Commonwealth Bill to Ban Exports of Unprocessed Waste

Tuesday 3 November 2020 @ 2.40 p.m. | Legal Research

On 27 August 2020, the Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley introduced the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 (Cth) (“the Bill”) to the House of Representatives. The Bill passed the House of Representatives on 28 October 2020 with some amendments. The Bill is yet to be introduced into the Senate.

The Bill seeks to introduce a new legislative framework in order to manage the environmental, health, and safety impacts of products and waste material. In particular, this framework aims to address the impacts of improper disposal of waste materials and products.

On 9 August 2019, the former Council of Australian Governments agreed to establish a timeline to ban the export of waste plastic, glass, paper, and tyres. Part of this timeline was to include the establishment and development of Australia’s capacity to generate recycled commodities and address increasing demand. On 8 November 2019, the Australian governments agreed that waste that was not yet processed into usable raw materials would be subject to an export ban. The Bill seeks to implement this commitment. If passed, the Bill will replace the framework put in place by the Product Stewardship Act 2011 (Cth).

Amendments under the Bill

The Bill seeks to ban the exports of certain waste materials starting from the following future dates:

  • Waste glass from 1 January 2021
  • Mixed plastics from 1 July 2021
  • Whole used tyres from 1 December 2021
  • Single resin or polymer plastics from 1 July 2022
  • Mixed and unsorted paper and cardboard from 1 July 2024

This reform seeks to leverage the economic opportunity created by waste management, and encourage a circular economy for waste and support the pursuit of recyclable materials and sustainable resources. The changes that are to be put in place are forecast to generate an additional $3.6 billion in economic activity within Australia.

The Bill proposes a legislative framework in order to support the waste export ban. Regulations will come into place as each ban comes into place, with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to continue consultation with relevant stakeholders at each stage. The export ban to be introduced will only relate to unprocessed waste. Onshore processing will be required, before raw materials can then be exported to be used in remanufacturing overseas. Businesses who wish to export processed waste materials will be required to apply for a licence.

The Bill also proposes measures to ensure compliance and enforcement. Less serious offences will result in infringement notices, and more serious offences may result in civil penalties and criminal offences. The Bill seeks to provide for penalties of up to five years imprisonment or fines of up to $133,000 for an individual. A company could be liable for fines of up to $666,000.

Other amendments proposed by the Bill:

  • Additional obligations for manufacturers, importers, and distributors of certain products
  • Option of accreditation of voluntary product stewardship arrangements

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Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 (Cth) and explanatory materials available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service

COAG waste export ban consultation (Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

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