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Soft Plastics Recycling in Altona

Licella

Capire really knew what they were doing. Importantly, they did what they said they were going to do and achieved the perfect result for us. The unique thing Capire brings is a team small enough to be flexible, but large enough to offer us a full service.” Steve Rogers Project Director

Around Australia, communities and businesses are working hard to significantly improve waste recovery for plastics with a national target of recovering an average of 80% plastics by 2030. One mechanism to achieve this is using advanced recycling technologies. Licella is the global leader of advanced recycling and are currently developing a proposal for an advanced chemical recycling facility in Altona. Their CAT-HTR technology for plastics recycling is a more sustainable option to traditional mechanical soft plastics recycling.

Altona has had several waste and chemical businesses in the past, some of which involved environmental hazards. Considering this, Capire understood the community would be concerned about a new site and it was important to gain feedback from them and mitigate issues. To inform this, Capire designed and delivered an extensive, diverse community and stakeholder engagement program.

Objectives

• Determine the technical, economic, and environmental benefits of a local advanced recycling industry
• Build community and stakeholder understanding of the Cat-HTR™ technology, advanced recycling and how this contributes to a circular economy
• Build trust in Licella and their partners
• Identify community and stakeholder concerns early in the development of the proposal
• Engage with key stakeholders to develop a baseline of what issues need to be addressed in the Development Licence application process
• Work with key stakeholders to develop options which mitigate community concerns and issues to the greatest extent possible.

Challenges

During preliminary engagement, key risks/challenges identified:
• Poor community perception of the proposal
• Low levels of understanding
• Low trust in proposal
• Engagement conversations are dominated by the loudest voices
• Proposal is or becomes political

Outputs

The engagement program was stepped out into two phases:

Phase 1: foundational engagement- this included a desk top study, interviews with environmental advocacy groups and community networks to identify type of issues community are concerned with and their preferred approach to being consulted.

Capire interviewed a range of high-profile, specialist environmental advocacy groups. As experts, they helped us understand the likely issues felt by community. The groups were selected based on their reputable and broad reaching influence on recycling issues at local and national levels.

Phase 2: community presentations and focus group sessions. This was to understand specific community concerns of the proposal and determine satisfactory mitigation strategies. Capire selected the broadest possible range of community groups to engage on the project. Local community networks were selected based on their connections to the local community in Altona, their broad and diverse reach across communities and specific interest. Capire also engaged with EPA Victoria and Hobsons Bay City Council, critical stakeholders to enable the planned facility to proceed.

Summary of findings

• Most community and stakeholder representatives are supportive of finding a local solution to soft plastics recycling
• Establishing trust and credibility within the community and environmental groups was considered paramount to success
• Fundamental concerns about the volumes of plastics still in circulation that end up in the environment
• Key concerns about cumulative local air quality impacts from industry on local community
• Concerns about the practicality and reliability of people taking their plastics to collection points for recycling and the manual extraction on assembly lines.
• Once community was informed, they were generally supportive of Licella’s project and enthusiastic about tackling non-recyclable plastics, developing clean technology locally and improving environmental outcomes. However, it is acknowledged that, despite implementing best practices, the new operation may present some risks and minor impacts to the local community.

Next steps

Licella incorporated the community feedback into their development proposal. Essentially, community influenced the design and operation of the proposal, ensuring smooth regulatory process. Education and ongoing community engagement will be essential throughout all subsequent stages of this project so that community are informed and up to date with the progress and the impact on community.