New recycling plant ushers in new era for recycling in Newcastle and the Hunter

23 May 2023

City of Newcastle (CN) will move forward with its landmark investment into the future of recycling in the region after awarding the contract to build Newcastle's first Material Recovery Facility (MRF).

Councillors unanimously voted on Tuesday evening to accept a $56.7 million tender from Australian-owned recyclables processor iQRenew to design and construct the MRF at CN's Summerhill Waste Management Facility.

The Central Coast based company will also be responsible for operating and maintaining the facility, which will be capable of processing up to 85,000 tonnes of recyclables per year.

The MRF will sort recyclables from residents' yellow-lid garbage bins into separate materials such as paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, steel and aluminium, which can then be on-sold to recyclers for use in the manufacture of new products.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the MRF will deliver a regional recycling solution designed to divert waste from landfill, cut greenhouse gas emissions and create local jobs.

"City of Newcastle is committed to delivering responsible, environmentally sustainable, and commercially feasible waste and recycling operations to manage our current and future waste streams," Cr Nelmes said.

"The sudden closure of the only MRF in the Hunter in 2020 meant recyclables from Newcastle had to be transported to a processing facility on the Central Coast. For other local councils their recyclables now have to be transported to Sydney at significant expense to their ratepayers.

"The establishment of a local, Council owned facility will remove around 6,000 tonnes of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions over the next 25 years while also ensuring almost 200,000 tonnes of recyclables from Newcastle homes are diverted from landfill.

"Beyond meeting the needs and expectations of Newcastle residents, the MRF's scalable processing capacity and optimal location close to the Hunter Expressway and M1 will make it an essential piece of regional infrastructure capable of servicing the entire region. City of Newcastle is progressing the design of a secondary access road as part of its Sustainable Waste Strategy, linking Summerhill Waste Management Centre to the Hunter Expressway and M1 following concept DA approval last year.

"The delivery of the MRF will also provide a major economic boost to our region, creating around 185 jobs during the construction and fit-out phase and up to 28 ongoing jobs when it becomes operational."

CN's plans to build the new facility have been overwhelmingly endorsed by the community, with ninety-eight per cent of residents surveyed during development of the project indicating their support.

A development application for the MRF is currently being assessed by the Hunter and Central Coast Regional Planning Panel, with a decision expected in the second half of 2023. Pending approval, preliminary earthworks for the project would begin later this year with construction of the facility expected to get underway in the first quarter of 2024.

The project has received $5 million from the Federal and NSW Governments and plays a key role in CN's Our Sustainable Waste Strategy, as well as addressing future government targets on waste diversion and recycling.