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A Toxics-Free Future


Australian Refuse-Derived Fuel: Fuel product or plastic waste export in disguise?

From the introduction:

Australia is in the midst of the biggest waste recycling and reprocessing infrastructure build out in its history. This follows the Prime Minister’s announcement in 2019 that all waste exports would be banned from Australia, after China’s National Sword policy implementation and associated actions in other Asia Pacific countries. These policies effectively ban plastic and other waste exports from Australia to other countries and especially south-east Asian destinations.

While this ‘world first’ waste export ban decision received international acclaim, closer scrutiny reveals that in fact Australia is gearing up with substantial public and private funding and plans to continue to export its waste in a new “reprocessed” format. A large part of this ‘reprocessing’ is to create refuse derived fuels (RDF) which are bales or pellets of mixed waste to be burned in cement kilns or other industrial furnaces.

This has implications the environment and human health due to the inherent toxicity risks and hazards of petrochemical based plastic wastes containing toxic additives which are amplified when burned. It also has major implications for climate change as plastic fuels are derivatives of fossil fuels. Burning plastic waste, including as a “reprocessed fuel product”, is not recycling or clean energy.

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