What China’s Waste Ban Means For Irish Events

In July last year, the global market was hit with an unprecedented barrier due to China’s announcement to ban a large portion of waste importation in effect from January this year. This was their reaction to worrying levels of pollution from the handling and processing of waste and pile ups of contaminated, unusable waste sent loosely checked from other countries. Although not an outright ban, it prohibits the import of 24 of the most polluting types of waste ranging from plastic waste to unsorted paper, and recycled textiles to slag. This equates to a near total ban on plastic from the EU.

This has major implications for Ireland as China were processing up to 95% of our plastic recyclables. The problem now is we simply cannot set up the infrastructure in time to get rid of this waste faster than it’s piling up, unless, we find another country willing to fill this void in the market such as Malaysia or Vietnam. However, that’s not a likely option. According to Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Britain-based Recycling Association ‘one of the big reasons China was so important for our recycling was cost. Sending recyclables to China is cheaper because they are placed on ships that would otherwise be empty when they return to the Asian country after delivering consumer goods in Europe.’  The Japan Times highlighted that ‘the ban also risks causing a “catastrophic” environmental problem as backlogs of recyclable waste are instead incinerated or dumped in landfills with other refuse.’

What effect will this have on the events industry?
It’s no secret that the Irish and UK festival goers aren’t waste thoughtful. If you’ve been to a festival, you’re no stranger to plastic beverage cups scrunching beneath your feet among other waste. Just look at any campsite during and especially after an event. Festival Republic (who also organise Electric Picnic) said punters left an astonishing £500,000 worth of tents (average cost £40) behind at Reading Festival in 2014, a majority going to landfill.

Festivals such as Body & Soul employ a strict environmental policy. They promote a ‘greener conscience’ with the likes of their zero-waste ‘Us & You’ campsite, cup-deposit schemes to promote returning plastic cups and traders must use fully compostable kitchenware, server ware and tea/coffee cups. However, most festivals in Ireland don’t have this type of stringency.
We’re already seeing price hikes from waste companies to combat the ban. This has been met with criticism as there is already a great lack of transparency in how waste costs are calculated. However, it’s a reasonable reaction to expect from as they would otherwise have to absorb the cost of storing the waste they cannot process. They’re arguing the onus is on manufacturers to promote complete overhaul of product design and packaging. However, unless there’s massive changes in materials laws, there’s no incentive for manufacturers to incur the extra costs of increasing product and packaging environmental efficiency.

Homeowners are now also being charged for contamination of recycling materials. Waste companies have begun using high speed cameras installed on the trucks to identify waste which does not belong in recycling bins! This shows they are feeling the impact of the ban already.

This leaves us to expect an increase in the cost of waste management at venues, events and festivals which will likely then be incorporated into the ticket cost. How much you might ask? It’s too early to know but Panda recycling have publicly stated they will not introduce more price hikes for at least 5 years. However, other waste companies have not commented on this.




E-Venting is an event management blog by Magnum Events

This week’s entry was written by Gary Hughes