This is commodity fluctuation not a crisis

In spite of previous assurances, the effects of China’s National Sword policy, which places stringent restrictions on the importation of recycled materials, is being felt by our own Coffs Coast Waste Service.

The service deals with the rubbish and recyclables from the Bellingen, Nambucca and Coffs City areas and is handled by contractor Handybin Waste Services.

Contract manager Darryn Westman said the policy, which took effect in January 2017, had a significant impact on a whole range of products produced.

“Mixed paper is the one of the products most affected – not the higher quality end but the leftovers after all the clean material has been extracted,” Darryn said.

“To be paid for this we need to tidy it up (extra sorters have been employed) plus we are no longer being paid what we were previously.

“There is also the question of the number of loads China will accept, and that has been greatly reduced.”

Obviously the tender was based on a certain structure and that has now changed

Darryn Westman, Handybin Waste Services

He said that mixed plastics were no longer viable to sort and send and were instead being sent to the Biomass facility to extract as many useful components as possible, prior to being dumped in landfill.

“The price has dropped a lot for the HDP and PET plastics, partly because the local market is being flooded with product that previously went to China.”

Handybin is currently in negotiation with the three councils to see if a suitable financial solution can be found.

“Obviously the tender was based on a certain structure and that has now changed, so we are hurting financially.

“Fortunately we have a best practice waste management system, so we are a long way from closing, unlike many other MRFs (Material Recovery Facilities).


Nambucca Shire mayor, Rhonda Hoban said for its part, the council was concerned people might stop recycling or not be as conscientious as they had been previously.

“Our community has an excellent record for recycling and it is very important that everyone keeps that up,” Rhonda said.

“From China’s perspective, it is the contaminants that are at the heart of this, so it is important they are kept to a minimum.”

She said she would like to see the state government being more proactive with its recycling policies.

“For example, I’d like to see the state government using the money they collect from councils for landfill tonnage being used to invest in recycling.

“The money could go towards further processing, research and also marketing. There are opportunities there.”