Waste Taskforce created in WA in response to National Sword

A Waste Taskforce has been created in WA in response to China’s National Sword policy.

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson created the taskforce to advise on waste management in WA, following consultation with state and local governments, the waste industry and community stakeholders.

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The group’s first meeting is planned for 9 April 2018, where it will consider its objectives, scope and governance arrangements.

It will provide advice on how to ensure WA van respond effectively to the National Sword policy and build on the current domestic recycling options.

The taskforce will directly advise the WA Minister for Environment on recycling market issues and opportunities in the state and aims to align with the national actions taken.

Short, medium and long-term opportunities will be explored by the taskforce and will take the WA Waste Strategy and the promotion of a circular economy.

The Waste Taskforce will be chaired by Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment Baldivis MLA Reece Whitby and will include representatives from the Waste Authority and Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, local government and regional councils, the waste services and recycling industry, the packaging industry, Aboriginal and community groups, and key government agencies.

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the recycling sector at a state and national level is facing market challenges caused by fluctuating commodity prices and international policy decisions.

“This is also having an impact on the cost of waste management services,” Mr Dawson said.

“While a national response is important, it is also imperative that local opportunities to support recycling in WA are developed – and the Waste Taskforce will play a critical role in achieving this,” he said.

“I look forward to receiving advice from the Waste Taskforce on how we can support a thriving recycling sector in WA.”

NSW Government’s $47M National Sword package

The NSW Government has announced it will release a $47 million package to support local government and industry in response to China’s National Sword policy.

China is the largest importer of recyclable materials from Australia, and the new policy restricts the types of waste that will be accepted.

A one-off package is planned to respond to this, and is funded by the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative and aims to provide short, medium and long term initiative to ensure kerbside recycling continues.

The funding will allow councils to offset extra costs associated with kerbside collections, improve council tendering processes to increase production and use of recycled products, and fund community education to reduce recycling contamination.

The package also includes $9.5 million for industry and local government to invest in infrastructure projects to find new uses for recyclable materials and reduce the amount of unrecyclable materials at the end of the process.

Guidelines have been set in place to ensure applicants seeking funding address the National Sword policy, represent better value for money and demonstrate benefits for the community.

Recycling facilities can also apply to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to temporarily vary their stockpile limits, with facilities being assessed to demonstrate appropriate safety measures remain in place.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the NSW Government is committed to working with the recycling industry and local councils to ensure it continues having a strong kerbside recycling system.

“I have met with industry and government stakeholders to hear first-hand about how we can address the current global challenges to the recycling market in NSW,” Ms Upton said.

“The short-term need for increased stockpiles of recycled material during this critical time must be balanced with the safety of the community and the environment,” she said.

An inter-government taskforce is also being established to urgently progress a longer-term response to National Sword in partnership with industry and councils.

“I have also written to the Federal Environment Minister to urgently progress the work on this issue and the long-term solutions at a national level.”

The Australian Council of Recycling has welcomed the NSW Government’s recycling package.

“In the context of the unprecedented impact of China’s new settings on Australia’s recycling system, the NSW Government package can help relieve short-term pressure while also building longer-term resilience for the recycling system. That’s an important step forward to ensuring that recycling can continue to deliver job and environmental benefits for NSW residents,” ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said.

“It is good to also note that the NSW Government is urging a national approach and we will be calling on all Ministers to adopt an Australian Recycling Resilience Plan to future-focus our industry and drive toward a circular economy that makes fullest use of what comes out of our homes and onto our kerbs,” he said.

“It’s time to shift from ‘crisis’ mode to claiming recycling’s potential as a major national industry of the future.”

 

How many recyclables are affected by China waste ban?

Cans for recycling in a container deposit scheme

Consultancy firm Blue Environment was asked by the Federal Government to analyse the amount of waste being sent to China before the ban on contaminants began.

China’s ban on waste with contaminants of more than 0.5 per cent have led to commodity price reductions, stockpiling and instability in the provision of recycling collection services, according to Blue Environment.

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The data showed that 1.25 million tonnes of waste was exported to China in 2016-17, with 920 thousand tonnes made up of paper and cardboard, 203 thousand tonnes of metal and 125 thousand tonnes of plastics.

Blue Environment also report that 99 per cent of waste from the 2016-17 period were affected by these new restrictions.

According to the data, China made up the majority of exported materials in plastics and paper and cardboards, making up 68 and 63 per cent of the total recyclable material exports.

Blue Environment said the data should be considered preliminary and may change with further consideration.

You can read the full data set here. 

Queensland Forum to discuss China waste ban

The Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ) is hosting the Queensland Secondary Resources Forum to address issues impacting kerbside recycling and international challenges.

The forum aims to discuss the Chinese Government’s decision to restrict the amount of waste being imported and how it effects Queensland domestic recycling capabilities.

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It also will attempt to highlight how Queensland can lead the nation in recycling rates to grow the sector locally and increase investment.

Keynote speakers and industry experts will be presenting at the forum and sharing insights and outcomes that outline how Queensland can deliver a new recycling business environment.

