Australia will begin a phased ban of exporting waste internationally from July. Picture: Graham Crouch
Australia will begin a phased ban of exporting waste internationally from July. Picture: Graham Crouch

Huge change coming to recycling

Australia will ban the export of recyclable waste from its shores, with a phase-out of the expensive and controversial practice beginning in July next year.

A meeting of federal, state and territory environment ministers today has devised a timeline to cease sending plastic, paper, glass and tyres internationally.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged the ban after the last Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in August, and today's agreement has set in stone a staggered process to allow jurisdictions time to adjust.

"Ministers will further test the timetable with industry and local government, while also developing response strategies and undertaking independent market analysis," the agreement states.

At present, when households and businesses put rubbish into recycling bins, just 12 per cent of that material is processed in Australia.

The remainder has been shipped to other countries - until recently most of it has wound up in China and Indonesia - at a hefty cost.

Last year, China banned imports of Australian waste and Indonesia has sent back shipments that were contaminated with non-recyclable waste, including soiled nappies and food.

 

In September, Indonesia sent back waste sent by Australia that contained ‘illegal’ rubbish among recyclable items. Picture: Graham Crouch
In September, Indonesia sent back waste sent by Australia that contained ‘illegal’ rubbish among recyclable items. Picture: Graham Crouch

 

From July 2020, glass waste will be banned for export, followed by mixed waste plastics the following year and all while tyres in December 2021.

All remaining waste products, including mixed paper and cardboard, will be banned no later than June 30, 2022.

"This timetable reflects the unique challenges of each jurisdiction, and the preparedness of some jurisdictions to complete the phase-out ahead of schedule," the agreement states.

"All jurisdictions acknowledged resourcing, from Commonwealth, states and territories, and

industry will be required to effectively implement the ban."

 

About 12 per cent of recyclable waste is processed in Australia – the rest is sent offshore. Picture: Graham Crouch
About 12 per cent of recyclable waste is processed in Australia – the rest is sent offshore. Picture: Graham Crouch

 

Today's agreement also committed to an ambitious waste reduction target under a new National Waste Action plan.

It aims to make Australia a world leader in waste management and recycling and includes an 80 per cent recovery rate of material across all waste streams.

"All ministers have committed to identifying any significant procurement opportunities over

coming months such as major road projects that could use significant amounts of recycled

material," the agreement states.

"The Commonwealth agreed to take a leading role. This reflects a wider commitment from the Commonwealth and states to drive procurement strategies for recycled material.

"The Commonwealth Government will prioritise work with states and territories and relevant industry and standards bodies to develop engineering specifications and standards to support

the use of recycled materials in building, construction and infrastructure development, for use

across all jurisdictions."


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