Nine South Australian councils have bought more than 17,000 tonnes of recycled materials during the first six months of a circular procurement pilot project.
The project was established in 2019 to support the development of new local markets for products made from recycled materials.
According to Local Government Association of South Australia President Sam Telfer, councils have experienced significant increases in waste costs since China and other countries stopped accepting Australian waste.
He explained that due to changes in the global market, as well as increases to the state government’s solid waste levy, South Australian councils will pay roughly $29 million more in waste costs this year.
“All around Australia, governments and industry are working hard to develop local markets and on-shore processing for recyclable materials to establish a truly circular economy,” Telfer said.
“The National Waste Policy Action Plan requires governments at all levels to devise specific procurement targets, but this project is one of the first attempts nationwide to make good on this commitment.”
With funding provided through a Green Industries SA Circular Economy Market Development grant, participating councils have developed tools to assist them in buying back recycled materials.
Participating councils signed a Memorandum of Understanding in September 2019, committing to prioritising recycled-content through their procurement processes, tracking the recycled content purchased by weight and publicly reporting on the tonnes purchased from January 2020.
Councils have been buying products such as stationery, street furniture, bollards, fencing and decking, road and construction materials and compost.
Adelaide Hills Council, for example, is currently testing recycled materials including plastics, rubber and aggregates in asphalt surface road construction.
“The market for recycled content product is still in its infancy, but we anticipate the pilot will drive demand and more products will become available,” Adelaide Hills Council CEO Andrew Aitken said.
Through the pilot project, councils have identified more than 150 suppliers of recycled-content products and materials, made more than 450 individual purchases of these products and bought more than 17,000 tonnes of recycled materials, including 106 tonnes of recycled plastic.
The City of Onkaparinga has resealed eight roads using glass bottles and plastic bags, while the City of Prospect has purchased 46 tonnes of organics for streetscape upgrades.
Environment Minister David Speirs said the state government welcomed the nine councils “proactive approach” to recycled content procurement.
“The goal of our $100,000 funding for this pilot project was to show our kerbside recycling is a valuable resource and when we reuse our recycling locally, the environment wins and the economy wins,” he said.
“This local government partnership with Green Industries SA is a model for the rest of the state and the rest of the country.”
Most councils have also adopted a rolling target in relation to purchasing recycled plastic materials, to apply from 2020/21 onwards.
“Whilst the target doesn’t apply until the second year, after only six months of tracking, councils have achieved 38 per cent of next year’s target, which shows they are making excellent progress,” Telfer said.
“Reducing our reliance on overseas markets and establishing local demand is a significant change that will take time to achieve, but it’s a great opportunity to make our economy more sustainable.”
Similarly, City of Charles Sturt Mayor Angela Evans said her city is committed to the development of local markets that keep materials and resources circulating within South Australia.
“Our involvement in this project, as well as our joint development of a Materials Recycling Facility with the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, demonstrates this commitment to our community and to those businesses that are putting the R&D into products using recycled materials,” she said.
“Our involvement in the LGA pilot project has seen us specify recycled content requirements into our procurement processes, which is driving demand for local recyclable materials and recycled content-products.”
Participating councils are: Adelaide Hills, City of Burnside, City of Charles Sturt, City of Norwood, Payneham & St Peters, City of Onkaparinga, City of Port Adelaide Enfield, City of Prospect, Mount Barker District Council, The Rural City of Murray Bridge