Industry Resources

National Plastics Recycling Scheme

A new path for soft plastic packaging in Australia 

The National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) project is being developed by Australia’s food and grocery manufacturing industry with funding support from the federal government. The NPRS project is designing Australia’s largest industry-led plastics recycling scheme, taking hard-to-recycle soft plastic packaging out of waste streams and giving it new life.

The NPRS project will make it easier for people to recycle soft plastics at home and creates a new advanced recycling industry here in Australia that canturn used soft plastics back into new food-grade packaging. This creates a circular plastics loop and cleaner recycling streams for all materials, including paper and cardboard. The NPRS project unites brand owners, manufacturers, recyclers and consumers in one powerful, nationwide scheme to transform our plastics problems into circular solutions.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council is developing the NPRS with funding support from the Australian Federal Government’s National Product Stewardship Investment Fund.

How it works

  • The NPRS will collect soft plastic packaging, things like bread and cereal bags, frozen vegetable packets, confectionery wrappers and plastic toilet paper wrap.
  • As an industry-backed scheme, food and grocery manufacturers pay a small levy to support the cost of collection and administration.
  • Collection will be through an expanded kerbside collection program.
  • The bags are extracted from recycling streams at sorting facilities and sent for processing.
  • After being sorted, cleaned and shredded, separate soft plastic types are sent to advanced recycling facilities where high-tech processes break the plastic back down into oil – the same type of oil that plastic is made from in the first place.
  • That “plasticrude” oil is then ready to be made back into clean, food-grade plastic packaging.

Trials and Pilots

About the trials | The National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) project is driven by Australia’s food and grocery manufacturing industry. Led by the AFGC, the NPRS project is designing a scheme to take hard-to-recycle soft plastic packaging out of the waste stream and recycle it into new, food-grade material. As a true circular economy model, the NPRS project aims to make it easier for people to recycle soft plastics at home and support the development of a new, advanced recycling industry here in Australia. 

Collecting at scale | The AFGC received federal funding for the NPRS project in 2020 and since that time our work, and FMCG company commitments to purchase recycled content, have changed the landscape for soft plastics recycling in Australia. New confidence has led to announcements by several companies to make capital investments in new, advanced recycling infrastructure and a supply chain that can create food-grade recycled soft plastic packaging.  

The NPRS project is now focused on scaled collection and has secured broad support from local councils and the waste and recycling industry for kerbside collection of soft plastics. To find the best model for expanded kerbside collection and processing, limited trials of kerbside collection are being carried out in six Local Government Areas across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia from November 2022 to March 2023.  

Dedicated kits for bag-in-bin trials | Households in trial areas receive specially produced kits containing information on what soft plastics can be recycled and how to recycle them. The kits contain special recycling bags produced and printed for the trial. Participants will be instructed in how to fill the bags, close them and put them in their yellow-lid kerbside recycling bin. Only households in the selected trial areas can take part in the bagged soft plastics recycling trial. 

The bins will be collected and taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) as usual. At the MRF, the recycling bags will be extracted from the waste stream and sent for sorting and processing. The trials will help design the model for kerbside collection and sorting, one that provides a clean stream of used soft plastics and can be scaled up for an emerging advanced recycling industry.  

Gathering data | Some councils have decided to run their trials for up to 12 months but the NPRS project will gather data at the three month point to assess the uptake and effectiveness of collection and sorting, as well as quality of material returned. A customer satisfaction survey will also be conducted. All this information will map the landscape of Australian soft plastics recycling for the first time.

Seventeen major food and grocery manufacturing companies have signed on as Foundation Supporters of the NPRS project, committing funds to the trials and pilots. The Foundation Supporters are…

Meeting Australia’s National Packaging Targets

The NPRS is a key plank of helping to meet Australia’s National Packaging Targets. By laying out a plan for plastics recycling from collection, through recycling and onto new end markets, the NPRS will help build a genuine circular economy for plastic packaging.

The Challenge

The NPRS aims to increase the amount of plastic recovered by 190,000 tonnes a year – that’s almost 38,000 five-tonne garbage trucks and one third of the soft plastic waste that currently goes to landfill each year.

