Plastic became very popular in modern life during the 1950s and has become a major material used in manufacturing, building and packaging throughout western civilisation. Since its adoption however, it has become a major contributor to landfill and, as plastic does not break down for hundreds of years, it became a major problem. The recycling of plastics began in earnest during the 1980s. Government programs, consumer education and the development of industrial processes to transform discarded plastic into useful materials have all contributed to less plastic going to landfill.
The introduction of PETE and HDPE plastics in the 80’s and 90’s transformed the recycling effort. This type of plastic is able to be recycled and carries the identifiable recyclable logo of three arrows depicting a triangle.
There are more steps required in recycling plastics than in recycling paper, glass and metals. Plastic requires the extraction of dyes, fillers and other additives. The first step in recycling plastic is to sort it by the type of resin used in its structure, of which there are seven basic types, and sometimes it is also sorted by colour. The second step is to chop the plastic into small pieces, then clean it to remove debris and small residue. It is then melted down and compressed into pellets, these are called nurdles. The nurdles are transported to plastic processing plants and introduced into the manufacturing process.
Kartaway are a leading recycling and waste management company in Australia. They are able to recycle most waste collected, including plastics. Providing bins and skips to households, builders, body corporates, shopping complexes, multi storey complexes and educational facilities they sort and recycle collected waste. Kartaway also operate Recycling Depots for the public in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Kartaway are a leading company recycling waste in Australia and are a part of its recycling history. Householders, through necessity, re-used and recycled many items in the early days but recycling on a larger scale began later. As early as 1815 one Australian paper mill used recycled rags to make paper. Waste paper collections were the earliest organised recycling programs, beginning in Melbourne in the 1920s and spread to other cities in the 1940s; cart and horse collections of newspapers from households became common.
Another recycling industry established in earlier times was metals, with Henry Ford recycling his Model T Fords in the 1920s and BHP Steel recycling industrial steel scrap in 1915. Scrap metal dealers recovered and re-sold valuable metals. It was during this era that Paul Joseph Whelan’s demolition business began selling second hand building material from the sites. His company, Whelan The Wrecker, became famous in Melbourne and was the fore-runner to Kartaway.
During the mid 20th century glass bottles had a return deposit on them and were re-used by the manufacturers, popular with children to gain extra pocket money and scouting groups for fund raising. Over 20 years ago Comalco set up a ‘cash for cans’ program with buy-back centres where children and community groups could return cans for cash.
Canterbury Council began using magnetic separation to recover steel waste, including cans in 1975 and in 1977 South Australia introduced container deposit legislation, encouraging the return of beverage containers for recycling.
The need for extensive recycling was finally recognised in the late 80’s and early 90’s when councils introduced kerbside recycling schemes. Households could now separate out common items such as paper, glass and aluminium, and later PET, HDPE milk containers, liquidpaperboard milk and juice cartons and steel cans. In 1997 Kartaway opened the first public Recycling Depot at 32 Kirkdale Rd, East Brunswick. The Depot is able to accept green waste, metal, cardboard, timber, batteries, electronic waste, dirt, brick, concrete and asphalt, diverting these items from landfill.
Chinese millionaire Chen Guangbiao built his fortune through his recycling company, Huangpu Renewable Resources Utilization Group. At the same time, he has boosted his reputation in China with publicity stunts based on philanthropic acts or focussed on environmental messages, such as selling “canned air” in Beijing to raise awareness about ecological issues. He and his wife changed their names to Low Carbon and Green.
Chen began as an entrepreneur at an early age selling clean water to a nearby village, he went on to run several businesses before attending university. He became involved in the demolition of an old stadium in Nanjing. Coming up with the idea of selling the used iron, he hoped to make a profit as he was not being paid for the demolition. It turns out he had the right idea, he made a profit of $272,000!
He then established a recycling company, selling iron to iron and steel companies and recycling cement blocks back into concrete (by mixing with water, cement and sand). He found that all the construction waste could be transformed into at least seven types of building materials, such as landfill, red brick and building blocks. China produces 2 billion tons of construction waste, creating a rich market for recycling.
Kartaway in Australia came about from slightly different beginnings, with James Paul Whelan starting up a cartage company in 1892, gradually moving into demolition and sale of the second hand materials from the sites, and the famous Whelan The Wrecker was born. After a period of acquisition and growth the company became Kartaway and now run public recycling depots in Melbourne and Adelaide. Hiring bins and skips to the public and customising waste management programs for businesses and organisations the business focusses strongly on the recycling of most materials.
Chen Guangbiao has been in the world news recently as he makes a bid for a sizeable share in the New York Times. The Whelan family will probably not follow suite on Chen’s latest venture!