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Local recycling waste. Images: Contributed.

Recycling costs up: waste charges to rise

Geoff Helisma | At last week’s Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, councillors unanimously endorsed (without discussion or debate) a recommendation to increase its payment to JR & EG Richards for processing recyclables. Consequently, ratepayers will be asked to pay more when CVC conducts its upcoming community consultation for the 2018/19 budget and operational plan. The decision was prompted by the Chinese Government’s recent decision to “restrict the importation of recyclable material from Australia and other countries”, the report to council stated. The council will pay JR & EG Richards an extra $125 per tonne to process recyclables, effective from April 1, 2018. As a result, councillors have “proposed [that the] 2018/19 domestic waste fee increase from $310 to $346 for a 3 bin service, and from $250 to $285 for the 2 bin service, [which will] be incorporated into Council’s draft 2018/19 Revenue Policy to enable community consultation to be undertaken”. “In July 2017, China notified the World Trade Organisation that it planned to restrict the import of post consumer recyclables from 1 January 2018,” the report to council stated. “The import restrictions have a particular impact on mixed plastic and mixed paper products, however, the market value of most recyclable material has fallen to the extent that in many cases contractors are paying rather than being paid for the material, if they can find a market at all. “Basically the business case used for processing recycling for the past 20 years has collapsed. “Industry has been working on various medium and long term options to mitigate the China impact and there have been numerous meetings between industry and the three levels of Government. “At this point, however, it is evident that the current arrangement is not sustainable without a substantial increase in the processing gate fee.” The problem is confronting councils nationwide, as evidenced by various media reports on the issue last week, following Ipswich City Council’s announcement that it would cease its recycling service. However, the Ipswich council has since changed its mind about sending recyclables to landfill. The report to last week’s CVC meeting stated that withdrawing its recycling service “should be avoided if at all possible, as it would be extremely difficult to regain community confidence in recycling if the service was cancelled even for a short term”. The report also warned of “additional cost” if recyclables were sent to landfill. Meanwhile, the NSW Government has announced a “$47m assistance package to address the issue in the short term”, the report to council stated, “however, there is no detail on how this will be spent and what, if any, funds will be available to Council to offset the additional cost.” The report also stated that CVC could “receive some funding from the introduction of the Container Deposit Scheme, where Council and the MRF operator will share the value of Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) containers remaining in the kerbside service”. The Environment Protection Authority is currently determining how this will work. Staff have estimated that “an annual increase in processing costs of up to $875,000 is anticipated”. The additional (approx. $218,000) costs for the remainder of this financial year will be covered by CVC’s Domestic Waste Reserve. JR & EG Richards must now provide a three-monthly report to CVC, “detailing the destination of Council’s kerbside recyclables by product type”. Councillors also decided that the “$125 per tonne variation in the gate fee to process recyclables be reviewed on a six-monthly basis”.