Why Process Matters in Recycling Manufacturing

Did you know we are currently in the 4th Industrial Revolution? This means we are experiencing a period of fundamental process and automation change which will directly or indirectly effect all aspects of the economy.  This revolution is particularly important for the recycling manufacturing industry in Australia. Our recycling industry has opportunity to implement rapid change to deal with the impact of the China waste import ban that began in January 2018.

With new technologies created in the past few years, Australian recycling facilities can now analyse how to improve manufacturing processes and drive efficiencies to achieve a win-win-win-WIN scenario. Improvements in recycling manufacturing will lead to; decreased costs for general public, increased economic impact, decreased environmental impact and increased company (recycling facility) profitability.

But first, a brief history on the impact of new technologies.

Brief bit of history

Since the late 1700’s the world has experienced rapid economic and population growth due to new technologies and accepting of new ideas. The below diagram shows the key technology changes in each Industrial Revolution.

 Industrial Revolution 1-4.jpg

“When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country.” Klaus Schwab Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum Geneva[1]

The current Forth Industrial Revolution is being driven by; artificial intelligence (AI) technology and learning systems, biological advancements and the blur in the digital and ‘real’ worlds; we are all digitally connected to billions of people.

So, what does this have to do with Recycling Technologies?

Developed economies are moving towards establishing smart cities; which are defined as: scalable solutions that take advantage of information and communications technology (ICT) to increase efficiencies, reduce costs, and enhance quality of life.[2]

Advancements in technologies across all industries have paved the way for the waste management industry to implement affordable, efficient and practical solutions to achieve a mass of benefits. For example, innovations in renewable energy has led to the creation of automated sea cleaners.[3] Innovation in AI learning and GPS are supporting waste collection trucks to ‘learn’ routes as they drive and analyse real time waste collection. [4]

In Recycling Manufacturing, advancements in robotic / automated sorting technologies are widely available, and it is vital Australian facilities begin to implement more efficient technologies to keep up with the massive recycling demand and create a win-win-win-win solution.

Win for households (general public)

Improvements in waste management efficiencies will ultimately benefit households due to both decreased costs of collection and improved quality of life.  Currently, due to lack of demand for recycled products from China, the cost for councils to process waste has increased approx. 400%-500%.[5] The costs will be ultimately passed onto residents. 

This is a result of the lack of demand for recycled goods; meaning when recycling is collected and sorted in traditional facilities, there is no-one wanting to purchase the goods to create new products.

Therefore, there is massive opportunity for recycling facilities to transition from collection and sorting plants; to processing and manufacturing operations.  This will increase demand for goods and ultimately, reduce the costs for household.

Win for environment

In addition to cost increases, councils are beginning to abandon the recycling process all together. Ipswich City Council announced in April 2018 that China's import ban on recycling and the rising level of contaminated or non-recyclable rubbish in yellow bins meant it had become too costly for the city to recycle, so from now everything placed in yellow bins would go straight to landfill.[6]

With nowhere to send recycling, experts fear this will be copied by other councils across Australia.

Investments by industry and government in new manufacturing technologies to process recycling goods efficiently can support the reduction of recycling goods ending up in landfill. This includes investment into production efficiencies to increase capacity and reduce costs for recycling facilities.

Win for economy

Investment in recycling technologies will support greater economic benefits such as the development of a circular economy.  However, a circular economy can only occur with the investment in technologies and recycling processes to turn raw recycled materials efficiently into new products.

In April 2018, The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) called on both Federal and State Governments to implement their $150 million plan to 're-boot' the local recycling industry and spurn the creation of a circular economy.[7] Under the proposal, the money would be spent developing the manufacturing infrastructure needed to process recyclable waste domestically, rather than exporting it overseas.

As described by Green Industries SA, ‘A Circular Economy is an alternative to the wasteful traditional ‘linear’ economy based on ‘take, make, use and dispose’. It is a self-sustaining system driven by renewable energy and an imperative to keep material resources in use, or ‘circulating’ for as long as possible.’[8]

 Circular Economy Recycling.png 

Green Industries SA states that the creation of a Circular Economy would create 25,700 jobs in South Australia alone.[9] In addition to this figure, Chief executive of WMAA, Gayle Sloan said 10 jobs could be created for every 10,000 tonnes of recycled material in Australia. [10]

Win for business and industry  

Globally, manufacturing and processing industries (such as recycling facilities) are experiencing a major transition to automation (as sited above in the 4th Industrial Revolution).  With the China Export Ban, there is huge opportunity for Australian companies to invest in new machinery and recycling processes to leverage the current market opportunity.  This would result in business solving a major problem and thus, generating profits for stakeholders and the industry.

Australia can position itself as a global leader in the recycling field. Currently, the world’s first 'e-waste ‘micro-factory' has been launched at the University of New South Wales, allowing discarded smartphones and computerware to be transformed into valuable materials that can be reused for 3D printing.[11] This is just one example of how business and industry can utilise new, Industry 4.0 technologies in the recycling industry.


Container Deposit Systems believes the current recycling climate is just the start of what is to come.  Industry and government need to act now to ensure Australia can manage its increasing waste and businesses can continue to operate in a profitable environment.  Container Deposit Systems works with recycling facilities across Australia to support improvements in manufacturing and processing as well as identify opportunities for growth.  These improvements can be vital in ensuring recycling facilities can transition to the new recycling economy in Australia.

If your recycling facility is interested in seeing how you can leverage the current market opportunities, please contact our team today.


About Container Deposit Systems

Container Deposit Systems was formed with a vision to oversee the implementation of improved operational practices in recycling facilities.  The company offers a range of services to recycling depot facilities to drive productivity improvements and transition traditional recycling facilities into modern technically advanced operators.

The company achieve this through patented technologies which deliver manufacturing automation to auto-sort materials via a highly sensitive multi-sensor integration.  Systems integrations enable facilities to further gain efficiencies through workflows, materials handling, logistic processes, facility layout and design, customer interaction and data acquisition and management. 

Container Deposit Systems technologies are designed and manufactured in Australia with local partners Sage Automation and Macweld Engineering.

For more information, please contact us directly.  



[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/
[2] http://www.centreforcities.org/reader/smart-cities/what-is-a-smart-city/1-smart-cities-definitions/#fn-69
[3] https://www.ecowatch.com/solar-powered-vacuum-could-suck-up-24-000-tons-of-ocean-plastic-every--1882175554.html
[4] http://www.govtech.com/data/3-Cities-Pilot-Cloud-Based-App-Dashboards-to-Get-Smart-About-Trash-Recyclables.html
[5] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-19/queensland-council-recycling-dump-to-start-nationwide-reaction/9673370
[6] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-18/ipswich-recycling-all-being-dumped-in-landfill/9672064
[7] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-04/waste-industry-calls-for-circular-economy-and-action-plan/9618204
[8] https://www.greenindustries.sa.gov.au/circular-economy
[9] https://www.greenindustries.sa.gov.au/circular-economy
[10] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-04/waste-industry-calls-for-circular-economy-and-action-plan/9618204
[11] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/how-china-s-recycling-ban-is-hurting-australia