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Every Australian household will be affected by China’s ban on imports of our recycling. If you’re like many other Australians, you’re wondering why a decision made in a foreign country thousands of kilometres across the sea should make recycling more important than ever in this country. Here’s what you need to know.

In July this year, China – the world’s biggest manufacturer of recycled products – announced that it would no longer be importing 24 types of waste in an effort to minimise pollution in the country. China also stated that it would only accept recyclable material with a contamination level of 0.5 percent and below. Even though the ban will only take effect in 2019, the news left many countries – including ours – shocked because we rely on China to take a large portion of our waste material.

To give you an idea of what constitutes contamination, consider a glass bottle placed into a glass recycling bin. If it’s a plain glass bottle, it’s deemed to be uncontaminated. But if it still has a plastic label attached and a screw-on metal lid, it’s not going to pass the stricter contamination criteria imposed by the Chinese.

ABC News reports that currently, Australian trash has a contamination level of up to 18%, which means we’re going to have to get a whole lot better at recycling. The alternative is to see tons of garbage filling up local landfills, polluting our environment.

Industry insiders are encouraging Australians to see this as an opportunity to move towards a circular economy – which involves the creation of raw materials that are processed for use and then recycled and broken down to create other products. It’s a cyclical economic model that has many benefits:

  • Reduction in the number of raw materials being removed from the environment.
  • Less trash ends up in landfills.
  • Less energy is spent on extracting raw materials from the earth and the environment.
  • Recycling creates and sustains jobs, making the industry beneficial for the economy.

How you can help reduce contamination levels:

  1. Rinse and dry all materials you recycle, except paper and cardboard, of course. Remove paper and plastic labels from glass bottles.
  2. Don’t throw away tiny pieces of material that are too small to be processed by recycling machines.
  3. Don’t pack your recyclable materials into plastic bags before you bin them.
  4. Remove paper clips and staples from paperwork.
  5. Fold cardboard boxes flat.

Every effort counts, so recycle as much as you can and recycle responsibly to minimise contamination levels in Australia’s waste. Call WM Waste for information and advice on your waste management.