The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has released the Market Impact Assessment Report – which reveals the impact of China’s National Sword policy.
Findings from the report reveal that the volume of Australian export of scrap paper and plastics has remained largely stable over the past 12 months, however their value has dropped significantly due to global oversupply.
According to the report, mixed paper scrap once valued at $124 per tonne (EXW) has dropped approximately 100 per cent and is now close to worthless. Scrap mixed plastic has fallen 76 per cent, from $325 per tonne to $75 per tonne and cardboard is now valued at $125 per tonne, falling 40 per cent from $210 per tonne.
In January 2017, around 71 per cent of Australian exports of scrap paper/paperboard and scrap plastics were exported to China (98,300 tonnes of the 139,400 tonnes total). By January 2018 this had fallen to 34 per cent of Australian exports (43,200 tonnes of the 128,200 tonnes total).
“There is no doubt that the Chinese import restrictions have had a financial impact on the revenue streams of those receiving and sorting recyclables. This has coincided with the increasing costs of electricity, fires at some facilities, stricter compliance requirements and large increases in insurance costs,” the report says.
“The impact on a per tonne basis for all recyclables will vary from one sorting facility to another. Based on the analysis of reported prices for each commodity, the overall impact to end of February compared to long term averages is estimated to be a loss of between $65 and $85/tonne.”
APCO Chief Executive Officer Brooke Donnelly said that what essentially lies at the heart of this issue is China’s decision to revise the contamination threshold for scrap paper and plastics.
“We need to develop the right domestic infrastructure to lower the contamination levels in our waste and start building viable end market solutions here in Australia to ensure a smaller, cleaner packaging waste stream,” she said.
APCO is already developing a range of solutions to improve sustainable packaging design, reduce contamination and improve recycling rates.
Most recently, APCO launched the first nation-wide labelling program to help Australians better understand how to recycle packaging correctly and assist organisations in designing for recycling and working towards lowering contamination levels. Launched in conjunction with Planet Ark and PREP Design, the program has already been adopted by Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Officeworks, Unilever and Woolworths among others.
APCO has accelerated the delivery of the PREP design tool, an online evaluation portal that determines if a packaging format is recyclable or not in the current kerbside collection service. For the first time in Australia, organisations can develop their packaging to be recyclable where possible, driving waste avoidance outcomes at the design stage.
APCO is also currently reviewing its Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPGs) to help businesses reduce the environmental impact of their packaging and develop a standardised approach to key issues such as the use of recycled content in packaging.
“Transitioning to a circular economy is essential if we are to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging and this requires collaboration from brands, governments, the recycling and packaging industry and consumers alike. APCO is in a unique position to facilitate this collaboration and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to help Australia realise a circular economy,” Ms Donnelly said.