Region could lead the transformation of lagging recycling industry, expert says

 A Wheelie Waste Recycling truck adds to the 150 tonne pile of recycling material, equivalent to one week's worth of collection in Warrnambool. Picture: Rob Gunstone
A Wheelie Waste Recycling truck adds to the 150 tonne pile of recycling material, equivalent to one week's worth of collection in Warrnambool. Picture: Rob Gunstone

A recycling crisis could spell opportunity for the south-west if it takes the lead in adapting to changing international markets, an expert says.

The knock-on effect of a change in China’s policy could cost the region’s councils more than $1 million, but Deakin University recycling expert Trevor Thornton said the problem should spark a cleaner, more advanced recycling industry being set up.

Mr Thornton said sorting and processing materials at a higher level prior to exporting them, or using them in Australian manufacturing, would be more lucrative than exporting contaminated material.

“In a better system to remove the contamination, you end up with a a purer product which is obviously going to attract markets and get good returns,” he said.

Using advanced machinery to remove and recycle plastic bags, turning plastics into an exportable granulated form and setting up systems to separate recyclables to prevent contamination would all contribute.

He said government and the private sector should both play a role in bringing Australia’s industry up to speed with those in Japan and European countries.

Warrnambool councillor David Owen said Warrnambool, Moyne, Glenelg and Corangamite should unite to ask the state government for funds from the landfill levy to build recycling sorting and processing plants.

He said a site north of Mortlake would be central and would mean short truck journeys could transport products to freight trains.