TNQ Plastics Industry Proposal

Regional Development Australia Tropical North (RDATN) has received $250,000 from Government to investigate the potential for the development of a plastic production industry (including recycling) in Far North Queensland as a pilot for future regional centres across Australia.

This project will facilitate innovation in waste management and recycling, create local employment opportunities, reduce unnecessary freight costs, produce product for export or sale and facilitate the development of environmentally friendly products to be sold domestically. 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.

Through the development of a model that can be replicated across multiple regional centres, all levels of government can contribute to a coordinated approach in the management of waste and resource recovery, from education, collection, processing through to manufacturing.

Opportunities exist in the region for circular economy partnerships that not only demonstrate a viable end of life option for plastic resource, but also create a direct purchase from the same industry that generated the waste. These partnerships can assist in the redesign of industry and the future of combined plastic, resource recovery and waste through collaborative efforts, increased transparency, and a localised approach.

RDATN is partnering with key stakeholders and industry groups to analyse existing plastic recycling practices, investigate the viability of a facility in the region and develop a project model that can be replicated in other regional centres across Australia. The engagement of industry groups and local government will ensure a sound understanding of their roles in the provision of education programs, collections services and as members of regional bodies and groups. These partnerships will assist in the analysis of current practices and trends and will result in a rigorous assessment to demonstrate feasibility for the establishment of a comprehensive operation in FNQ as a model for future regional recycling and manufacturing hubs across Australia.


Background information…

Plastic waste within Far North Queensland (FNQ) is 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.

A new study by Grand View Research, Inc. states that the Global Plastics Market is expected to reach USD 654.38 billion by 2020, with Asia Pacific (excluding China) being listed as the fastest growing regional market with plastic valued at USD 105.39 billion in 2017.

Key findings from the 2016-17 Australian plastics recycling survey – national report:

  • A total of 3,513,100 tonnes of plastics were consumed in Australia in 2016–17.
  • A total of 293,900 tonnes of plastics were recycled in 2016–17, which is a fall of 10 per cent from 2015–16 recovery. Including tyres, total plastics recovery was 415,200 tonnes.
  • In 2016–17, the national plastics recycling rate was 11.8 per cent.
  • Of the 415,200 tonnes of plastics collected for recycling, 180,100 tonnes (43.4 per cent) was reprocessed in Australia and 235,100 tonnes (56.6 per cent) was exported for reprocessing.
  • Local reprocessing was flat from 2015–16, with export for reprocessing falling by 20 per cent.
  • In 2016-17, Australians used 5.66 billion single-use plastic bags.

The 2018 National Waste policy states that for every 10,000 tonnes of waste that is recycled, 9.2 jobs are created, compared with 2.8 jobs if the same amount of waste was sent to landfill.

In their submission to the 2018 Senate inquiry into the national waste and recycling industry, the Waste Management Association of Australia estimated that the waste and resource recovery industry employs 50,000 people (full time equivalent) and contributes over $50 billion per annum to the Australian economy.

Queensland’s waste levy commenced 1 July 2019 and seeks to encourage resource recovery and recycling. Queensland State Budget 2018/19 outlined forecast levy revenue committed to new Resource Recovery Industry Development Program, $100 million over 3 years ‘to support innovation and investment in recycling and assist new industries that manufacture products using recycled waste and create future jobs.

Project Summary and Results…

The Project consists of three individual components.  RPS Group have been engaged to undertake the project:

  1. Feasibility Study into the establishment of a hub model for Far North Queensland plastics recycling collection, processing and manufacturing.  (Complete)
  2. Provision of a pilot template replicable in other regions to address waste and recycling challenges across regional Australia, particularly for those regions facing similar challenges to Far North Queensland (e.g. Northern Australia).  (Complete)
  3. Business case to support industry in grant submissions for the Queensland Recycling Modernisation Fund (QRMF) in September 2021.   The Business Case assumed 50:50 contribution from industry and the QRMF grant. (Complete)
  4. Development of an investment memorandum which re-modelled finances from the Business Case and assumed no grant funding is available.  The 50% grant funding was instead supplemented with 50% debt/equity. (Complete)


Regional Development Australia Tropical North and RPS Group acknowledge the support of :-

  • Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
  • the Queensland Department of Environment and Science; and
  • the Cairns Regional Council