5 September, 2023
Mareeba to be home to plastics recycling hub
MAREEBA will become the home for a regional plastics recycling hub expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.
The exciting new project is the brainchild of Marc Jackson who has more than 30 years’ experience in the banana industry and has worked overseas where the circular economy has been embraced for decades.
Now, Mr Jackson wants to bring that same opportunity to local farmers who have been asking how they can recycle plastic items used extensively in the banana industry.
Enviroplas Recycling is currently being established at a lot in the Mareeba Industrial Estate and is already being filled with bags of plastic waste collected from three banana farms in the region who are taking part in a trial.
“I have a trial underway with three large banana farms and they are paying for their plastics to be taken away for recycling,” Mr Jackson said.
“I’m gobsmacked by how much plastic I pick up with about 600kg per farm per week compacted ready for the arrival of the recycling equipment.
“I have been working with the growers to train their staff to sort the plastics into different polymer groups and they are noticing that cleaning their shed at the end of the week is a much simpler process without plastic lying around all over the place.
“My aim is to manufacture plastic bags and other items required for the banana industry on site and will introduce traceability where each farm can have their plastics recycled into products with their specifications.”
Mr Jackson said he would employ 45 people across three shifts a day to process 6000 tonnes of agricultural, commercial and consumer plastics a year once the recycling centre is fully operational at the Mareeba site.
At the moment, Mr Jackson is eagerly waiting for two sheds to be built to house the equipment he has already sourced to recycle the waste and transform it into useful items for banana farms such as plastic bags and clips used to protect the fruit.
The plant will also recycle fertiliser bags, and will turn old twine into new twine.
But all of this would not have been possible without a grant Mr Jackson successfully gained from the Queensland Recycling Modernisation Fund.
He credits Regional Development Australia Tropical North’s development of a Business Case for the Regional Plastics Hub in assisting his successful application for a $1.08 million grant.
“I’ve consistently had questions from the growers buying my plastics about recycling, but it is very hard to justify the cost to set up a factory with the return on investment,” Mr Jackson said.
“I needed the grant to make the centre feasible as the operating costs with electricity, labour and transport are phenomenal.”
RDA Tropical North chief executive officer Sonja Johnson said plastic waste from the Far North either ended up in landfill or was freighted to Brisbane and recycled products then transported back to the region.
“The recycling funding offered by the Queensland Government presented an opportunity for RDA Tropical North to put forward a Business Case that would help local projects provide the data necessary to successfully apply,” she said.
“Enviroplas Recycling was one was one of five Far Northern projects to receive some $1.7 million in grants through the Queensland Recycling Modernisation Fund and the Regional and Remote Recycling Modernisation Fund through the Federal Government’s Recycling Modernisation Fund.
“RDA Tropical North continues to assist Global Fruit Protection by keeping the business connected with relevant agencies to assist with expanding its potential for regional development.”
Mr Jackson has been aware of the need to create a circular economy in the farming sector and has seen how it works overseas, such as large banana farms in the Philippines which initiated recycling of plastic items as long ago as 1995.
“If developing nation countries can work with circular economies then we should also set an example in Australia,” he said.
RDA Tropical North chair Hurriyet Babacan said her work in the region has shown that the circular economy would be one of the key areas for future job growth.
“It is pleasing to see Enviroplas Recycling creating this opportunity to grow jobs on the Atherton Tablelands,” she said.