Plastic recyclers will begin to take their cut from the $100 billion plastic recycling market by 2027, the National Recycling Association (NRA) said on Monday, in a report the industry says is likely to be more expensive than a $1 billion target set by the government.NRA president Chris Woll said the $10-billion target is likely “to be a higher cost than what is currently expected to be achieved”.
It is likely that some of the $5.6-billion annual cost will be spent on operations and equipment, Woll told the Financial Review in an interview.
“We are going to need to continue to make those investments to continue our ability to produce these materials,” he said.NRL has not yet released a target, but Woll expects it to be at least $1.5 billion by the end of the decade.
“Our projections are that by 2023, the cost per tonne will be $1,200, which is the same as it was last year,” he told the paper.
“There’s an assumption that we will be able to reduce this by another $1-billion per year.”NRA chairman David Smith said the government’s target is “a bit of a gamble” given the “hugely competitive market”.
“I do think we will achieve some reduction over time, but I think it’s also likely to have a very large impact on our ability,” Smith told the publication.NAA’s target, for plastics with a weight of more than 0.5 kilograms, was a $300-million investment in the 1990s and is expected to pay off in the next two years.
The target for a kilogram is about the weight of a single dollar.
“This target was never intended to be a trillion-dollar-a-year industry, but the industry has shown it can deliver a lot of value for money,” Smith said.
The $10 million target is also “a lot less than what’s currently being achieved”, Smith said, adding that the target is based on a “reasonable and achievable” target.”
It’s about the opportunity cost of being able to do something with a small number of tonnes of plastic and a very high level of recycling.”
The $10 million target is also “a lot less than what’s currently being achieved”, Smith said, adding that the target is based on a “reasonable and achievable” target.
The industry has set an ambitious target of recycling 80 per cent of plastic in 2028, which Smith said would require “a massive and successful program” of operations.
But the NRA says a $100-billion price tag will be “extremely challenging” given that recycling operations will need to be scaled up and that the price of recycled plastic is likely not to be lower than the cost of producing plastic for a recycling plant.
“We are not going to be able and will not be able for a while to achieve the 80 percent target without significant investments in the recycling industry,” Smith warned.
“The Government is committed to reducing the cost to $100bn, but it will take time.”
The report also said it expected plastic to be recycled at about 50 per cent below the level of the 1990 level by 2037.
“This is a good step in the right direction,” Smith acknowledged.
“But the key thing is that we’re still going to have to make huge investment in our industry.”
“If we want to get there in 2023 or 2024, we will have to take a significant amount of investment to get it there.”
NRA estimates that plastic would cost about $1 per kilogram by 2031.
A recent report by the Institute of Public Affairs and the Carbon Trust found that, by 2036, the market for recycled plastics could grow from $100.8 billion to $400.8bn.
In its report, the Carbon Research Institute found that in the same period, the number of recycled bags and other waste products would be halved.