$1B investment could transform Victoria’s waste sector

Victoria could recover up to 90 per cent of its waste if $1 billion is spent on recycling infrastructure in the state by 2039.

Advice from Infrastructure Victoria (IV) released on Thursday suggests upgrading or building 87 new processing infrastructure facilities for six priority materials including plastics, paper, cardboard, glass, organics, tyres and e-waste, would achieve the recovery target in the state coming the next two decades.

The advice on recycling and resource recovery infrastructure, prepared for the Victorian Government by 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.

“Regional Victoria stands to benefit most from significantly increased processing capacity, with the advice recommending 52 out of 87 new or upgraded facilities be located outside of metropolitan Melbourne,” IV said in a statement.

“By processing materials from both Melbourne and local areas, regional Victoria can provide products, such as compost for agriculture, closer to end users, reducing transport costs and creating new jobs and services.”

Elissa McNamara, IV Resource Recovery & Recycling Advice Project Director, said waste infrastructure that focuses on the six priority materials is a no regret investment for the Victorian economy. 

“There is pressure at the moment because of COVID-19 related manners, but this is a long term sustainable investment that is going to reap rewards for years to come,” McNamara said. 

The director said that along with the state government, IV is also encouraging waste organisations to help transform to a circular economy by  developing new uses for recycled products.

McNamara said the first steps to increasing processing capacity is for the state government and public agencies to be super clear about what their investment priorities are and where investments should be located.

“We can be strategic in our facilitation of investment. Next is about having the right infrastructure in place at the household and business level, so materials are more attractive to the waste sector and supporting the investments made,” she said.

Currently, 69 per cent of Victoria’s waste is recycled into a useful product and one third of organic waste is being recycled across the state’s 79 local councils.

IV has made 13 recommendations, including standardised kerbside recycling across all councils to limit contamination to make it easier for Victorians to recycle correctly.

“We’re calling on the Victorian Government to work with local councils and regional waste and resource recovery groups to come up with a roll out that will actually work,”  McNamara said.

She said collaboration will be key to providing a consistent service across the state.

“For example, if someone lived in Melbourne, but then moved to Mildura, they will be putting the same waste in the same bins,” McNamara said.

“That will be essential to reduce contamination and really support a strong recycling sector,

“Following the national export ban that comes into effect in July, Victoria is the first cab off the rank in terms of getting this detailed recycling and recovery infrastructure planning done.”

Victoria already recovers more than $1 billion worth of resources each year, but IV said in a statement that there is huge potential to achieve and grow this figure by reprocessing and reusing these materials locally or by selling them internationally.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio welcomed the report, and said the government was on track to “transition to a circular economy and reduce rubbish, create thousands of jobs, and create a more sustainable Victoria.”

The Andrews government requested the authority’s advice in April 2019.

The IV report follows the $300 million Recycling Victoria package, and McNamara said the authority’s 13 recommendations were developed in consultation with government and industry stakeholders to align with the policy and associated programs like Recycled First. 

“We have also developed the most comprehensive and up-to-date data of current and projected waste generation in Victoria and infrastructure capacity and capability,” IV stated in the report.

“Our work shows there is not one single approach to achieve these outcomes,

“All levels of government, business and households will need to work together if we are to realise the huge opportunity before us.”

Infrastructure Victoria CEO Michel Masson said the advice delivered by the authority contains all the elements for Victoria to develop a world-class recycling and resource recovery system within the next two decades.

“We need to use less, recycle more and collect our waste smarter so that we are recovering its value and not relying on export markets to deal with our waste,” Masson said.

“By encouraging investment in new infrastructure and developing new uses for recycled products, we can transform to a circular economy.”

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