China was Australia's top buyer of recycled plastics in 2005, a new Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association recycling survey has found.
Michael Catchpole, chief executive officer of Melbourne-based PACIA, said the group's 2006 national plastics recycling survey, released last month, found Australia reduced plastic consumption by 2 percent, but increased recycling 21.5 percent, exporting mostly to China.
The top two recycled resins were PET (35.6 percent) and high density polyethylene (23 percent). Of 293 million pounds of PET consumed in Australia, 53 million pounds was reprocessed domestically and 52 million pounds exported for recycling. Of 596 million pounds of HDPE consumed, 79 million pounds was reprocessed domestically and 58 million pounds exported for recycling.
In 2005, 9 percent of plastics reprocessed in Australia was then sold to overseas buyers, compared with 7 percent in 2004. All exported reprocessed recyclate went to Asian markets.
A total 183 million pounds of unprocessed waste plastic was exported for reprocessing, the highest export tonnage recorded to date, due to continuing China's strong demand.
A major impact of the overseas demand has been a rise in scrap plastic prices, which has put pressure on Australian reprocessors, the survey said.
Australian industry and consumers recycled a record 29.9 percent of plastic packaging in 2005 and the overall plastics recycling rate, for plastics used in all applications, was 15.4 percent.
``As a comparison, the European Union recycling target for plastic packaging is 22.5 percent by the end of 2008. Australia has easily passed that level three years ahead of Europe by recycling nearly 30 percent of plastic packaging in 2005, demonstrating the success of cooperative agreements, such as the National Packaging Covenant that involve governments, industry and communities,'' Catchpole said.
The recycling result had almost reached the 30 percent 2010 target set by the National Packaging Covenant, five years ahead of schedule.