Recycling: where to from here?

Recycling Crisis Update

April 2018

Since the China import ban last year, recycling processing has changed dramatically. China announced the National Sword policy in July 2017, which imposed a strict 0.5% contamination limit on many recyclables. As this limit is unachievable for most recyclable material, the price per tonne that recycling facilities received has dropped significantly thereby impacting recycling processing nationwide.

Recyclable material in North Sydney is collected by our waste contractor URM and is transported for processing by Visy at their Material Recovery Facility at Smithfield.



Paper is considered a valuable recyclable material. Due to the fact that North Sydney’s recycling bin is commingled, and includes approximately 50% paper and cardboard, it is suitable for processing by Visy which converts the paper fibre into new packaging material.



Steel and aluminium only make up a small proportion of the yellow bin, nonetheless they receive a good market rate and are largely not impacted by the current recycling crisis.



A third of the yellow bin is made up of glass. Glass is difficult to recycle as the glass market has collapsed over the last few years due to lack of demand for the product. It is currently cheaper to import glass bottles than to recycle them and there are only two glass furnaces in Australia which will accept recycled glass for processing. Recycled glass can be used in other applications, for example, in road construction base; however, the majority of recycled glass needs to be cleaned of contaminants increasing the processing cost. Currently, recycled glass is being stockpiled to save it from landfill and to await future processing options.



Approximately eight percent of the yellow bin is made up of PET (1) and HDPE (2) containers as well as other mixed plastics (numbers 3 -7). Visy is one of Australia’s largest manufacturer of PET containers and PET plastic is generally recycled into new PET containers. HDPE (2) plastic is also largely recycled by Visy. Currently, mixed plastic is either processed domestically or exported.


Where to from here?

The State Government has pledged $47 million towards solving the recycling markets issue and has committed to improving infrastructure and finding new uses for recyclable material.

The NSW Container Deposit Scheme has seen the installation of Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) and these will have an impact on the recycling market. RVMs will provide alternative cleaner streams of glass and plastics, which will be more acceptable for recycling. Council is supportive of the Container Deposit Scheme and is in discussions with TOMRA and Cleanaway to establish an RVM in North Sydney.


How can we help?

Householders can help North Sydney’s recycling by following the guidelines on what items are acceptable and not acceptable in the yellow bin. By minimising contamination, the materials will be more suitable to recycle at Visy. Items NOT recyclable, that can disrupt machinery, include: plastic bags, soft plastics, clothing, nappies, food waste, light globes, polystyrene, tissues and crockery.

As the Federal and State Governments and Industry find solutions to the recycling markets downturn, commingled kerbside recycling will remain and Council will work with industry bodies to ensure recyclable materials continue to be processed.

Posted on 26 April 2018

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