Ratepayers could be left to foot the bill for rapidly rising recycling costs, Wagga’s mayor says.
China’s clampdown on importing recyclables sent prices for paper and plastics plummeting, putting Kurrajong Recyclers’ bottom line at risk.
The National Sword policy, which came into effect on January 1, led to crisis talks between governments and has caused one Queensland council to dump recycling into landfill.
Wagga mayor Greg Conkey said the price for mixed paper had gone from $250 to less than $80 per tonne, mixed plastics had dropped from $250 to $50 per tonne and cardboard had fallen by 17 per cent as a result of the Chinese decision.
“According to the experts prices will remain low for a very long time and fees charged by organisations like Kurrajong must go up,” Cr Conkey said. “Consequently the prices we have to charge for waste will inevitably rise, but I want to stress this is a worldwide problem, not just a Wagga problem.”
Kurrajong Recyclers is Wagga City Council’s kerbside recycling processor and also takes containers processed through reverse vending machines run by the state government. But with China’s stricter rules driving the value of recyclable material down and leaving more of it to be dumped, the disability support organisation is facing an economic squeeze.
Eventually, Cr Conkey said, China’s hardline stance could lead to more domestic recycling jobs, but for now Wagga had to deal with the “short-term pain”.
Kurrajong Recyclers manager Tim Macgillycuddy confirmed “the bottom had fallen out” of the recyclables market, but said he was working with council to resolve the problem.
“The last thing Kurrajong wants to do is increase the burden on ratepayers, we’re a community organisation and contribute to the community as council does, so we don’t want to impose unrealistic costs on them,” Mr Macgillycuddy said.
“We’re prepared to honour our contract with Wagga City Council and keep gate fees as they are for the moment. We’re working with council, they’re not burying their head in the sand… in the next couple of weeks we’ll have a resolution suitable to both parties.”
Two months after councils across Australia were told China’s move to exclude all but the least contaminated waste “threatens the viability of the kerbside (recycling) system”, Ipswich City Council revealed it had been dumping residents’ recycling into landfill.
Mr Macgillycuddy said following Ipswich’s lead was an “absolute last resort” and called it a “negative approach”.
“This is not the time to throw our hands in the air and say recycling is too hard,” Mr Macgillycuddy said.
“Everyone needs to take responsibility from households to council and us. We all have a role to play in making this work.”