Tackling waste together: Matt Kean

Tackling waste together: Matt Kean

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean lays out the government’s objectives for its 20-year waste strategy.

The origin of the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” may be lost to time, but its meaning has never been more relevant than today.

Australians treasure the concept of recycling and rightfully demand a recycling system that is effective, affordable and sustainable.

The readers of Waste Management Review are at the cutting edge of one of the biggest environmental challenges facing New South Wales and our country.

I’m committed to working with the industry to build a truly sustainable sector which enjoys public trust and confidence.

Our state is vast and the economics, infrastructure and issues of regional New South Wales pose different challenges to the ones we face in the city.

But people in the city and the bush are united in their clear expectation that when we say we are recycling, that is what we are doing.

They are united in expecting us to keep our word when we say we are protecting the environment and human health.

And they expect that the management of waste be efficient and effective, so the bins are collected on time and their local environment is protected.

The NSW Government is fully engaged with the Commonwealth and the other states as we work to meet the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreement to ban waste exports while building up the domestic recycling industry.

To make sure we do our part to create a truly national plan, and to get our response right to the challenges we face here in NSW, we are developing a 20-year waste strategy.

We are ending the cycle of knee-jerk policy that leads to poor outcomes.

To get the strategy right for the short and long term, we’re going to consult intensively with local government, the waste, manufacturing and remanufacturing industries, the charitable sector, waste and recycling experts and local communities around the state.

We have three objectives for the strategy and all our state waste policies: sustainability, reliability and affordability.

Sustainability means the NSW waste industry is self-sustaining, delivers improved environmental outcomes and avoids the human health impacts associated with poorly managed waste.

Reliability means putting consumers at the centre of the strategy. It means making sure that the bins are always collected and our waste is managed in accordance with community expectations, so if we say something is going to be recycled, it is actually recycled.

Affordability means ensuring that waste services are delivered at a reasonable cost and with the customer in mind.

The government must enable industry to extract value and support them through developing policies and creating markets through our commitment to a circular economy.

In February this year we published the Circular Economy Policy.

Moving to a circular economy will provide long-term economic, social and environmental benefits for NSW.

The policy specifies real action and timing and provides a roadmap on how we will transition to a circular economy.

It will inform the development of another key priority – the Plastics Plan, an ambitious, nation-leading comprehensive plan to deal with the issue of plastic waste in NSW.

The plan will look at options to reduce single-use plastics, prevent plastic litter, address the impact of microplastics and support plastics reuse in a circular economy.

Work on the plan is underway and community consultation will begin later this year.

If you want to see a model for how the government sees the future of waste management, you should take a look at the Return and Earn Scheme.

It’s the most comprehensive litter reduction scheme in the state’s history, and it delivers for the environment, the community and the industry.

More than two billion cans, bottles and plastic containers have been collected – waste that is definitely not going into our lakes, waterways, bushland or parkland.

More than $440,000 has been raised for important community work in New South Wales directly through Return and Earn.

And Return and Earn ensures high quality recyclables with low levels of contamination enters the recycling stream.

Many of these plastic, glass and aluminium containers collected under the scheme are processed for reuse within Australia.

The scheme is a benchmark of how industry, government and the community can work together to achieve great waste outcomes.

When we look at municipal solid waste – the everyday items we use and throw away – each person in NSW produces about 0.53 tonnes of waste. Across NSW, we produce around 21.4 million tonnes of waste per year.

Waste management is a huge environmental challenge. But it comes with enormous opportunity to innovate and do things differently, looking at new technologies to reduce the total impact of waste on our environment.

I am looking forward to working with industry, local government and our communities to deliver this ambitious agenda. We have an opportunity to deliver great outcomes for the people of NSW.

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