An inquiry into the Victorian waste management and resource recovery system has suggested an over-reliance on one company to provide recycling services left the state vulnerable to market collapse.
According to the inquiry, the closure of SKM Recycling left more than 30 Victorian councils without a recycling provider and highlighted the dangers of industry consolidation.
Within this context, the inquiry found that the Victorian Government failed to undertake sufficient oversight of the state’s recycling and waste management system.
Following a seven-month investigation, the Victorian Legislative Council’s Environment and Planning Committee tabled its report on the inquiry on 27 November.
The report lists 33 findings and 46 recommendations, including introducing a container deposit scheme, growing waste to energy capacity and promoting uniform recycling practices across the state.
In reference to container deposit schemes, the committee suggests a Victorian scheme could supplement improved kerbside services and reduce municipal contamination rates.
The report recommends that the state government conduct a cost-benefit analysis, and notes estimates show a scheme could increase the state’s budget net position by $551.5 million over the period 2019-20 to 2029-30.
The Victorian Government should also provide funding and support for all Victorian councils to introduce a seperate bin for municipal glass recycling, the committee suggests.
According to the report, the administration of the state’s Sustainability Fund has been the subject of significant criticism.
In response, the committee recommends that the Victorian Government make it clear what the fund is for, who can access it, how they can access it and how fund outcomes are measured.
“In both its submission and in evidence given in public hearings, the Municipal Association of Victoria indicated that it believes the government needs to use the Sustainability Fund more extensively in supporting local government to address waste management and recycling issues,” the report reads.
“In light of the concerns raised by councils about the accessibility of the Sustainability Fund, the committee recommends the Sustainability Fund be audited to ensure that the fund is accessible and demonstrates which programs have achieved against their specified legislative objectives and been allocated accordingly.”
The committee also recommends that the state’s landfill levy be adjusted to the extent that financial incentives to transport waste from other jurisdictions for landfilling is removed.
Furthermore, the committee suggests that the state government work with the Federal Government and relevant stakeholders to harmonise the levy nationally.
The committee recommends the Victorian Government also work with the Commonwealth to introduce the Australian Packaging Covenant as a mandatory product stewardship scheme, and develop recycled material import requirements for packaging.
Additionally, the committee suggests government introduce recycled content requirements for state and local government procurement, and an obligation for agencies to publicly report on compliance with these requirements.
Other concerns include high rates of industrial and chemical waste stockpiling, inadequate market capacity to process stockpiled material and limited statewide education.
Committee Chair Cesar Melhem said he believes the report will make a significant contribution to the development of better recycling and waste management practices in Victoria.
“The state government should be commended for the actions taken since the recycling crisis become apparent, both in terms of the financial assistance it has provided to local councils and industry players, and in the support it provided to SKM and the role it played in facilitating the sale of the company,” Mr Melhem said.
“These actions will assist the industry in Victoria to set new directions for the industry. We are seeing the recycling rate in Victoria, already the highest percentage in Australia, improve to 69 per cent.”