India bans solid plastic imports

India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has announced changes to hazardous waste laws, reversing exemptions from its 2016 ban on solid plastic imports.

Under previous laws, companies in designated economic development areas were exempt from the ban.

The change comes after the country saw an increase in waste imports as a result of the market vacuum generated by China’s National Sword policy.

The export oriented units clause, which gave local governments the ability to procure resources from abroad, has also been removed.

The ministry said changes were made in accordance with the ‘Make in India initiative’ by simplifying procedures and upholding principals of sustainable development and lessened environmental impact.

The ‘Make in India’ initiative was launched in 2014 with the goal of making India a sustainable global manufacturing hub.

The change follows India’s commitment to phase out single-use plastics by 2022.

Some of the features of the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Amendment Rules, 2019, include prohibiting solid plastic was from being imported into the country, including in special economic zones and by export orientated units.

Electrical and electronic assemblies and components manufactured in and exported from India, if found defective can now be imported back into the country, within a year of export, without obtaining permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Related stories:

The NWRIC’s visionary policy

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO Rose Read highlights the association’s priorities in 2019 and its long-term plan for resource recovery in Australia. 

Read more

NSW EPA awards $3.6 million to boost recycling

The NSW Environment Protection Authority is awarding more than $3.6 million to waste and reprocessing facilities and manufacturing plants to increase recycling.

The grants have been awarded under the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s $802 million Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, the largest waste and recycling funding program in Australia.

Related stories:

NSW EPA open $9.5M grants to counter National Sword
NSW EPA to develop 20-year waste strategy
Waste Less, Recycle More grants timetable revealed

NSW EPA Executive Director of Waste and Resource Recovery Carmen Dwyer said the funding will help waste and recycling facilities invest in new infrastructure and respond to changing recycling markets.

“Nine projects have been successful in accessing a total of $3,654,000 in funding through the Product Improvement Program.

“The funding will support licensed waste facilities, reprocessing facilities and manufacturing plants to increase recycling of waste materials from households and businesses, in a cost-effective manner.

“Projects funded include boosting the recycling of foam, increasing recycling of kerbside plastics, reducing contamination in recycling of paper and plastics and processing crushed glass for use in road base,” she said.

Ms Dwyer said the funding will also help mitigate the effects of China’s National Sword Policy by improving the quality of recycled materials, increasing the capacity to recover and reprocess waste materials and stimulate local remanufacturing capacity in NSW.

Packaging MFA reveals recycling challenges and opportunities

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) this week launched a Packaging Materials Flow Analysis (MFA), a new report developed in partnership with the Institute of Sustainable Futures (ISF) mapping the current state of post-consumer packaging in Australia.

Commissioned on behalf of APCO, the report highlights a compelling need to improve packaging recovery and recycling rates across all material streams.

In 2017/18 Australians generated an estimated 4.4 million tonnes of total packaging waste, with 68 per cent of this collected, and 56 per cent of the collection total recovered by recycling efforts. This ranged from 32 per cent for plastics and up to 72 per cent for paper streams – highlighting a significant opportunity to improve waste management practices to achieve higher recovery rates.

Of the 4.4 million tonnes, the report shows 44 per cent was landfilled, 33 per cent went to local secondary material utilisation, 19 per cent exported, four per cent stockpiled and more than 0.5 per cent to energy recovery.

The MFA Report is one of several APCO initiatives being conducted during the foundation phase of the targets (2019-2020) – the groundwork stage that focuses on research, engaging stakeholders and setting baselines and frameworks.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said that to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets, we need to first understand the journey materials take along the entire supply chain and establish a baseline of data to measure change and interventions. She said that the MFA is first step in this process.

As a critical first step in achieving the 2025 national packaging targets for all material to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, the report outlines the current journey of Australia’s packaging waste from bin to landfill or reprocessing, identifies significant data and infrastructure challenges in the system and models five potential solutions for the future.

Related stories:

One of the challenges is the major losses to landfill to recoverable materials occurring before waste is collected for sorting at materials recycling facilitates (MRFs) or container deposit scheme collections. The report attributes this to incorrect disposal of packaging wastes by households and businesses.

“Better management of this waste at the source, through improved source separation, is important. Critically, consumer education and awareness raising around appropriate disposal and collection channels, as well as smarter design of packaging for recycling, are also key strategies. These are already supported by the new Australasian Recycling label (ARL) and the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP),” the report says.

Additionally, the report shows the opportunity to increase sorting efficiency by diverting materials, especially glass, from kerbside to the expanding container deposit scheme collections. It finds better sorting equipment will also support improvements in contaminant removal. The report shows there are about 100 MRFs in operation across Australia, with throughput capacities ranging from 5000 to 250,000 tonnes per annum. Around 45 per cent of the total packaging waste stream for 2017/17 gets directed to MRFs and their capabilities for efficiently sorting co-mingled and highly contaminated waste is indicated to be a major factor limiting packaging sorting efficiency in Australia.

“Upgrading existing MRF capabilities is difficult and expensive owing to market uncertainties (e.g., caused by Chinese waste import restrictions), making the case for improving up-stream source separation and collection stronger,” the report says.

Future modelling shows potential to achieve an overall packaging waste recovery rate of 77 per cent, assuming a range of strategies are adopted to address losses across the whole chain, from collection to processing.

