Queensland Forum to discuss China waste ban

The Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ) is hosting the Queensland Secondary Resources Forum to address issues impacting kerbside recycling and international challenges.

The forum aims to discuss the Chinese Government’s decision to restrict the amount of waste being imported and how it effects Queensland domestic recycling capabilities.

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It also will attempt to highlight how Queensland can lead the nation in recycling rates to grow the sector locally and increase investment.

Keynote speakers and industry experts will be presenting at the forum and sharing insights and outcomes that outline how Queensland can deliver a new recycling business environment.

In particular, the presentations will address the impacts of the National Sword policy and how local recycling can be improved. Presenters of day one (afternoon) include speakers from the energy, metals and plastics industries as well as material recovery facility operators. Day two (morning) will focus on the state government policy updates and includes a workshop that will discuss and produce solutions and opportunities to deliver back to the Queensland Government for its policy consideration.

The event is supported by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the Bundaberg Regional Council.

The forum takes place on the 26-27 April and will be hosted in the Bundaberg Multiplex Centre, 1 Civic Street, Bundaberg West.

Tickets are $195 until 15 April and $220 standard (not including GST). Click here to register. 

China launches Blue Sky 2018 to replace National Sword

Chinese customs authorities have launched a new waste imports inspections program – Blue Sky 2018.

It runs from March to December 2018 and replaces China’s National Sword program, which ran last year and was preceded by Green Fence.

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Blue Sky 2018’s attention is on the 24 categories of solid waste added to the list of imports bans in 2017, which includes plastics waste, unsorted waste paper and waste textile materials with a contaminant level of more than 0.5 per cent.

A spokesperson for the General Administration of Customs, Zhang Guangzhi, told Letsrecycle.com that it is fully committed to “investigating a number of large-scale smuggling cases of wastes, eradicating a number of smuggling gangs and cutting off a number of smuggling routes and chains of rubbish, and resolutely blocking ‘foreign rubbish’.”

During the operation, the Customs and Excise Department will also reportedly work with the relevant local authorities to promote “comprehensive anti-smuggling work in a concerted manner”.

Mr Guangzhi said that customs would strengthen its links with relevant law enforcement departments, including environmental protection and quality inspection to stop illegal operations and “foreign garbage” shops, with this process coordinated by local government.

 

 

 

 

 

Look at contracts: WALGA hosts China waste ban session

Western Australia’s peak local government body has written to the state’s Environment Minister requesting a taskforce of state, local government and waste industry representatives to focus on local processing and reprocessing options.

It follows two information sessions on the impact of China’s ban on 24 categories of solid waste with a contaminant rate of 0.5 per cent. The WA Local Government Association (WALGA) hosted more than 80 representatives from over 30 local governments.

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In its newsletter, WALGA said the key messages from the sessions were to keep on recycling, look at contracts, develop local markets and advocate for changes in packaging design.

“It is important for local governments to ensure residents continue recycling, with a focus on reducing contamination in the kerbside recycling bin. There are still viable markets for collected material,” it said.

WALGA advise local government to look at their contractual arrangements with service providers and that local governments should consider whether their contracts include rise and fall clauses.

“WALGA will continue to advocate for changes to packaging design to ensure products are recyclable and that consistent labelling on recyclability is used by the packaging industry to assist residents with source separation.”

In other news, WALGA is also establishing a working group to investigate ways to reduce illegal dumping. Expressions of interest are requested from local government officers by Thursday, 29 March. For more information, complete the online survey here. 

Vict Govt responds to China waste ban

In response to China’s National Sword decision, Victorian councils and industry will be provided a $13 million package to support the ongoing collection of household waste.

The assistance will go towards helping councils and industries that have been affected by the China policy, giving them and their contractors time to develop longer-term solutions, including renegotiating contracts.

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The Victorian Government has also moved to establish a recycling industry taskforce to develop a plan for industry transition.

The decision comes not long after the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) called for a suite of measures to improve the situation.

