Appropriately sorted paper and cardboard will be exempt from the Federal Government’s forthcoming waste export ban, as announced by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
According to COAG’s Waste Response Strategy, export ban timelines and material definitions were tested with industry between late 2019 and early 2020, following the ban’s initial November 2019 announcement.
“Through responses to the COAG waste export ban discussion paper and roundtables, stakeholders provided input on their concerns, manufacturing and export practices, and other information which guided the development of specific material definitions,” the strategy reads.
“Paper and cardboard that is sorted to one type with low contamination levels can be exported. This reflects the role that these materials play in supporting kerbside recycling viability and that these do not require further processing to be ready for manufacturing into new products.”
Additional definition changes include removing the requirement that glass cullet for export be washed and colour sorted. This reflects, the strategy notes, industry feedback that glass cullet does not need to be washed and/or of a single colour to be ready for remanufacturing.
Bus, truck, and aviation tyres that are legitimately exported for re-treading can also continue to be exported, “as this practice represents a higher-order end use than destruction via crumbing or shredding.”
According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the ban signals a once in a generation transformation of the recycling industry, which could generate $1.5 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years.
“This is about waking up to an issue that has been buried in landfill for too long. Most importantly, it is about Australia saying it is our waste and our responsibility, and it is about industry and government being prepared to invest in change,” she said.
The strategy highlights the need for system-level changes to Australia’s waste and resource management practices to support the ban.
As such, the Federal Government has committed to supporting upgrades to material recovery facilities, building demand for recycled product through purchasing goods and services at scale and co-investing to support commercially viable waste and recycling facilities.
The Federal Government, in collaboration with state governments and industry, will also consider targeted stewardship interventions for packaging, plastic, paper, tyres and glass products.
“While there is support from the waste and recycling industry for new product stewardship schemes which place mandatory requirements on businesses, groups representing manufacturers have a range of views about mandatory schemes depending on the maturity of their respective schemes,” the strategy reads.
“Finalisation of the review of the Product Stewardship Act in 2020 will provide opportunities to reform stewardship arrangements, including opportunities for mandatory schemes where they support implementation of the export ban.”
Furthermore, the Federal and state governments will investigate opportunities for regional micro-factories, and establish regional recycling hubs in strategic locations across Australia.
Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans said the ban’s confirmation is the result of strong cooperation between states, territories and industry.
“We now have the opportunity to create jobs, grow the economy, transform the waste industry and significantly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill,” he said.
“We know that for every 10,000 tonnes of waste sent to landfill, there are approximately 2.8 direct jobs created. If we recycle the same waste, 9.2 direct jobs are created.”
According to Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan, the strategy shows a recognition of what is needed to build a sustainable waste and recovery industry in Australia.
“It is evident that the Federal Government is prepared to remain at the table and work with all other Australian governments, in order that we can future proof and resource our essential industry as we respond to the waste export bans, and achieve the waste reduction and recycling outcomes that the Australian community rightly expects,” she said.
The strategy not only acknowledges that waste plastic is a significant and complex issue, Ms Sloan said, but also takes positive initial steps in mapping out what all jurisdictions must do to tackle the challenge.
According to Ms Sloan, these range from harmonising policies and programs to phasing out single-use and hard to recycle plastics. The Federal Government is also supporting industry to invest in new plastics processing capacity, Ms Sloan said, through competitive grant funding and commercial and concessional loans.
“Of note however will be the need to fast track infrastructure, because with only two years till the roll-out of the plastics ban and the significant volume of waste plastic that needs to be managed, Australia needs to start building processing facilities now, for them to be up and running ahead of 2022,” Ms Sloan said.
Export ban timeline: