Waste Management Behaviour Change Needed in Wake of China Recyclables Import Ban

A waste management expert claims residents need to change their recycling behaviours, with a looming potential national recycling crisis on the cards.

City of Cockburn waste manager Lyall Davieson said people need to be more aware of the consequences of waste, after China banned the import of recyclable materials in January.

“There are people out there to either don’t care or don’t know and don’t want to know,” City of Cockburn waste manager Lyall Davieson said.

Mr Davidson said there was not enough understanding about recyclables and people needed to be aware of what they were putting in their recycling bin to prevent contamination.

“Contamination, it comes from what the people put in the yellow top bins,” he said.

“We don’t want gas bottles or clothes or hose pipe or electrical cables or e-waste or anything in the recycle bin like that.”

“We want the standard recyclable materials like newspaper and cans and aluminium cans and drink bottles and milk bottles, newspaper cardboard.”

Mr Davieson said the City of Cockburn would be rolling out an education program with the introduction of a third bin as part of a three bin system.

“We’ll knock on every resident that has a property greater than 400 square metres and educate them,” he said.

“We certainly feel that to improve the service and to improve environmental outcomes we’ll be endeavouring to make sure that people become aware of their responsibility.”

The State Government will urge every local government council to use red, yellow and green bins for household waste, despite trials of the bin system in a number of councils.

The system uses a red bin for general waste, yellow for recyclables and green for organic waste system, to help reduce contamination by maintaining source separation.

It comes after China enforced its new “National Sword” policy on January 1 this year, banning import of recyclable materials.

The policy bans 24 types of solid waste including various plastics and unsorted mixed papers, and sets a tougher standard for contamination levels.

China also announced in November 2017 that it would also be introducing a 0.5 per cent contamination limit on imports of waste materials including paper, cardboard and plastics.

The National Sword policy follows China’s 10 month “Green Fence” policy, which set initial standards for lower recycling contamination levels.

WA Waste Authority Chairman Marcus Geisler said China’s ban was “not a ban on recyclables”.

“This is a ban on waste,” Mr Geisler said.

He said the country was trying to improve the environment.

“China in my opinion, they’re just trying to clean up their act,” he said.

“You see pictures now of Beijing, they actually have blue skies instead of the smoky skies in 2005 and 2008.”

“They’re just trying to protect their environment.”

Mr Geisler said it had an impact on Australia’s recycling industry.

“That puts pressure on what we do, because in reality we’re not recycling in Australia,” he said.

“We are sorting in Australia and sending our recyclables to other countries to be recycled.”

However, WA councils claim they are not affected by the ban, with the state’s recyclable waste not sent to China.

“The news they’re getting really applies to the eastern states and not to the west of Australia,” City of Melville Mayor Russell Aubrey said.

“Our recycling product goes to Indonesia, it goes to Malaysia, but it does not go to China.”

Mr Aubrey said trial of the colour-coded bin system had been well received but it would remain a battle to reduce contamination to recyclable materials.

“The big concern for me as mayor and for all those that really value recycling processes is that the community continues to engage and continue along the same path of recycling as they always have, to make sure that our recycling streams are kept as pure as possible,” he said.

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