The VWMA in a statement welcomed the opportunity to represent its member base on any proposed taskforce and said it has been assured by relevant government agencies that it will have a seat at the table. It advocated for the taskforce to have fair representation of the waste and resource recovery sector, including small and medium operators and the waste transport sector. It said the taskforce should be steered by principles such as a competitive resource recovery sector and circular economy principles that prioritise local jobs over exports or landfilling.

China has not banned the importation of waste entirely but new restrictions on the contamination rate means that they require a cleaner and more processed version of these materials.

“While recycling is ultimately a matter for local councils, we’re stepping in to help councils and industry affected by China’s new import rules,” said Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio.

“This is about protecting jobs and ensuring Victorians have confidence to continue recycling.”

Council assistance will be provided until 30 June, though they will be required to meet an increase in recycling costs from 1 July.

 

VWMA calls for increased resource recovery investment

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has called for a suite of measures to solve the nation’s recycling crisis, including increased state government investment and reviews of contractual models for waste and resource recovery.

It comes after China’s recent clamp down on the export of recyclable materials of a contamination level of more than 0.5 per cent. The decision covers 24 categories of solid waste, and covers countries such as Japan, USA, Australia and others. China was Australia’s largest market for the export of recyclable materials, but has tightened its restrictions.

National Sword, an extension of China’s Green Fence Policy, will see inspections on recyclable materials such as paper and various grades of post-consumer plastics being imported into China.

In the same week, the Victorian Government announced a $13 million package to go towards helping councils and industries that have been affected by the China policy. The Victorian Government has also moved to establish a recycling industry taskforce to develop a plan for industry transition, a decision welcomed by the VWMA.

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VWMA believes the problem that exists with materials that recycling exporters send to China (and materials that maybe caught up in the inspection program) is that streams can be highly contaminated due to poor recycling practices and sorting, which can originate back to the household (or point of generation).

“The VWMA does not comment specifically on commercial contracts in place between organisations, however the current situation can be attributed to a range of factors that contracting parties have knowingly entered into – this includes fixed priced collection in a commodity sensitive environment and dependencies on export markets,” the organisation said in a statement.

“The VWMA does not support compensation or bailouts as an appropriate response to the current situation. We are focused on medium and long term sustainable solutions for our members and Victorians, and are engaged with the Victorian Government and other related organisations and associations as required to advocate for these medium and longer terms solutions.”

The VWMA Executive met on February 20 to discuss National Sword and its impacts to Victoria, noting that a range of factors created the current recycling issue in the state, including:

  • The export of recyclable material and global (fluctuating) commodity markets.
  • Contractual models that favour one party over another and do not distribute risk.
  • Public awareness and appropriate waste and recycling disposal practice by households.
  • Public confidence in the waste and recycling system.
  • The essentialness of maintaining waste and recycling services for Victorians.

The VWMA acknowledges that China’s decision means a global market reset is being experienced and no one knows what this reset will mean or how long ambiguity around recycling markets may exist.

The VWMA advocates a collaborative approach between industry and government on this matter with the following areas to be prioritised by state and local government:

  • Contractual models for waste and resource recovery contracts: Review the contractual models for waste and resource recovery contracts which may include splitting contracts, linking contracts to an indexed commodity price and a greater distribution of risk between all parties.
  • Unlocking the state government’s Sustainability Fund: Increased state government investment (via low-interest loans and grants) to the private sector and local government (which could include public-private partnerships for larger investments) targeted at all aspects of Victoria’s waste and resource recovery system. These would include waste collection/transports, processing facilities and other infrastructure. The intent of this investment would be to create self-sustainable outcomes (in-line with the Sustainability Fund’s objectives) through value-added product created in Victoria from the materials we all throw out. This investment would also stimulate jobs in construction and manufacturing. The Sustainability Fund receives money from Victorian landfill levies.
  • Stimulate local markets: Where appropriate all levels of government, including federal, should seek to stimulate markets for recovery through minimum requirements in procurement contracts. This would drive local demand for value added product and support broader government initiative around the concepts of circular economy. Options should also consider waste to energy as a viable option for Victoria.
  • Community are engaged and brought along to understand the essential nature of the service that is provided to them: The state’s waste and resource recovery system exists to support Victorians and all Victorians have a civil responsibility to engage in appropriate waste disposal practices (this includes things such as recycling correctly, not throwing dangerous goods into the bin and littering). The Victorian Government should begin to have this conversation with the community and involve industry.

