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 Recycling Crisis in Australia
Charles
 Posted: Mar 3 2018, 08:53 AM
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Recycling in Australia is in crisis. Can it be fixed?

ABC Science
By environment reporter Nick Kilvert


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China's import ban pulled the rug out from under recycling industries worldwide.
(Getty Images: Peter Cade)

Australians take recycling seriously.

We recycled 60 per cent of the total waste we produced in 2014-15, according to the latest national waste report.

For most of us, recycling means we put our waste in the yellow-top bin. That is then picked up, taken to a recycling facility and turned back into its basic material — plastic, glass, aluminium, paper.

But it turns out recycling is not so simple, and there are major problems in the Australian industry.

A Four Corners investigation last year and more recent Fairfax investigation found significant amounts of recyclable materials are being dumped in landfill.

And when China stopped taking Australia's recyclable plastics at the beginning of this year, it became apparent just how dependent our industry was on shipping our waste overseas.

Industry leaders admit Australia's recycling industry is in crisis, but they also say there are some very simple ways it can be fixed.


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Australian companies are having to stockpile materials and collectors are at risk of default.
(ABC News: Matthew Roberts)

Price is the bottom line when companies buy materials, such as glass or plastic for soft-drink bottles, for manufacturing.

Because recycling is a convoluted process, recycled materials are often more expensive than materials made from virgin resources and so are passed over in favour of the cheaper option.

The problem is, price doesn't take into account the long-term costs associated with using virgin resources.

Plastic, for instance, is made from oil. A European Union report estimates that production of virgin plastic will account for 20 per cent of global oil consumption and 15 per cent of global greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.

Industry experts like Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) president Garth Lamb say there need to be guidelines ensuring councils and businesses prioritise recycled goods over virgin materials, or at least have recycled material quotas.

"A lot of decisions [at a council level] are made based on what's the lowest cost service provision and that's not where we want to be," Mr Lamb said

"We need to be in a position where we're providing real value to communities, not just trying to do everything at the lowest cost possible."

Helen Millicer, who is currently using her Churchill Fellowship to research circular economies in Europe, agrees.

She says if we stimulate the market for recycled materials in Australia, the industry that is already here will invest and expand, ultimately diverting more of our waste from landfill.

"We need to establish market pull, that's the first thing," she said.
Councils, governments need to lead the way

The idea that there are hundreds of thousand of tonnes of glass sitting in stockpiles or being sent to landfill has Mr Lamb and others in the industry tearing their hair out.

Glass they say, should be the easiest to get right.

When glass is recycled it is broken down into sand. According to Mr Lamb, despite council contractors around the country having huge stockpiles of glass, council road projects are still using virgin sand as road base.

He said that it's often a case of councils having no idea what resources are sitting in their contractors' collections depots, and there's no incentive to enquire.

"Obviously, if on one side of your business you need sand and on the other side of your business you're making sand, you ought to be able to do a deal," he said.

"If we can't get glass right, then there's something seriously wrong with the focus on recycling in Australia.

"It's an apathy issue — people just don't care enough to bother trying."

Prioritising recycled materials needs to start with councils, government and business, and according to Ms Millicer, needs to be specified in project tenders.

"There's no point separating it into the right bin unless you're going to buy it back," she said.

Like most experts, Jenni Downes from the University of Sydney's Institute for Sustainable Futures thinks the China ban is the disruption the industry needed.

"Those disruptions have a great deal of pain first. There will be problems, but there could be great solutions," she said.

As well as improving our local recycling, Ms Downes said it's time to look at other options like bottle deposit schemes — where glass and plastic bottles are returned, sterilised and reused such as in the German Pfand system.

The Pfand system provides incentives for drinks companies to supply their products in multi-use plastic or glass bottles. Customers pay a deposit on the bottle, which is refunded when the bottles are returned.

Rather than going through the entire recycling process after each use, the bottles are washed, sterilised and refilled up to 50 times.

Reusing a product is far less energy intensive than putting it through the recycling process and eliminates any risk of the product ending up in landfill.

