OPAL

Creating circular solutions for packaging and beyond

How Opal is helping us move towards a waste-free future.

  •  Opal’s mills recycle 530,000 tonnes of used cardboard and wastepaper every year

  • The Opal Paper and Recycling Botany Mill converts approx. 475,000 tonnes of used cardboard into 100% recycled brown packaging paper each year

  • Opal Australian Paper’s Maryvale site annually converts approx. 40,000 tonnes of white wastepaper into 100% recycled copy paper, and recycles more than 15,000 tonnes of used cardboard into recycled packaging paper each year

The Federal Government has committed to making 100 per cent of Australian packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025. You may have already seen ‘made from 100 per cent recycled content’ labels popping up on product packaging, but what is the process for integrating recycled material into these products?

We sat down with Lennox Moore and Craig Dunn from Opal — a company offering circular economy solutions for cardboard and paper recycling in Australia and New Zealand — to learn more about the process of creating 100 per cent recycled products.

VISION

Opal is a leading developer of sustainable packaging solutions in Australasia. The group of companies are committed to circular approaches that reduce waste, improve resource recovery, increase opportunities for reuse and produce renewable packaging. Opal also sources new fibre through certified responsible wood suppliers.

“Our vision is for Opal to shape the future through sustainable packaging and our procurement of certified wood and recycled fibre inputs underpins this,” Craig Dunn, Opal’s GM Public Relations and Sustainability explains.

“The production of fibre packaging from renewable inputs is an inherently sustainable and circular activity. Opal commits to the principles of the circular economy every day by promoting recycling, working to eliminate waste and producing packaging that helps shape a positive future.”

HOW

Through its Botany and Maryvale mills, Opal turns over 500,000 tonnes of used cardboard and wastepaper into recycled cardboard and paper products each year.

Lennox Moore manages paper sales and recycling at the Opal Paper and Recycling Botany Mill. The paper and recycling mill has been operating at the same site since 1902. Now, the mill is home to the state-of-the-art B9 Paper Machine that converts 475,000 tonnes of used Old Corrugated Containers (OCC) into 100 per cent recycled brown packaging paper each year. This process diverts close to 500,000 tonnes of OCC from export markets and potential landfill each year.

“That’s a major innovation in terms of manufacturing a closed-loop proposition within Australia for a product that otherwise would either be exported or potentially go to landfill,” Lennox explains.

Located in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, Opal Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill produces Planet Ark Paper — the first and only 100% recycled, unwrapped, carbon neutral copy paper on the market — alongside other recycled paper products.

In addition to developing closed-loop solutions for packaging and paper, Opal has created products and technologies to tackle everything from plastic pollution to food waste. Its innovations include paper-based fruit and produce stickers and a device that allows food suppliers to monitor the conditions in cold storage facilities to minimise produce waste. The company is also exploring the possibility of opening an aquaculture farm that would be powered by its Maryvale Mill.

“Our Maryvale Mill is exploring an exciting project to utilise spare infrastructure capacity including the provision of low-grade heat, water treatment and oxygenation services to support the construction of a major barramundi Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria,” Craig says.   

“This facility would create a new aquaculture sector in regional Victoria and reduce Australia’s dependence on imported wild caught fish. This project is another example of our commitment to doing more with less in line with the circular economy.”

Opal’s latest, and arguably most ambitious, project is an energy from waste facility targeted to start construction in late 2021 on the Maryvale Mill site. The facility could divert an estimated 325,000 tonnes of residual waste from landfill and reduce Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions by 270,000 tonnes per year (the equivalent to taking 50,000 cars off the road).

Choosing locally manufactured 100 per cent recycled office paper creates consumer demand which is the key to building markets for recycled products produced using circular economy principles.

RESULTS + BENEFITS

One of Opal’s most significant achievements is establishing markets for recycled materials in Australia that minimise new resource use and waste and drive the shift to a circular economy.

“We’ve created a supply chain and a commodity value attached to the recycling of cardboard that otherwise may have not been there,” Lennox explains.

Recycling is often considered a lower-order process within the circular economy. But while reuse and repair should come first, Lennox sees recycling as a crucial part of the circular economy picture. Especially where companies can create new markets for materials that might otherwise have ended up in landfill. The added benefit is that if done in Australia it creates local employment opportunities.

“Without recycling, you have unnecessary waste going to landfill, and in turn this potentially creates unnecessary production of product and consumables that really is just wasteful.”

Businesses that choose Opal paper or packaging also contribute to the company’s positive impact.

“Choosing locally manufactured 100 per cent recycled office paper creates consumer demand, which is the key to building markets for recycled products produced using circular economy principles,” Craig says.  

While the company has made significant strides in the sustainable packaging space, Lennox says Opal is just at the beginning of its circular economy journey.

“It’s an evolutionary journey — it’s not a silver bullet approach and it’s not something that you can do overnight. There are lots of hurdles that are put in your path and it’s a case of trying to make progressive movements and getting everybody on board,” he says.

Call To Action

“If you’re passionate about what you’re doing and you have a desire for a closed-loop proposition and recycling, you will tend to be a step ahead of those who are not. I think it really needs to be entrenched in your business psyche, in your individual personality and in your way of life. You have to live your process and believe in it.”

To find out more about Opal's products, head here.

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