Environment

Australia commits to reducing ocean pollution by banning waste exports

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged $20 million AUD toward improving domestic recycling capacities, the first phase in the government’s recent plan to stop the export of recyclable plastic, paper, glass, and tires.

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According to Morrison, the funding will support “innovative projects to grow [Australia’s] domestic recycling industry.”

"We are committed to protecting our nation’s environment while also building our capacity to turn recycling into products that people want and need,” Morrison stated in a media release. “By engaging industry and researchers, we can make sure we’re seeing these changes introduced in a way that cuts costs for businesses and ultimately even creates jobs.”

The announcement comes just days after Australian state and federal governments first agreed to ban waste exports.

The agreement — which requires ministers to draw up a timeline to develop their own recycling capabilities — will see leaders work to decrease the amount of waste going to landfill and maximize Australia’s waste management industry.

The new domestic waste strategy is expected to help clean up the world’s oceans.

"There will be no exports of plastics and paper and glass to other countries where it runs the risk of ending up floating around in our oceans, whether off the Great Barrier Reef — which we know there's strong evidence of — or anywhere else," Morrison added.

Australia currently recycles just 12% of plastic, paper, and glass placed in recycling bins.

Last year, the nation spent $2.8 billion exporting 4.5 million metric tons of recyclable waste overseas. Around 80% of this waste — of which one-third is plastic, paper, and cardboard — goes to Asian nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

Recently, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have moved to stop or limit waste imports from other countries, including Australia.

China’s full ban on imported foreign waste in 2018 has majorly impacted Australia, which previously sent 1.3 million tons of garbage to the nation each year. For the past six months, increasing masses of waste at local recycling plants in the Australian state of Victoria have been a fire risk — which has resulted in the closure of major processing hubs.

With key recycling plants down, more than 30 councils in the state have been forced to send recyclables to landfill.

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