Australia, Industry News, News

Waste export bans – what you need to know

About 67 million tonnes of waste is created in Australia each year. In 2018-19, 4.4 million tonnes of this waste was exported, of which, 32 per cent included waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

To reduce the amount of waste exported, in response to tighter restrictions from countries such as China and Malaysia, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to ban the export of certain waste materials. The bans come with an aim to build Australia’s capacity to generate high value recycled commodities and associated demand.

READ: Calls for COAG to reassess decision to ban export of paper and cardboard

On November 8, environment ministers published the timetable which will see the export of materials progressively phased out.

Here are basics of the ban categorised by waste material.

Export ban on waste glass – to be implemented by July 2020:

Materials subject to export ban:

  • Scrap glass.

Glass comprised 1 per cent of the export tonnage (16,100 tonnes) and 0.25 per cent of the value ($1 million). Of all the waste glass exported 79 per cent is sent to Malaysia.

Of the exported glass leaving Australia, 90 per cent leaves from Victoria.

Mixed waste plastics export ban – to commence by July 2021:

Materials subject to export ban:

  • Mixed plastics that are not of a single resin/polymer type (i.e. further sorting, cleaning and re-processing is required before use in re-manufacturing process).

Of the exports affected by the ban, plastics comprised 13 per cent of the tonnage (187,354 tonnes) and 15 per cent of the value ($43 million). The higher-value plastic types (PET, HDPE) are 19 per cent of the waste plastics exported and 26 per cent of the value. Low-grade mixed plastic types are 80 per cent of the waste plastic exported and 72 per cent of the value.

Of all waste plastics exported, 34 per cent is sent to Indonesia, 30 per cent to Malaysia, 9 per cent to the Philippines, 6 per cent to Thailand, 6 per cent to Taiwan and 6 per cent to China.

Exported waste plastics leave from:

  • NSW – 43 per cent;
  • Victoria – 40 per cent; and
  • Queensland – 9 per cent.

All whole tyres including baled tyres – to be banned from export by December 2021:

Materials subject to export ban:

  • All whole tyres, including baled tyres.

Tyres comprised 7 per cent of the export tonnage (101,806 tonnes) and 4 per cent of the value ($12 million). Of all waste tyres exported, 47 per cent is sent to India, 34 per cent to Malaysia and 7 per cent to South Korea.

Exported waste tyres leave from:

  • NSW – 32 per cent;
  • Victoria – 30 per cent; and
  • Western Australia – 18 per cent.

Export ban on mixed paper and cardboard – to commence no later than June 2022:

Materials subject to export ban:

  • Mixed paper and cardboard; and
  • Baled paper and cardboard.

Paper and cardboard comprised 79 per cent of the export tonnage (1,118,408 tonnes) and 81 per cent of the value ($235 million). Unbleached kraft or old corrugated containers makes up 59 per cent of the paper and cardboard exported and 58 per cent of the value. Unsorted waste and scrap paper is 34 per cent of the paper and cardboard exported and 32 per cent of the value.

Of all the waste paper and cardboard exported, 48 per cent is sent to China, 14 per cent to Indonesia, 13 per cent to India, 9 per cent to Thailand, 7 per cent to Vietnam and 5 per cent to Malaysia.

Forty-four per cent of Australia’s exported waste paper and cardboard leaves from Victoria.

Materials that are not covered in the export ban

Value-added materials are not included in the export ban. This includes plastic, paper, glass and tyres that have been processes into materials ready for use, which do not harm human health or the environment in the importing country.

Materials not included in the ban include:

  • Clean plastics sorted into single resin type and processed for further use (for example flake and pellets);
  • Paper pulp;
  • Washed glass, colour sorted cullet ready for further use; and
  • Crumb rubber, powder and granules; shredded tyres exported for tyre derived fuel.

Feedback was being sought on the waste export bans until December 3 when submissions closed.

The Department of the Environment and Energy will publish the submissions by mid-December.