The world has a very big problem with waste: it produces enough annually to fill over 800,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — and that’s just municipal solids.

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) said today that Australia wasn’t ready for 2019’s waste crisis.

“Fires at rubbish stockpiles, the collapse of a major recycling company, shrinking export markets, and public concern over plastic litter’s effects on wildlife are all contributing to a growing sense of urgency around how to tackle rubbish problems,” the academy said.

So ATSE has launched a project to investigate the readiness of the waste management and resource recovery sector to adapt, adopt, or develop technologies that will enable it to address the challenges and opportunities of the next decade.

So just who are the ASX-listed companies looking to tackle this waste mountain?

Code Name Price (I) 1 Year % Return 6 Month % Return Market Cap
PPY PAPYRUS AUSTRALIA LTD 0.018 50 200 $3.5M
SES SECOS GROUP LTD 0.083 42 89 $34.2M
BIN BINGO INDUSTRIES LTD 2.99 40 20 $1.9B
CWY CLEANAWAY WASTE MANAGEMENT LTD 2.1 15 -13 $4.3B
NMT NEOMETALS LTD 0.185 -10 -10 $100.7M
LIT LITHIUM AUSTRALIA NL 0.069 -24 28 $40.4M
CLQ CLEAN TEQ HOLDINGS LTD 0.305 -37 -21 $209.0M
LER LEAF RESOURCES LTD 0.028 -48 -5 $9.2M
IGE INTEGRATED GREEN ENERGY SOLU 0.13 -59 -32 $51.2M
M8S M8 SUSTAINABLE LTD 0.22 -3 (since Dec) $49.0M

Perhaps the most obvious players are large caps Cleanaway Waste Management (ASX:CWY) and Bingo Industries (ASX:BIN).

Both companies offer general waste services and recycling, as well as commercial services such as the disposal of medical waste, document destruction and hydro excavation.

And last month they were joined by West Australian firm M8 Sustainable (ASX:M8S). The stock initially dropped upon listing but is now sitting at 22c, 10 per cent higher than its IPO price.

This morning M8 Sustainable announced site works on its flagship landfill had begun. The landfill will incorprate a leachate recirculation system, which ensures organic waste breaks down and methane gas emissions are minimal.

 

Trash into treasure

ATSE has launched a survey to get the industry’s thoughts on how technology can best address the worsening waste crisis.

“Australia generates about 67 million tonnes of waste per year, but ‘waste’ is the wrong word’: recovered materials can be used to make everything from cardboard boxes to high-end building materials,” executive director Matt Wenham said.

There are half a dozen other ASX stocks that are already using tech to combat waste.

Papyrus (ASX:PPY) makes waste trunks from banana palms into wood-based paper alternatives.

For several years it struggled with cash flow problems, but got a boost last November when a hemp producer bought into the company seeking to use the technology.

It has tripled in the last six months making it the best performing stock of this bunch.

Another problem Australia faces is the rapid rise of battery waste, with the country only recycling just 2 per cent of its battery waste.

Lithium Australia (ASX:LIT) has found away to recycle old batteries to recover all the metals in them, including lithium.

This particular industry is projected to be worth upwards of $3 billion a year by the mid-2030s.

READ: Why Australia has a battery recycling problem – and how it could impact lithium stocks

Neometals (ASX:NMT) has also developed a process to recover all the metals from batteries. It has a pilot plant in Canada.

Clean Teq (ASX:CLQ) recovers metals from mining waste. The company is backed by one of the mining world’s richest investors, Robert Friedland, and also has a water treatment business.

 

Plastics

One of the most notable waste management moves in recent times is the ban of single-use plastic bags in a number of countries and states.

Over the weekend, China’s environment ministry announced it would follow suit.

Wood Mackenzie senior consultant William Liu said yesterday it would impact plastic consumption going forward.

However, he said plastic bags were just one application and there were other advantages for its continued use. He pointed to its light weight, ease of processing, convenience and low pricing as factors in its favour.

And the focus now is on creating environmentally friendly plastics.

Secos Group (ASX:SES) makes compostable plastic and sells it to packaging companies, while Integrated Green Energy Solutions (ASX:IGE) recycles plastics and turns the residue into road-ready fuel.

Finally there’s Leaf Resources (ASX:LER) which produces sugars from biomass that could replace the petrochemicals used in plastic bags.

READ MORE: 
Money Talks: Recycling is the ‘thematic of our time’ and these stocks are set to benefit
Trash into treasure: The companies making useful stuff with the world’s waste