With glass packaging, the estimated recovery rate is just over 50 per cent and 23 per cent of glass waste disposed to the residual stream. About 80,000 tonnes of glass is collected and sorted through container deposit collection systems.

The investigation in particular highlights the importance of improving source separation, particularly for plastics to address residuals, a priority for paper in reducing contamination (embedded glass fines) that could be achieved with separated paper or glass separation and diverting glass to CDS to improve the quality of the stream to be suitable for bottle to bottle recycling.

Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS) Research Director and co-author of the report Dr Nick Florin said that there is great potential to step-up material recovery from the current overall recovery rate of 56 per cent and at the same time increase demand for recycled materials to drive the transition to a circular economy for packaging.

“APCO, as the central product stewardship organisation, is well placed to support this coordinated transition that involves cooperation between consumers, designers, recyclers and packaging manufactures,” Dr Florin said.

The MFA also highlighted significant data and infrastructure gaps that need to be addressed before the 2025 targets can be achieved. These findings will be used to inform additional packaging and recycling research to develop a complete picture of the current system.

Ms Donnelly said we can’t implement effective and meaningful changes to the system if we don’t first have a complete and accurate picture.

“A collaborative approach will be critical to building this. The challenge ahead of us requires a complete transformation of the current system. Over the next 12 months, APCO will be leading an ambitious agenda of projects to build on the findings of the MFA. We look forward to working closely with all stakeholders as we transition to a circular model for packaging in Australia,” she said.

Throughout 2018 APCO also facilitated a series of five, year-long industry working groups attended by more than 80 industry members from across the value chain and government to explore solutions to problematic packaging types (including glass, polymer coated paperboard (PCPB), soft plastics, biodegradable and compostable packaging, and expanded polystyrene).

In 2019, APCO will be co-ordinating 22 new projects to build on the findings of the MFA and the 2018 working groups. These will include further detailed research into packaging consumption and recycling to establish baselines for the 2025 targets, developing targeted design resources to improve packaging recyclability, and developing strategies to address problematic packaging, including plastics.

To read the full APCO Packaging Material Flow Analysis 2018, visit the APCO website.

New recycling SA infrastructure grants announced

The SA Government has approved funding for nine recycling infrastructure projects, totalling more than $2.5 million and expected to create more than 60 jobs.

The funding is part of the government’s $12.4 million support package for the recycling industry and local government in response to China’s National Sword Policy announced in May 2018.

The $2.5 million funding delivered through Green Industries SA is expected to create and maintain more than 60 jobs, and covers a broad range of recycling, waste management and resource recovery projects including $1.5 million for infrastructure to improve recycling quality in recycling sorting facilities across South Australia.

Some of the projects include $300,000 to improve compost quality, $500,000 for innovative polyvinyl chloride (PVC) recycling systems and more than $400,000 for infrastructure to assist with directly recovering and recycling plastic waste and other materials.

More than $200,000 has also been awarded to The Salvation Army to help divert unusable donated goods from landfill to energy recovery and create two new jobs.

A further funding round is now available to further support recycling infrastructure in South Australia.

Environment Minister David Spears said the charitable sector plays an important role in supporting resource efficiency principles and the circular economy. Re-use keeps materials circulating within the economy for longer.

“By prolonging their lifespan and making better use of the raw materials we’re embracing a more circular and sustainable vision for our state,” he said.

He said the government funding of more than $2.7 million has been matched by the applicants, unlocking more than $8.78 million of investment for 10 projects that support an estimated 64.5 full time jobs.

“This investment is in addition to $3.245 million announced in October 2018, bringing the total investment so far to $5.967 million the state government has offered in the last few months to support South Australia’s recycling industry and local job creation,” he said.

“This investment in the remanufacturing, re-use, and recovery sector helps maintain our world leading diversion results, where 83.4 per cent of all our waste is diverted from landfill.”

He said that China’s National Sword policy prohibiting the import of certain waste and recyclables was a catalyst to increase the quality of our recycled materials and develop local markets as a priority.

 

Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam waste imports crackdown

As Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam all move to crack down on waste imports, Australia and many global markets are now being faced with a need to look to their own domestic processing capabilities. 

Read more

SA Govt invests $3.2M into recycling infrastructure

More than $3.2 million in funding has been approved by the South Australian government for 17 recycling infrastructure projects.

It is part of the state government’s $12.4 million support package announced in May in response to China’s National Sword Policy.

Related stories:

The funding was delivered through Green Industries SA and covers a range of recycling, waste management and resource recovery projects.

More than $600,000 has been invested into infrastructure that deals directly with recovering and recycling plastic waste.

Around $424,000 has been invested into improving Material Recovery Facilities in Mt Gambier and $357,000 for end of life vehicle recycling.

Projects that improve the infrastructure to recycle post-consumer paper in the Australian market have also received $250,000.

SA Environment Minister David Speirs said China’s National Sword policy was a catalyst to increase the range of our recycled materials and develop local markets as a priority.

“This funding supports a range of projects in both the private sector and local government, across metropolitan and regional South Australia,” he said.

“This investment in the remanufacturing, re-use, and recovery sector helps maintain our world leading diversion results, where 83.4 per cent of all our waste is diverted from landfill.

“The State Government funding of more than $3.2 million has been matched by the applicants, unlocking more than $7.9 million of investment for 17 projects that support an estimated 36 full time jobs,” Mr Speirs said.

The next round of grant funding to support and develop recycling infrastructure is now available.