Infrastructure Victoria strategy calls for zero-waste economy

Victorians will need to continue to embrace new ways of living and working in the face of significant technological and environmental disruption, according to Infrastructure Victoria’s draft 30-year strategy.

Infrastructure Victoria is inviting all Victorians to have their say on the updated draft strategy, released for public consultation on 9 December.

According to Infrastructure Victoria Chief Executive Michel Masson, the strategy takes an integrated, cross-sectoral view of infrastructure planning, making 95 draft recommendations to the Victorian Government across both metropolitan and regional Victoria.

“The infrastructure we plan now must provide for a net zero-emissions economy by 2050, support the transition to a circular, zero-waste economy and deliver innovative solutions to drive trade and investment in agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, and other key industries,” he said.

Of the 95 recommendations, four directly address waste management.

“Despite past objectives to transition to a circular economy and recognition of the waste hierarchy, Victoria is producing more waste today than ever before,” the report reads.

“Between 2000 and 2018, waste generation doubled from 7.4 million to 14.4 million tonnes each year. About 30 per cent was buried in landfill.”

The report notes that resource recovery rates have stagnated at just under 70 per cent of total waste, with international market changes and weak local recyclable material markets causing significant stockpiling and landfilling.

“The actual recycling rate may be significantly lower than this, because the ultimate fate of recovered materials is often unclear,” the report reads.

To address this, Infrastructure Victoria is calling on the state government to facilitate improved recycling infrastructure for priority materials

“While processing facilities are owned by the private sector, the Victorian Government can assist by establishing objectives, identifying emerging infrastructure gaps, facilitating investment, leveraging private investments and providing funding to the sector to achieve targets and improve environmental performance,” the report reads.

Infrastructure Victoria also recommends immediately accelerating market development for recycling materials by updating standards and specifications, and explicitly requiring the Victoria public sector to use recycled products where feasible.

“The Victorian Government should update its Social Procurement Framework to more explicitly require public sector agencies to use recycled materials,” the report reads.

Additionally, Infrastructure Victoria recommends expanding the current “limited scope” of the Victorian Government’s Recycled First policy, which only covers major infrastructure projects.

“The Victorian Government and responsible agencies should embrace performance based specifications for materials, such as specifying levels of fatigue or cracking,” the report reads.

“This prescribes the outcome required, and allows industry to determine compliant inputs, including recycled products.”

To minimise waste and improve residual waste infrastructure planning, Infrastructure Victoria recommends that the state government further clarify the role of waste-to-energy facilities.

“The Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan, formerly known as the Victorian Recycling Infrastructure Plan, aims to minimise waste going to landfill and planned for no new metropolitan landfill sites,” the report reads.

“Waste-to-energy can support this goal by keeping existing landfill capacity for future unrecoverable materials.”

The strategy also calls on the Victorian Government to identify priority opportunities to improve health and sustainability by recycling wastewater.

According to Masson, Victoria can recover from the shocks of 2020 and meet future challenges by planning for change and doing things differently.

“Throughout 2020, Victorians have demonstrated we are adaptable, resilient and prepared to make big changes when needed,” he said.

“In the decades ahead, we will need to maintain that spirit in the face of technological disruption, climate change, lower population growth and unexpected challenges.”

Masson added that the draft 30-year strategy shows how integrated infrastructure planning combined with strategic investment can support positive change.

“For example, greater uptake of zero-emissions vehicles, more cycling and walking for transport, and increased use of renewable energy will not only reduce pollution but provide many public benefits,” he said.

Community consultation on the draft strategy will include opportunities for the public to participate in online workshops, or by written submission.

A statewide online community panel will also consider how Victorians can be supported to speed up the adoption of zero emissions vehicles.

“By taking an integrated view, our draft strategy puts the health, wellbeing and prosperity of all Victorians at the centre of infrastructure planning – which is why it’s so important all Victorians can have their say,” Masson said.

“This is a chance for every Victorian to get involved and help determine the infrastructure recommendations to be included in the final strategy.”

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