While the passing of the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 is a critical and game changing first move towards ensuring that Australia steps up to take responsibility for its waste, leading resource recovery company ResourceCo says it is also a reminder of how much more needs to be done.
The new law implements the agreement by all of Australia’s Governments to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass, and tyres. Starting in January 2021, and progressing through to mid-2024 when the full waste export ban comes into effect, Australia must recycle around 650,000 additional tonnes of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres each year.
Critically the law is accompanied by commitments from the federal government and select state governments to help tackle some of the barriers to success, including investment in onshore processing and infrastructure and the development of domestic markets for repurposed material.
There is increased momentum flowing from the introduction of the Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) which recognises waste as a valuable resource and is expected to generate $600 million of recycling investment. However Jim Fairweather, CEO of ResourceCo and its tyre recycling division Tyrecycle, sees there is already concern that some states are taking to long to respond through their own grants programs.
“There is a sense of urgency in ensuring we create markets for our repurposed products – without those markets everything up the line falls over,” he says.
Recently, the Federal Government announced plans to strengthen the Commonwealth procurement guidelines to enable any procurement undertaken by a Commonwealth agency to consider environmental sustainability and recycled content when determining value for money.
“What we really need are bold procurement commitments by governments at all levels as a strong sign to industry that they are prepared to back our waste and resource recovery sector, in turn boosting our economy and creating jobs,” Fairweather says.
“Getting this right will be vital for success in terms of Australia’s transition to a circular economy – it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the sector and deliver sustainable outcomes.”
Currently Tyrecycle, as a market leader in the tyre recycling industry in Australia, collects and processes approximately 20 million of end-of-life tyres per annum.
“We’ve got processing facilities in every state in Australia and are the only tyre recycling company that has long-term contracts for collection with the major tyre manufacturers and repair retailers.”
However, with Australians generating about 56 million used tyres annually.
“Given the December 2021 deadline for the ban on the export of whole-baled tyres, there’s still much to be done,” he says.
Tyrecycle has been leading the way in the production of both tyre-derived-fuel (TDF) and rubber crumb for use in road aggregates – but while Faiweather says both recycled products are strongly embraced in overseas markets, these have yet to be widely implemented in Australia.
“We’re seeing a slow progression in the use of recycled tyres in road construction but there’s a lot of room for uplift in momentum, and TDF is not even on the radar,” he says.
“As well as strong procurement commitments, we also need policy harmonisation across states to create greater certainty for industry, which in turn creates a positive environment for investment.”
Fairweather says Australia must futureproof the resource recovery industry.
“If we are to be smart about how we use the earth’s limited resources, it’s important we take a consistent and strategic approach to developing lasting infrastructure solutions.”
The Federal Government’s reforms in recycling and waste reduction are expected to see more than 10 million tonnes of waste diverted from landfill, creating 10,000 jobs, and adding an additional $3.6 billion to the economy, with potential to generate a further $1.5 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years.