Waste export ban drives onshore recycling

To recover as much material as possible for recycling, Cleanaway has been working closely with the Federal Government to ensure we’re ready for the waste export bans rolling out over the next three years.

Industry Updates

May 27, 2021


These investments (more details below) are part of Cleanaway’s Footprint 2025 strategy to ensure we have the right infrastructure and technology across the waste value chain


These investments (more details below) are part of Cleanaway’s Footprint 2025 strategy to ensure we have the right infrastructure and technology across the waste value chain

In 2018, the global waste and recycling landscape shifted when China implemented it’s National Sword policy to limit the import of low-grade plastic and contaminated materials from overseas markets. The immediate result was to force Australia to review how we managed our recycling and our reliance on offshore markets for commodity sale and manufacturing.

This shift presented an opportunity for legislators, the waste management industry, businesses, and households to take more accountability for our waste and start to see it as a resource. This move towards a circular economy – an ‘in-house’ ecosystem where the materials we consume are reused and remanufactured onshore – will create sustainable jobs in Australia, reduce our reliance on volatile foreign markets and ensure all waste is seen as a resource.

To encourage the development a circular economy, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) announced a ban on the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres. This ban is now part of the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 which regulates how we export those waste types. The waste sector also received a boost through the Federal Government’s $190 million Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) announced as part of a national strategy to reach a resource recovery target of 80% by 2030.

Chief Operating Officer, Brendan Gill said, “Cleanaway is well positioned to continue exporting plastic and glass with around $115 million of investments in reprocessing facilities that ensure that material is optimised for recycling into new products.

“These investments (more details below) are part of Cleanaway’s Footprint 2025 strategy to ensure we have the right infrastructure and technology across the waste value chain and can play our role in sustainably meeting Australia’s waste needs and contributing to the creation of a circular economy.”

1 January 2021
Export ban on: Unprocessed glass in a whole or broken state. Both formed packaging and flat sheet glass.

Cleanaway has a licence to export cullet, which is a ‘furnace-ready’ form of processed Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) glass that can be used by recyclers. Further glass beneficiation technology is coming in 2022 with new technology installations in Melbourne to wash and colour sort, processing 140,000 tonnes per annum of kerbside and CDS glass.

1 July 2021
Export ban on: Mixed plastics that are not of a single resin or polymer type or where further sorting, cleaning and/or processing is required before re-use.

Mixed polymers
Cleanaway’s sorting technology means that mixed plastic is only 5% of our material. This material can be further sorted at our Laverton Plastic Recovery Facility or sold to other domestic processors.

Mixed residual plastics
Cleanaway is working with mechanical and chemical recycling partners to establish recycling solutions and processing for this waste stream.

1 July 2022
Export ban on: Single resin or polymer plastics that have not been reprocessed. For example, cleaned and baled PET bottles.

Circular Plastics Australia (PET)
The Albury plastic recycling facility is on track to begin operations in December 2021. The facility will recycle the equivalent of 1 billion 600ml PET plastic bottles each year to be used as a raw material to produce food and beverage packaging.

Circular Plastics Australia (PE)
The plastic recycling plant in Melbourne will convert 20,000 tons of kerbside HDPE and PP plastic waste into 18,000 tons of food-grade and non-food grade pellets. The plant will be located on a currently vacant section of Cleanaway’s Laverton North MRF site.

The plant is expected to be commissioned by December 2022.

Circular Plastics Australia (WA)
The proposed plastic recycling plant in WA will see more than 17,000 tons of kerbside PET, HDPE and PP plastic waste processed into nearly 14,000 tons of resin and polymer flake. This plant will also process post-industrial recycled plastic.

Cleanaway is currently working with the government to establish viable processing and circular solutions for LDPE and our customers.

Laverton North Plastic Recovery Facility
Currently sorting kerbside plastic into five different streams, further improvements are planned to process up to 20,000 tonnes per annum of HDPE and PP into food grade and non-food-grade recycled resins for plastic re-processing.

1 July 2024
Export ban on: Mixed and unsorted paper and cardboard.
Although clean cardboard remains a strong recyclable commodity, more needs to be done with lower grade mix papers from Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs). Innovative technology to process mixed paper and cardboard is being investigated to ensure we’re ready for the ban.

Contact us to learn more about how we’re making a sustainable future possible for communities and businesses across Australia.