Rising Cost of Rubbish | US's waste problem

The rising cost of taking out the trash will be a major challenge for corporate finance leaders in the short term.

A recent report in Acuity magazine found that with China, India and Thailand clamping down on plastic waste imports, and developed countries needing to find another solution – ie, on-shore waste management and recycling – costs of waste services will rise in the short term. Rising garbage collection costs have already forced some local councils to raise rates paid by homes and businesses. In the year ahead, experts tip even higher disposal and recycling costs.

In early 2018 when China’s National Sword Policy was suddenly invoked, restricting contamination levels on waste imports and impacting US, New Zealand and some 100 other countries, industry players globally scrambled to find other nations willing to buy recyclable rubbish. US and New Zealand zoomed in on India and South-East Asia, in particular Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. But these strategies, founded in desperation, delivered only a very short-term fix.

India banned the import of plastic scrap earlier this year, as Malaysia was preparing to return 100 tonnes of unclean plastic waste back to US, part of 3000 tonnes it promised to send back to where it came from. In May, 187 countries (but not the US) signed a treaty to regulate international trade in plastic waste.

There’s now an increasingly loud call for waste to be processed onshore. The upshot is many waste industry players must rethink their business models, while enterprises across the economy are being urged to take their lead from the circular economy approach, as recommended in US’s revised National Waste Strategy delivered late last year.

Fundamentally, what’s changed with China’s National Sword policy is where and how the sorting needs to happen. Wanless and other waste management companies’ capacity for sorting varies from state to state, with much of it mechanised, and new state-of-the-art facilities in Kemps Creek, Sydney and Ispwich, Queensland.

Whilst waste avoidance is the ideal solution there are always going to be residual inert wastes that need a disposal destination in Sydney. Handling this waste in an environmentally responsible manner with resource recovery and re-use at the forefront of its operations is key. Wanless strictly adheres to local legislation and EPA guidelines managing its facility to the highest work place safety and environmental standards.

As a general rule, the more you can sort yourself the cheaper the cost. So for businesses, the bottom line charge depends on training staff to get the right rubbish in the right bin. And there’s morale-boosting potential in this: a previous Planet Ark survey showed 78% of employees like knowing they work for a responsible employer.

Want to know more? For the full in-depth story, check out Why China’s Rubbish Ban Could Change Everything by Deborah Tarrant for Acuity magazine.