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Preparing for the Australian waste export ban

28 November 2019

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This month Australian Commonwealth and Environment Ministers announced the Waste Export Ban being enforced from July 2020 which has been a topic of both admiration and contention. Many welcome the guidelines made to reduce the amount of exported waste as there is a huge need for the industry to modify as exporting waste is not a sustainable solution. Some fear these export bans will result in more waste being sent to Australian landfill because waste processing companies are already struggling to process waste. Many within the waste industry claim deadlines are unrealistic and are calling for government funding to allow companies to put the correct processes in place to enable them to reach waste export ban deadlines[1].

The Value of Export

The Australian waste industry has been under heavy scrutiny and is often described as an industry in crisis. When compared with other developed economies, Australia generates more waste than average and recycles less[2]. This results in the creation of 67 million tonnes of waste each year, of which ABC reported approximately 40% is sent to landfill. In comparison, many European countries only landfill three percent or less of their waste.

In 2018-19 Australia exported 4.4 million tonnes of waste worth a value of $3 billion to Asia. 32% of this waste was made up from glass, paper, plastic and tyres with an export value of $290 million[3]. In recent years we have seen China impose import bans of waste and Indonesia has sent back shipments of contaminated waste leading to much of the waste being unprocessed and sent to Australian landfill.  Despite this, there are many companies, some of which are customers of ours, who are changing the landscape of waste in Australia.  Yet, they can’t do it alone.

Commonwealth and Environment Ministers determined that a phased export ban will commence on 1 July 2020. All waste glass exports will be banned from July 2020, mixed waste plastics by July 2021, whole tyres by December 2021 and by June 2022 remaining waste products, including mixed paper and cardboard[4]. This calls into question the technological developments required to be made in the Australian waste industry in a short timeframe.

Being Prepared for Glass Export Ban

From July 2020 only glass that has been colour sorted and washed, meaning that the cullet is ready for further use, can be exported. In the past it was cheaper for companies to import glass than it was to buy recycled glass, leading to many companies having huge stockpiles of used glass. Australia’s waste glass is worth $1 million and 90% of waste glass is exported from Victoria.  

When it comes to glass recycling, we must be optimistic. As the Commonwealth and Environment Ministers have highlighted, glass is a material that can be recovered for endless reuse, but this is only if companies have infrastructures advanced enough to allow for it. For leading waste disposal companies, it then comes in to question how they manage glass waste so they can divert as much from landfill and only export when essential. Without funding and investment, ABC have debated the export ban could result in more waste going to landfill as the industry is already struggling to process waste in the current system.

Before glass waste can be recycled it needs to be purified and cleaned of contamination. If left untreated from contaminants such as paper, metals, organics and plastics waste glass is of little commercial value and from July 2020 will be banned from export. Attention also needs to be paid to the characteristics MRF glass possesses and the challenges it brings.

For glass recycling to increase companies need to invest in solutions that can support them with the washing and breakdown of waste glass. When considering investing in waste glass washing, the pre-treatment processes must be efficient and often this is the missing link in many recycling processes. With a pre-treatment stage, the glass that would not have been recovered by optical sorting due to contamination can be screened and washed, removing contaminants and allowing maximum glass recovery. Having the essential glass washing solution allows a visually cleaner glass product to be produced. This results in an added value product for resale, less material being sent to landfill and material being eligible for the conditions of the export ban.

Whilst government funding would greatly benefit companies in allowing them to invest in infrastructure, companies must consider their own investment to reducing the impact on diverting waste from landfill and create a sustainable industry and environment.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and we look forward to expanding the discussion on the export ban over the coming year. Get in touch with us on LinkedIn or contact us to continue the conversation!

For more information on CDEnviro technology for Waste Glass Washing, get in touch by emailing


[1] Last accessed 27/11/2019

[2] Last accessed 27/11/2019

[3] Last accessed 27/11/2019

[4] Last accessed 27/11/2019

Glass Waste glass Glass washing Glass recycling Waste Recycling australia