Fed Govt delays glass waste export ban

COAG’s export ban on unprocessed glass has been delayed due to restrictions related to COVID-19, and will now commence 1 January 2021.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, COVID-19 restrictions made it “impossible” for parliament to pass legislation in time for the original 1 July 2020 deadline.

“We will introduce new legislation later this year to implement the waste export ban, giving interested stakeholders an opportunity to review the draft legislation,” she said.

The schedule for implementing the export ban on waste plastic, paper and tyres remains unchanged.

As part of the national response to the COAG export ban, the Federal Government is asking industry and state and territory governments to work together to bring forward project proposals that deliver a national solution for mixed-paper recycling in Australia.

“Australia has a once in a generation opportunity to improve waste management and recycling through national leadership and by funding infrastructure investments and encouraging new technologies,” Ms Ley said.

Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister Trevor Evans said Australia exports approximately 375,000 tonnes of mixed wastepaper and cardboard each year, but the ban will see a shift to recycling these materials domestically by 2024.

“The Federal Government is particularly interested in paper-recycling facility proposals that adopt new innovations for recovered paper and generate new jobs in rural and regional Australia,” he said.

Applications to the Federal Government are due 31 July, with a decision on successful projects expected at the end of August.

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NSW seeks industry partner for paper and cardboard processing

The NSW Government is seeking an industry partner to co-develop a funding proposal for new paper/cardboard processing capacity in preparation for the 1 July 2024 COAG export ban on mixed waste paper and cardboard.

Following COAG’s March 2020 agreement to phase out exports of certain waste materials, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Federal Government would co-invest in recycling infrastructure with state and territory governments and industry.

The Federal Government has now invited state and territory governments to submit funding proposals for new paper and cardboard processing.

“These proposals need to be for economically viable projects that best address national pressures, utilise best-practice methodology, know-how and technology, achieve value for money and maximise industry financial contributions,” a NSW Government statement reads.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has welcomed the announcement, and is optimistic about further funding announcements in due course.

“If governments’ ongoing efforts in developing the right policy and funding settings for the impending COAG waste exports bans are anything to go by, then there is much Australia can look forward to in its goal to build domestic recycling capacity and future-proof our essential waste and resource recovery sector,” a WMRR statement reads.

With COVID-19 impeding growth and progress for numerous industries, WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said the association is encouraged by the scale of work being undertaken to ensure Australia has the necessary strategic policies to build a sustainable environment and lay out a roadmap for recovery.

“One of the things we’ve been saying to all governments is that planning for the bans must continue so that Australia can emerge out of COVID-19 with a viable and resilient sector that drives domestic processing of materials and importantly, provides local revenue and jobs – not just during the infrastructure development phase, but also across operations throughout the lifespan of facilities and services,” Ms Sloan said.

“The release of this EOI is proof that the government agrees that there are opportunities in our sector – both in the domestic recovery of materials and the recovery of economies.”

According to Ms Sloan, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for Australia to build a resilient domestic economy.

“The WARR industry stands ready to continue working with governments to capitalise on these opportunities and create remanufacturing jobs and investment throughout Australia,” she said.

“This is a sector where the well will not run dry because where there are people, there are and will be waste (resources) ready to be remanufactured back into the products they once were.”

Applications to the Federal Government are due 31 July, with a decision on successful projects expected at the end of August.

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Loaning for expanded industries: Caterpillar

Deborah Friedlander of Caterpillar details the loans and leasing process of Caterpillar Financial Services ahead of the waste sector’s forecast expansion.

With Australia’s forthcoming waste export ban set to commence periodically over the next two years, onshore waste and resource recovery infrastructure will require significant capacity expansion.

As highlighted in the Federal Government’s export ban consultation paper, for instance, 4.4 million tonnes of waste was exported between 2018-19, 1.4 million tonnes of which will fall under export ban legislation.

While 1.4 million tonnes may seem like an overwhelming amount of material to suddenly have onshore, its total declared value, according to the Federal Environment Department, was $291 million, suggesting significant, presently untouched economic potential.

As such, large-scale investment will be essential to enhance collection, recovery and recycling capacity and to develop domestic reuse options, technologies, procurement pathways and markets.

Deborah Friedlander, Managing Director of Caterpillar Financial Australia, says forecast infrastructure growth also demands concurrent investment in new and expanded waste handling equipment.

With over 16 years’ experience working with construction machinery and equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, Deborah has watched as industries expanded and contracted alongside global and national shifts in policy and economic environments.

