The Department of the Environment and Energy has stated that to assist work on an action plan for the updated national waste policy, the taskforce has agreed to a literature review of opportunities to grow markets in recycled glass, plastics and rubber and paper and cardboard.
SRU has assessed a range of publicly available reports that have been produced on the state of markets for recycled materials. These have generally been initiated following challenging conditions for the export of collected recyclables. The reports are mostly focussed on the range of materials collected through household kerbside systems. This includes packaging made from paper and cardboard, plastics, glass, steel and aluminium.
The scope is generally to provide contemporary information on the market flows and conditions for each of these materials and for rubber. As steel and aluminium are a small component of the kerbside system, and are largely unaffected by trade conditions, these are not always a focus of the studies behind these reports. This report draws extensively on, and quotes from, the findings of the reports listed in the reference section.
In summary, the local and global markets for the recyclable materials - paper and cardboard, plastics, and glass are all volatile in 2019. This is largely due to regulatory restrictions on the import of recycled material into China, and then into some other Asian nations. The market security and pricing for recyclables is strongly linked to the availability of markets back into new product, either as packaging or durable goods.
There is a recognition that government and major brands have a role in procuring recycled content product in order to create the market pull for a healthy circular outcome.
It is unlikely that Australia will have the same opportunities to export recyclable materials in either the quantity or quality that existed previously. If the recycling system is to remain robust and national targets for packaging are to be met, then each of the stakeholders will need to address the issues raised here.