Australia, Industry News, News, Waste & Resource Recovery

Leaders call for urgent funding and market development to support export ban

State government and industry leaders are calling for urgent market development and a funding plan to ensure that the proposed export bans on certain materials can be implemented successfully.

These calls for action come after it was announced that Australia will no longer export waste glass after July 2020.

A timetable was proposed at a Meeting of Environment Ministers (MEM) held in Adelaide on November 8.

Environment ministers agreed that the phase out of certain materials should be completed by the following dates:

  • All waste glass by July 2020;
  • Mixed waste plastics by July 2021;
  • All whole tyres including baled tyres by December 2021; and
  • Remaining waste products, including mixed paper and cardboard, by no later than 30 June 2022.

Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio is urging the Federal government to step up its funding efforts in waste and recycling infrastructure to ensure the ban does not result in stockpiling.

“Victoria is already investing $135 million in the sector and we need to see Commonwealth funding, fast.

“We need an urgent national plan to fund this ban so we’re well prepared when it comes in,” D’Ambrosio said.

The Queensland government is also calling on the Federal government to increase its investment in the recycling and resource recovery industry, in order to capitalise on job opportunities.

Queensland Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch highlighted that the Queensland government had invested heavily and the Federal government needed to do so too.

“Queensland is fighting the war on waste and we fully support a ban on recyclable materials, including glass, tyres, mixed paper and mixed plastics. Waste, and particularly plastic waste, is a serious problem.

“We are investing $100 million in Queensland to grow our state’s resource recovery sector and create jobs,” Enoch said.

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) indicated a need for the urgent development of markets in Australia to support the export ban.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said it is unrealistic to have export bans enforced for plastics by July 2021 and paper by June 2022, when the packaging industry and manufacturers are only working to achieve 30 per cent recycled content and 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

“Currently, there is no regulation requiring manufacturers or the packaging industry to achieve these targets or penalties if they don’t. This is far from being equitable,” Read explained.

“Our members are keen to work with all agencies and the packaging and manufacturing industry to make this happen. However, we are very concerned that the regulatory focus is being crudely placed at the end-of-pipe and not at the source of the issue i.e. brands and producers.”

Despite concerns, NWRIC applauded Federal, state and local government commitment to put more crushed glass into roads, which Read said will go a long way towards addressing the current crushed glass stockpiles and future excess recovered glass that won’t be taken up by local glass manufacturers.

“The key to success will be government procurement contracts specifying crushed glass and finalising as a matter of urgency national and local guidelines for recovered materials into roads and pavements.

Another area for improvement that Read pointed out was the timeframe given to ban waste tyres.

“It also seems counterintuitive for MEM to give more time for the banning of waste tyres (December 2021) than plastics (June 2021).  Especially as the volume of waste tyres affected is relatively small, there are local and overseas markets and there is plenty of processing capacity in Australia.

“You really have to question the performance of the industry-led voluntary National Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme established six years ago in 2013 specifically set up to promote the development of viable markets for end-of-life tyres,” she said.

Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) CEO Pete Shmigel also noted the timeframe for the ban on waste tyres as a concern.

“We look forward to working with government on implementation aspects such as export definitions. However, it’s regretful that clear opportunities – like an immediate ban on baled tyre exports that sometimes go to overseas incinerators and specific procurement actions – have been missed.

“These aspects need to be revisited as the process moves forward from here, including at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), as there is strong evidence of their benefits,” Shmigel said.

“It’s hard to understand why banning baled tyres has not been prioritised as ample evidence was produced on the environmental impact of exports, the existing domestic capacity for reprocessing, and the legal avenues available. If one or two jurisdictions blocked this, they need to state their reasons so they can be addressed, and the ban date revisited and expedited at COAG itself. Otherwise, other jurisdictions should just start now via regulations as there is minimal risk in doing so.”

Shmigel also noted that it was good to see more commitment to recycled roads as a practical, no/low cost solution for domestic sustainability.

“There is evidence that specifying recycled content in even 12 major projects around the country can double our plastics recycling rate, and we should move forward faster on that front, including at COAG where we look forward to the Prime Minister’s continued leadership on recycling,” Shmigel said