$2.3M Federal Government grant to transform recycling sector

The iQRenew recycling plant at Wyong

Recycling company, iQRenew, has received a $2.3M Federal Government grant to introduce smart technology in sorting recyclable materials.

iQRenew’s Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in Lucca Rd, Wyong, and at Somersby, will develop a template and trial a new sorting process by introducing automation such as robotics.

This process could then be introduced to upgrade other existing MRFs with the aim to increase recycling of soft plastics by 80 times the 2018 levels.

General Manager of iQRenew, Graham Knowles, said the company processed material from the household yellow bin kerbside collection and sorted it into streams such as plastic, paper, glass and aluminium, which was then sent on for further processing into various recycled products.

“This grant will help us introduce smart 3D camera technology, computer technology and robotics to sort the material in a more advanced way,” Knowles said.

“It’s smart sorting instead of sorting by hand or by mechanical machines, and we will explore and determine whether or not robots could be used in these sorts of facilities as an efficiency measure.”

Knowles said the introduction of new technology would not cause the loss of any jobs but it might change the role that workers played in the sorting and recycling process.

The $2.3M Federal Government grant to develop and trial this new method of sorting recyclables was announced on January 5 by Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, and Senator for NSW, Jim Molan, who said that it would address the waste export ban and contribute to Australia’s transition to a circular economy.

“It enhances existing recycling infrastructure that may be used to lift recycling rates on other materials,” he said.

“This collaborative project has the potential to make a real difference on a national stage, while also helping a local business commercialise their great idea.

“This is further proof of the cutting edge work happening right here on the Central Coast and the Morrison Government is here to back it.”

Central Coast Council is leading the way when it comes to recycling, with examples being a road in Wyongah laid in mid-2020 using more than 90 percent recyclable materials, and a trial started in September at 2,000 households to separate soft plastics from going to landfill.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, said the projects demonstrated the great industry opportunities that came from taking care of the environment.

“By strategically investing in our waste management and recycling sector, we’re supporting Australian manufacturers to develop and commercialise cutting edge technology that creates opportunities for new jobs and exports,” she said.

“We know that strong collaboration between industry and researchers is key to creating a resilient, competitive and highly skilled manufacturing sector and that’s exactly what these Co-operative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) grants are going to do.”

Waste Recycling and Clean Energy is one of six National Manufacturing Priorities in the Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy.

There are nine projects worth $40M being supported under Round 10 of the CRC-P initiative.

The projects involve 32 Australian companies, including 27 small and medium businesses, and about 20 percent of those are in regional areas.

Sue Murray