Have you ever wondered where your trash goes? Based on a national waste report, Australia has recycled 60% of the total waste we produced from 2014 to 2015. However, while that seems like more than enough in helping our landfills, recycling is a lot more complicated than that. We’ve always had a waste removal problem in the country and NSW, along with the other territories, has been busy trying hard to resolve it. Unfortunately, it is looking like it will be more difficult to handle in the years to come.
Australia’s recycling and rubbish removal efforts
Recycling is not as simple as it sounds. While we have become used to the system of simply putting our waste in our yellow-top bins, there’s a lot more involved.
One of the major issues with recycling in Australia is that rubbish removal and recycling can be expensive. Though it is undeniable that buying recycled materials is better for our environment, manufacturers will always want to go for the cheapest option such as glass, plastic, or other materials made from virgin resources. This is may be a good choice for manufacturers overall, but the cost doesn’t take into account the long term effects it could have on the environment.
For instance, virgin plastic alone accounts for 20% of the global oil consumption. It is also expected to account for 15% of the global greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, according to a European Union report.
The truth is, some businesses or contractors take the time to segregate and recycle. In the end, however, these efforts are worthless because manufacturers refuse to buy them anyway. It is easier to buy cheaper material from another business than to purchase more expensive but recycled materials, especially when buying the latter will not give you any other advantages.
Considering that recycled materials in Australia are not usually repurchased from consumption, we also depend on other ways of dealing with waste removal and recycling. We actually also turn to selling and exporting our recyclable materials in places like China, Korea, Indonesia, and Malaysia for remanufacture.
The Sword Policy’s impact on Australia’s waste removal problem
Australia depends heavily on exporting to reduce its waste. As mentioned, we do sell our recyclable materials in places like China and other East Asian countries. China, for instance, is Australia’s biggest buyer. It purchases 600,000 tonnes of material each year. However, this all changed at the start of the year, when it imposed strict policies on importing 24 categories of solid waste to reduce pollution. This policy is known as the Sword Policy.
This has posed a big problem for the Materials Recovery Facilities in Australia because the policy does not only restrict import licensing for recycled products. It also limits the contamination rate for the recyclables to less than 0.5%. This is a huge problem as most Australian Materials Recovery Facilities export materials with approximately 5% contamination. Making it less than 0.5% will delay not only the operation of these facilities but also increases the cost of recycling these materials. The measures taken by China were created to almost ensure that no recyclable materials can be exported to this country by Australia. This is so because the policy caused the price of recycled mixed plastic to fall to less than half of its original price.
Recycled plastic is not the only problem. Due to changes in law and the current collapse of glass prices in Australia, Materials Recovery Facilities also have to process recycled glass into sand to create a bigger market for them to sell to.
Possible solution to Australia’s rubbish removal problem
The economic changes may greatly impact Australia but hopefully not for long. For us to succeed against our waste removal problem we have to make advances in how to process recyclable waste at a cheaper cost. The government also has to work with Materials Recovery Facilities and provide them with incentives to ensure that the industry won’t give in to the recent rubbish removal predicament.