“Victoria’s success in kerbside collection can in large part be attributed to the collaboration between government and industry. The VWMA supports continued engagement with all levels of Industry on this matter,” said VWMA Executive Officer, Mark Smith.

“The Victorian waste and resource recovery system exists to support a prosperous and healthy Victoria. We all generate waste and this waste needs to be managed. Community need to be brought in on the conversation so they understand their role in generating waste and disposing of that waste correctly.”

 

 

NWRIC warns recycling contracts could face default

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) have warned that without urgent action to address market changes, Australian recycling contracts could face default.

It follows the controversial move by the Chinese government to reduce the imports of 24 categories of solid waste.

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The Chinese National Sword initiative, a continuation of its Green Fence program, has also tightened standards on import contamination by limiting which businesses can obtain scrap import licenses. The NWRC explained this means lower contamination levels and fewer import licenses issued.

Following their latest meeting, the NWRIC believe that without significant changes to the current market, kerbside and commercial recycling contracts could be cancelled.

Re-negotiating contracts between local governments and recycling providers, increasing stockpiling allowances where environmentally safe, and assistance from the Federal Government were identified as strategies to help the current market.

The best long-term solution to the problem is reinvigorating local re-manufacturing capacity, according to NWRIC.

Recycling market shortfalls can lead to large stockpiles of papers and plastics, which could lead to a fire hazard.

“The NWRIC is urging all customers, including local government and commercial waste generators, to meet with their recycling supplier to plan for these sudden and unforeseen changes,” said Chairman of the NWRIC, Phil Richards.

Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW Executive Director, Tony Khoury said that thoroughly checking firefighting and emergency equipment is vitally important.

“In relation to unprocessed stockpiles or bales of stored sorted material, please ensure that you comply with your Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and development approval requirements,” Mr Khoury said.

“If you are approaching your authorised, lawful stock pile limits, please consider your options (negotiate with EPA, find alternate drop-off facilities, talk to your council or commercial clients).”

According to Mr Khoury, there is at least one fire per week at NSW waste facilities which account for up to 10 per cent of firefighter’s work time.

 

SA Government’s response to China waste ban

The SA Government has allocated $300,000 in grant funding to recycling businesses, in a bid to strengthen the local market.

It follows the recent Chinese international waste bans, which saw a crackdown on imports of 24 different types of solid waste from Japan, USA, Australia and other source countries.

China’s National Sword Program and import restrictions have impacted the South Australian recycling industry that relied on exporting material such as scrap plastics, metals, paper, cardboard and textiles overseas.

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The Recycling Market Development Grants Programme, funded through statutory body Green Industries SA, aims to assist businesses to invest in activities that will overcome market barriers to accepting products with recycled-content.

Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter said the grants are a timely aid to bolstering SA recycling businesses.

“Strengthening the local market and secondary re-manufacturing industry will also develop our economy and act as a buffer against the risks associated with selling into overseas commodity markets,” he said.

“Equally important is the need to improve market confidence in using recycled-material products as a viable option so eligible activities for funding include those which validate the quality and performance of local recycled materials or recycled-content products and develop new or expand existing markets for such products.”

Examples of activities that are eligible for the grant include testing product quality to improve the local market’s confidence in recycled products, and developing or expanding existing markets for them.

 

Visy reportedly invokes “force majeure”

Recycling company Visy has reportedly told two council contractors it will no longer accept recyclable material from February 9.

In a letter reportedly seen by News Corp, Visy invoked “force majeure”, otherwise known as unforeseen circumstances to suspend contracts, citing the China waste ban and collapse of the recycling materials market.

In a statement to News Corp, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambriosio said the state government would look into the problem.

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“I have asked for a meeting with these businesses to seek an explanation into what’s happened and will be discussing these matters with local government,” she said.

“I will be seeking assurances from all relevant parties to ensure this will have no impact on Victorians.”

Warrnambool based company Wheelie Waste was informed of the move on January 24. Other councils may be affected, but reports indicate this has not been confirmed yet.

