Prime Minister Scott Morrison has highlighted his commitment to working collaboratively with state governments and industry to grow Australia’s recycling infrastructure capacity.
The statements were made following a tour of the Sims Metal Management materials recovery facility (MRF) in Brooklyn New York.
Commenting on the scale and scope of the MRF, Mr Morrison said he was excited to see similar technology employed in Australia.
“What we’re seeing here is truly exciting, and it is truly achievable because it is commercial, and it’s a partnership between the public and the private sectors,” Mr Morrison said.
“I mean, up to about two thirds of the revenue that is generated here doesn’t come from the contracts they have with governments, it comes from the products and the revenue streams that are generated by selling that outside of this facility.”
Mr Morrison said the facility’s success highlighted that improving the recycling sector was achievable through public and private sector partnerships.
“There are many environmental challenges that we face, and we need to take action on all of them, but this one for Australia, in a highly urbanised society, one where our waste is our responsibility, these are the commercial solutions that we need to have in place,” Mr Morrison said.
“And this will be a centrepiece of our focus, not only on our domestic environmental agenda, but on our international environmental agenda.”
Sims Metal Management CEO Alistair Field said it was important that contractual arrangements with city governments were mutually beneficial.
“We work very closely with New York City, and in the times that we have ebbs and flows and commodity cycles, there has to be an understanding of how our business can manage through those cycles,” Mr Field said.
“We have seen instances here in the US and throughout the world where that has not worked. So that’s a really key arrangement and our commercial arrangement with business and government.”
When asked by media why similar technology wasn’t being implemented in Australia, Mr Morrison said the scale of operations was challenging.
The Prime Minister added that he would work closely with state governments and the Commonwealth to build that scale.
“The discussion I had with the states at the last meeting of COAG was a very enthusiastic one. I think there’s a real willingness to identify the things that can facilitate this sort of commercial activity,” Mr Morrison said.
“One of the things we are looking at is the procurement practices of our road building agencies, to ensure that they are incorporating recycled asphalt into their procurement in the tens of billions of dollars that we are spending on roads.”
Mr Morrison said higher energy costs in Australia were also a challenge, however noted the potential inherent in waste to energy processes.
“One of the exciting things about waste management is that it can generate its own energy, and plants like this can potentially become fully energy self-sufficient, through recycling waste and converting it through gasification and other processes into energy,” Mr Morrison said.