Big plans in recycling

A proposed waste paper recycling plant to be built at the Maryvale mill would have “big implications” for the Latrobe Valley, according to Australian Paper.

Announced on Friday along with its 2011 Future Fibre Strategy update, Australian Paper said it was beginning a detailed feasibility study to develop a “major” recycling plant at Maryvale, which it hoped to build in 2014.

AP chief executive Jim Henneberry said while development of the plant is for the company’s “own self interest”, a potential recycling plant would greatly expand the company’s role as the only manufacturer of recycled office and printing paper.

“We are talking about taking 90,000 tonnes which would otherwise be going to landfill, a making that into 50,000 tonnes of quality communications paper; that means one in six reams of paper we make would be recycled.”

While AP senior marketing manager sustainability Craig Dunn would not comment on potential job figures, he said the project would have “big implications for the Latrobe Valley”.

Mr Dunn said the feasibility stage findings were expected to be delivered in July, with an announcement about the project’s future expected in September.

Mr Dunn said while there were no reliable figures around current levels of paper recycling in Australia, “about two thirds” of waste paper was recycled onshore, while much of the remaining waste was exported or went to landfill due to Australia’s limited capacity to recycle.

Maryvale currently sources 17,000 tonnes of recycled fibre from Amcor’s Fairfield recycling plant, which is due to close in July, creating a surplus of un-recycled waste paper that would end up in landfill or on the export market, according to Mr Dunn.

The announcement came as the company was keen to spruik its uptake in plantation-sourced fibre from 63 to 85 per cent, a move Mr Henneberry said was largely in response to environmental concerns over the company’s reliance on native timber.

Mr Dunn said through growth efficiency measures by supplier Hancock Victorian Plantations, and a 70,000 tonne per annum supply contract of Western Victorian plantation timber, sourcing of which began in March, AP had increased its plantation fibre usage to about 66 per cent.

Mr Dunn said the company would continue to look at a range of options to increase this figure, including the creation of additional plantations, and it hoped to achieve the 85 per cent target within the next decade.

While the Wilderness Society’s Victorian forest campaigner Luke Chamberlain welcomed both developments, he said Australian Paper would not have a social license to operate, and would not receive support from environmental groups while it maintained native logging, which it said was unsustainable practice.