Final weeks for public feedback on the future of waste in NSW

Over 10,000 people have already provided a submission on the NSW Government’s plan to tackle the use of plastics, reduce waste and pollution and increase recycling across the state.

There are currently two papers open for consultation until Friday, May 8.

The issues paper Cleaning Up Our Act: The Future for Waste and Resource Recovery in NSW was released for public consultation last month, to help shape the development of the NSW 20-Year Waste Strategy.

The NSW Plastics Plan discussion paper outlines actions to reduce single-use plastics in NSW and help the shift towards a circular economy. 

For more information on the policy proposals click here.

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment said in a statement that the plan is crucial considering in 2018-19, 60 per cent of all littered items were made from plastic and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish. 

The second paper open for public submissions is the Cleaning Up Our Act: The Future for Waste and Resource Recovery in NSW issues paper.

The Cleaning Up Our Act plan outlines options to reduce waste and increase recycling, guides the opportunities and strategic direction for future waste and recycling infrastructure, and for growing sustainable end markets for recycled materials. 

A NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment spokesperson said there has been a fantastic response to the consultations on the 20 Year Waste Strategy and Plastics Plan.

“We have received thousands of submissions and encourage more people to have their say, with consultation running until 8 May,” the Department spokesperson said.

The Department spokesperson said to adapt during COVID-19, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has moved planned face to face engagement, to hold online forums and a webinar. 

“The online forums allowed participants to take an in-depth look at the issues and opportunities presented by the 20 Year Waste Strategy and Plastics Plan papers, with a strong level of engagement from industry, councils, peak bodies and government agencies,” they said.

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment will analyse all submissions following the closure of the consultation period next month.

“Submissions will be analysed and taken into consideration when developing the 20 Year Waste Draft Strategy and there will be an opportunity to provide feedback on the draft strategy in late 2020,” the Department spokesperson said.

“The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is looking forward to analysing the submissions and developing an innovative and impactful 20 Year Waste Draft Strategy in late 2020.”

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LGNSW calls on state govt to fast-track funding

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) is calling on the state government to fast-track its commitment to fund constructive and future-focused recycling measures in this year’s budget.

LGNSW President Linda Scott said the sector welcomed the government’s long-term proposals to tackle the use of plastics, reduce waste and increase recycling, but increased investment “must start now.”

“The government’s proposed review of the waste levy is great news, but the national waste ban targets designed to reduce waste start on 1 July. There is no time to lose,” she said.

“For two years, councils have been asking for the waste levy (estimated at $800 million this year) to be reinvested for the purposes it is collected.”

According to Ms Scott, this year’s $800 million waste levy should be immediately invested in maintaining and improving kerbside recycling options throughout the state.

“Communities cannot be expected to continue to underwrite the increasing costs associated with our growing waste problems, including increased stockpiles of recyclable waste,” she said.

“The levy needs to be spent on local resource recovery and reprocessing infrastructure projects that can be put in place in this year’s budget to reduce the prospect of stockpiles of rubbish in our streets.”

Ms Scott said a well-funded and coordinated plan that leverages the buying power of all levels of government is a good first step, and long overdue.

“It’s time to rewrite existing regulations and procurement policies, which we know continue to stymy innovation and the development of new recycled products and markets,” she said.

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NSW proposes levy amendments and mandated govt procurement

The NSW Government will investigate waste levy amendments to ensure regulatory settings remain fit for purpose, according to the state’s newly released 20-Year Waste Strategy consultation paper.

According to the paper, the state government will review waste levy boundaries, levy exemption for problem wastes, national levy harmonisation and complementary price-based instruments such as pay-as-you-throw initiatives.

The paper also proposes standardised collection systems for households and businesses, place-based infrastructure development, waste benchmarks for the commercial sector and potential government procurement targets.

The announcement comes as the state government opens consultation on two draft strategies: the 20-Year Waste Strategy and Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW.

Citing 2018 waste generation figures, Environment Minister Matt Kean said the state’s waste industry needs to be more sustainable, reliable and affordable.

“We need a smarter approach that makes use of all the levers available to us. We need to drive sustainable product design and waste reduction, and maximise the amount of used material that is recirculated safely back into the productive economy,” he said.

According to Mr Kean, the 20-Year Waste Strategy canvasses options to reduce waste and increase recycling, outlines opportunities and strategic direction for future waste and recycling infrastructure and seeks to grow sustainable end markets for recycled materials.

“The 20-Year Waste Strategy will be a vehicle that not only enables the state, businesses and the community to improve our approach to waste. It is also intended to generate new economic opportunities, reduce costs to citizens and businesses through a smarter approach, and increase our resilience to external shocks,” he said.

