ALGA calls for Fed Govt leadership on National Waste Policy

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.

National Waste Policy consensus hits stalemate

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 claiming state and territory ministers “walked away from solid targets on Australia’s recycling and waste”.

It comes after the end of year Meeting of Environment Ministers as part of the Council of Australian Governments, which expected to reach agreements on updates to the National Waste Policy. The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council had called for a National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner responsible for ensuring the policy is implemented, facilitating collaboration, regulatory reform and encouraging investment from all levels of government.

According to the ministers official statement, Australia’s state and territory environment ministers agreed by their next meeting to work towards developing a national action plan for the National Waste Policy with appropriate funding, robust targets and milestones.

The ministers agreed to strengthen the national action plan to address plastic pollution, a national approach to waste policy and regulation, including cross border transportation of waste, consideration of proximity principles and a coordinated approach to waste levies. It also committed to increasing demand for recycled materials through procurement.

Ministers agreed to review the targets and milestones annually to ensure priority actions stay focused.

Environment ministers also agreed to consult on new draft guidance on PFAS for an updated PFAS National Environmental Management Plan.

However according to a media release from Environment Minister Melissa Price, state and territory governments “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,” she said.

“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.

Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Shmigel spoke to ABC News about the outcome.

“What we have on the table right now is one statement from the meeting of ministers saying we’ve agreed and we have another statement from the federal minister saying that the states have not agreed, so which one is it?,” Mr Schmigel told ABC News.

He said there was a real risk that kerbside recycling services could come to a halt with commodity prices falling dramatically as a result of exports of materials into China, noting those restrictions had now spread to other markets such as Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

“If ministers don’t recognise that these are new threats to the system, they are being naive,” he continued.

ACT Government Member of the Legislative Assembly Chris Steel told ABC News that the Federal Government had failed to provide a robust action plan.

“It is disappointing that the Commonwealth failed to provide a robust action plan that would allow us to move together, all states and territories and the Commonwealth towards defined targets under a National Waste Policy. This has been in development for well over a year. The Commonwealth hasn’t done that work prior to the meeting and that’s why we weren’t able to agree on national waste targets,” he said.

NSW Government Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton told ABC News efforts were made to achieve further action.

“As a group…we did push for more. Waste is a critical issue, we need action. We need more than a policy and so what we secured an agreement for was a national action plan with targets to be worked up, to address some of the priorities which can’t be swept under the carpet any more,” she said.

In response to the December 7 meeting, the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) welcomed the statement but said it was concerned at what seems like a lack of real action. WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan praised the consensus on harmonised waste levies and a national proximity principle.

“However, the lack of short-term actions that should have been the minimum commitment out of Friday’s meeting will prove problematic,” she said.

“We are coming up to a year since China rolled out its National Sword policy and still, there are no priority actions that will create demand for the resources we manage in order to alleviate the significant pressure our essential industry is under and in the medium-term, create jobs and boost the Australian economy.”

“We may have a shared vision to transition to a circular economy and while we congratulate ministers on adopting the 2018 National Waste Policy which includes circular economy principles, and we acknowledge that ministers have voiced the need for the urgent development of an action plan, this simply does not go far enough, quickly enough.

Ms Sloan said that as a start, there is not one action in the statement that would drive investment in the industry and the concern is that ministers are simply kicking the can down the road considering there are two significant elections coming up in 2019. She said there needs to be some real action in the form of a roadmap, targets and policies backed by funding as opposed to statements about committing to commit.

“We need to ensure that the 2018 policy does not end up amounting to nothing very much like the 2009 iteration,” she said.

 

 

NWRIC calls for National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner

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.

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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.

 

Australians believe recyclables going to landfill: research

Most Australians across all states and demographics believe the recyclables they put into their council bins are ending up in landfill, according to new research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

The series of surveys has also found that 49 per cent of people believe that green and eco-friendly efforts will not have an effect in their lifetime, with 63.8 per cent of those older than 65 seeing no benefits being realised.

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Key findings also report that 72.4 per cent of people would recycle more of the material if it was reliably recycled.

Confusion also surround which level of government is responsible for residential waste and recycling services, with some people thinking industry instead of government is responsible for waste management.

UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Director Veena Sahajwalla said rising stockpiles and increasing use of landfill, in the absence of a coordinated government solution to a waste problem, had not been lost on consumers.

“Each council is fending for themselves right across Australia and while the meeting of federal and state environment ministers earlier this year made an important announcement about a new National Waste Policy stating that by 2025 all packaging will be re-usable, compostable or recyclable, we don’t have to wait another seven years for this decision to come into effect,” Dr Sahajwalla said.

“It is clear on this issue that people want action, and they want governments to invest and do something now.

“A number of councils and private business are interested in our technology but unless there are incentives in place, Australia will be slow to capitalise on the potential to lead the world in reforming our waste into something valuable and reusable.”

UNSW’s SMaRT Centre launched a demonstration e-waste microfactory in April, which is able to recover the components of discarded electronic items for use in high value products.

UNSW is also finalising a second demonstration microfactory, which converts glass, plastics and other waste materials into engineered stone products, which look and perform as well as marble and granite.

“Rather than export our rubbish overseas and to do more landfill for waste, the microfactory technology has the potential for us to export valuable materials and newly manufactured products instead,” Dr Sahajwalla said.

“Through the microfactory technology, we can enhance our economy and be part of the global supply chain by supplying more valuable materials around the world and stimulating manufacturing innovation in Australia.”

NWRIC calls for mandatory product stewardship scheme

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has welcomed last week’s Meeting of Environments announcements, calling for a mandatory product stewardship across all priority products.

E-waste, batteries, tyres, used machine lubricating oils, paint and chemical drums were highlighted by the NWRIC as products that could fall under a proposed scheme.

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“Only mandatory product stewardship will give investors the confidence to build the capital-intensive infrastructure necessary to process and recover these complex and hazardous products,” the NWRIC said in a statement.

The NWRIC has released action plans to address the issue of the National Sword issue, with short term solutions focused on local governments renegotiating recycling contracts to ensure services continue, despite the drop in commodity prices. It highlighted that long-term actions are needed to reduce contamination in bins and infrastructure to improve the quality of export materials.

The NWRIC said that the review of the National Waste Policy could provide new opportunities to harmonise waste and recycling regulation, pointing to the jurisdictional differences in landfill levies that incentivise interstate transport of waste.

“Other regulatory disparities between states and territories create a cost to business without any economic, social or environmental dividend. Through COAG and the Heads of EPAs (HEPA) group, these anomalies can be resolved,” it said.
It follows the announcement of six action points from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting of Environment ministers.
The six points are:

·      Ensuring all Australian packaging is suitable for recycling by 2025

·      Working with states to find a market for material that would have once been sent to China

·      Advocating for government procurement of recycled materials

·      Improved product stewardship

·      Advancing the review of Australia’s National Waste Policy

·      Prioritising energy recovery projects through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation

The NWRIC also highlighted the manufacture of fuel from unrecyclable materials is a useful step forward.

“This technology is used and recognised globally by countries with more sophisticated recycling systems than Australia. The council welcomes investment by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation into fuel recovery.”

NWRIC Chairman Phil Richards said kerbside recycling is an important service that all Australians value.

“We welcome the state government assistance offered to protect this critical service, and we are ready to work proactively with all levels of government to maintain and enhance this service into the future,” he said.

The NWRIC also supports the rollout of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation’s Australasian Recycling Label. They noted this label provides clear guidance on which materials should be directed to materials recovery facilities.