700 jobs at risk as Australia’s biggest plastic and chemical manufacturer goes bust

Australia’s biggest plastics and chemical manufacturer has been plunged into voluntary administration putting 700 jobs at risk across two states and creating fears for the country’s recycling abilities.

The company called Qenos has been hit with multimillion-dollar losses and increased energy costs over the past couple of years and operates factories in Sydney and Melbourne.

On Wednesday, it was announced that it had gone bust with McGrathNicol appointed as voluntary administrators.

Staff were informed of the company’s collapse in meetings on Wednesday, with the firm operating a factory in Altona, in Melbourne’s west, which employs 450 staff, as well as a factory in Botany, Sydney with 250 workers.

The Sydney factory is set to be closed as part of the company’s collapse – although it hasn’t operated since February 2023, reported The Australian.

Qenos produces plastic resin products and is one of Australia’s biggest chemical manufacturers and plastic makers.

Experts have previously warned that it would be almost impossible to establish an end-to-end recycling industry for plastic in Australia if Qenos factories were closed down.

The National Plastics Plan 2021 sets out a 70 per cent target of plastic packaging to be recycled by next year.

2GB broadcaster Mark Levy told his audience last week that the flow-on effects from Qenos’ closure could ruin that plan.

“They can forget about it if Qenos shuts,” Mr Levy said.

“In 2022, Qenos launched a feasibility study with Cleanaway to break down 1000 tonnes a year of packaging into its chemical components then back to a resin for future use.

“(That) is the same weight as two Sydney Harbour Bridges, that is a lot of recycled plastic.

“That 100,000 tonnes of plastic will now end up in landfill.”

Chinese owner of Qenos, China National Chemical, recently sold the company to property developer Logos.

News.com.au has reached out to McGrathNicol for comment.

It comes as a record number of businesses across Australia are collapsing.

Credit reporting agency CreditorWatch revealed that the number of external administrators appointed to Australian businesses had hit a record high and was now 22.1 per cent higher than a year ago.

Manufacturing has been particularly hard hit, with news.com.au reporting on a number of failed companies.

These include a collapsed group of manufacturing companies based out of a Western Sydney factory, with 12 companies linked to Sydney-based cabinet making and panelling factory GDK Group going into liquidation, amassing debts of $78 million.

Meanwhile, Melbourne-based company MadeCo, which was responsible for kitchen manufacturing, went into voluntary administration in March with 30 employees impacted and $2.5 million in debt.

Other recent collapses include workers at two NSW factories who slammed their former employer after the company went bust, leaving them and other creditors multiple millions out of pocket.

In February, Cubitt’s Granny Flats and Home Extensions announced that it had made the “devastating decision” to put itself into voluntary administration with $5.6m in liabilities.

There was also a company involved in the construction sector collapsed with just $6 left in its bank account and now owes creditors more than $2 million.

Last year, Queensland LNP Senator Gerard Rennick said Australia’s tax incentives have made it difficult for large scale manufacturing organisations to compete in Australia.

– with Emma Kirk