Understanding the cyclical and often unpredictable nature of shifting industries, Deborah says, is a core component of her work and the wider operations of Cat Financial.

Drawing on this experience, and her belief that sustainability represents “the way of the future”, Deborah suggests the waste industry is set for a period of ongoing expansion.

As new facilities develop, be they transfer stations, plastic processing plants or even sustainable landfills, Deborah says operators will require reliable access to equipment and financing.

She adds that through Cat Financial, anyone from smalltime council operators to thousand tonnage resource recovery facilities can access financing.

Cat Financial provides loans and leasing for all Cat equipment, from mini excavators to huge ultra-class mining trucks, she explains, for loan terms usually between three to five years.

Deborah adds that Cat Financial provides competitive fixed term interest rates, as low as two and a half per cent for smaller Cat machines.

“Whether clients need a low introductory rate to get their business started or physical damage insurance to help prepare for the unexpected, we can help,” she says.

“Clients can count on our team of industry experts to help them get the equipment they need and the financial support required to keep operations up and running.”

Given the waste industry is so varied, Deborah says it’s important operators acquire the right machine to support their processes. She highlights that Caterpillar and its dealerships have specialised waste industry experts able to create custom solutions, built to fit unique needs and challenges.

“When a client’s business is demolition, scrap recycling and waste, they put a variety of tools to tough use, every day. And we’re ready to help them get the finance and extended protection support they need,” she says.

“We’re not just selling machinery – we’re operating as solutions providers.”

Cat Financial, Deborah says, aims to provide a fast and effortless customer experience, with credit approvals usually processed within a few hours of receiving the application documentation. She adds that finance documents are short and can be signed online.

“We also don’t require onerous covenants from customers or charge unexpected fees. The funding is ready to go when the machine is, which helps our customers get into their new machines fast and get to work delivering their projects,” Deborah says.

Deborah adds that following the banking royal commission, many customers have felt nervous about approaching lenders for financing.

“No-one should feel nervous about approaching financing with us. We make it easy and have a set criterion that is incredibly straightforward,” she says.

According to Deborah, the Cat Financial customer service team is authorised to provide six months of payment relief with very little administration.

“Unlike a bank, we want Cat customers for life, so we work very hard to build loyalty and preserve it. If one of our customers needs leeway or financial assistance, we are ready and able to support them through that process,” she says.

“For instance, it’s very hard to look past the bushfires right now. We’ve contacted all our customers in affected areas and will be working closely with them over coming months.”

There will be a period of rebuilding ahead, Deborah says, with Cat Financial committed to assisting that process. She adds that Australia’s bushfire crisis has renewed the nation’s focus on sustainability, which is a core value of Cat Financial and the Caterpillar brand at large.

She says that in 2020, Cat Financial is really focused on financing for rebuild and repairs through competitive rates.

“Our customers often just pay for rebuild and repairs with cash flow from their business, but we want to make it easier to match the expense of rebuilding to the cash flow coming from the machines.

“Cat Financial is invested in the waste and resource recovery industry and want to support its economic health. It’s great to see interest growing in the sector.”

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Urgent collective procurement: SSROC

Councils must band together to foster a viable domestic recycling market, writes Helen Sloan, Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils Program Manager.

Reading the article by NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean in December’s Waste Management Review, it was very gratifying to find him so supportive of the drive to take the waste sector into a new era of sustainability.

The 11 member councils of Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) have supported this concept for many years and have now gone beyond support to action.

Each council has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), undertaking to work together to develop a framework for regional procurement of recycled material, and drive investment in new remanufacturing infrastructure.

Australia’s current domestic market for recycled materials, and the infrastructure needed to process them into a clean, usable form, is woefully inadequate.

With the Council of Australian Government’s ban on the export of some recyclable materials, we need to develop our own recycling industry with some urgency. And domestic markets for the outputs and new products will be critical to the growth of that industry.

While councils conduct a lot of procurement, individually they may not need to purchase the large volumes of goods that might drive the development of an efficient, cost-effective and competitive industry.

By working together through their regional organisation, councils will send a powerful signal to potential suppliers that they are serious about products with recycled content, as well as demonstrating long-term demand.

The first procurement to be conducted under the new MoU is for materials for use in councils’ civil works – road maintenance, footpaths, bike paths and the like.

Given the 11 SSROC member councils – from the City of Sydney, inner west and eastern suburbs, to Sutherland Shire and Canterbury Bankstown – cover around 700 square kilometres, with a population of 1.7 million, that represents a lot of local roads and paths.

