Waste Management Review speaks to Peter Schmigel, the new Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR), about some of the key issues facing the recycling sector.
Investment in the local Australian recycling industry could lead to the creation of 500 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report from MRA Consulting.
Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) Chief Executive Officer Pete Shmigel said the report shows that remanufacturing half of the material domestically would lead to job creation and reduce as much greenhouse gases as taking 50,000 cars off the road. It comes as China clamps down on its exports of interstate waste with a contaminant level of more than 0.5 per cent.
ACOR recently joined the Waste Management Association of Australia in calling on state ministers to implement its Australian Circular Economy and Recycling Action plan at the Ministerial Council – supported by a $150 million injection.
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“To check the China challenge, we are ready to reboot recycling as a self-sufficient sector that enables employment and prevents pollution. Ministers can support this by agreeing to a National Circular Economy & Recycling Plan that makes a one-off investment in the three ‘i’s’ of recycling: infrastructure, improvement and innovation,” Mr Shmigel said.
“The promise of recycling is that what punters put in the bin becomes new products not lumps in landfill. Our political leaders, through the policy targets they have set, are part of delivering on that promise and should continue to do so on 27 April.”
“We need to make and buy more recycled content products here in Australia. Closing the loop is what’s needed for community confidence, job growth and environmental results,” he said.
Mr Shmigel said other industries are regularly supported in transition and crisis, and the recycling sector needs the same support, otherwise jobs could go including in country towns.
“While state governments have rightly focussed on the system’s short-term survival, it’s time for all governments to jointly act for recycling’s future success,” he said.
The report, titled The China National Sword: the role of Federal Government highlights:
- New technology to support more Australian reprocessing of mixed paper, mixed plastics and glass cullet;
- Enhanced methods and machinery at recyclate sorting centres;
- Support for government and corporate purchasing of recycled content products;
- A national centre for recycled content product development;
- Education to ensure what’s collected is clean enough for recycled content product making.
The NSW Government has announced it will release a $47 million package to support local government and industry in response to China’s National Sword policy.
China is the largest importer of recyclable materials from Australia, and the new policy restricts the types of waste that will be accepted.
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A one-off package is planned to respond to this, and is funded by the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative and aims to provide short, medium and long term initiative to ensure kerbside recycling continues.
The funding will allow councils to offset extra costs associated with kerbside collections, improve council tendering processes to increase production and use of recycled products, and fund community education to reduce recycling contamination.
The package also includes $9.5 million for industry and local government to invest in infrastructure projects to find new uses for recyclable materials and reduce the amount of unrecyclable materials at the end of the process.
Guidelines have been set in place to ensure applicants seeking funding address the National Sword policy, represent better value for money and demonstrate benefits for the community.
Recycling facilities can also apply to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to temporarily vary their stockpile limits, with facilities being assessed to demonstrate appropriate safety measures remain in place.
NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the NSW Government is committed to working with the recycling industry and local councils to ensure it continues having a strong kerbside recycling system.
“I have met with industry and government stakeholders to hear first-hand about how we can address the current global challenges to the recycling market in NSW,” Ms Upton said.
“The short-term need for increased stockpiles of recycled material during this critical time must be balanced with the safety of the community and the environment,” she said.
An inter-government taskforce is also being established to urgently progress a longer-term response to National Sword in partnership with industry and councils.
“I have also written to the Federal Environment Minister to urgently progress the work on this issue and the long-term solutions at a national level.”
The Australian Council of Recycling has welcomed the NSW Government’s recycling package.
“In the context of the unprecedented impact of China’s new settings on Australia’s recycling system, the NSW Government package can help relieve short-term pressure while also building longer-term resilience for the recycling system. That’s an important step forward to ensuring that recycling can continue to deliver job and environmental benefits for NSW residents,” ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said.
“It is good to also note that the NSW Government is urging a national approach and we will be calling on all Ministers to adopt an Australian Recycling Resilience Plan to future-focus our industry and drive toward a circular economy that makes fullest use of what comes out of our homes and onto our kerbs,” he said.
“It’s time to shift from ‘crisis’ mode to claiming recycling’s potential as a major national industry of the future.”