Waste has become a hot topic, with New South Wales transporting their rubbish to Queensland to avoid landfill levy’s and China banning the importation of 24 types of scrap, including waste plastic and unsorted scrap paper as of January 1, 2018.
However, before now, most of us probably don’t think too much about where our recycling rubbish goes after we put it in the yellow bin. However, after the recycling bin, there is a long process line before our plastic rubbish can be broken down and recycled. Prior to 2018, countries including Australia, the United Kingdom, European Union, the United States and Japan were shipping their waste products to China to process and recycle.
China’s Waste Ban
China’s ban on rubbish will hit Australia hard – approximately 619,000 tones worth $523 million will be impacted. Traditional recyclers are expected to be affected the most, as they will now have to find somewhere else to get rid of the plastic bottles, cans and other recycling materials they collect, at a cost to them. Ratepayers may be the ones footing the bill for their recycling services as companies struggle to offload the material.
So now that this has stopped, the real question, however, is what are we going to do?
China’s global dominance in manufacturing means that many countries have relied on one market to solve their waste and recycling issues. Some people may see this as a way to force Australians to take responsibility for their own rubbish, but Tom Szaky of recycling company TerraCycle said: “it’s not good for sustainability as many plastic products are made in China and it is the main market for recycled plastic”.
Creating a Circular Economy
Australian waste managers are looking towards creating a circular economy through sustainable development. A circular economy keeps resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them whilst in use; then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life. Countries like Singapore have already implemented a waste-to-energy plant, which has reduced the city’s waste volume by 90%.
Harbak has over 20 years’ experience in the waste management industry, including preparing tenders and strategies for councils across Queensland in both major cities and regional towns. Harbak is able to objectively analyse and consider the available options; be it either transport, recycling or landfill to recommend the most appropriate course of action based on the specific project at hand.
For example – Harbak was recently engaged to ascertain the most appropriate (financial and environmental) waste recycling option for a large organisation. This involved undertaking market research in Queensland and Northern NSW to obtain detailed financial arrangements for waste transport recycling and disposal. In some instances, the least expensive option was not chosen due to several key risks; including longer-term commercial viability and the need to reduce the risk of environmental harm in surrounding areas. Nevertheless, our research identified several key opportunities and potential commercial advantages. The risks were clearly identified and well communicated by the client internally, then the risk to value outcome calculated.
Good waste management can result in safe, secure and compliant operations. However, not understanding or failing to recognise your risk can lead to a long-term debacle including financial heartache for years to come.