That is enough for the councils to set themselves a new annual target of recycling 45 million glass bottles.

Following the signing of the MoU late last year, Minister Kean praised the commitment from the SSROC, saying: We need all levels of government and industry working together and embracing initiatives like this to tackle waste in NSW.

“We look forward to working closely with councils and industry, so together we safeguard the future of NSW.”

Councils will first focus on introducing more recycled content in road-making materials, including recycled crushed glass and reclaimed asphalt pavement. SSROC demand for recycled glass in civil works is estimated at over 10,000 tonnes per year.

Since 2018, SSROC has led a series of workshops and collaborations with engineers, procurement experts and standards specification organisation NatSpec to develop the recognised performance standards for adopting a range of recycled materials in civil works.

The next phase of the project will investigate applications for a range of other recycled materials, such as plastic, tyre crumb and textiles.

Mayor of Burwood Council and SSROC President, Councillor John Faker said: “This is a significant step towards solving the recycling crisis. We know how important recycling is to the community, which is why our councils are taking the lead to ensure our recyclables are put to good use and kept out of landfill. This is a win-win for everyone.”

Councils cannot do this in isolation. With the Australian Government in November targeting significant increases in government procurement of recycled materials, it makes sense to liaise with other agencies and organisations, as well as working together.

So SSROC is inviting other councils and regional and joint organisations to consider joining the initiative.  SSROC is also liaising with NSW Government agencies, particularly Transport for New South Wales, to ensure that the procurement process will deliver products that meet their specifications and are effective and safe for workers to use.

This pioneering approach to joint regional procurement, in collaboration with key players in industry, government and academia, is intended to generate sufficient demand to influence market development beyond what councils might do alone.

It will allow councils to procure safe, affordable and high-quality materials, and will demonstrate that the model can be applied throughout the Sydney metropolitan area and indeed the entire state.

SSROC procurement services focus on large and complex goods and services, driven by our member councils’ priorities.

They are generally part of the delivery of a broader program of change involving multiple different stakeholders and specialist technical expertise.

The plan is that procurement of recycled materials for civil works will be just the first of many projects under the Procure Recycled program. Watch this space!

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COAG releases export ban Waste Response Strategy

Appropriately sorted paper and cardboard will be exempt from the Federal Government’s forthcoming waste export ban, as announced by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). 

According to COAG’s Waste Response Strategy, export ban timelines and material definitions were tested with industry between late 2019 and early 2020, following the ban’s initial November 2019 announcement. 

“Through responses to the COAG waste export ban discussion paper and roundtables, stakeholders provided input on their concerns, manufacturing and export practices, and other information which guided the development of specific material definitions,” the strategy reads.

“Paper and cardboard that is sorted to one type with low contamination levels can be exported. This reflects the role that these materials play in supporting kerbside recycling viability and that these do not require further processing to be ready for manufacturing into new products.”

Additional definition changes include removing the requirement that glass cullet for export be washed and colour sorted. This reflects, the strategy notes, industry feedback that glass cullet does not need to be washed and/or of a single colour to be ready for remanufacturing.

Bus, truck, and aviation tyres that are legitimately exported for re-treading can also continue to be exported, “as this practice represents a higher-order end use than destruction via crumbing or shredding.”

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the ban signals a once in a generation transformation of the recycling industry, which could generate $1.5 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years.

“This is about waking up to an issue that has been buried in landfill for too long. Most importantly, it is about Australia saying it is our waste and our responsibility, and it is about industry and government being prepared to invest in change,” she said. 

The strategy highlights the need for system-level changes to Australia’s waste and resource management practices to support the ban.

As such, the Federal Government has committed to supporting upgrades to material recovery facilities, building demand for recycled product through purchasing goods and services at scale and co-investing to support commercially viable waste and recycling facilities.

The Federal Government, in collaboration with state governments and industry, will also consider targeted stewardship interventions for packaging, plastic, paper, tyres and glass products.

“While there is support from the waste and recycling industry for new product stewardship schemes which place mandatory requirements on businesses, groups representing manufacturers have a range of views about mandatory schemes depending on the maturity of their respective schemes,” the strategy reads.

“Finalisation of the review of the Product Stewardship Act in 2020 will provide opportunities to reform stewardship arrangements, including opportunities for mandatory schemes where they support implementation of the export ban.”

