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FNQ plastic industry to be national leader in recycling

Far North Queensland (FNQ) has confirmed itself as a national leader in recycling with the public release of a new resource to help regional centres across Australia to develop their own plastic production industries.

Last year, Regional Development Australia (RDA) Tropical North published its FNQ Plastics Feasibility Report, which proposed the introduction of a FNQ Plastics Recycling facility.

The facility focuses on commercial and industrial waste which can divert approximately 5,500 tonnes of plastic per year, increasing the recycling rate to 17.1 per cent – almost double the national average.

RDA Tropical North has now released a Replicable Template from the feasibility study, which can:

  • be used across the country to analyse existing plastic recycling practices

  • investigate the viability of a facility in any region

  • develop a project model that can be replicated in other regional centres across Australia.

The template is now available for download on the RDA Tropical North website at

RDA Tropical North Chief Executive Officer Sonja Johnson said the Replicable Template facilitates innovation in waste management and recycling, creating local employment opportunities, reducing unnecessary freight costs, producing product for export or sale, and facilitating the development of environmentally friendly products to be sold domestically.

“The Replicable Template can be rolled out across the country as a key resource for use by councils and other economic development agencies on how to recycle their plastic,” Ms Johnson said.

“It will also help regional areas collect and manage their plastic waste, preventing leakages into the ocean and the pollution of our coastlines and waterways,” said Ms Johnson.

“Our aim is to establish a plastics industry in Far North Queensland that will see us process locally generated waste resources into useful value-added products for community benefit, including local jobs, then roll this out to other regional and remote communities across Australia.

“RDA Tropical North aims to partner with key stakeholders and industry groups to help establish a comprehensive operation in FNQ as a model for future regional recycling and manufacturing hubs across Australia.”

In Australia, significant volumes of plastic are being produced with low volumes being recycled.

Queensland Government data indicates that the following volumes of plastic were recovered in the FNQ Region during 2018-19:

  • 238.8 tonnes of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

  • 291.1 tonnes of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

  • 3.4 tonnes of Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

  • 125 tonnes of mixed/not classified plastic.

“Without further investment in recovery, the recovery rates of plastic material are likely to worsen,” added Ms Johnson.

“The report’s suggested model is not only good for the environment, but also provides economic stimulus to the region and a potentially attractive return to investors.”

Far North Queensland currently has a recycling rate of just 1.9 per cent, compared to a national average of 9.4 per cent, with plastic waste within the region currently sorted and freighted down to Brisbane for processing at excessive freight costs per year.

Recycled products are then bought back from southern businesses generating further freight costs and emissions from transport.

The introduction of a FNQ Plastics Recycling Facility is expected to provide economic stimulus to the region, including the creation of up to 83 direct and indirect jobs during construction, and up to six jobs during operation.

RDA Tropical North engaged RPS Group to deliver on the report as the first phase of the project, with a Detailed Business Case now being prepared as part of a grant funding application to be submitted to the Australian Government’s $600 million Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF).

RDA Tropical North Chief Executive Officer Sonja Johnson said a centralised recycling hub in Cairns and spokes in regional and remote areas focusing on commercial and industrial waste is a great opportunity for the region to lift its recycling rate.

“More importantly, we’ve had a lot of private sector interest in becoming the proponent for the soon to be released RMF Grant,” said Ms Johnson.

“A public-private partnership is a positive development in a post-pandemic year where the region has had, and continues to have, its share of challenges.

“A new venture which creates jobs and adds to local economic growth will certainly support in diversifying the economy.”

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