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The opportunity in the Green Sword

RecyclingHave you heard about the Green Sword? In short it is China’s policy to stop taking the world’s waste. Previously, China would import 700 000 tonnes of solid waste but on 1 January 2018 that changed. China has placed a ban on 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste as well as changing the quality control placed on products taken by China. In Australia approximately 619 000 tonnes of materials is expected to be impacted by the ban, worth $523 million.

While this poses a short-term struggle for our domestic recyclers who process our curbside waste, it poses a unique opportunity going forward. It creates the need to first and foremost reduce our waste — when we can no longer simply throw things into the red or yellow bin it will force us to confront our overconsumption, and think more about quality than quantity. It may be an uncomfortable adjustment for some, but ultimately will be so much better for the planet (and arguably, us).

It can also foster innovation and business: our wastes (including recycled) are resources that can be transformed. The recycling industry will need to innovate, upgrade and learn from groups like TerraCycle who are recycling harder to process materials, and our governments need to support these innovations.