Furthermore, the Federal and state governments will investigate opportunities for regional micro-factories, and establish regional recycling hubs in strategic locations across Australia.

Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans said the ban’s confirmation is the result of strong cooperation between states, territories and industry.

“We now have the opportunity to create jobs, grow the economy, transform the waste industry and significantly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill,” he said.

“We know that for every 10,000 tonnes of waste sent to landfill, there are approximately 2.8 direct jobs created. If we recycle the same waste, 9.2 direct jobs are created.”

According to Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan, the strategy shows a recognition of what is needed to build a sustainable waste and recovery industry in Australia.

“It is evident that the Federal Government is prepared to remain at the table and work with all other Australian governments, in order that we can future proof and resource our essential industry as we respond to the waste export bans, and achieve the waste reduction and recycling outcomes that the Australian community rightly expects,” she said.

The strategy not only acknowledges that waste plastic is a significant and complex issue, Ms Sloan said, but also takes positive initial steps in mapping out what all jurisdictions must do to tackle the challenge.

According to Ms Sloan, these range from harmonising policies and programs to phasing out single-use and hard to recycle plastics. The Federal Government is also supporting industry to invest in new plastics processing capacity, Ms Sloan said, through competitive grant funding and commercial and concessional loans.

“Of note however will be the need to fast track infrastructure, because with only two years till the roll-out of the plastics ban and the significant volume of waste plastic that needs to be managed, Australia needs to start building processing facilities now, for them to be up and running ahead of 2022,” Ms Sloan said.

Export ban timeline: 

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NWRIC calls on COAG to set clear definitions and realistic timeframes

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on ministers to set clear material definitions and realistic export timeframes at this Friday’s Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting.

According to NWRIC CEO Rose Read, the Prime Minister and Premiers’ decisions on waste export bans will be key to determining Australia’s future capacity to capture and reuse the millions of tonnes of recycled materials currently being lost from the economy.

“The NWRIC supports COAG’s proposed export ban of waste plastics, paper, glass and tyres, and is calling on COAG to extend the ban to unprocessed cars, white goods, unprocessed e-waste and waste machine lubricant oils,” Ms Read said.

“However, COAG must not shut down legitimate overseas markets for secondary resources recovered from recycled materials such as clean paper and cardboard.”

Furthermore, Ms Read said COAG must address the real source of the waste export problem: the lack of recycled resources being used by the manufacturing, packaging and construction industries in Australia.

“This lack of reuse of recycled materials has significantly stymied industry investment and innovation in recycling capacity over the past 10 years,” she said.

“If Australian governments do not require the manufacturing, construction and packing sectors to dramatically ramp up recycled content in infrastructure, products and packaging, then it will not achieve its 80 per cent resource recovery target.”

The NWRIC is calling on COAG to agree and commit to:

— Clear definitions on what waste can’t be exported.

— Realistic timeframes that allow time to build new processing facilities and secondary resource markets to develop.

— Procuring recycled materials for government infrastructure and mandating recycled content in products and packaging through the Product Stewardship Act.

— Fast tracking development application and licensing processes for expanding and building new recycling and processing facilities.

— Joint investment from commonwealth and state governments with industry for new processing equipment and facilities.

— Strong enforcement of the ban, ensuring government agencies are adequately resourced to ensure compliance.

“If COAG gets this decision right and supports it with joint national and state investment, it will create the foundation necessary to move Australia to a country that values its waste as a resource, keeps these resources circulating in the economy, creating less waste and more jobs,” Ms Read said.

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Export ban exemptions

Despite the export ban commencing July 2020, the Federal Government could allow trade to continue under certain strict conditions. We speak to Trevor Evans, Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister.

In a speech to the first ever National Plastics Summit in Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged to match industry investment in recycling infrastructure dollar for dollar. With Australia’s recycling facilities “under severe strain”, the Prime Minister said government would allocate further funding in the May budget.

“We are working with state and territory governments to identify and unlock the critical upgrades that will lead to a step-change in their recycling capacity. And [we] will invest with governments and with industry on a 1-to-1-to-1 basis,” he said, according to a pre-released speech given to media.

The announcement came just three months ahead of the first round of export bans – with glass waste set to be banned by July 2020 – and serves as a sign that government has listened to industry calls for market intervention.

Since late 2019, the Federal Government has been undertaking extensive industry consultation, as required by COAG Regulation Impact Guidelines. As per the export ban Regulation Impact Statement (RIS), the aim of consultation is to determine the relative costs and benefits of regulatory and non-regulatory options under consideration.