The NSW Plastics Plan, Mr Kean said, outlines a clear pathway to reduce single-use, unnecessary and problematic plastics.

According to the discussion paper, potential priority directions include making plastic producers more responsible for collection and recycling, and mandating 30 per cent minimum recycled content in plastic packing by 2025.

“It sets the stage for the phase-out of priority single-use plastics, tripling the proportion of plastic recycled by 2030, reducing plastic litter by a quarter and making our state a leader in plastics research and development,” Mr Kean said.

“Lightweight plastic bags are proposed to be phased out six months from the passage of legislation, with other timelines to be determined after feedback from the public consultation process.”

Local Government NSW President Linda Scott said the proposals were far-ranging and far-sighted, offering smart and innovative state-based solutions to Australia’s growing “waste and recycling crisis.”

“Together, NSW local governments have been campaigning to save recycling since 2018 – and it is clear Environment Minister Matt Kean and the Premier have not only listened, but heard our call,” she said.

“For two years councils have been asking for the waste levy to be reinvested for the purpose it is collected, and the Premier’s announcement that this levy will now be reviewed is very welcome news.”

According to Ms Scott, steps to reduce waste, including banning plastic bags in 2021, will play a critical role in helping to create a circular economy.

“Joining with the Commonwealth to fund council-led waste and recycling infrastructure proposals will help ensure our waste is managed more sustainably, creating jobs in NSW,” she said.

“Increasing state and local government procurement of recycled goods, while leveraging off existing procurement platforms, is long overdue. Local governments are also very supportive of state-wide education campaigns so everyone is able to do their bit to reduce waste and increase recycling.”

Waste Management & Resource Recovery Association Australia CEO Gayle Sloan said with plastics at the forefront of the community’s mind, it’s encouraging that NSW is looking to align with other jurisdictions to design out unnecessary single-use items.

“It also appears that NSW is prepared to go further, with mandated recycled content of 30 per cent by 2025, and emphasis on designing out waste and making producers take greater responsibility for collecting and recycling in NSW, including the possible use of more extended producer responsibility schemes,” Ms Sloan said.

“These are all positive policies that may result in less reliance on councils and householders to meet the costs of these schemes.”

Consultation closes 8 May.

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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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Landfill levy waived for bushfire victims

Landfill levies have been waived for residents in bushfire affected areas across Victoria, following an announcement from state Premier Daniel Andrews.

“As Victorians begin returning to their homes and land following the recent bushfires, the state government will make sure people can dispose of their bushfire waste without paying the landfill levy,” Mr Andrews said.

“This is practical and immediate support for people who are undertaking the heartbreaking task of cleaning up their homes and properties.”

According to Mr Andrews, bushfire waste includes debris from homes, businesses, sheds, stock, fencing and equipment that has been damaged.

“The levy waiver will also make it easier for people to dispose of dead livestock,” he said.

The Victorian EPA will work with landfill operators and councils in fire-affected areas to apply for the exemption.

“If residents or business owners have any questions or concerns about bushfire waste clean up and disposal, they can contact EPA for further information,” Mr Andrews said.

The exemption follows similar measures in NSW, with the state government waiving the levy in bushfire natural disaster areas in November 2019.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said thousands of people across NSW are reeling from the effects of the November bushfires, which are still burning.

“We know that the effects of these bushfires will be felt for months, and even years to come, and we hope that this streamlined waste process can provide a little relief for those coping with the effects of these horrible bushfires,” he said.

The NSW exemption will apply until 29 February 2020.

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NSW set to remove asbestos waste levy

The NSW Government is working to remove the asbestos waste levy to facilitate easier and cheaper legal disposal.

The NSW Asbestos Waste Strategy 2019-21, released by Environment Minister Matt Kean earlier this month, aims to reduce the illegal and improper disposal of asbestos waste.

According to Mr Kean, the strategy was developed after findings showed that asbestos waste accounts for up to eight per cent of illegally dumped waste across the state.

“The safe and lawful management of asbestos waste is a priority for this government, and that means making legal disposal of asbestos waste easier and cheaper,” Mr Kean said.

“To do this, we will work to increase the number of facilities which can lawfully receive asbestos waste, and make it cheaper to dispose of asbestos by removing the waste levy on separated, bonded and wrapped asbestos waste up to 250 kilograms.”

Mr Kean said the strategy also sets out plans to disrupt unlawful asbestos dumping by increasing risk for bad operators.

“Illegally dumped asbestos poses a threat to human health and our environment and results in significant clean-up costs,” Mr Kean said.

“We will monitor repeat offenders with GPS trackers to deter illegal dumping and cancel vehicle registration for people caught doing the wrong thing.”

The maximum penalty for illegal dumping of asbestos in NSW is $2 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals.

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