It has now been over a year since China introduced its National Sword policy to restrict the importation of kerbside recyclable materials from the rest of the world. The purpose of the policy was to increase the recovery of domestically generated recyclables within China and further boost its own manufacturing. The new rule is a 0.5% contamination rate in Australian exported material. Few Australian Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF) were built for that level of purity.
With landfill levies in NSW at $140.20/t you would think that sorting of commercial waste would be more common than it is. Less than 5% of the Commercial and Industrial (C&I) waste in NSW is put through a processing plant to recover the valuable materials. In other words, less than 120,000t of the 5.5 MT that is generated is put through a processing plant. There are no dedicated C&I sorting facilities in other States (and landfill levies are lower).
According to the 2016 National Waste Report, Commercial and Industrial waste (C&I) represents 20 MT of the 53 MT of waste generated in Australia (or 40% of generation). It also represents 34% of all waste sent to landfill (or 7.2MT out of 21MT) and achieves a 64% recovery rate compared to C&D (64%) and MSW (51%).
Not bad in the scheme of things.
If you haven’t heard it already, the household recycling industry is in all sorts of trouble. 2018 is going to be a troubled year for most MRFs (Materials Recovery Facilities) and therefore their council clients.
The Chinese National Sword policy has bitten and bitten hard. National Sword is the Chinese government’s mechanism to restrict import licences for recycled product and limit contamination rates of those recyclables to less than 0.5%.
Australia’s recycling sector is primed for continued growth. It must in order to keep up with waste generation, which is growing at a compound annual rate of 6.2%, that is 6x population growth and 2.5x economic growth. The market is there, and it is being serviced through a combination of regulatory intervention and technological innovation.
The waste and recycling industry is, sadly, becoming known for its large blazes. This is not to suggest that Australian recycling facilities are badly run. They are not. It is, however, a sector that is at risk from fires.
By Mike Ritchie, MRA Consulting Group Our waste problems are urgent. Waste is pouring out of the economy at 6.3% compound average growth rate. Waste volumes double every 12 years. Most Australian States and Territories have set recycling targets for 2020/21. For MSW the diversion target is generally 65-70% (except in the ACT where it’s…