The Federal Government has introduced the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 into parliament.
The Bill seeks to phase out the export of 645,000 tonnes of unprocessed plastic, paper, glass and tyres each year.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the “landmark legislation” would see Australia take responsibility for its waste by establishing a national industry framework for recycling.
“This is about tackling a national environmental issue that has been buried in landfill or shipped offshore for far too long,” she said.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to remodel waste management, reduce pressure on our environment and create economic opportunity, as we move to a circular economy with a strong market for recycled materials.”
Ley added that in tandem with the $190 million Recycling Modernisation Fund and National Waste Policy Action Plan, the legislation will help create 10,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.
“That is a 32 per cent increase in jobs in the Australian waste and recycling sector,” she said.
Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister Trevor Evans said the legislation would improve the existing framework for product stewardship, by encouraging companies to take greater responsibility for the waste they generate through the products they design, manufacture or distribute.
“We are making it easier for industry to set up and join in product stewardship schemes. Yet where voluntary product stewardship schemes are not effective, or where they are not created in priority areas, the government will have new tools to intervene and regulate,” he said.
“Our legislative changes will transform our waste industry, meaning increased recycling and remanufacturing of waste materials, which will create new industry and generate more jobs.”
The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) considers the introduction of the Bill as a significant element of the reform process that can contribute to achieving a circular economy.
“Most importantly this step by the Australian Government acknowledges that waste and recycling services are an essential service,” an NWRIC statement reads.
“The raft of measures and initiatives currently in play are creating much needed momentum for positive systemic change.”
The NWRIC is still reviewing the details of the Bill within the context of feedback it provided on the draft bill in July, especially in regard to definitions, objects, charges and the Minister’s Priority Product List.
“The actions of the current Commonwealth Government, in particular Assistant Minister Evans, Minister Ley and the Prime Minister, have gone a long way to demonstrating national leadership and state coordination,” the statement reads.
“Nonetheless, there are still some key aspects of the reform process that demand detailed attention and completion including; creating markets for recovered materials through government procurement and requiring companies to increase recycled content in products and packaging, including imported goods.”
According to NWRIC, greater coordination of waste and recycling infrastructure planning across all levels of government and investment of the $1.5 billion state landfill levies collected annually, is also an outstanding area of work needing further development.
“Cleaning up what is collected by harmonising collection bin contents, urgently establishing a regulated battery recycling program and removing hazardous substances like PFAS from products, are obvious imperatives at this time,” the statement reads.
“Focused action is also required to harmonise waste and recycling data, definitions, movement tracking, landfill levies and licensing.”
Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Shmigel said the Federal Government “deserves full credit” for its proactive and purposeful agenda.
“Taken together with other reforms, this unprecedented legislation marks a new era of environmental and economic achievement in recycling through government leadership and industry partnership and innovation,” he said.
“Our industry is making unprecedented investments in collecting, sorting, cleaning, and manufacturing from recyclate from homes, businesses and construction sites.
“Having the law, policy and governments backing that in is awesome and will unlock huge intergenerational value – whether it’s keeping stuff out of wasteful landfills or creating jobs in country towns.”
The government will continue to consult with industry as it develops rules for each material under the waste export ban, and ensure businesses understand their obligations and how to meet them.