New parliamentary role created for waste reduction

Re-elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new parliamentary position, Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister.

The role has been awarded to Queensland MP Trevor Evans, who was elected to the House of Representatives for Brisbane in 2016.

Mr Morrison has also announced his new cabinet, replacing Environment Minister Melissa Price with Sussan Ley.

Ms Price served as Environment Minister since August 2018, after previously serving as Assistant Minister to the portfolio.

Since being elected to parliament in 2001, Ms Ley has served as Health Minister, Education Minister, Sport Minister and most recently Regional Development Assistant Minister.

“Australians hold strong views on caring for our environment, both locally and globally, and I look forward to listening to the variety of perspectives and ideas that will be put forward,” Ms Ley said.

“As well as implementing our government’s strong range of policy initiatives in this portfolio.”

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said the national industry body welcomed both appointments.

“WMRR congratulates both the minister and assistant minister, and looks forward to working with them on the commitments made by the government ahead of the election. Once the dust settles WMRR will be engaging with Minister Ley on how we can move forward,” Ms Sloan said.

“Effectively drawing that link between the environment and the economy so our essential waste and resource recovery industry maximises the opportunities at hand, to not only protect the environment, but grow local jobs and the economy.”

Australian Council of Recyclers CEO Peter Shmigel said the appointment of Sussan Ley and Trevor Evans represents unprecedented national leadership on recycling,

“This is the first time there’s direct ownership and accountability for recycling results at a ministerial level. The creation of the assistant minister role is a really welcome innovation by Prime Minister Scott Morrison,” Mr Shmigel said.

“The assistant minister helps guarantee the delivery of the government’s very substantive and useful recycling promises, including infrastructure funding and product stewardship progress.”

Roles within the Environment and Energy Department have also been re-shuffled, with responsibility for emissions reduction transferred from environment minister to energy minister.

Ms Price has been removed from cabinet all together and will serve as defence minister, while Angus Taylor remains in his role as energy minister.

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Election results for the waste industry

The Coalition, which promised $203 million to the waste and recycling sector, has been re-elected with a likely majority.

While votes are still being counted, the Coalition currently holds 75 of the 76 seats needed to win government – with ABC election analyst Antony Green predicting a final result of 77 seats.

The lead up to the 18 May election saw significant waste and recycling policy promises from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“We will increase Australia’s recycling rates, tackle plastic waste and litter, accelerate work on new recycling schemes and continue action to halve food waste by 2030,” Mr Morrison said earlier in May.

While Melissa Price has been re-elected to the seat of Durack Western Australia, it is unclear whether she will return as Environment Minister.

The Coalition’s campaign promises include:

— $100 million to develop the Australian Recycling Investment Fund to support the manufacturing of lower emissions and energy-efficient recycled content products including recycled content plastics, paper and pulp.

— $20 million for a new Product Stewardship Investment Fund to accelerate work on new industry-led recycling schemes for batteries, electrical and electronic products, photovoltaic systems and plastic oil containers.

— $20 million to find new and innovative solutions to plastic recycling and waste through the Cooperative Research Centres Projects grants program.

— $16 million to support the Pacific Ocean Litter Project, working with neighbours in the Pacific to reduce plastics and other waste in the ocean.

— Up to $5.8 million for a range of initiatives through the Environment Restoration Fund to support Clean Up Australia, Keep Australia Beautiful, the Australian Council of Recycling, Planet Ark, the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation and OzHarvest.

— Up to $5 million through the Environment Restoration Fund for Conservation Volunteers Australia to coordinate community campaigns to clean up plastic waste in beaches and rivers.

— Continuing to work with state, territory and local governments on opportunities to get more recycled content into road construction – building on the funding provided to the Australian Road Research Board in the 2019-Budget.

The industry will now have to wait and see if the Coalition’s promises are put into action.

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WSROC calls for federal action on waste

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) says delays in establishing a national waste policy are causing a processing capacity shortfall in NSW.

WSROC President Barry Calvert said the next elected government must act to stimulate local recycling capacity, ensure more products are recycled and develop new markets for recycled products.

In the lead up to the election both major parties committed to upgrading recycling infrastructure, establishing local markets for recycled content and dealing with plastic pollution.

Neither the Labor or Liberal Party has committed to developing a national regulatory framework for waste management in the country however.

“Waste collection is managed by local governments, however international forces acting on the waste industry at present are far beyond the capacity of local communities to address,” Mr Calvert said.

“The introduction of the China National Sword Policy in 2017, and the rise and fall of international commodity markets have created an unsustainable situation for Australia’s waste management sector.”

