Australia’s largest PET recycling plant, which is a joint venture between Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) and Asahi Beverages, is now open.

Located 10km north of the Albury-Wodonga CBD, the plant was financed to the tune of $45 million, and is predicted to increase Australian production of recycled PET (rPET) by two-thirds, to 50,000 tonnes per annum.

The recycling facility was constructed through a collaborative process between Asahi Beverages and CCEP, with Pact Group, an industrial supplies company, and Cleanaway (recycling and waste management specialists) also closely involved with this venture.

Asahi’s CEO, Robert Iervasi, said: “This recycling plant is a testament to the sustainability commitment of each organisation involved.

“It can’t be underestimated how significant this project will be – we are providing an industry-wide solution that will benefit all Australians. Asahi Beverages already has a large beverage manufacturing plant in Albury, and we are excited to expand our presence, helping create more local jobs and helping lead the acceleration of Australia’s circular economy.”

During construction, the plant is said to have contributed 225 jobs, and will now support around 40 people, mostly recruited from the local area.

The recycling centre will produce further ecological benefits – helping to reduce the Australian economy’s reliance on ‘virgin plastics’ or imported recycled plastic stocks. The plant is partly powered by solar panels, while on-site rainwater tanks and a water treatment facility will aim to reuse as much water as possible.

A statement to press outlined the exact nature of the collaboration: “Cleanaway will provide the plastic to be recycled through its collection and sorting network, Pact will operate the facility and provide technical and packaging expertise, while Asahi Beverages, CCEP and Pact will buy the recycled plastic from the facility to use in their packaging.”

Peter West, the CCEP Vice President and General Manager of Australia, Pacific and Indonesia, said: “CCEP is committed to playing a leading role in Australia’s circular economy. With our partners, we are working towards creating a closed loop for our bottles where they are used, collected and given another life.”

“This plant, and the future Victorian plant, will complete this loop, help to solve the national rPET shortage and create new jobs for Australian workers. It is a proud moment in our corporate history.”

Iervasi suggested that the opening of the plant will help Asahi meet the needs of customers: “Our consumers told us they wanted more recycled bottles, and together we have worked out a way to do that that will make a real impact.”

The opening of the plant was also welcomed by members of the state and federal government.

Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley MP, was also keen to highlight the spirit of cooperation that made the recycling facility possible: “Pact Group made a $500 million commitment at our first national plastic summit in 2020 and they, along with their JV partners Cleanaway, Asahi Beverages and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, have made that a reality today.”

“This demonstrates commitment to our national packaging targets when the supply chain and government work together.”

Similarly, NSW Environment Minister James Griffin MP noted the role that state government had played in funding the plant’s construction:  “Through our $337 million Waste Less, Recycle More intitiative, the NSW Government contributed $4.8 million to this facility, and another $495,000 for specialised equipment inside the plant.”

“This investment is helping us achieve our target of tripling plastics recycling in NSW by 2030 and transitioning to a circular economy.”

Ley and Griffin were joined by Albury City Mayor, Councillor Kylie King, in officially opening the plant on Friday, March 11

The Albury-Wodonga site is due to be followed by a second PET plastics recycling facility in Melbourne’s West. This location will be expected to recycle the equivalent of one billion bottles a year and is slated to open in 2023.

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