Wednesday 18 July 2018

Explainer: Everything you need to know as more firms poised to charge for green bin waste

Panda is battling London-listed Craven House Capital, which claims it signed binding heads of agreement to buy Panda a couple of years ago. Photo: Laura Larkin
Panda is battling London-listed Craven House Capital, which claims it signed binding heads of agreement to buy Panda a couple of years ago. Photo: Laura Larkin
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

More waste collection firms across the country are poised to follow recycling giant Panda and introduce charges to dispose of green bin waste.

Ahead of this move, here is everything you need to know about the recycling changes:

Why is Panda imposing a charge for recycling?

In July last year, China announced plans to ban imports of 24 categories of solid waste, including a ban on mixed paper, which is collected from households. This has resulted in waste companies across the globe scrambling to find other outlets to dispose of this waste, and prices have risen. Panda says it is now passing the rise on to customers.

Why is the Chinese ban such a big deal?

For years, the country has been the world’s largest importer of recyclable materials, with countries including Ireland, the UK, the EU, Australia and Japan hugely reliant on the Far East to process our waste. Firms were paid a fee for each tonne of waste delivered, and the prices paid meant facilities on this side of the world couldn’t compete, so investment in new plants didn’t happen to the extent required.

So what are waste collection companies doing?

Scrambling to find other processors across the globe who will take the waste. Industry sources say that firms are talking to processors across Europe, in Turkey, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries.

So they’re still selling the waste?

Yes, and no. Prices have dropped considerably, with website letsrecycle.com saying in July 2015, a tonne of plastic fetched between £50 and £420 (€474) per tonne. That’s since dropped to between £10 and £310. The UK Recycling Association says in the middle of last year, a tonne of mixed paper would fetch £100. Today, some firms are paying

£10 (€11.30) per tonne to dispose of it.

How is it affecting other countries?

In the UK, there is a suggestion some collection firms contracted by local authorities to collect waste will seek to have the contracts annulled because they are losing money. In Australia, additional funding has been provided to some firms while one operator has cancelled its contracts with councils because it cannot find a market for the waste.

Why not just incinerate Irish waste here instead of shipping it abroad?

Two reasons. Industry sources say capacity is sold for ‘black bin’ waste destined for landfill, so there is no room. More importantly, landfilling or incinerating waste is considered the least favoured option from an environmental point of view.

So does this mean that customers are likely to be forced to pay more to compensate the companies?

Probably. The Price Monitoring Group, set up to analyse tariffs imposed by firms, says this is a real risk over the coming months.

So what’s the answer?

We have to reduce the amount of waste we generate. We also need to look at whether more waste processing can be done here to reduce our exposure in the future, but that will require investment and probably Government support.

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