Mr Calvert said without federal action the cost of managing Australia’s waste will increase, and environmental outcomes may be compromised.

“Since China’s recycling ban, we have seen much discussion around amendments to Australia’s National Waste Policy but very little action,” Mr Calvert said.

“This delay has put extreme pressure on councils as they try and reduce impacts to local communities and ensure environmental outcomes are being met.”

Mr. Calvert said by 2021 Sydney will experience a shortfall of over 1.4 million tonnes of waste processing capacity due to population growth.

“To meet that shortfall we will need to build around 16 new waste facilities,” Mr Calvert said.

“We need to stimulate local recycling markets to ensure we have the capacity to responsibly manage our own waste, which would create opportunities for new jobs and positive outcomes for the environment.”

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Waste policy report card released

A detailed analysis of the Labor Party, the Coalition and the Greens election promises has been released.

Using criterion based analysis and independent scoring evaluations, the policy report card has determined all three parties are committed to upgrading innovative recycling infrastructure, establishing local markets for recycled content and dealing with plastic pollution.

According to the report card however, only minor commitments to establishing a circular economy and national regulatory arrangement have been made.

The report card was created by the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR), the Australian Industrial Ecology Network (AIEN), the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) and the National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC), with independent consultancy from Equilibrium.

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said the election run up shows an unprecedented, tri-partisan and substantive response to the pressures felt in municipal recycling.

“Labor and the Coalition have come out neck and neck with good grades of C. The Greens also have a C, but less opportunity to realistically implement their vision,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Taken as a whole these policies recognise the landfill diversion, greenhouse gas reduction and jobs creation benefits of our $20 billion and 50,000 job industry.”

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said her organisation was particularly pleased with Labor’s commitment to establishing a National Waste Commissioner.

“This role is key to driving the national waste policy, collaboration across all levels of government and more regulatory consistency between states,” Ms Read said.

“However, NWRIC is concerned with the lack of commitment by the major parties to the use of co-regulatory powers for the Product Stewardship Act for batteries and all electronics.”

AIEN Executive Director Veronica Dullens said tri-partisan support showed recognition for the potential of the waste sector to drive environmental and economic outcomes.

“What is lacking is more specific recognition of the principles of a circular economy and more specific actions to move away from the ‘take, make and throw’ paradigm,” Ms Dullens said.

AORA National Executive Officer Diana De Hulsters said it was time to get serious about policy implementation.

“Given that 60 per cent of a household rubbish bin is potentially compostable, we would like to see comprehensive recycling targets put in place in the National Waste Policy,” Ms Hulsters said.

“Not only those for packaging, which is a minority part of the overall waste stream.”

Official Ratings:

—  All parties have presented credible and coherent policies and achieve a pass mark.

—  The Labor Party scores highly for a balanced suite of programs to support industry growth, recycled content products and work with local and state governments. It loses marks through not specifically committing to wide-ranging community engagement programs – overall achievement is a C.

— The Coalition scores highly for a significant commitment to industry investment and a circular economy approach, however loses marks for lack of recent implementation – overall achievement is a C.

— The Greens score highly with a very strong group of programs, but were marked down due to their inability to implement the proposals – overall achievement is a C.

Click to access the full Report Card.

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NWRIC welcomes Coalition waste policy

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has issued a statement of support for the Coalition’s proposed waste and recycling policy.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the Coalition’s recent policy announcement would help facilitate a cleaner environment for all Australians.

“The announcement reveals a federal election which has seen the biggest tri-partisan commitment to waste and recycling in Australian history,” Ms Read said.

“The Coalition’s promises follow equally welcome commitments by the Labor Party and the Greens.”

Ms Read highlighted the Coalition’s $100 million Australian Recycling Investment Fund, Product Stewardship Investment Fund, $20 million investment in new and innovative solutions to plastic recycling and commitment to continue working with state, territory and local governments on opportunities to get more recycled content into road construction.

Ms Read said while party commitments vary in focus and values, the lead up to the election has seen a recognition of the waste and recycling challenges facing Australia.

“This is welcome news for all Australians because irrespective of who they vote for, they all put their bins out,” Ms Read said.

“Furthermore industry’s priorities are clear, more jobs, better services and less pollution – there is really nothing to disagree with about delivering this essential community service.”

NWRIC is concerned however about the lack of targets for government procurement of recycled goods, incentives to producers to increase recycled content in their products and packaging or willingness to drive state harmonisation of waste regulations and levies.

