There doesn’t seem to be a day go by when waste is not in the news. It was encouraging to hear the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison look to set aside A$100m from the Australian Federal Government to #kickstartrecycling infrastructure in Australia and to also support the States in doing so. Hopefully this will lift the amount of plastic waste recycled from the current 12% level in Australia today. Australian originated waste was in the news this past month as Indonesia sent back 100 containers. While I was at the Indonesia-Australia Business Summit in Sydney in September, I met a few senior Indonesian Government officials who explained to me the contents of these containers. It was very clear from their comments that what was in these containers was not ‘pure’ plastic. It is household waste, mixed in with items such as oil containers, nappies and even more unsavoury items. It is this reason that it is also unsuitable for companies like Re>Pal as the amount of cleaning to get this comingled waste to a useable form would simply cost too much money.
Hopefully this will only add impetus for countries to collaborate on what can be processed within each country and what can be processed by neighbours. For instance, Sweden is a net importer of waste as it has very strong technology on waste-to-energy processing; I believe that 50% is used in that process, and 50% is recycled. In all of these waste projects the important, and elephant-in-the-room issue, is ensuring easy collection of materials so they are not simply dumped or co-mingled. Manufacturers need to ensure simplicity of packaging, labelling and ensuring materials are all 100% recyclable. For instance and from a personal perspective, I’d hope the days of using Styrofoam in packaging are numbered as the impact when that breaks down is devastating – I believe due to its high air content that 30% of all American landfill is Styrofoam despite it making up only 2% of the weight!
Some of these issues cropped up when Chris Bath of the Australian National Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) kindly interviewed me on her “Evenings” programme this month, due to the Australian “container issue”