Outlook for recyclables continues to worsen

THE RIPPLES from China’s waste import ban and the depressed recyclables market are continuing to spread, with the ACT Government now saying the long-term destination of paper, cardboard, cans and bottles collected from Canberra households is uncertain.

Other authorities, including Hunter Resource Recovery in NSW, are suggesting that more stockpiling of recyclable is an inevitability after Visy Industries’ recent decision to inform four waste companies servicing regional Victoria that from February 9 it will no longer accept recyclables collected on behalf of councils.

Municipal Association of Victoria chief executive Rob Spence said: “We know of 22 regional councils at the moment, and they are in various states of impact”.

“We’re working with state and local governments to find a satisfactory resolution, but the indications are pricing will increase for councils.”

Moyne Shire Chief Executive David Madden told Victorian media this week that the collapse of the recyclables market was of national significance.

“Without a market for recycled goods, recycling processors are already refusing to accept recycling material from council waste contractors, or are increasing prices fivefold to accept recyclable materials,” he said.

“[We have] been advised the cost of disposing one tonne of recycling collected from kerbside bins at the local recycling facility is to increase from $40 per tonne to $200 per tonne this year. This equates to an additional $210,000 per annum on existing waste management costs.”

State Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said: “As a matter of urgency we are working with industry, local councils and other governments to find the best way to manage our recyclable materials in the short term while the longer-term solutions are identified”.

Acccording to Helen Millicer, principal at One Planet Consulting, the implications of Visy’s decision for regional/rural councils, landfills, contract costs and public confidence in recycling “could be major”.

In an article headlined “The end of recycling? Why Australia is at crisis point”, Ms Millicer said initiatives based on a Circular Economy Strategy” –  including industry product stewardship, recycling levies and schemes, landfill bans and directives on recyclable packaging – offered a way forward.