Indonesia sends back waste containers

The Indonesian Government has announced that it will ship 547 containers of contaminated waste back to their countries of origin, including 100 housing Australian material.

According to a Fairfax Media report, customs officers, police and environment department officials opened containers of contaminated Australian waste for the media on 18th Sept.

The containers contained mostly plastic, with some food waste and visible liquid.

Indonesian Customs Director General Heru Pambugi said three Australian companies had imported the contaminated plastic waste, including one that did not posses required import documents.

Nine containers have already been shipped, with the remainder to follow in separate shipments.

In response, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said WMRR acknowledges and agrees that Australia should be managing its own waste and resources.

Ms Sloan said while Australia does recycle millions of tonnes of waste on-shore, it needs to grow its demand and use of recovered resources.

“Global shifts have resulted in Australia needing to find homes domestically for our recyclables and this is certainly a positive aspiration,” Ms Sloan said.

“Industry does not want to export these materials, and we know that there are many good reasons to sell these materials right here in Australia and turn them back into packaging.”

Ms Sloan noted that contamination, which is a concern for international importers of recycled materials, is primarily a result of people using their household bins incorrectly.

“Of course, industry and government can and should do more, but so can every citizen by being more diligent about what they put into the yellow bin,” Ms Sloan said.

“What is still lacking in Australia, which is the fundamental reason material has been exported in the past, is greater certainty of remanufacturing pull.”

Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Shmigel said media reports about Australian recyclate material being returned by Indonesian authorities inappropriately undermines recycling efforts

“Less than 1.5 million tonnes of material from kerbside recycling was exported to overseas companies to make into products. Of that, some 65,000 tonnes went to Indonesia because buyers there bought it as feedstock for their factories – and there’s a lack of local demand for it,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Some 500 containers marked to be sent back by Indonesia that apparently don’t meet technical specifications is not substantial in the successful scheme of Australians’ recycling efforts.”

Mr Shmigel said off-spec material occurs in every industry.

“It is totally wrong to suggest that Australian recyclate export material is ‘toxic’. It is more likely to be material from our households that’s been earnestly but mistakenly put in the yellow bin,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Moreover, under the Prime Minister’s leadership, COAG has very recently decided – and industry has strongly welcomed – that material should no longer be exported and that we should become fully responsible for and more sovereign with our recycling.”

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Indonesia rejects Australian plastic waste

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) have confirmed, following a review, that the shipping container in Indonesia at the centre of recent media reports is from an Australian recycling company.

The container consists of approximately 13 tonnes of mixed plastic material derived from household kerbside recycling from suburban Melbourne.

According to a Fairfax Media report, the entire container is considered toxic by the Indonesian Environment department and is not acceptable for import.

In total, 65 containers from France, Germany, Hong Kong, the United States and Australia have been seized.

ACOR’s review was advised the material was not “toxic” however, and contained waste from council recycling bins, such as plastic containers for motor oil and food products.

In the statement, ACOR argued one shipping container should not define any specific company, or the wider Australian recycling system.

“It does though reflect the reality of what is collected from Australian ratepayers via councils’ kerbside recycling programs, and our industry’s subsequent attempts to do something useful with very heterogeneous material,” the statement reads.

“Similar container loads of exported mixed plastic have long met all expected requirements under both Australian and Indonesian law and policy. However, across Asia, authorities are changing their approaches in line with their own domestic circumstances.”

Of the 37 million total tonnes of waste annually diverted from landfill in Australia, four million tonnes are exported.

“Approximately 415,000 tonnes of plastic is recycled by Australia every year or some 11 per cent of our society’s total consumption,” the statement reads.

“Of that, some 235,000 tonnes are exported overall, and some 60,000 tonnes have been exported to Indonesia in the last twelve months or so, according to Federal Government figures.”

According to the statement, plastic exported to Indonesia represents approximately 1.5 per cent of total material exported for recycling.

“Material has historically been exported because overseas buyers pay for it as inputs to make useful products. In the case of mixed plastics in particular, there has historically been under capacity of domestic infrastructure and robust markets in Australia,” the statement reads.

“In Europe, unlike here, there are specific policies in place to promote domestic recycled content manufacturing. Without export, our recycling rate for plastics could fall to as low as five per cent.”

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Indonesia announces 100 per cent paper inspection rate

As of 1 April, all scrap paper imported to Indonesia must be inspected prior to shipment, according to a letter sent to exporters by Indonesian inspection agency Sucofindo.

Head of Sucofindo Andre Esfandiari said Indonesian Customs found discrepancies in scrap paper imports at the Tanjung Emas Surabaya port— causing them to declare the previous inspection standard of 10 per cent unacceptable.

In addition, two per cent of total shipment bales will be inspected to ensure imports meet the maximum impurity limit of 0.5 per cent.

A 100 per cent inspection rate already applies to steel and plastic scrap.

The decision follows similar restrictions in China and India, with China announcing plans to eliminate solid waste imports by 2020 and India banning solid plastic imports entirely.

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

New regulations will remain in place until the Ministry of Trade releases formal technical guidelines.

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Vinyl Council awards 17 companies for stewardship excellence

The Vinyl Council of Australia has awarded 17 companies that achieved PVC Stewardship Excellence this year.

Companies who have achieved perfect scores in compliance with a set of stringent criteria related to the production and supply of vinyl related products are eligible for the award.

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The Australian PVC Stewardship Program began in 2002 to educate and guide the local vinyl industry to become stewards of their products throughout the entire life cycle of their products.

It binds signatories to continuous improvement in the environmental footprint of their products, whether they manufacture locally or overseas.

Importers and distributors of finished products are required to engage with their entire supply chain overseas to ensure they are compliant to the program.

Signatories are required to report annually against the criteria and each company’s performance is measured and benchmarked against the industry.

The stewardship commitments and targets related to best practice manufacturing, including raw material sourcing, safe and sustainable use of additives, energy and greenhouse gas emissions of PVC product manufacturers, resource efficiency, and transparency and engagement.

The winners of the 2017 Excellence in PVC Stewardship Awards include:

  • Australian Plastic Profiles
  • Australian Vinyls Corporation
  • Baxter Healthcare
  • Chemiplas Australia
  • Chemson Pacific
  • Formosa Plastics Corporation, Taiwan
  • Iplex Pipelines Australia
  • Pipemakers
  • Primaplas Australia
  • PT Asahimas Chemical, Indonesia
  • RBM Plastics Extrusions (new signatory in 2017)
  • Serge Ferrari (new signatory in 2017)
  • Sun Ace Australia
  • Speciality Polymers and Chemicals
  • Tarkett Australia
  • Techplas Extrusions
  • Vinidex

The Vinyl Council’s PVC Stewardship Manager Laveen Dhillon said all 17 companies have excelled, with 10 of this year’s award recipients receiving the award for the award for the first time, including two signatories that had joined the program in 2017.

“These signatories worked with the Vinyl Council to map out their entire supply chain so as to address relevant program commitments. All the Award recipients should be recognised as industry leaders who have worked in collaboration with their supply chains to meet and exceed program goals” Ms Dhillon said.

“Transparency through the supply chain is essential to improve efficiency, reduce impact and track the practices of suppliers. One signatory reported finding that communication and credibility among its suppliers has improved each year, as it has repeatedly requested stewardship information. We hope transparency and engagement continues to improve in this way.”

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