Exports of clean paper and cardboard must not be banned

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (the ‘Council’) is calling on the Council of Australia Governments (COAG) to ensure that clean, high grade paper and cardboard are exempt from the proposed waste export bans.

The COAG announced the proposed waste export ban in August 2019. The Environment Ministers at their meeting on 8 November 2019 agreed that waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres that have not been processed into value-added material should be subject to the export ban. They determined that the ban should commence on 1 July 2020 with a phased approach:

  • All waste glass by July 2020.
  • Mixed waste plastics by July 2021.
  • All whole tyres including baled tyres by December 2021.
  • Remaining waste products, including single resin polymer plastics that have not been processed, mixed paper and cardboard, and baled paper and cardboard, by no later than 30 June 2022.

“While industry supports banning the export of waste glass, whole baled tyres, mixed plastics and mixed paper, the NWRIC does not support banning the export of clean paper and cardboard,” said Ms Rose Read, CEO of the NWRIC.

“Australia currently exports close to 1.1 million tonnes of clean, high grade paper and cardboard every year, approximately one third of the material we use. This export market is estimated to be worth more than $230 million.

“Without the capacity to export clean paper and cardboard, recycling services could fail, including household kerbside collections,” cautioned Ms Read.

“Also Australia does not currently have the capacity locally to remanufacture all the paper and cardboard it generates,” she added.

“Australia’s domestic paper mills that process recycled paper are in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. These mills do not currently have sufficient capacity to take all of the recycled paper and cardboard generated on the east coast. Let alone that generated in SA, NT and WA, who rely on overseas markets.”

Recycled paper is only purchased by a small number of reprocessors, limiting competition.

To ensure the export of quality recovered materials, the NWRIC is inviting COAG to work with the waste and resource recovery industry to develop national scrap specifications for metals, plastics, paper, cardboard, e-waste and other recycled materials. These would give the waste management and recycling sector clarity and certainty on what can be exported, and manufacturers confidence in the recovered material being supplied.

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