Under proposed regulatory options, the ban’s implementation could take two forms: federal legislation or export restrictions. While federal legislation is conceptually straightforward, option two is more complex, with exports operating under permit systems and accreditation or supply chain assurance.

Exemptions to the ban could be considered, the RIS suggests, where continued export promotes circular economy principals, or materials have established industrial uses and end markets. Moreover, the RIS highlights materials originating from clean, well sorted steams, such as container deposit schemes or single source separation, as possible candidates for exemption.

While it could seem like a loophole to some, according to the RIS, allowing materials that meet certain standards to be exported reflects the variability of challenges facing each waste stream, as well as differences in infrastructure across states and territories.

According to Trevor Evans, Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister, material stream complexity, paired with an understanding of the challenges associated with broad policy decisions, has been a central focus of ban consultation.

“While we use the language of export bans, in essence, what we’re really interested in doing is allowing trade to continue if it meets certain strict criteria,” Trevor says.

“These aren’t clunky blanket bans; they are very targeted. The Federal Government is interested in the quality of material that might go offshore, and if certain quality conditions and eligibility criteria are met, operators may be granted permission via permits.”

While the exemption eligibility criteria is largely finalised, Trevor says discussion is still taking place around specific material definitions.

“The intention of government is to target these bans at mixed or contaminated streams, especially plastics. And that is actually quite a detailed conversation when it comes to individual polymer types, or different types of carboard, paper and pulp,” he says.

According to Trevor, under the restriction system, the Federal Government would have the ability to permit, audit and inspect all operators engaging in export. Once the ban is officially in force, he says policing responsibility will likely fall on the Federal Environment Department.

“Assuming the permitting process is indeed the model that’s followed, the exact drafting of the scheme would then be finalised inside parliament, and it’s likely that the Department of Environment could be in charge of that permitting process,” he says.

MATERIAL PRIORITIES

In January, the National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) called for a ban exemption for clean, high grade paper and cardboard.

Citing an export market worth more than $230 million annually, Rose Read, NWRIC CEO, said recycling services could fail without export capacity. Ms Read also noted that Australia does not currently have the capacity to locally remanufacture all the paper and cardboard it generates.

Ms Read’s comments reflect a common industry concern that material definitions are too broad, and that while banning some products, such as whole baled tyres, is appropriate, banning others, could be counterproductive.

When asked about these concerns, Trevor notes that significant refinements have been made to the definitions initially proposed at the November 2019 Meeting of Environment Ministers.

“The changes have been around paper and pulp, and really targeting the bans at where we believe the true issues and challenges lie, and not to get in the way of other export streams that are well sorted and pose no environmental threat,” he says.

At the next COAG meeting on 13 March, Trevor expects the government will announce final definition and timeframe decisions. He adds that details around how the government plans to co-invest in new facilities is also likely to be announced, a view already alluded to at the National Plastic Summit.

“There are very big challenges across some of these product streams, and one of the biggest is that in some areas, such as mixed paper and plastics, there aren’t many facilities or onshore capacity at the moment,” Trevor says.

“That’s the main reason the bans are staged in their implementation. The timeframes are tight mind you, but they’re deliberately tight because we want to bring the bans in as soon as we practically can.”

Responding to Sustainable Resource Use’s January Recycling Market Situation Summary Review, Trevor suggests that in some cases, Australia’s onshore reprocessing capacity will need to increase by “many multiples”.

The review, which suggests Australia may need a 400 per cent increase in plastic throughput to sustain domestic markets, highlights global markets for recyclable materials as volatile.

“One of the main motivations for the Federal Government being willing to co-invest and create better policy frameworks, is that we want to see a huge onshoring of recycling capacity,” Trevor says.

“We want to see that as soon as possible because of the great environmental and economic impacts and quite frankly, because it’s going to create jobs, especially in areas of Australia where we need them most, and that’s in regional cities and outer suburban areas.”

SHADOW BAN

Since the ban was announced, the appropriate level of government investment has been hotly debated. Multiple stakeholders, including Ms Read, have cautioned that in the absence of robust infrastructure investment, the regulatory measure is likely to fail.

Trevor’s Labor counterpart, Shadow Assistant Environment Minister Josh Wilson, shares similar sentiments, telling Waste Management Review that the Federal Government is not doing enough to deal with the reality Australia faces. It should be noted that Josh spoke to Waste Management Review prior to Mr Morrison’s plastic summit announcement.