Polytrade and SKM Recycling is reportedly negotiating with councils and contractors to find a solution over the next 10 days.

Citywide, owned by the City of Melbourne, told the publication its contract with Visy would remain.

China waste ban to hit WA

China’s foreign waste ban could see an increase in Perth’s household waste charges and see recycling rates fall.

The Chinese Government has said it would stop accepting recycled waste such as papers and plastics from overseas countries from the end of the year.

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This move will have a major impact on Perth’s resource recovery centres, which collect recyclable waste for city councils and process it into products that can be sold.

With sales under threat as a result, it could lead to higher household recycling charges.

Data from the most recent census has shown that Perth has the lowest recycling rate compared to the other major Australian cities. If recovery centres lose momentum, the amount of waste sent to the tip could increase.

State Environment Minister Stephen Dawson told News Corp the decision is a worry.

“I am increasingly concerned with the recent decision by the Chinese Government to cease accepting a range of solid wastes, including recyclables, from Australia in 2018,” Mr Dawson said.

“WA is in the process of implementing significant reform in the waste sector. Cost-efficient recycling of materials is key to delivering better outcomes across the state.

“The loss of opportunities to manage recycling with our international trading partners risks becoming a major barrier to reform in this State. I have written to the Federal Government to explore opportunities to work with them to mitigate or minimise the impacts of this ban on West Australians.”

State General Manager of SUEZ Nial Stock said that without China, ratepayers could have to pay more for recycling services. He confirmed China’s importance within WA’s recycling exports.

“In the end the ratepayer will pay extra for the recycling that goes on at their house,” he said.

 

 

WMAA responds to China waste ban

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) has responded to China’s intention to ban imports of 24 categories of solid waste to the country (including plastics, paper and textiles waste).

The last World Trade Organization (WTO) report indicates that the ban will take place at the end of 2017. WTO reports China representatives said the measure is aimed at addressing risks of pollution from solid waste, and seeks to protect the environment and human health. A six month transition period has been provided, and China said it had further clarified the scope of the measure based on comments from WTO members.

The European Union, Japan, the United States, Australia and Canada have questioned the broad scope of the measure, and whether it applied to domestic operators in the same way as foreign operators. They asked China for a longer transition period of up to five years.

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In a statement, WMAA said industry had signalled to government for a long time that relying on the export markets for recyclables was dangerous and now it find itself, with the change in China’s legislation, walking towards this inevitability.

“Whilst stockpiling is a legitimate business practice, we know that the community is not happy with simply stockpiling recyclable materials, they rightly want this material to be used in making other products in Australia – reducing reliance on natural material,” said WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan.

WMAA’s statement said Australia needs to act now to ensure that the circular economy is real.

“It is not enough that products we purchase in Australia are capable of being recycled, we need to ensure that they are also made from recycled material,” Ms Sloan, said.

“In this way we can create real demand for commodities like those that households put in their yellow bins.”

“This is simply too important an issue for the Federal Environment and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, to continue to repeat his mantra ‘it is up to the states’ this is one that the Federal Government actually needs to step up to the plate on,” Ms Sloan said.

WMAA said all levels of government, including national, need to put policies in place that support the development of sustainable secondary markets for recycled materials.

“The best first step would be sustainable procurement being introduced nationally by all, allowing government to actually walk the talk and model these behaviours,” Ms Sloan said.

WMAA noted investment in new recycling infrastructure creates construction jobs and economic activity that provides a real boost to local economies. While the change in China’s legislation can be seen as a short-term crisis, WMAA argued in reality the change to a circular economy will not only bring long term employment, through green-collar manufacturing, but also sustainable economic growth.

“We have seen the change that programs like War on Waste have had on supermarkets. Let’s get the changes we need to ensure that packagers are using recycled products as an input in all they do – but we cannot do this without the support of government,” Ms Sloan said.

Container Deposit Schemes are being introduced nationally, and WMAA said the key is that the recycled product made in Australia is re-used by the beverage companies that participate in this scheme.

WMAA said it has discussed the circular economy with the industry, generators, and the community, with their support offered.

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