AMSA's Manager of Environment Standards Matt Johnston says:

We want to make it easier for international ships to dispose of their garbage and recyclables in the right way, while ensuring biosecurity risks are managed, to help prevent illegal discharges of garbage into the sea, which presents a potential uncontrolled biosecurity risk, and reduce the amount of recyclables that end up in Australian landfill.

Ships' crews currently separate recyclable garbage onboard, but have limited opportunity to offload these materials at Australian ports for recycling. At the moment, any garbage that is separated onboard is combined when offloaded in Australian ports and has to be incinerated, autoclaved (high temperature-pressure treatment) or deep-buried to meet Australia’s biosecurity requirements.

While these treatments address any biosecurity risk, the opportunity for recycling is lost and creates a disincentive for ships to discharge garbage in Australian ports.

Ships were able to participate in the pilot program as part of their routine operations on arrival at port. The recyclables accepted during the pilot were glass, aluminium and steel cans and hard plastic containers. These materials were inspected by Agriculture’s biosecurity officers onboard the ship and released from biosecurity control provided they were free from biosecurity risks, such as animal or plant material.

Clean recyclables inspected and released by biosecurity officers could then be disposed of free-of-charge during the pilot project. Assistant Secretary of Compliance Controls at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Dean Merrilees, said:

Garbage brought to Australia on ships could be carrying a range of exotic pests and diseases that can impact on our industries, environment, plant, animal and human health, so it is important these risks continue to be managed. Through this pilot program, recyclables that arrive on international ships will still need to undergo usual biosecurity clearance, but they will be able to be disposed of and recycled in the same way as any domestic or municipal recyclables.

The Port of Brisbane was one of two initial sites for the pilot to operate, with the port of Hay Point completing trials earlier this month. PBPL Chief Executive Officer, Roy Cummins, stated:

This recycling pilot is an important way that we can work collaboratively with government and industry to help lead the way in improving waste reduction at Australia's ports.

Now that the pilot program is complete, AMSA will look at the lessons learned and identify what opportunities and obstacles exist for recycling of ships garbage in Australian ports.