“All the government has done so far is essentially put out a timetable, and it’s not clear at all how we’re going to meet that timetable,” he says.

“If you take mixed plastics, which we are supposed to stop exporting by the middle of next year, it’s very hard to see how that can be achieved when the level of plastic recycling and reprocessing is lower in Australia now than it was in 2005.”

In regard to infrastructure investment, Josh describes the Federal Government’s current approach as “hands off, help yourself.” The Australian Recycling Investment Fund, he adds, is insufficient, with new policy measures and resources needed to ensure the ban’s success.

“The Australian Recycling Investment Fund is not new or additional money, it’s $100 million dollars earmarked in the Clean Energy Finance envelope,” Josh says.

“The money was already being applied for recycling projects, and its loan funds, not direct funds. So, the idea that it’s direct funding that will change and improve the situation for infrastructure investment just isn’t true.”

When asked to respond to the Shadow Minister’s comments, Trevor notes that as part of the Federal Government’s plan to tackle plastic waste and halve food waste by 2030, the Recycling Investment Fund addresses broader issues than those of the ban.

The fund is designed to finance eligible large-scale commercial and industrial projects, typically requiring $10 million or more of Clean Energy Finance Corporation debt or equity capital. As opposed to general infrastructure investment, the Australian Recycling Investment Fund is focused on emerging technology.

“The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has existed for many years. Part of the reason why we’ve given them responsibility for administering the Recycling Investment Fund is their proven track record of making very sound business investment decisions in new facilities and new technologies,” Trevor says.

He adds that he expects the Australian Recycling Investment Fund to be entirely spent. Another concern for Josh is Australia’s tyranny of distance, and whether investment decisions will consider the needs of the entire country.

“I have portfolio responsibility for Australia as a whole in the waste space, but I am a Western Australian,” he says.

“If there’s additional reprocessing capacity located in the eastern states, what happens to a jurisdiction like Western Australia that would face the transport costs of taking our mixed plastics and other recyclables to those centres?”

Trevor explains that all the states and territories have been invited to approach the Federal Government with ideas and solutions.

“As you’d expect, each of the states are in a different position in terms of what their present offerings are. And each of them has natural views about the direction they’d like to take industry,” he says.

“We’ve received a lot of those proposals already and are going through the process of seeing where we can co-invest. But we’re also mindful that we need to have a national solution and will go through a common sense checking process to make sure there isn’t any duplications, or indeed any gaps.”

You can read the full article in the May edition of Waste Management Review. 

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ACOR reveals only eight per cent of waste levy revenue is reinvested

Only eight per cent of the $2.6 billion collected in waste levies over the last two years has been reinvested in recycling infrastructure and technology, according to new analysis by the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

An ACOR statement reveals that in 2018 and 2019, a total of $446,093,088 in waste and resource recovery grants funding was given or pledged by state and federal governments.

According to the statement, this expenditure compares to $2.67 billion collected in waste levies by mainland state governments over the 18/19 and 19/20 financial years, representing 16.7 per cent.

“Of the $446.1 million given or pledged in funding, 50.5 per cent was allocated to infrastructure-related initiatives and reprocessing-related initiatives. This represents around 8 per cent of the collected waste levies. Less than $100m of the $225m has actually been given to recipients to date,” the statement reads.

ACOR CEO Peter Shmigel said governments set waste levies up with the explicit aim of incentivising waste reduction.

“But more than 80 per cent of these state-based levies are ending up in consolidated revenue or other purposes,” he said.

“This is problematic because recycling rates have plateaued and Australia will no longer be allowed to export a great deal of material to Asia for recycling.”

Mr Shmigel said that without substantial investment soon, current kerbside recycling services may be put at risk. He added that with the export ban set to begin in less than six months, stockpiling might occur.

“Those who decided on the ban need to realise that without reinvestment in domestically sustainable recycling, and its necessary infrastructure, more material that Australians expect to be recycled – especially plastic – will need to go to landfill,” Mr Shmigel said.

“On independent modelling by MRA Consulting, some $300 million in one-off investment is needed to be able to process and remanufacture the types of paper and plastic we have been exporting.”

While Mr Shmigel said industry is prepared for matching arrangements and low-interest loans, he noted that there has been nowhere near that level of expenditure in 2018 and 2019.

“Australian recycling can be domestically sustainable and a world leader, and it requires waste levies to be expended on what they were set up for: support recycling,” he said.

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