Tasmanian waste products that would have once ended up in landfill or sent overseas will soon be turned into a range of high-value products - including wood plastic composites used in home timber decking projects.
Three Tasmanian projects have been chosen to help reprocess up to 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste - the equivalent weight of 9000 cars a year - as part of a $20.3 million co-investment through the Recycling Modernisation Fund.
The announcement comes days after an export ban on sending mixed plastics overseas for recycling came into effect, with Bell Bay softwood sawmill Timberlink, George Town soft plastic recycling plant Envorinex, and Mitchell Plastic Welding in the Huon Valley to share in almost $11 million in funding.
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Timberlink will use its $5.8 million grant to establish the state's first biocomposite plant, manufacturing a decking product made from a wood plastic composite.
With the global timber shortage being felt in Tasmania, Timberlink's EGM sales marketing and corporate affairs David Oliver said they hoped to have the $12 million facility up and running by Christmas 2022, with supply by January 2023.
"Our hope and desire is to replace products that are imported from overseas, with Australian-made products," he said.
"This [product] is used on decks, so it's not used in housing construction, but it's used to finish off the home.
"Currently, 20 per cent of Australia's timber supply is supplied from overseas.
"We are operating at maximum capacity. We have never supplied as much timber as we have to the Tasmanian people."
The decking will be produced from high-density polyethylene plastics, to be sourced from used milk bottles collected in Tasmania, mixed in with sawmill waste.
With the HDPE pellets made by another Tasmanian company, Environment Minister Roger Jaensch said the projects were a great example of a circular economy.
"What used to be waste, [now] a more valuable, higher-value product is being produced here in Tasmania, creating jobs," he said.
"We want to see more of that. From this plant here [Timberlink], most of Tasmania's empty plastic milk bottles are going to be going into products like this, thanks to these projects."
Announcing the projects on Friday two days into Plastic Free July, Bass Liberal MHR Bridget Archer said while she would like to encourage more people to reduce their use of plastics where possible, the scheme was aimed at finding solutions.
"Both of these resources, which we once would have seen as waste, we are now identifying and recognising as resources that we can create high-value products," she said,
"They solve a problem. We don't have to find other ways to dispose of those, but we are also able to create jobs and continue to so see increased investment in these important industries.
"If we are able to, with the plastic that we do use in our everyday lives, to be able to turn that into a high-value resource here in Tasmania - we would like to see more of that."
Envorinex will receive $2.1 million to improve their facility to process over 6000 additional tonnes of plastic each year. This will include the collection and recycling of medical sheeting, curtains and injection moulded products.
Mitchell Plastic Welding will useits $3 million grant to manufacture injection moulded products from waste plastics initially collected from the aquaculture sector, rising to 7200 tonnes of mixed plastic waste at full capacity.
With states and territories looking at more innovative ways of dealing with plastic waste amid Australia's export ban, Mr Oliver said the world-class facility at Bell Bay would make a big impact.
"Over recent years there has been quite a lot of these products go to landfill or be exported," he said.
"So we are actually creating a new innovative industry here at the Bell Bay manufacturing precinct to really create a new industry.
"We will receive these plastic products, already cleaned and washed ... to make a product that is a 90 per cent on-island solution.
"So 90 per cent of the input is made in Tasmania and the balance of 10 per cent will come from a manufacturing facility in Melbourne."
It's expected the three projects will create up to 50 new jobs.
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