“Having six states and two territories enforcing different laws, levies and standards limits industry investment in innovative waste management and resource recovery infrastructure and services essential to building a circular economy,” Ms Read said.

“Good policy combined with funding is the key to effective outcomes and greater certainty for industry investment.”

Ms Read said for the proposed Product Stewardship investment to achieve meaningful outcomes, it must be underpinned by smart, simple regulations that create a level playing field and ensure full producer engagement.

“The National Waste Recycling Industry Council is calling for the appointment of a National Waste Commissioner to drive these necessary reforms and a tri-partisan approach to harmonising the regulations framing our industry,” Ms Read said.

“This process has been a clear success for work health and safety and heavy vehicle laws.”

Ms Read said every household and business in Australia purchases waste services and most purchase recycling services.

“The Commonwealth can cut costs for all Australians and stimulate industry investment by driving collaboration between states, industry and producers and essential regulatory reforms,” Ms Read said.

“It is critical that whichever party wins the upcoming federal election that they work proactively with industry to create jobs, serve communities, protect workers and reduce pollution.”

Earlier in the election cycle NWRIC similarly praised Labor’s policy commitments, specifically noting the development of a national container deposit scheme, National Waste Commissioner and the $60 million investment in a National Recycling Fund.

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Liberal Party releases waste and recycling policy

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that if elected, the Liberal Government will invest $203 million to increase recycling and reduce waste, protect Australia’s biodiversity and restore waterways

Mr Morrison said he wants to ensure the protection of Australia’s environment for future generations.

“We will increase Australia’s recycling rates, tackle plastic waste and litter, accelerate work on new recycling schemes and continue action to halve food waste by 2030.”

The government’s waste and recycling initiatives include:

  • $100 million to develop the Australian Recycling Investment Fund to support the manufacturing of lower emissions and energy-efficient recycled content products including recycled content plastics, paper and pulp.
  • $20 million for a new Product Stewardship Investment Fund to accelerate work on new industry-led recycling schemes for batteries, electrical and electronic products, photovoltaic systems and plastic oil containers.
  • $20 million to find new and innovative solutions to plastic recycling and waste through the Cooperative Research Centres Projects grants program.
  • $16 million to support the Pacific Ocean Litter Project, working with neighbours in the Pacific to reduce plastics and other waste in the ocean.
  • Up to $5.8 million for a range of initiatives through the Environment Restoration Fund to support Clean Up Australia, Keep Australia Beautiful, the Australian Council of Recycling, Planet Ark, the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation and OzHarvest.
  • Up to $5 million through the Environment Restoration Fund for Conservation Volunteers Australia to coordinate community campaigns to clean up plastic waste in beaches and rivers.
  • Continuing to work with state, territory and local governments on opportunities to get more recycled content into road construction – building on the funding provided to the Australian Road Research Board in the 2019-Budget.

Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) CEO Pete Shmigel said the government’s new recycling policy was a win for the industry.

“With the kerbside recycling part of our sector under pressure, this package is an appropriate, awesome and advantageous investment in Australian recycling’s domestic sustainability now and into the future,” Mr Shmigel said.

“The Coalition has kicked one strongly through the policy posts that will result in less waste to landfill, recycling industry co-investment, community confidence in their efforts, value-adding jobs in regional centres and resource security in a competitive world.”

Mr Shmigel said the Labor Party’s recycling policy was also strong and substantial, with commitments in the areas of industry infrastructure, product stewardship and procurement.

“Australian voters, some 90 per cent of whom voluntarily participate in recycling, can be confident that both our major parties and the Greens have provided substantive policies for this election,” Mr Shmigel said.

“All three choices are positive and ACOR will compile a comparative scorecard based on its 10 point plan in the next week.”

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WMRR releases election plan

Ahead of the 2019 federal election on 18 May, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has released a five-point election plan.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said that as China, India and Indonesia enforce stricter contamination levels of imported commodities, the Australian waste management and resource recovery industry needs 1.2 million tonnes of remanufacturing capacity.

“China’s National Sword policy brought to the fore the need for Australia to focus on domestic processing and remanufacturing. It showed everyone where the gaps were and what issues we needed to fix,” Ms Sloan said.

“While industry is willing and ready to up recovery and remanufacture materials, and community has expressed a hunger for resource recovery, we need support and collaboration from all stakeholders, we especially need leadership from the Federal Government.”

WMRR is calling on everyone from industry, government and the community to support an ‘Made with Australian Recycled Material’ label to highlight and support the use and purchase of Australian recycled material.

Ms Sloan said Labor’s waste and recycling policy offers a ray of hope for the industry, highlighting its commitment to mandate recycled content targets, stimulate demand for recycled materials and develop a $60 million National Recycling and Circular Economy Fund.

