Plastic fantastic: Local firm GT is a driving force in recycling

Moolap-based GT Recycling will spend the next year almost doubling its capacity to take industrial wrapping, wheelie bins, chemical drums and other used plastic and transform it into as-new pellets ready for a second life.

A range of businesses across Australia, from Queensland to Western Australia, rely on GT’s ingenuity in recycling discarded plastic that would often otherwise head to landfill.

The third-generation family-owned business has just been awarded $3 million State and Federal government grant under the Recycling Modernisation Fund. This will allow GT to expand its factory space at its five acre site, and increase its processing capacity to 18,000 tonnes a year, from 10,000 today.

Business advisor Doug McLean, whose brother Trevor is MD, tells Geelong Manufacturing Council the driver to apply for the grant was a looming export ban on single polymer plastics coming into effect in July.

That means flexible packaging material — such as low density polyethylene (LDPE) shrink-wrap and contaminated industrial woven polypropylene packaging — that would traditionally go to overseas markets will have to be processed domestically, or end up in landfill.

“We are one of the few that specialise in some of the packaging products that we do recycle, such as woven polypropylene packaging, shopping bags, chaff bags, grain tarp, that type of thing. There are not too many recyclers that work in that space,” Mr McLean says.

“We are really a driving force in the region, along with our stakeholders, to make things happen — to expand our recycling capabilities to process a range of plastic scrap that we, and others, currently export in a low value-add state.”

The expanded facility will deploy the latest technology to optimise end material quality and use energy and water more efficiently.

The project promises to bring the Geelong region economic benefits, injecting funds into the local economy during the construction stage and employing local contractors, and it “means that Geelong becomes a leader in its field in the recycling of plastic waste,” Mr McLean says.

“Some of the areas we target are problematic plastics that are a little bit more difficult to recycle and develop markets for and we do a lot of work in that area.”

GT Recycling, which employs around 30 and expects to add a further nine full-time staff after the expansion, uses its specialised transport fleet to collect plastic waste from industry each day, gathering industrial stretch wrapping from pallets, packaging on items such as whitegoods and furniture, and hard plastic from industry and transfer stations in and around Geelong.

The firm does a lot of work for councils in Geelong and the Surfcoast area, as well as metropolitan Melbourne. Most of the plastic ends up full circle – plant pots are turned back into plant pots and wheelie bins back into wheelie bins – though there are some novel uses, for example a Sydney-based not-for-profit is making golf tees from GT Recycling’s recycled car bumper bars.

“It is not a major use but it just shows what novel things can be made out of recycled waste plastic,” Mr McLean says.