The NSW Government will investigate waste levy amendments to ensure regulatory settings remain fit for purpose, according to the state’s newly released 20-Year Waste Strategy consultation paper.
According to the paper, the state government will review waste levy boundaries, levy exemption for problem wastes, national levy harmonisation and complementary price-based instruments such as pay-as-you-throw initiatives.
The paper also proposes standardised collection systems for households and businesses, place-based infrastructure development, waste benchmarks for the commercial sector and potential government procurement targets.
The announcement comes as the state government opens consultation on two draft strategies: the 20-Year Waste Strategy and Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW.
Citing 2018 waste generation figures, Environment Minister Matt Kean said the state’s waste industry needs to be more sustainable, reliable and affordable.
“We need a smarter approach that makes use of all the levers available to us. We need to drive sustainable product design and waste reduction, and maximise the amount of used material that is recirculated safely back into the productive economy,” he said.
According to Mr Kean, the 20-Year Waste Strategy canvasses options to reduce waste and increase recycling, outlines opportunities and strategic direction for future waste and recycling infrastructure and seeks to grow sustainable end markets for recycled materials.
“The 20-Year Waste Strategy will be a vehicle that not only enables the state, businesses and the community to improve our approach to waste. It is also intended to generate new economic opportunities, reduce costs to citizens and businesses through a smarter approach, and increase our resilience to external shocks,” he said.
The NSW Plastics Plan, Mr Kean said, outlines a clear pathway to reduce single-use, unnecessary and problematic plastics.
According to the discussion paper, potential priority directions include making plastic producers more responsible for collection and recycling, and mandating 30 per cent minimum recycled content in plastic packing by 2025.
“It sets the stage for the phase-out of priority single-use plastics, tripling the proportion of plastic recycled by 2030, reducing plastic litter by a quarter and making our state a leader in plastics research and development,” Mr Kean said.
“Lightweight plastic bags are proposed to be phased out six months from the passage of legislation, with other timelines to be determined after feedback from the public consultation process.”
Local Government NSW President Linda Scott said the proposals were far-ranging and far-sighted, offering smart and innovative state-based solutions to Australia’s growing “waste and recycling crisis.”
“Together, NSW local governments have been campaigning to save recycling since 2018 – and it is clear Environment Minister Matt Kean and the Premier have not only listened, but heard our call,” she said.
“For two years councils have been asking for the waste levy to be reinvested for the purpose it is collected, and the Premier’s announcement that this levy will now be reviewed is very welcome news.”
According to Ms Scott, steps to reduce waste, including banning plastic bags in 2021, will play a critical role in helping to create a circular economy.
“Joining with the Commonwealth to fund council-led waste and recycling infrastructure proposals will help ensure our waste is managed more sustainably, creating jobs in NSW,” she said.
“Increasing state and local government procurement of recycled goods, while leveraging off existing procurement platforms, is long overdue. Local governments are also very supportive of state-wide education campaigns so everyone is able to do their bit to reduce waste and increase recycling.”
Waste Management & Resource Recovery Association Australia CEO Gayle Sloan said with plastics at the forefront of the community’s mind, it’s encouraging that NSW is looking to align with other jurisdictions to design out unnecessary single-use items.
“It also appears that NSW is prepared to go further, with mandated recycled content of 30 per cent by 2025, and emphasis on designing out waste and making producers take greater responsibility for collecting and recycling in NSW, including the possible use of more extended producer responsibility schemes,” Ms Sloan said.
“These are all positive policies that may result in less reliance on councils and householders to meet the costs of these schemes.”
Consultation closes 8 May.