The loss of the last aluminium recycling plant in NSW is a blow for sustainability as well as jobs, because the plant has the potential to save 95 per cent of the energy used to manufacture aluminium from scratch, according to environmental experts.
Alcoa has announced it will close the plant in Yennora, leaving 180 workers out of jobs. It will also close its Point Henry aluminium smelter and rolling mill in Geelong, costing another 800 jobs.
Stuart White, director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, said the decision to close the NSW recycling plant was disappointing for the state.
''Aluminium recycling is one of the most clear-cut cases of the energy benefits of recycling materials, rather than producing from virgin materials,'' he said.
''If we are wanting to move to a situation where we are recovering a whole range of minerals from the urban sector, shifting our mining from what's under the ground to what's above the ground, then this is an unfortunate development.''
Professor White is working with the CSIRO looking at generating wealth from waste materials.
Jeff Angel from the Total Environment Centre said recycling aluminium saved 95 per cent of the energy used in the production and manufacture of aluminium. ''I think it is fundamentally better that you have your own domestic recycling industry and certainly the use of recycled material, whether it is plastic, paper or aluminium, is an important energy cost saving for manufacturing,'' he said.
''You are avoiding the transport costs of importing the material.
''Having a good stream of recycling material is a good resource security and you don't have to rely so much on imports.''
Institute for Sustainable Futures research director Damien Giurco, whose father works at the Point Henry smelter in Victoria, said the decision to close the recycling plant was disappointing for Australia's sustainability future.
''Recovery of wealth from waste is going to be increasingly important economically and for the environment,'' he said.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW secretary Tim Ayres said the decision to close the recycling plant in western Sydney was the next wave of blue-collar job losses in the region. He said it was also a blow to the state's environmental sustainability.
The federal and state governments blamed the carbon tax for Alcoa's closure, but the company said the carbon tax was not a factor in its decision to close.
The company is in receipt of sizeable carbon offsets estimated to be about $200 million. A spokeswoman would not comment on the estimate, saying such information was commercial in confidence.