This will be achieved through kerbside collection of soft plastics and expanded bring-back systems to create a clean stream of valuable materials to be recycled and remanufactured as new plastic packaging, ready to head back to the supermarket shelf.

For residents taking part in council-run trials of “bag in bin” soft plastics kerbside recycling
The AFGC and a number of local councils in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales are conducting trials of kerbside soft plastic packaging collection in specially selected, designated areas. Residents in designated areas will receive information about the trials from their local council and are urged to participate. Here are some answers to common questions about the trials.

Q: I am in the trial area and I have received a kit. What do I do now?
A: Your household has been provided with a pack which contains special bags to collect soft plastic packaging. When a bag is full like a pillow, place it in your recycling bin for the regular council kerbside collection.

Q: I have received a pack, do I have to participate?
A: Taking part in this trial is not compulsory but we’d love you to participate. Full participation in the trial will help build the right model for successful bagged soft plastics recycling in Australia. And you might be surprised at how much more space you have in your regular rubbish bin come collection night.  

Q: Is this trial free?
A: Yes, the trials are free. Thanks to the support of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the Australian government, the food and grocery manufacturing industry and participating local councils, this trial service is provided at no cost to participating households.   

Q: What do we mean by “soft plastic packaging”?
A: Soft plastic packaging includes the “scrunchable” plastic bags and wrappers that food, grocery and other products come in. This includes bread bags, breakfast cereal bags, frozen vegetable bags, ice cream wrappers, confectionery bags, cling wrap, bubble wrap and plastic wrapping from toilet paper.

Q: How does the pause of the REDcycle soft plastics recycling scheme affect the trial?
A: This trial is not connected to the REDcycle store drop-off scheme and is not affected by the recent announcement that REDcycle has temporarily paused its scheme. The council trial will continue uninterrupted and the plastics collected in the trial will go for processing at an advanced recycling centre in Victoria.

Q: How do I check what to put in my special recycling bag during the trial?
A: Soft plastic packaging displaying the REDcycle logo and/or the Australian Recycling Label (ARL) “Return To Store” or “In-store Drop-off” logo (Australasian Recycling Label – Planet Ark Recycling Near You) can be included. Even though the REDcycle scheme is paused, you can use REDcycle’s list of what soft plastics can be recycled (What To RedcycleRedcycle ) as a guide. Residents in trial areas in participating councils can also contact their local councils.  

Q: I’ve always been told not to put soft plastics in the recycling bin, and not to put bags full of recyclable items in the recycling bin. Why is this changing now?
A: It’s still the case that loose soft plastics, or any bag holding recyclable items recyclable items, must not go in your recycling bin. Loose soft plastics jam up recycling machinery in trucks and at sorting facilities. The specially made trial bags have been provided specifically to be the right strength and easy to identify and sort when filled and sealed correctly. It’s very important to keep all other items in your recycling bin loose.

Q: Why is this trial happening?
A: Soft plastic packaging does an important job keeping food fresh and safe and keeping products intact and it can be recycled instead of going to landfill. The bagged soft plastics kerbside recycling trial is part of work to design an industry-led scheme for recycling soft plastic packaging in Australia. The scheme aims to create an advanced recycling industry producing recycled, food-grade soft plastic packaging, which currently isn’t made in Australia. The trial is one of a number being conducted to help design the model for kerbside collection and sorting of used soft plastics.  

Q: I didn’t get a trial kit. Can our household take part in the trial?
A: Sorry, but only households in the selected trial areas can take part in the bagged soft plastics recycling trial. Please don’t put any soft plastics in your recycling bin if you aren’t part of the trial. With the pause of the REDcycle store drop-off program from 9 November 2022, REDcycle has advised that soft plastics should be placed in your household rubbish bin. Read Redcycle’s statement >>

USEFUL LINKS

On this page you can find links to information about the councils participating in NPRS project trials, the recycling partners and the Foundation Supporters making the NPRS trials possible. 

Councils participating in NPRS soft plastic packaging kerbside collection trials: 

NPRS Project Foundation Supporters 

As an industry-led product stewardship model, funding support from AFGC member companies has been vital to making trials of kerbside collection happen. 

The NPRS Project Foundation Supporters are: 

Learn more about plastic waste and soft plastics recycling 

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