Changes in global recycling markets

Recently there has been changes in the global recycling industry that has effected recycling in Australia. The following are some responses to frequently asked questions.

What is the issue?

 The ‘National Sword Policy’ implemented by China’s General Administration of Customs on 1 January 2018 aims to improve recovery and reuse of domestic solid waste while restricting the import of low quality, contaminated paper, cardboard and plastics. The policy has severely disrupted recycling markets worldwide with significant impacts on Victoria. It is not a complete ban of exporting paper and plastic recyclables to China, instead it is just the low quality recycled paper and plastics that are restricted.

 The policy most directly impacts kerbside recycling services, as recyclables from households are usually on-sold in a mixed form. While most of Victoria’s kerbside recyclable material is processed in Victoria or Australia, significant quantities are exported to China for processing meaning the new restrictions are havng impacts on Australian recycling processors.

 The China policy has changed the market and the price of commodities, particularly recycled paper. This affects the viability of existing local government contracts with the three kerbside recycling processors in Victoria, namely VISY Recycling, Polytrade and SKM Industries (SKM).

 What is the Victorian Government doing to address the challenges facing the recycling industry?

 The Victorian Government is providing a $13 million package for councils and relevant organisations in the recycling industry to support the ongoing kerbside collection of household recyclable material.

 The assistance will be provided until 30 June 2018 to provide councils and their contractors time to develop longer-term solutions, including the renegotiation of contracts.

 Individual councils will be required to meet any increase in recycling costs from 1 July 2018 onwards.

 What is Hobsons Bay City Council doing to address the challenges facing the recycling industry changes?

 Council is working with its recycling contractor, SKM, to ensure the Hobsons Bay recycling service continues in a sustainable way and that they are investing in the required infrastructure to be able to process paper and plastics to the required higher standard. Council is also ensuring they are securing the best markets to process and sell recycled material, both internationally and locally.

Council will ensure that pricing for recycling services reflects current market conditions. Council will seek to minimise the cost to residents, however new pricing arrangements will be necessary to ensure that recycling remains sustainable in the long term.

 Council is supporting the recycling industry to meet China’s new quality standards by making sure that residents know what can and can’t be put in their recycling bin.

 Council is working closely with other metropolitan councils to contribute to the Victorian Government’s work on medium to long-term solutions, which are currently being explored.

 Council also advocates to Federal and State Governments on waste and recycling needs for council and the community.

 Will Council increase waste management fees?

 Shifts in global recycling markets, triggered by China’s new trade measures, mean that the cost of processing kerbside recyclables will increase.

 To ensure the continuity of recycling collection and processing services, Council’s ratepayers should prepare for an increase in their waste management charges in 2018-19.  While unfortunate, this increase is necessary to ensure a quality service is maintained for residents.

 Council will seek to minimise this increase, which has been brought about by changed market conditions.

 How much will waste management fees increase by?

The adopted Hobsons Bay 2018-19 budget reflects an increase to the standard waste service charge that equates to $48.30 annually per household.

The extra costs are to cover SKM’s additional fees pertaining to the acquisition of upgraded machinery that can better clean, refine and process the recyclables - as well as fees associated with sourcing better markets

 Are there any options?

 There are three recycling processors in Victoria. They are SKM, Visy Recycling and Polytrade and they are all experiencing similar global market pressures. Changing to a different supplier in the short term is not likely to generate a different result.

 An alternative option is to landfill recyclable material but this would cost more, be detrimental to the environment and result in poor recycling behaviours.

 The recycling service is very important to the Hobsons Bay community scoring a 98 out of 100 in the 2017 annual community satisfaction survey. Satisfaction with the recycling service is 92 out of 100, an increase from a score of 87 the year prior. As such, we are keen to keep providing recycling services to the community.

 How much material is collected from Hobsons Bay and recycled each year?

 In 2016-17 9,500 tonnes of recycling was collected from residents in Hobsons Bay with paper and cardboard accounting for approximately 59 per cent of all items.  

 Should I continue to recycle?

 Yes. Residents should remain diligent recyclers while current issues are addressed.

It is now more critical than ever for residents to correctly sort their recycling for kerbside collection.

 Hobsons Bay residents can also try to minimise the amount of waste they produce in the first place by shopping smart and avoiding unnecessary packaging. Using reusable drink bottles and coffee cups are great ways to start.

What can I recycle?

 Details on what material can and cannot be recycled in Hobsons Bay, including the soft plastic recycling, is included on Council's website and the Waste and Recycling Calendar delivered to every household each year.

 More information can be found on Council’s Recycling web page.

 What happens to the recyclables after they are collected?

 Details of Council’s recycling process and where the recyclables are sent domestically and internationally can be found in Council’s ‘Recycling FAQ’ publication.

 China is not the only recycling destination for paper and plastics, but it is a predominant destination. This can be illustrated by using recycled paper as an example. Recycled paper makes up the largest proportion of what is recycled in Australia across household and businesses (approximately 76 per cent). Australia exports approximately 50 per cent of recyclable waste paper to China.

 What does Council do to encourage recycling to residents and businesses?

 Council encourages recycling by residents and businesses through a variety of ways. These include presentations to primary school children, website and social media information and the distribution of a waste and recycling calendar to every household. Also the promotion of National Recycling Week and the Victorian Government’s Get it Right on Bin Night campaign, information placed on bins and daily interactions with customers. As well as providing or promoting recycling programs specifically for electronic waste, lighting, household chemicals and paint and hard waste and green waste recycling.

 More information can be found on Council’s Recycling web pages.

 What are the ways the community can improve its recycling habits?

By recycling more – and recycling the right materials – we can significantly reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill and improve the quality of recyclables that are turned into other products domestically or internationally.

 The weight of material in the average weekly Victorian household garbage bin that could be recycled is just over one kilogram. This is a tenth of the bin by weight or 26 kilograms in a year. Most of the material is paper and cardboard, plastics and glass, which is all recyclable.

 And approximately four per cent of what is in an average recycling bin in Hobsons Bay should not be in there as it is non-recyclable material. This is mostly food that is loose or in containers, electronic waste, textiles and garbage or recyclable paper, cardboard and containers that are inside bags.

 What else can I do to help?

 Other ways residents can help:

  • Prevent waste from the start - Try to limit how much you consume. Using reusable drink bottles, bags and coffee cups is a great start.
  • Buy Australian recycled products - Recycled office paper and toilet paper are easy ways to start.

 Where can I find further recycling information?