Experts worry NSW will not be able to deal with its plastic waste after China and Indonesia imposed export bans this week.

Experts are worried NSW will not be able to deal with its own plastic waste after new export bans were imposed this week.
Key points:

  • From this week, Australia is banned from exporting mixed plastics to China and Indonesia
  • Experts believe NSW will struggle to deal with plastic waste it can’t send overseas
  • Shoalhaven City Council’s new recycling facility won’t be online for at least 18 months

On July 1, Australia was banned from exporting mixed plastics to China and Indonesia, which means waste will have to be locally processed.
The chief executive of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, Rose Read, said she would rank NSW in the bottom half of the states and territories for its ability to process plastic materials for re-use.
“It has taken NSW two years to get out their 20-year waste strategy, which they’ve only just released, so their focus and priority on waste and recycling hasn’t been as high as their focus on other areas,” Ms Read said.
She said the ACT and WA governments had worked more effectively with the Commonwealth to find funds for upgrades to their recycling facilities.
“New South Wales has been slower off the mark to do that,” she said.
Without enough operational recycling centres, Ms Read said, the state would struggle to deal with mounting recyclable waste.
‘Nobody wants a new tip’ 
In Shoalhaven, plans are already drawn for a recycling facility at the West Nowra Waste Depot, which will aim to reduce waste sent to landfills and process it for re-use.
“Nobody wants a new tip in their backyard,” Shoalhaven City Council Mayor Amanda Findley said.
“The bioelectric project is about diverting 95 percent of waste from the landfill.” 
Shoalhaven City Council Mayor Amanda Findley doesn’t expect the new recycling facility in West Nowra to be ready before the end of 2022 or mid 2023.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale
But Cr Findley says this facility won’t be up and running until the end of next year or mid-2023.
Similarly, a new recycling facility in Western Sydney to sort and process plastics won’t be complete until next year.
What happens between now and then is “a challenge for all of us”, Ms Read said.
‘Key role’ for regions
New South Wales Greens MLC, David Shoebridge’s major concern is what happens to mixed plastics before these centres are up and running.
“The very real concern is that a bunch of it is going to go into landfill because there simply isn’t the facility in New South Wales to convert a waste stream into a resource stream,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“I suppose it is that mixture of the environmental damage and the lost opportunity that I find a really striking blow.”
Ms Read believes regional NSW should be used when it comes to building recycling centres.
“Regional recycling facilities and transfer stations play a key role in aggregating recyclables from homes and businesses and also doing preliminary sorting and separating,” she said.
“It’s just a question of timeliness and priority of what a state puts on plastic recycling versus other issues they have at hand.”
Transitioning to circular economy: Minister
New South Wales Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean denied the state government wasnt making recycling a priority, saying it had just announced “one of the biggest waste and recycling initiatives in the nations history”.
“I am not going to apologise for taking our time in getting this right and setting up our state to lead the nation when it comes to recycling and dealing with waste,” Mr Kean said.
“We are getting rid of single-use plastics, we are funding projects to turn our plastic waste into manufacturing resources and we are transitioning to a circular economy.”
He said the government’s 20-year waste strategy was a $356 million commitment to reducing emissions and boosting jobs.