LGNSW calls for urgent recycling investment

The decision to push back COAG’s export ban on unprocessed glass does not alleviate the urgent need for recycling reform in NSW, according to Local Government NSW (LGNSW).

With more countries refusing to take Australia’s recycled waste exports, LGNSW President Linda Scott said the Federal Government’s deadline extensions were ineffective.

“There’s no point extending waste export deadlines if the countries we export waste to no longer accept it,” she said.

“We are facing a looming waste and recycling crisis and new government funding for recycling initiatives and reprocessing facilities is needed now.”

Scott explained that LGNSW has been calling for an overhaul of waste and recycling management for years.

“It’s frustrating and worrying that even with looming international deadlines, the state and Federal Governments have not made significant inroads into dealing with waste glass or other recyclables,” she said.

“The recent fast tracking of several waste and recycling facilities by the Department of Planning is a positive step, but it is not enough to keep up with mounting demand.”

In the absence of state or federal investment in reprocessing and remanufacturing facilities, Scott said councils across NSW are facing ever-increasing costs to recycle materials collected at kerbside.

“The amount of waste we are generating is increasing, while recycling and waste diversion rates are stagnating,” Scott said.

“The NSW Government collects about $800 million annually through its waste levy, but currently reinvests only about 18 per cent into recycling and waste management.

“That’s money that should be being reinvested to deal with the growing waste and recycling crisis facing NSW.”

LGNSW is calling on the state government to increase procurement of recycled goods made with domestic content, and provide funding to councils to develop regional waste plans and deliver priority infrastructure.

Additionally, LGNSW is asking the state government to introduce producer responsibility schemes for problematic materials, and deliver statewide education campaigns to promote waste avoidance and recycling.

Scott said the four-point plan is designed to ensure recycling that previously would have been shipped offshore can be dealt with in NSW, with the added benefit of creating jobs and boosting local economies.

“We’re encouraged that the NSW Government has been listening to us. In March this year it announced a series of proposals to tackle the use of plastics, reduce waste and pollution and increase recycling with the release of its NSW Plastics Plan and 20 Year Waste Strategy discussion papers,” she said.

“The challenge now is to ensure these proposals are implemented and that they are backed by recurrent funding sourced from the reinvestment of the waste levy.”

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WARR facilities fast-tracked under NSW acceleration program

The West Nowra Landfill expansion and Visy’s Dry Recyclables Facility have been named in the first tranche of NSW Planning System Acceleration Program projects.

Earlier this month, the NSW Government announced it would fast-track planning processes for State Significant Developments – including waste management facilities – to keep the development sector moving through the COVID-19 crisis.

The first set of fast tracked projects were announced this week, with the $191 million West Nowra Landfill expansion set to see the construction of six additional landfill cells. Furthermore, Visy’s new $23.8 million facility will have the capacity to process up to 155,000 tonnes of dry kerbside recyclables a year.

Additional fast-tracked projects include the construction of a resource recovery facility facility in Penrith, waste management upgrades to Horsley Park’s Brickworks plant and Snowy 2.0 main works.

NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes also released the NSW Government’s Priority Projects Criteria – a set of guidelines that will determine which development projects are fast-tracked through the program.

To be considered for a fast-tracked assessment, the development application or rezoning must already be in the system, deliver a public benefit, demonstrate an ability to create jobs during construction and once complete, be able to commence construction within six months.

A total of 24 projects have been identified in the first round of fast-tracked assessments, which according to Mr Stokes, will inject $7.54 billion into the state’s economy.

“It’s important to note that this is not a greenlighting exercise, the same stringent checks, balances and community consultation that ensures transparency, public benefit and merit-based assessment of projects remain,” he said.

Despite general support for the program, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has warned that failure to include environmentally sustainable waste and recycling measures in the criteria is a missed opportunity, particularly in light of the “rapidly approaching” national export ban.

LGNSW President Linda Scott said it was encouraging to see waste management and recycling facilities accounting for four of the 24 fast-tracked projects. However, she said the logical next step would have been to embed recycling principles in the actual fast-tracking criteria.

“Minister Stokes’ announcement is a missed opportunity to begin to create a state in which home-grown recycling and sustainable, smart waste management is built into everything we do,” Ms Scott said.

“It would have sent a very clear planning message: we’re going to do things better from now on, and we need to be working together to ensure some lasting and sustainable good comes out of these difficult times.”

Despite this, Ms Scott said local government supports the principled focus on the creation of jobs to address the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the short-to-medium-term.

“Councils certainly welcome a commitment of state government resources to help free up blockages in the planning approval pipeline,” she said.

“LGNSW has long argued that the NSW Government has a key role to play in addressing the ‘hidden’ approval delays which occur when other state agencies are required to sign off on a project.”

Ms Scott added that it is important to ensure that short-term responses and system reforms do not undermine transparency and good planning principles, or encourage poor quality development that would cost the communities dearly in future years.

“We are calling on the government to guarantee a stronger role for council-led Local Strategic Planning Statements, and guarantee they will play a key role in assessing overall strategic merit,” she said.

“There will need to be further consultation with councils to ensure this fast-track program really does deliver for the people of NSW and the public good, rather than simply pouring money into the pockets of developers.”

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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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