"Recycling should be considered the last line of defence. What should be first is reducing the need for that product in the first place," Ms Downes said.


http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-03-03/recycling-industry-in-crisis-can-it-be-fixed/9502512

The biggest problem here is that we have become a throw-away society.

Many of us would remember the days when one bin, about half the capacity of modern bins, would service a family. Milk was delivered in bottles and empties taken away by the milkman. Groceries were packed in paper bags and any processed food came in tins - not plastic containers. Food scraps were added to compost or even buried in the veggie patch. Newspapers were recycled 'on-site' at home. Some were used to wrap food scraps, others donated to schools who were always looking for them as desk covers in art classes.

Now we have two giant wheelie bins - one for general rubbish, the other for recycling. Some councils even provide three bins so that plastics and paper can be separated. In addition we have kerbside collections - both for green waste and for general hard waste.

Now we have the problem with China no longer accepting recyclables. Given that they take a lot of our raw materials to produce items that they send back to us as manufactured goods, they have a moral obligation to maintain some sort of balance.

Perhaps its up to our politicians to adopt a stronger stance with our trade relations with China. There may be negative ramifications in Australia, but the bottom line is China needs our resources more than we need their manufactured goods.

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Alicia
 Posted: Mar 3 2018, 09:31 AM
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Here in Australia we seem to be happy to outsource the hard stuff and Aussies will sit in an office playing with a computer. Our manufacturing and industrial scene is somewhat of a desert these days. As is often noted by all, we now are dependent on other countries for things which could be made/done here. We have given others a lot of power over us and we are not self sufficient any more. http://fairdinkumnewschat.com/unsure.gif http://fairdinkumnewschat.com/mad.gif http://fairdinkumnewschat.com/sad.gif
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Flin
 Posted: Mar 3 2018, 10:22 AM
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They could round up some of the old tarts in Melbourne and send them off to the Virgin Islands to be recycled. http://fairdinkumnewschat.com/biggrin.gif

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Flin
 Posted: Mar 3 2018, 10:23 AM
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They could round up some of the old tarts in Melbourne and send them off to the Virgin Islands to be recycled. http://fairdinkumnewschat.com/biggrin.gif

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Bill
 Posted: Mar 4 2018, 06:32 PM
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Can it be fixed? - Yep - with a 'recycling' levy - coming to a council near you soon.

Recycling has never worked. We've been paying our 'recyclers' for years to ship the waste o/seas.

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scepo
 Posted: Mar 5 2018, 12:11 PM
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And how on earth is a council levy going to fix it Bill? http://fairdinkumnewschat.b1.jcink.com/uploads/fairdinkumnewschat/smiley_don_t_know.gif

It's hard to remember a council fixing anything. http://fairdinkumnewschat.com/blink.gif http://fairdinkumnewschat.com/blink.gif

We already pay our councils to handle our recyclable waste.

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Bill
 Posted: Mar 5 2018, 02:45 PM
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Toowoomba took to recycling with a vengeance. Our problem is eWaste and plastics.

it was some years back now that the Council had to subsidise the recycler who couldn't turn a profit. From memory it was a 'one off' grant of $75,000, but I assume that it has been an ongoing commitment.

It's only a matter of time before we will be asked to pay for our recycling efforts and we can be sure it will come in the form of a levy or a bin charge to raise the revenue.

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Jonno
 Posted: Mar 6 2018, 06:25 PM
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Every State in the country should be forced to have bins for recycled, 10 cents return items.
BAN THE SALE OF DISPOSABLE NAPPIES, STOP THE SHIT ON THE TIP...!!
We know several lazy, scruff-bag gits who drink beer until their eyes cross and throw the empty cans and bottles in the waste bin, not the recycle bin.
Slovenly sewage scum they are, the lowest form of air-breathers.

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Phillip J.
 Posted: Mar 7 2018, 09:25 AM
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Flin, You mean as in refurbished? Perhaps the Virgin Islands are running out! http://fairdinkumnewschat.com/biggrin.gif

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