Recycling Industry Council warning on contracts

THE NATIONAL Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has warned that without significant market interventions, recycling contracts for kerbside and commercial waste are at risk of being cancelled.

The NWRIC’s comments follow growing evidence of impacts in the sector from China’s restrictions on imports of unsorted, dirty or contaminated plastics and mixed paper and cardboard.

“The NWRIC is urging all customers, including Local Government and commercial waste generators, to meet with their recycling supplier to plan for these sudden and unforeseen changes,” said NWRIC chairman Phil Richards.

The Council has proposed preliminary solutions which may help, including: 

  • The renegotiation of contracts between Local Governments and recycling providers to improve risk sharing and lower contamination;
  • Increasing stockpiling allowances where environmentally safe; and
  • Commonwealth assistance to open new export markets.

The best long-term solution to the challenge, NWRIC said, is the reinvigoration of domestic re-manufacturing capacity.  

In related news, the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has called on the state government to “provide assistance to councils until 30 June so [they] are not forced to pull funding from other essential services or send recyclable material to landfill”.

The MAV said significant investment was needed to shore up the recycling industry and protect jobs and the environment – and that the “state’s landfill levy income held in the Sustainability Fund should be used for these purposes”.

The Latrobe City Council, meanwhile, has said it will continue collecting kerbside recycling, despite the disruptions caused by the Chinese import restrictions.

In a statement, Latrobe City Council CEO Gary Van Driel said: “It is too early to be making any assumptions, or to advise if there will be a cost impact on the community. Operations will need to be reviewed if the export ban is not lifted".

Council would also be investigating the impact of the ban on its contractors, as well as alternative solutions, he said.

“We have sought information from the State Government and MAV about the issue and have been advised the government is aware of the significance of this issue and is working with industry and Local Government as a matter of urgency.

“We’ve spent many years supporting and elevating the recycling activities of our community; our intention is to continue to nurture this practice,” Mr Van Driel said. “Any departure from this would be a retrograde step, and we implore state and federal governments to work quickly to develop a solution.