Cleanaway lifted its first-half dividend to 1.65¢ per share from 1.1¢ and will pay it on April 4.

The global recycling trade was disrupted early last year by an abrupt decision by Chinese authorities to dramatically toughen restrictions on the level of contamination they would accept in 24 types of recyclable waste from around the world, after it had previously accepted 30 million tonnes annually. But Mr Bansal said on Thursday the knock-on effects had now steadied and a number of waste-collection contracts had been renegotiated in Australia in response.

All large waste-management companies around the world had been caught “flat-footed” by the sudden decision, he said. “It’s kind of a moving feast,” he said.

Cleanaway is Australia’s biggest waste-management company. It operates 4000 rubbish trucks, recycles 320,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard a year and is the 17th-largest waste group in the world. It spent $671 million last year acquiring Tox Free, which runs 895 waste-collection vehicles around Australia, and a growing medical waste management division. Tox Free started as an industrial waste company with just 20 people in northern Western Australia and slowly expanded into a national player with revenues of $500 million.

Mr Bansal said Cleanaway’s solid-waste business, its largest division, lifted earnings before interest and tax by 27.3 per cent to $102.1 million. He wants it to improve its margins. “We should be able to do a lot better on pricing,” he said.

Cleanaway is moving fast to lift the returns of its hazardous and non-hazardous liquids unit. Mr Bansal said it was an “own goal” that hampered it in the first half. “The market is healthy. The structure is healthy,” he said of the liquids market.

Mr Bansal said Cleanaway was on the front foot in trying to encourage better recycling rates in Australia, but he believes the corporate sector can’t do it alone.

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