CROSS-OVER SYNERGIES: Mildura Mayor Mark Eckel, centre right, and fellow Councillor Simon Clemence, left, were joined by Mildura Regional Development CEO, Daryl Buckingham, right, and Integrated Recycling’s Stephen Webster, for a tour of the Mildura company to discuss the Council’s recycling needs and ways in which the MDC could assist the company with its expansion plans.
By JOHN DOOLEY
MILDURA Rural City Council has met with growing local company Integrated Recycling this week to discuss options to process local waste.
Discussions follow the announcement last week that Integrated Recycling had been awarded a $130,000 grant to assist with the upgrade of their Mildura plant (Mildura Weekly, June 22, 2018).
The company’s General Manager, Stephen Webster, met with Mildura Mayor Mark Eckel, fellow Cr Simon Clemence and Mildura Regional Development CEO, Daryl Buckingham, for a tour of the company’s Etiwanda Avenue recycling and manufacturing plant on Tuesday.
Cr Eckel said he was particularly interested in the possibility of Council expanding its relationship with Integrated Recycling (IR) to use more plastic waste produced locally, which was previously being taken by China. (The Chinese stopped taking plastic waste from Australia earlier this year).
“Recycling is a such a big issue, the more players we have in that field the better,” the Mayor said.
“The more waste that can be processed and utilised locally, avoiding the necessity to take it away, the better it is for Council.
“There may be an opportunity for IR to join forces with a secondary organisation to provide further processing capacity enabling them to use more of our waste plastic and we will be talking about that today.”
IR’s product range is diverse, with brand names including ‘Envire’ ‘Evertuff’, ‘Duracomp’ and ‘Duratrack’. The company produces everything from bollards, outdoor furniture and boardwalks to signage, edging and retaining walls, decking and Duratrack railway sleepers, in a process that appears remarkably simple.
MR Webster said the products are manufactured from a patented mix comprising a variety of ingredients including recycled plastic, recycled polystyrene and sawdust from red gum milling.
“Most of the recycled plastic used in the production process comes from the table grape vine covers that have been discarded at the end of a season,” he said. “Traditionally they would have been disposed of in a variety of ways which may not have been friendly to the environment, and so now we are recycling the material and we collect hundreds of tonnes of them.
“All of the plastic used is polyethylene, and if we need some specialised material, we will source that out of the district. We are often sent material from far afield, because we can process it. That includes the ‘yellow’ wraps from the cotton gins in NSW and southern Queensland.”
The company is very excited about its Duratrack railway sleepers, which are being used by several Heritage Railways including Red Cliffs Historical Railway and being trailed by other railways including Queensland Rail (QR).
“QR will require tens of thousands of the sleepers to be supplied for its track upgrades and we have supplied them with 150 for in-the-field trials as part of the tender process to be a supplier of sleepers to them,” Mr Webster said. “QR change their timber sleepers every 14 years and the design life of the Duratrack recycled plastic sleeper is rated at 50 years.
“The actual life of the Duratrack sleeper will be determined by the load from the trains. If we are putting it into tourist and heritage, where the loads are less, we have estimated that the life for the Duratrack sleepers may be up to 80 years for the Puffing Billy railway for example.”
Mr Webster said IR will be expanding its production with the funding provided by the Victorian Government, supported by its parent group.
IR said it was happy to work with Council to use suitable waste plastic sorted from the Mildura Landfill to provide a local reuse solution.
“The next stage of IR’s development will be to install a separate production line for the Duratrack Railway sleepers, but at the moment we don’t have enough electricity on this site for that next phase,” Mr Webster said. “We have been unable to ascertain from Powercor if they are in a position to provide the additional power we require.”
Mr Webster asked Mildura Regional Development for assistance with Powercor to determine the availability of electricity. Mr Buckingham said his organisation will assist by facilitating those discussions.
Mr Webster emphasised that IR is a member of the Pro Pac Packaging Group that has plants throughout Australia and New Zealand employing over 800 people, and so they need assurances when making big investment decisions.
The company currently employs 10 full-time staff in addition to several part-timers in the Mildura plant, and they also have four sales staff in their Adelaide office.
“If we are successful in our tender to QR, it will require us to invest upwards of $1million in the Mildura plant and in doing so, we will produce about 25 full-time jobs, working on a 24-hour seven day a week cycle,” Mr Webster said.
“It’s a massive investment, and if we get other railways along the way – the Inland Rail project for example – we will be able to increase the volume of output to meet the demand.”
Cr Clemence asked if Council could assist the company in providing any additional storage space needed when their production output increases in the future, something that Mr Webster said may be an issue for the company.
“I can see the time when we may need space for storage of raw materials off-site,” Mr Webster said.
WORKFORCE training is another area of importance, something Mr Buckingham said his organisation could provide input into.
Mr Webster said key skills such as production line training, materials handling and quality assurance were going to be in demand.
“I appreciate Council’s interest in assisting the company with its expansion process and look forward to further discussions in the future,” he said.
In advance of the plant tour, Mr Webster showed the Mildura Weekly some of the company’s landscaping products that have been used in the development and beautification of James King Park at Gol Gol, a project being undertaken by Mildura contractor Big Azz Building Projects, on behalf of the Wentworth Shire Council.
Also, two boardwalks and a canoe-launcher were installed at Kings Billabong a few years ago – the all abilities canoe-launcher was developed in collaboration with Parks Victoria, Mr Webster said.