China’s decision to stop accepting foreign recycling waste unless it was almost completely uncontaminated has led to concern about the viability of recycling in Australia. Governments, including local councils, have been forced to re-assess how they handle recyclables and whether materials such as plastics and glass can be economically recycled rather than being disposed of in landfill.
While there is much to be concerned about in the current situation, there has been some positive news on the recycling front.
Adrian Fuller, a Gold Coast metal recycler, scraps 1,200 to 1,500 cars a month. Because scrapping the vehicles involved disposing of tyres at a cost of $3.30 to dump each tyre, he looked at ways of cutting this cost. The alternative was to find ways of recycling the tyres which meant that the resource was being used and he could benefit financially from its re-use.
One method of doing this is to shred tyres and turn them into products such as playground equipment and gym matting.
Instead Mr Fuller will be using the technology of Canadian company Eco-Flex to convert finely crumbed rubber into fire retardant bricks, pavers, fence panels and sound barriers. He plans to start production by the end of the year.
Waste Management Association of Australia CEO Gayle Sloan welcomed Mr Fuller’s decision.
“We recognise as the waste industry that what we’re actually dealing with is resources and these companies that are prepared to invest in technology to turn that back into other products is just terrific,” she said.
“We know that if we recycle we create 9.2 jobs for every 10,000 tonnes that we recycle, compared with 2.8 jobs if we simply landfill.”
If his new enterprise is successful Mr Fuller hopes to expand to recycle large quantities of end-of-life tyres. He pointed out that disposing of or storing the many thousands of these tyres was a problem around the country.
Ms Sloan said that greater consumer awareness about the benefits of buying recycled rubber products would help the waste management industry.
Hopefully that will happen with the increasing public awareness about problems with recycling waste.
- Leonie Blain
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on July 16, 2018.