China's Trash Ban Forces Australian City to Bury its Recyclables

(Bloomberg) -- China’s move at the start of the year to halt imports of other nations’ junk is causing headaches worldwide. A city council in Australia is now set to be the first Down Under to remove the mounting stockpiles of recyclable commodities by burying them.

“The national recycling system broke sooner than we expected,” Andrew Antoniolli, the mayor of Ipswich, said in a statement. While it aims to call tenders to bid on waste-to-energy projects later this year, for now the city near Brisbane will send unwanted bottles, newspapers, cans and plastic containers from its 200,000 residents to landfill.

In a bid to curb its own rampant pollution, China has clamped down on the import of unsorted paper and plastics, with outdated industrial mills used to process foreign scrap into reusable raw materials closing down. The effects of the strict new standards on halting impurities in waste imports are now being felt worldwide, with governments in the U.S., Europe and Australia struggling to find new markets for their junk and scrambling to create their own recycling industries from scratch.

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The sale of recovered materials from Australia generated about A$3 billion ($2.3 billion) in 2015, according to the nation’s peak waste and resource-recovery sector body, citing Center of International Economics data.

Ipswich Council’s decision creates a worrying precedent for Aussies, most of whom have become accustomed to separating their waste into two bins -- one for general waste and the other collecting recyclable commodities totaling 1 million tons a year. The city’s Antoniolli warns other cities will be forced to follow his example in sending it all to the dump.

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