187 countries agree to regulate plastic trade

The United Nations has announced amendments to the Basel Convention, including the characterisation of plastic as a hazardous material.

The Basel Convention controls the movement of hazardous waste from one country to another, and with 187 signatories is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on waste.

The amendment was approved by Australia and 186 other countries following a two week conference. Noticeably absent was the United States, the largest plastic waste exporter in the world.

The United States was one of two countries not to ratify the agreement.

UN Environment Executive Secretary Rolph Payet said plastic waste had reached epidemic proportions, with an estimated 100 million tonnes found in the world’s oceans.

“Governments this week amended the Basel Convention to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework,” Mr Payet said.

“Which will make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, while also ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment.”

Mr Payet said a new Partnership on Plastic Waste will be established to assist with implementing the new measures.

“The partnership will provide a set of practical supports including tools, best practices, technical and financial assistance for this ground-breaking agreement,” Mr Payet said.

Break Free From Plastic Global Coordinator Von Hernandez, who attended the conference, said the amendment will require exporters to obtain the consent of receiving countries before shipping most contaminated, mixed, or un-recyclable plastic waste.

“After China banned imports of most plastic waste in 2018, developing countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, have received a huge influx of contaminated and mixed plastic wastes that are difficult or even impossible to recycle,” Mr Hernandez said.

“This decision provides an important tool for countries in the Global South to stop the dumping of unwanted plastic waste into their country.”

BaliFokus Co-Founder Yuyun Ismawati, who also attended the conference, said the amendment would force higher standards of responsible plastic waste management.

Ms. Ismawati said Indonesia had received an additional 184,702 tons of plastic waste following China’s National Sword policy – with imports increasing by 141 per cent and exports decreasing by 48 per cent.

“Toxic plastics disposed by rich communities in other countries will no longer become the burden of poor communities,” Ms Ismawati said.

According to the 2018 National Waste Report, Indonesia is Australia’s second-largest waste destination, taking 19 per cent of total waste exports.

The amendment follows a recent Malaysian investigation into illegal plastic waste imports and an Indian ban on the material.

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Recycling company wins Governor of Victoria export award

Lithium battery processing company Envirostream Australia has won the Regional Exporter Award in the 2018 Governor of Victoria Export Awards (GOVEA).

The awards are open to a range of industry sectors, including the waste and recycling industry and showcase some of the state’s most successful and innovative exporters.

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The company recovers 95 per cent of the materials contained in energy storage battery and sells the steel, copper and aluminium into national markets to be manufactured into new projects.

It began operating recycling facility in the Melbourne suburb of Campbellfield which is able to recover 40 tonnes of batteries per month on each processing line.

Envirostream has partnered with Planet Ark and other stakeholders to develop a battery collection and recycling program that uses battery recycling  and high material recovery.

“We believe this model will challenge the status quo in the recycling industry by adding value in Australia before exporting. This model creates jobs, decreases the cost to recycle and increases the recycling rate of batteries,” Envirostream Australia Director Andrew Mackenzie said.

The GOVEA are open to all Victorian exporters, regardless of size or total export sales.

Winners of the awards are automatically placed as finalists in the national Australian Export Awards.

The Winners:

  • Exporter of the Year – Leica Biosystems
  • Export Award for Innovation Excellence – Sealite
  • Emerging Exporter Award – FitMyCar
  • Victorian Women in International Business Award – Dr Ewa Douroux, Business Services Manager from Leica Biosystems
  • Agribusiness Award – Hussey and Company
  • Business Services Award – OMC International
  • Creative Industries Award – FanHubMedia
  • eCommerce Award – DPP Pharmaceuticals
  • Education and Training Award – IDP Education
  • Environmental Solutions Award – GeoFabrics Australasia
  • Digital Technologies Award – Catapult
  • Health and Biotechnology Award – Leica Biosystems
  • Manufacturing Award – Bosch Australia
  • Minerals, Energy, and Related Services Award – Business For Millennium Development
  • Regional Exporter Award – Envirostream Australia
  • Small Business Award – Cornerstone Solutions

Pictured Left to Right: Victorian Trade Minister Philip Dalidakis, Envirostream National Development Manager John Polhill, Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau. 

National Sword could displace 111M tonnes of plastic waste by 2030

An estimated 111 million metric tonnes of plastic waste will be displaced by China’s National Sword policy by 2030 around the world, according to new research.

The Chinese import ban and its impact on global waste trade research paper published in the journal Science Advances reports that new global ideas are needed to reduce the amount of non-recyclable materials, including redesigning products and funding domestic plastic waste management.

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The report, authored by researchers at the University of Georgia, said China had imported 106 million tonnes of plastic waste since 1992, which makes up more than 45 per cent of total global plastic imports.

The National Sword Policy has implemented new restrictions on the contamination rate for imported waste, requiring a cleaner and more processed version of materials such as plastics, metals, paper, cardboard and textiles.

“The displaced plastic waste is equal to nearly half (47 per cent) of all plastic waste that has been imported globally since reporting began in 1988,” the report said.

“Only 9% of plastic waste has been recycled globally, with the overwhelming majority of global plastic waste being landfilled or ending up contaminating the environment (80 per cent).

“Plastic packaging and single-use items enter the waste stream immediately after use, contributing to a cumulative total of 6.3 billion MT of plastic waste generated worldwide.”

The report warns that if no adjustments are made in solid waste management, then much of the waste that would have been diverted from landfill by customers paying for a recycling service will be landfilled.

“Both the displaced plastic waste and future increases in plastic recycling must be addressed immediately. Initially, the countries exporting the most plastic waste can use this as an opportunity to develop and expand internal markets,” the report said.

“If domestic recycling of plastic waste is not possible, then this constraint reinforces the motivation to reduce use and redesign plastic packaging and products so that they retain their value and are more recyclable in domestic markets.”

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.