CANBERRA, AAP – A ban on sending mixed plastics overseas for recycling has come into effect across Australia.
Federal and state governments agreed in 2019 to ban exports of a range of recyclable materials after countries including China and Indonesia stopped taking waste from other nations.
Glass has been banned from export since January 1 this year, while mixed plastics will no longer be able to be sent overseas from Thursday.
“Mixed plastics are the roughly sorted bundles of bottles and containers packed into shipping containers that we have often seen turned away from foreign ports in recent years due to contamination issues,” Environment Minister Sussan Ley said in a statement.
“This is about taking responsibility for our waste, creating economic opportunity and helping our environment.”
Ms Ley said this stage of the ban will end the export of 75,000 tonnes of baled mixed plastic each year.
She said there is already an annual spare capacity of more than 160,000 tonnes at 52 of Australia’s plastics-processing facilities.
However, Rose Read, chief executive of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, said the industry is not ready for the ban.
“We’re slowly progressing towards that,” she told the ABC. “But are we ready for the 1st of July? No.”
Ms Read said some facilities did not have the capacity to process all of the plastic waste and it could end up in landfill.
Ms Ley said major industry parties and state governments have signed up to the timetable.
“While there may be a few others who are slow to adjust, the broader industry is firmly behind where we are going,” she said.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste was generated in the 2018/19 financial year, with only nine per cent recycled and 84 per cent sent to landfill.
Households created the largest amount of plastic waste at close to half.
Unprocessed plastics sorted into single resin or polymer type will be banned from July 1, 2022.