The Federal Government’s new $190M Recycling Modernisation Fund will generate $600 million of recycling investment and drive a billion-dollar transformation of Australia’s waste and recycling capacity.
Sussan Ley, Environment Minister also expects more than 10,000 jobs will be created as over 10 million tonnes of waste is diverted from landfill to make useful products.
“As we cease shipping our waste overseas, the waste and recycling transformation will reshape our domestic waste industry, driving job creation and putting valuable materials back into the economy,” Minister Ley said in a statement on Monday.
The RMF will support innovative investment in new infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture materials such as mixed plastic, paper, tyres and glass, with Commonwealth funding contingent on co-funding from industry, states and territories.
Ley said Australia’s waste and recycling transformation is being further strengthened by an additional $35 million to implement the National Waste Policy Action Plan, which sets the direction for waste management and recycling in Australia until 2030.
There is also $24.6 million to improve national waste data so it can measure recycling outcomes and track progress against our national waste targets.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to remodel waste management, reduce pressure on our environment and create economic opportunity,” Ley said.
INDUSTRY WELCOMES SIGNIFICANT SECTOR INVESTMENT
Trevor Evans, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, said that the unparalleled expansion of Australia’s recycling capacity followed close consultation with industry.
“Our targeted investment will grow Australia’s circular economy, create more jobs and build a stronger onshore recycling industry,” Evans said.
“Companies are already moving with The Pact Group announcing a $500 million investment in facilities, research and technology, Coca-Cola Amatil committing to new recycling targets, and Pact, Cleanaway and Asahi Beverages establishing a $30 million recycling facility in Albury.”
Evans said the Federal Government targeted investment will grow Australia’s circular economy, create more jobs and build a stronger onshore recycling industry.
Infrastructure Victoria (IV) welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement following its advice on recycling and resource recovery infrastructure prepared for the Victorian Government in May this year.
IV found that Victoria will need to boost its recycling capacity by more than three million tonnes to 2039 to meet targets and address the issues of stockpiling and illegal dumping.
NWRIC APPLAUDS FEDERAL COMMITMENT TO DEVELOP DOMESTIC MARKETS
National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read highlighted the Federal Government’s commitment to develop new domestic markets for recycled materials.
By setting national standards for recycled content in roads, and making recycled products a focus of procurement for infrastructure, defence estate management and general government purchasing, Read said the end-market commitment was the most important aspect of the Recycling Modernisation Fund announcement.
“We must have strong local demand for recycled materials to maximise the potential return on investment of recycling infrastructure – economically, socially and environmentally,” she said.
NWRIC congratulated the government on taking a leadership role to create local demand for recycled materials, and is calling on all businesses, state and local governments to do the same.
“Whether making packaging, products, roads or buildings, each project engineer, each product manager and each designer should be encouraged, supported and equipped by these organisations to ask how can I replace virgin material with recycled material?” Read said.
According to Read, the Recycling Modernisation Fund will rapidly scale up Australia’s paper, plastic, glass and tyre recycling capacity.
“This will mean Australia converts more waste into higher valued resources ready for reuse locally by manufacturers and brands in their packaging and products; the construction sector in their roads and other essential infrastructure, or for export as higher-value input-ready commodities,” Read said.
“It will also mean more jobs, less waste to landfill and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
“As an industry, we are proud to not only provide an essential service to all households and businesses, but to help rebuild Australia’s economy as we recover from COVID. The legacy of this investment will also serve future generations.”
Read added that the industry is looking forward to working with the Federal Government and its state counterparts to build more productive and resilient resource recovery infrastructure that supplies world class quality recycled materials to the manufacturing and construction sectors.
“Giving them confidence and certainty in using locally recovered materials, and thus enabling them to move towards zero emissions as together we re-circulate resources through the economy,” she said.
ACOR LABLES RMF A MASSIVE MILESTONE FOR RECYCLING
Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR), the national peak body for the $1.5 billion industry labelled the planned investment in resource recovery infrastructure as a “massive milestone for recycling”.
Pete Shmigel, ACOR CEO, said the RMF is bonza and the unprecedented investment will transform Australian recycling and help make it domestically sustainable.
“RMF builds on our industry’s own innovation and investment in making more recycled content products and generating hi-vis regional jobs right here in Australia,” Shmigel said.
“The next key step for the transformation of Australian recycling and to meet Australians’ expectation that their efforts stack up is ‘buying recycled’ by Governments, corporations and the community. More recycling factories only make sense when there is demand for their recycled content products, such roads and packaging.”
According to ACOR, the RMF marks the joint participation of the Commonwealth, States/Territories and industry on a mutual investment basis, there is an emphasis on ‘pulling’ new products, including for plastics – rather than ‘pushing’ through collection of material from Australia’s homes and businesses and meets the investment target that ACOR has been calling for since early 2018.
Shmigel said with ambitious National Waste Policy targets only 4 years away, it’s time Governments further put money, such as from $1.5 billion collected from the community in landfill levies “where their mouths are”.
WMRR IS CALLING FOR FURTHER AND FASTER ACTION
The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) welcomed the new fund, but noting that to “turbo charge” Australia’s recycling capacity, several other elements had to be driven now, and driven at high throttle too.
Gayle Sloan, WMRR CEO said key to the success of the RMF will be states matching with new funds as well, not rebadged existing monies, as industry faces significant pressure, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“WMRR absolutely welcomes this funding; however, the reality is that Australia has changed significantly since the August 2019 announcement of the export bans and may face difficulties in co-investing while continuing to face the significant impacts of the pandemic,” she said.
“It is going to be vital that government takes a flexible and robust approach towards co-investment, one that is focused on long-term outcomes and end goals.”
Sloan said governments must urgently mandate the use of recycled material now in all government infrastructure projects, in order to drive market development of these products so that we can sustain a viable remanufacturing base.
“It is disappointing to see that the one significant piece of the circular economy puzzle continues to fly under the radar,” Sloan said.
“If we are serious about transitioning Australia to a circular economy, then emphasis must be given to the design of products.”
Sloan is calling for Government to require producers to use this Australian material and not import from overseas.
“It is time for generational change – we must recognise the value of the materials that we are extracting and the fact that the design of packaging to enable continued reuse of these materials is a job multiplier,” she said.
“If the government continues to look the other way, giving packagers a free pass to continue using virgin materials, to not take responsibility for the materials they design and produce, then Australia will struggle to transition to a circular economy.”