Response to China’s National Sword

LGNSW is supporting councils to continue to offer quality and affordable kerbside recycling services to their communities as they respond to impacts from the Chinese Government’s National Sword policy.

China’s policy enforces strict contamination thresholds on imports of recycled materials, such as unsorted plastics from kerbside collections. This has impacted the global market for recyclable material. Materials can still be exported to China if they have a contamination rate of 0.5 per cent or less.
The National Sword policy has led to significant impacts for material recovery facilities (MRFs) and many MRFs are now seeking to revise existing waste contracts with councils to cover their increased operational costs.

Finding effective solutions requires a collaborative approach across local, state and federal governments, industry and the community.

Moving on from National Sword Workshop

Mayors, councillors, general managers and others came together on Friday, 20 July 2018, to discuss how best to respond to the Chinese Government’s decision to restrict recycling imports and what lies ahead for councils.

Joining us was Local Government The Hon Minister Gabrielle Upton MP – also Minister for the Environment - who committed to work with the sector to help resolve the recycling crisis. Also attending the workshop were representatives from the Environment Protection Authority, the Office of Local Government, Local Government Procurement, and the Waste Management Association of Australia.

Feedback from the workshop will be communicated to all stakeholders. 

Working with government and industry

The NSW Government has established the China National Sword Inter-Governmental Taskforce to work on long-term actions with working groups focused on: government procurement, circular economy and inter-jurisdictional engagement, streamlining approval of recycling facilities, longer term solutions and business case, and model contracts and negotiation support.

LGNSW is part of the Local Council Reference Group aimed at providing insight and input to ensure local government views are communicated to the Taskforce and the work of the Taskforce is communicated with local government. There is also an Industry Reference Group.

Other members of the Local Government Reference Group are: Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (NSW), RENEW NSW, NEWaste, RAMROC Riverina, NETWaste, SSROC, WSROC and Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils.

Accessing support from the NSW Government

The NSW Government has announced a $47 million support package funded by the Waste Less Recycle More initiative to help local government and industry respond to China’s National Sword policy.

The $2.5 million Recycling Relief Fund enables councils and voluntary regional waste groups outside the waste levy area to temporarily off-set some of the extra costs associated with recycling services to support ongoing, uninterrupted delivery of kerbside and drop-off recycling services. Applications are open now and will close 4pm 31 August 2018. Contact the NSW Environment Protection Authority for further information.

The Better Waste Recycling Fund (BWRF) and guidelines have been updated to ensure councils in the levy paying area can direct their funding towards responding to China National Sword policy.

The Circulate and Civil Construction market program’s guidelines have been broadened to respond to recycling changes with expanded eligibility to ensure funding for programs that identify new uses for recyclable materials and increase the production and use of recycled products.

The new Improvements and Enhancements Fund will soon be released to support co-investment in infrastructure projects that improve the quality of recycled materials produced by MRFs and reduce the amount of unrecyclable material left at the end of the recycling process.

Developing local markets

At the Meeting of Environment Ministers on 27 April, Ministers agreed to increase the demand for recycled products.  Governments will advocate for increased use of recycled materials in the goods that government and industry buy, such as paper, road materials, and construction materials, and to collaborate on creating new markets for recycled materials.   

With an expenditure of $10 billion annually, local government in NSW has a significant purchasing power, and along with state and federal action, could make a real difference. Some councils are already working to develop markets for their recyclables, including the use of recycled glass in civil construction.

A Sustainable Procurement Guide for local government in NSW is available and Sustainable Choice is available to assist councils to integrate sustainability into procurement systems and to purchase sustainable products and services.

Temporary increases to stockpiling limits

The EPA will consider temporary increases to stockpiling limits for recyclable material on a case-by-case basis balanced with the safety of the community and environment. To review or apply for a variation to your operating conditions contact the EPA. Support and advice is also available to facilities that are currently not licenced but may be required to become licenced due to the temporary increase in stockpiling limits.