MRA Consulting Group has welcomed the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) decision to address the many difficulties facing the recycling and waste management sector.
At its meeting of 9 August, COAG announced it would establish a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, while building Australia’s capacity to generate high value recycled commodities and associated demand.
MRA Managing Director Mike Ritchie said since China’s National Sword restrictions, the recycling industry has been calling for government intervention to support domestic recycling activities.
“According to the 2018 National Waste Report, Australians generate 54.5 million tonnes of waste per year and we successfully recycle over 31.7 million tonnes of that or 58 percent,” Mr Ritchie said.
“Of that, 4.3 million tonnes is exported, primarily fibre and plastic. This 4.3 million tonnes is now subject to greater import restrictions by the Asian manufacturing nations, as they grow their own domestic recycling industries.”
Mr Ritchie said Australian needs to rebuild its own on-shore reprocessing capacity to avoid fibre and plastic going to landfill.
“That means plastic reprocessing facilities to turn used bottles into plastic pellets, and reusing fibre in recycled paper here in Australia. We know how to do it but the economics have always favoured export,” M r Ritchie said.
“To close the loop in Australia we will need governments and businesses to preferentially purchase materials with recycled content.”
Mr Richie said government needs to introduce recycled content rules for domestic manufacturers, and have purchasing policies in place that require recycled content.
“The most obvious are converting glass bottles into sand for use in road base, and asphalt and reprocessing plastic bottles into asphalt, furniture and fuel. Governments also need to mandate the use of recycled paper” Mr Ritchie said.
“Recycling doesn’t stop at putting the bin out on the kerb, it stops when a product using recycled material is sold back into the economy. If we want to truly close the loop then we need to purchase and reuse products with recycled content.”
In 2018, The Australian Council of Recycling and MRA estimated that a one-off payment of $150 million could de-risk and on-shore Australia’s recycling sector through three actions.
Actions include $90 million to retrofit materials recovery facilities to improve sorting, a positive procurement policy to ensure products with recycled content are purchased in Australia and community education to reduce contamination in recycling systems.