“We need all government departments to mandate sustainable procurement of goods that include Australia recycled content, and to be held accountable for their procurement decisions,” Ms Sloan said.

“This is what government leadership looks like and with a top down approach, manufacturers will follow suit. Further, we need support for domestic remanufacturing not later, but now.”

WMRR’s five-point election plan:

1. Leadership in sustainable procurement and market development, creating a strong remanufacturing sector and supporting Australian job creation. Mandatory targets should be set to ensure a 30 per cent government procurement of recycled goods by 2020.

2. Strengthening product stewardship and extended producer responsibility schemes, including the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation implementing the “Made with Australian Recycled Material” label for all packaging. To create jobs and investment in Australia, the Federal Government needs to strengthen the laws and framework around extended producer responsibility and move to a mandatory scheme for recycled content in packaging

3. A national proximity principle to enable certainty, market development and investment in local jobs and infrastructure. The Federal Government needs to clarify the constitutional interpretation of the proximity principle and seek advice from the Commonwealth Attorney General on this matter as a priority.

4. A common approach to levies and industry development (with a minimum 50 per cent reinvestment.) WMRR is calling on the Federal Government to drive coordination across jurisdictions to harmonise policies and regulations, including a common approach for resource recovery exemptions and orders.

5. A whole-of-government approach to circular economy, including considering tax reform and import restrictions to support the sector. The Federal Government must use the levers unique to it in relation to areas such as taxation and importation to encourage the use of recycled materials.

WMRR has opened design submissions for a “Made with Australian Recycled Material” Label.

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NSW Labor’s waste election pledges

New South Wales Labor leader Michael Daley has announced that if elected his government will ban single-use plastic bags and invest $140 million into local recycling initiatives.

Mr Daley said the NSW waste system is struggling to keep up with rapidly declining sites for landfill, China’s National Sword policy and a collapsing market for recycled material.

NSW is the second highest per capita waste producer in the world with every person in the state generating an average of two tonnes of waste each year.

Mr Daley said that within the first 100 days of taking office Labor would introduce legislation to ban plastic bags as part of a longterm plan to phase out single-use plastic.

The proposed $140 million Circular Economy and Job Creation Investment Fund aims to support the resource recovery and recycling industry by investing in recycling and processing facilities, increasing community-based waste reduction and providing seed funding for innovative solutions for dealing with waste.

Mr Daley said the fund would use unallocated waste levy revenue to support recycling and environmental programs.

Labor also plan to establish a recycling, resource recovery and waste council comprised of key industry stakeholders that will provide advice to the Environment Minister.

“It is a fact that recycling waste generates more jobs than sending waste to landfill, Labor’s war on waste will seize this opportunity and at the same time reduce waste and pollution. It’s a win-win,” he said.

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WMRR releases NSW election priorities

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) is urging all parties to commit to six key priorities for the upcoming NSW election.

At the Local Government NSW’s Save Our Recycling Election Summit, WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said meeting WMRR’s six priorities would future-proof the state’s economy, protect the environment and create jobs in NSW.

“If China’s National Sword policy has taught us anything, it is the need to strengthen and grow both domestic processing/remanufacturing and local market demand.

“All stakeholders need to play their part in responding to this new reality, it is now up to the NSW Government to show leadership and support our vital industry,” she said.

WMRR is urging all parties to commit to the following priorities:

1. The creation of a market development agency similar to Sustainability Victoria (SV) and Green Industries South Australia (GISA).

2. Greater accountability and transparency of the landfill levy, and a return and reinvestment of 50 per cent of levy funds raised each year to support diversion from landfill, grow remanufacturing facilities, and create markets.

3. To underpin waste infrastructure and award funds accordingly, WMRR is calling for a recommitment for a finalisation of the state’s strategic infrastructure strategy, which has been placed on hold by the NSW EPA since July 2017, to strategically develop and approve required infrastructure.

4. To develop a specific Waste and Resource Recovery State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), including recognition that this infrastructure is critical/essential and requires certainty of both location (by way of designated precincts) and appropriate buffer zones.

5. Enforcement of the proximity principle and development of a common approach to managing ‘waste’ as it becomes a resource, which also requires resource recovery exemptions and orders to be certain and robust.

6. Commitment to sustainable procurement coupled with the development of specifications that include recycled content. Mandate the use of recycled/recovered content in procurement policies for local and state government, including state government agencies, and ensure these are applied in procurement for all building, civil, and infrastructure works.

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