In particular, the presentations will address the impacts of the National Sword policy and how local recycling can be improved. Presenters of day one (afternoon) include speakers from the energy, metals and plastics industries as well as material recovery facility operators. Day two (morning) will focus on the state government policy updates and includes a workshop that will discuss and produce solutions and opportunities to deliver back to the Queensland Government for its policy consideration.

The event is supported by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the Bundaberg Regional Council.

The forum takes place on the 26-27 April and will be hosted in the Bundaberg Multiplex Centre, 1 Civic Street, Bundaberg West.

Tickets are $195 until 15 April and $220 standard (not including GST). Click here to register. 

China launches Blue Sky 2018 to replace National Sword

Chinese customs authorities have launched a new waste imports inspections program – Blue Sky 2018.

It runs from March to December 2018 and replaces China’s National Sword program, which ran last year and was preceded by Green Fence.

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Blue Sky 2018’s attention is on the 24 categories of solid waste added to the list of imports bans in 2017, which includes plastics waste, unsorted waste paper and waste textile materials with a contaminant level of more than 0.5 per cent.

A spokesperson for the General Administration of Customs, Zhang Guangzhi, told Letsrecycle.com that it is fully committed to “investigating a number of large-scale smuggling cases of wastes, eradicating a number of smuggling gangs and cutting off a number of smuggling routes and chains of rubbish, and resolutely blocking ‘foreign rubbish’.”

During the operation, the Customs and Excise Department will also reportedly work with the relevant local authorities to promote “comprehensive anti-smuggling work in a concerted manner”.

Mr Guangzhi said that customs would strengthen its links with relevant law enforcement departments, including environmental protection and quality inspection to stop illegal operations and “foreign garbage” shops, with this process coordinated by local government.

 

 

 

 

 

Look at contracts: WALGA hosts China waste ban session

Western Australia’s peak local government body has written to the state’s Environment Minister requesting a taskforce of state, local government and waste industry representatives to focus on local processing and reprocessing options.

It follows two information sessions on the impact of China’s ban on 24 categories of solid waste with a contaminant rate of 0.5 per cent. The WA Local Government Association (WALGA) hosted more than 80 representatives from over 30 local governments.

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In its newsletter, WALGA said the key messages from the sessions were to keep on recycling, look at contracts, develop local markets and advocate for changes in packaging design.

“It is important for local governments to ensure residents continue recycling, with a focus on reducing contamination in the kerbside recycling bin. There are still viable markets for collected material,” it said.

WALGA advise local government to look at their contractual arrangements with service providers and that local governments should consider whether their contracts include rise and fall clauses.

“WALGA will continue to advocate for changes to packaging design to ensure products are recyclable and that consistent labelling on recyclability is used by the packaging industry to assist residents with source separation.”

In other news, WALGA is also establishing a working group to investigate ways to reduce illegal dumping. Expressions of interest are requested from local government officers by Thursday, 29 March. For more information, complete the online survey here. 

Vict Govt responds to China waste ban

In response to China’s National Sword decision, Victorian councils and industry will be provided a $13 million package to support the ongoing collection of household waste.

The assistance will go towards helping councils and industries that have been affected by the China policy, giving them and their contractors time to develop longer-term solutions, including renegotiating contracts.

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The Victorian Government has also moved to establish a recycling industry taskforce to develop a plan for industry transition.

The decision comes not long after the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) called for a suite of measures to improve the situation.

The VWMA in a statement welcomed the opportunity to represent its member base on any proposed taskforce and said it has been assured by relevant government agencies that it will have a seat at the table. It advocated for the taskforce to have fair representation of the waste and resource recovery sector, including small and medium operators and the waste transport sector. It said the taskforce should be steered by principles such as a competitive resource recovery sector and circular economy principles that prioritise local jobs over exports or landfilling.

China has not banned the importation of waste entirely but new restrictions on the contamination rate means that they require a cleaner and more processed version of these materials.

“While recycling is ultimately a matter for local councils, we’re stepping in to help councils and industry affected by China’s new import rules,” said Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio.

“This is about protecting jobs and ensuring Victorians have confidence to continue recycling.”

Council assistance will be provided until 30 June, though they will be required to meet an increase in recycling costs from 1 July.

 

VWMA calls for increased resource recovery investment

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has called for a suite of measures to solve the nation’s recycling crisis, including increased state government investment and reviews of contractual models for waste and resource recovery.

It comes after China’s recent clamp down on the export of recyclable materials of a contamination level of more than 0.5 per cent. The decision covers 24 categories of solid waste, and covers countries such as Japan, USA, Australia and others. China was Australia’s largest market for the export of recyclable materials, but has tightened its restrictions.

National Sword, an extension of China’s Green Fence Policy, will see inspections on recyclable materials such as paper and various grades of post-consumer plastics being imported into China.

