Recycling chemical containers a smarter option

It is estimated that over 1 million plastic and steel drums, and flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBCs or bulka bags) are disposed to landfill each year in Australia. Most of these products are made from currently recyclable materials. Some of the major barriers to recycling these products is a lack of good information about recovery pathways, and a perception that recycling will cost more. With support through the EPA Victoria managed HazWaste Fund and the Australian Packaging Covenant, SRU is working to increase diversion of these packaging formats from landfill by building networks between generators and reprocessors.

While many businesses see recycling as an added cost in a difficult financial environment, it is often a better economic choice. Every item disposed in general waste collection costs money for disposal, even if that cost is hidden in a fixed price contract. For a typical container between 20 L and 199 L disposal to a general waste bin costs between $1 to $3. For specialised waste collection for chemical or other restricted waste this cost rises to $10, $30, or more. On the other hand, treatment and recovery of these containers generally starts at a price of $1.50 to $3 for moderately contaminated containers. For containers that have been triple rinsed or otherwise cleaned the cost is much less, and steel containers can even result in small payments to generator businesses.

Many plastic and almost all steel containers are recovered and the material finds its way into new products after reprocessing. Some heavily contaminated materials, however are not able to be recovered. Residual material contents are often also recovered either as refined products with a beneficial use or for energy recovery.

There are a number of businesses around Australia who accept a variety of packaging materials and contents for treatment and recovery, and between them accept all materials and contents. A number of these businesses focus on the contents of packaging for treatment and others on the packaging materials themselves. The treatment and recovery services available for these containers depends on the contents of packaging, the packaging material type and how much residue remains. The flowchart below summarises many of the potential treatment and recovery options.

PIW packaging recycling information

SRU has developed a free information package that is available for businesses interested in increasing recovery of their small chemical containers. If you would like a copy of the information package please contact Dan A’Vard on 03 9601 5491, or download PIW packaging recycling information.

  • Leave a Reply

* Required Fields.
Your email will not be published.