2018 has been an incredible year of progress in sustainability for Australia’s packaging manufacturers, writes Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation CEO Brooke Donnelly.
The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has called for continued national leadership from the Federal Government to ensure waste management and resource recovery policies are consistent across all levels of government.
It follows the endorsement of the new National Waste Policy at the eighth Meeting of Environment Ministers in Canberra last week.
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After the Federal Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy issued a statement indicating a consensus was reached on a national action plan for the National Waste Policy, Environment Minister Melissa Price issued a statement last week claiming state and territory ministers “walked away from solid targets on Australia’s recycling and waste”.
“The Federal Government expected to formalise the targets, after months of negotiations and consultation and endorsement at state and federal official level,” Ms Price said in the statement.
“Instead the state and territory governments refused to endorse aspects of our National Waste Policy.
“This is an incredibly disappointing outcome for the nation that simply deprives Australia of a policy that would ensure we have a responsible and environmentally sensible approach to managing waste in the future.”
The minister went on to say that the Federal Government will continue to press forward with an action plan on reducing waste and increasing recycling.
ALGA President, Mayor David O’Loughlin attended the meeting and said there is more work to be done on the issue.
“The new policy may be full of good intentions and strong principles, but has as much backbone as you’ll find in the average plastic shopping bag,” Cr O’Loughlin said.
“Urgent action is needed as ministers themselves have acknowledged. Industry and communities need to see real on-ground action and there is a critical need for national leadership to maintain a unified approach.
“Dedicated and nationally-coordinated action on recycling will give industry the signal it needs to increase investment in sustainable resource recovery and support the nation’s move towards a circular economy,” he said.
Cr O’Loughlin said it is essential that all levels of government increase their procurement of goods and infrastructure that incorporate recycled materials, such as those used in road bases, to help reduce items entering the waste stream. He adds that state and territory governments need to take the necessary steps to help the recyclate industry sector go further.
“89 per cent of Australians have indicated that they want recycled content included in government procurement,” he said.
“There is more than $1 billion sitting in state waste levy funds that could be invested in industry innovation, pilot projects and financially supporting transitions from virgin product feedstock to recycled feedstock.
“There’s another $1 billion to be collected next year, but the meeting achieved no strong policy commitment, no agreement on concrete targets or timeframes, miniscule investment and little progress,” Cr O’Loughlin said.
The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on the federal, state and territory environment ministers to appoint a National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner to ensure the National Waste Policy will be successful.
In a statement, NWRIC CEO Rose Read said Australia can no longer ignore the waste, resource recovery and recycling challenges it faces. It comes ahead of Friday’s Meeting of Environment Ministers as part of the biannual Council of Australian Governments meeting, where the rebooted National Waste Policy will be discussed.
“We are still one of the highest generators of waste per capita in the developed world,” Ms Read said.
Ms Read said that inconsistent state waste regulations, limited infrastructure planning, reliance on overseas markets for recyclates, unfair local markets, increasing contamination of and lack of regulated product stewardship schemes are all major barriers to Australia realising the true economic, environmental and social value of its waste as a resource.
“Unless there is a significant shift in how our federal, state and territory governments work together to remove these barriers Australia’s waste will continue to grow and industry will not invest in technologies that would transform waste into valuable resources that meet local and global markets,” she said.
A National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner would be responsible for ensuring the policy is implemented, facilitating collaboration, regulatory reform and encouraging investment from all levels of government, producers, manufacturers, importers, retailers and recyclers.
The NWRIC believes that key actions that must be progressed as a matter of urgency are:
● Harmonising state waste regulations specifically around waste definitions, licensing and transport.
● A national waste and recycling infrastructure strategy that maps material and resource pathways for the next 30 years.
● Regulating battery and tyre product stewardship schemes.
● Mandating local, state and government procurement of recycled content in products and services.
● Reviewing the National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) for packaging and including mandated targets for recycled content in packaging and that all packaging must be recyclable, compostable or reusable.
● Increasing investment in community and business education that encourages better consumption, increases reuse, improves source separation and reduces contamination.