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Plastics export ban imminent

From 1 July 2021, all plastic exports will require a licence from the Commonwealth and mixed (unsorted) plastic exports are banned.
Image from COAG 2020

Therefore, all Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs) in Australia will either need to sell mixed plastic here in Australia or landfill it.

Sorted plastic bottles e.g. PET (coke bottles) or HDPE (milk bottles) can still be exported until 1 July next year but will then be banned from export.

After that date (1 July 2022) plastic processors will not be able to export sorted bottles etc but will instead need to process them in order to be permitted to export. Processed generally means plastics that have been sorted, washed, cleaned and transformed. For example, into hot washed flakes or single resin pellets. Simply shredding plastics is unlikely to be sufficient to meet export requirements.

The Commonwealth has committed $190m to supporting States and industry to build new plastic processing equipment but very little has yet been approved, never mind built.

So, for now MRF operators who are receiving mixed plastic into their MRFs have only two options – sell it locally or landfill it.

Mixed plastic is generally the non-bottle plastic that we put in our recycling bins – strawberry punnets, used take-away containers, yoghurt and ice-cream containers etc.

The only other mechanism to export mixed plastic will be to blend it with other combustible material and export it as a processed engineered fuel (PEF) for fuelling cement kilns or similar energy demanding industrial processes.
The plastics that are captured by the export ban include those plastics that are discarded, rejected, left over, or surplus from industrial, commercial, domestic, or other, activity.

Plastic processors need to have a licence for any consignments of sorted plastic from 30 June 2021. These will be granted until 30 June 2022.

However, a licence can be valid for up to 3 years if a processor can show that the materials are both sorted and processed (washed and converted into flake or pellets).

MRA Consulting Group can assist with export licences and plastic processing business cases.

If you would like further information, please contact us at or call 02 8541 6169.


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