designed to process a variety of plastic films, including silage wrap, plastic film, fertiliser bags, shrink wrap and plastic bags, turning them into plastic pellets for use in multiple products,” she said.

In the Waste Management Review, Mike Wheeler wrote that the plan was to source material from Tasmania’s major industries: aquaculture, agriculture and mining in an attempt to: “close the plastic loop and facilitate growth”.

The salmon industry and agriculture were touted to be the two major feed industries for the recycling plant. More than 600 tonnes of silage wrap is used annually on farm and an undisclosed quantity of plastics is used in aquaculture — from netting, marine supplies and plastic packaging.

Three years later Envorinex has closed its doors, a sustainable solution to industrial waste management is still waiting in the wings and this waste continues to go to landfill — what happened you may ask.

During February 2021, Tasmanian Environment Minister, Roger Jaensch, announced a $2.1 million grant to Envorinex. The grant was part of a $20.3 million program co-funded by the federal and state governments to ‘revolutionise’ the State’s recycling industry and see a potential 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste diverted from landfill.

In June 2022, when I read about Envorinx’s closure I was a little shocked. With so much stimulus into industry during the COVID-19, such as JobKeeper, Nationally ASIC had reported low bankruptcy numbers during the pandemic period. On further reading, Envorinex’s failure was linked to the implosion of the global logistics network and the lack of freight availability to ship the recycled pellets to customers in Vietnam.

Jenny Brown was quoted in June 2022 as saying: “We had orders for 198 tonnes of material to export and we just could not get containers.”.

The TFGA contacted Minister Jaensch’s office this week regarding Envorinex and waste management. Apparently, the grant to Envorinex was not fully drawn down as they did not meet the on-going funding milestones.

It appears a newly minted Waste and Resource Board has been formed with the task to author a waste strategy for Tasmania. Following the local council elections there will be a period of consultation regarding the strategy. The board and resulting strategy are funded from the landfill levy, currently set at $20 per tonne. This levy is expected to increase to $60 per tonne in the future.

You may ask why I am interested in the Envorinex story. In answer; because the issue of waste and recycling in remote areas is as much of an issue now as it was at the advent of the Envorinex supposed solution. The representative from Jaensch’s office mentioned setting up working groups to tackle the ‘roadblocks’ of better waste management, the current roadblock is there is no plastic recycling in Tasmania.

We are now in the middle of compulsory local council elections. Rural landowners pay considerable rates to local councils and our rates continue to rise. We need to ensure the people we vote into local council understand and support our industry. A workable industry appropriate solution to waste and recycling is something we need councils to drive. We need more than the collection of our rates and levies on landfill. We need plans, investment and collaboration to make durable decisions for regional areas.

Hugh Christie