Indonesia rejects Australian plastic waste

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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