In the same week, the Victorian Government announced a $13 million package to go towards helping councils and industries that have been affected by the China policy. The Victorian Government has also moved to establish a recycling industry taskforce to develop a plan for industry transition, a decision welcomed by the VWMA.

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VWMA believes the problem that exists with materials that recycling exporters send to China (and materials that maybe caught up in the inspection program) is that streams can be highly contaminated due to poor recycling practices and sorting, which can originate back to the household (or point of generation).

“The VWMA does not comment specifically on commercial contracts in place between organisations, however the current situation can be attributed to a range of factors that contracting parties have knowingly entered into – this includes fixed priced collection in a commodity sensitive environment and dependencies on export markets,” the organisation said in a statement.

“The VWMA does not support compensation or bailouts as an appropriate response to the current situation. We are focused on medium and long term sustainable solutions for our members and Victorians, and are engaged with the Victorian Government and other related organisations and associations as required to advocate for these medium and longer terms solutions.”

The VWMA Executive met on February 20 to discuss National Sword and its impacts to Victoria, noting that a range of factors created the current recycling issue in the state, including:

  • The export of recyclable material and global (fluctuating) commodity markets.
  • Contractual models that favour one party over another and do not distribute risk.
  • Public awareness and appropriate waste and recycling disposal practice by households.
  • Public confidence in the waste and recycling system.
  • The essentialness of maintaining waste and recycling services for Victorians.

The VWMA acknowledges that China’s decision means a global market reset is being experienced and no one knows what this reset will mean or how long ambiguity around recycling markets may exist.

The VWMA advocates a collaborative approach between industry and government on this matter with the following areas to be prioritised by state and local government:

  • Contractual models for waste and resource recovery contracts: Review the contractual models for waste and resource recovery contracts which may include splitting contracts, linking contracts to an indexed commodity price and a greater distribution of risk between all parties.
  • Unlocking the state government’s Sustainability Fund: Increased state government investment (via low-interest loans and grants) to the private sector and local government (which could include public-private partnerships for larger investments) targeted at all aspects of Victoria’s waste and resource recovery system. These would include waste collection/transports, processing facilities and other infrastructure. The intent of this investment would be to create self-sustainable outcomes (in-line with the Sustainability Fund’s objectives) through value-added product created in Victoria from the materials we all throw out. This investment would also stimulate jobs in construction and manufacturing. The Sustainability Fund receives money from Victorian landfill levies.
  • Stimulate local markets: Where appropriate all levels of government, including federal, should seek to stimulate markets for recovery through minimum requirements in procurement contracts. This would drive local demand for value added product and support broader government initiative around the concepts of circular economy. Options should also consider waste to energy as a viable option for Victoria.
  • Community are engaged and brought along to understand the essential nature of the service that is provided to them: The state’s waste and resource recovery system exists to support Victorians and all Victorians have a civil responsibility to engage in appropriate waste disposal practices (this includes things such as recycling correctly, not throwing dangerous goods into the bin and littering). The Victorian Government should begin to have this conversation with the community and involve industry.

“Victoria’s success in kerbside collection can in large part be attributed to the collaboration between government and industry. The VWMA supports continued engagement with all levels of Industry on this matter,” said VWMA Executive Officer, Mark Smith.

“The Victorian waste and resource recovery system exists to support a prosperous and healthy Victoria. We all generate waste and this waste needs to be managed. Community need to be brought in on the conversation so they understand their role in generating waste and disposing of that waste correctly.”

 

 

NWRIC warns recycling contracts could face default

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) have warned that without urgent action to address market changes, Australian recycling contracts could face default.

It follows the controversial move by the Chinese government to reduce the imports of 24 categories of solid waste.

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The Chinese National Sword initiative, a continuation of its Green Fence program, has also tightened standards on import contamination by limiting which businesses can obtain scrap import licenses. The NWRC explained this means lower contamination levels and fewer import licenses issued.

Following their latest meeting, the NWRIC believe that without significant changes to the current market, kerbside and commercial recycling contracts could be cancelled.

Re-negotiating contracts between local governments and recycling providers, increasing stockpiling allowances where environmentally safe, and assistance from the Federal Government were identified as strategies to help the current market.

The best long-term solution to the problem is reinvigorating local re-manufacturing capacity, according to NWRIC.

Recycling market shortfalls can lead to large stockpiles of papers and plastics, which could lead to a fire hazard.

“The NWRIC is urging all customers, including local government and commercial waste generators, to meet with their recycling supplier to plan for these sudden and unforeseen changes,” said Chairman of the NWRIC, Phil Richards.

Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW Executive Director, Tony Khoury said that thoroughly checking firefighting and emergency equipment is vitally important.

“In relation to unprocessed stockpiles or bales of stored sorted material, please ensure that you comply with your Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and development approval requirements,” Mr Khoury said.

“If you are approaching your authorised, lawful stock pile limits, please consider your options (negotiate with EPA, find alternate drop-off facilities, talk to your council or commercial clients).”

According to Mr Khoury, there is at least one fire per week at NSW waste facilities which account for up to 10 per cent of firefighter’s work time.