Federal Government opens export ban consultation

As required by COAG Regulation Impact Guidelines, the Federal Environment Department is seeking consultation on its export ban Regulation Impact Statement (RIS).

The department aims to determine the relative costs and benefits of regulatory options under consideration. The RIS highlights two options, one non-regulatory and one regulatory.

Option one, status quo with consumer education and work on standards, suggests waste exports could continue between countries party to the Basel Convention Hazardous Waste Act.

Under option one, government would encourage improved outcomes through non-regulatory initiatives such as household education campaigns, targets under the National Waste Action Plan and increased use of recyclable material in procurement.

“Under the status quo approach, current laws would continue to operate. As this option is non-regulatory, it is not expected to increase compliance costs,” the RIS reads.

“Businesses will be able to continue to determine whether to export waste materials in accordance with the Hazardous Waste Act framework and the laws of the importing country.”

Problems with this approach, as highlighted by the RIS, include disruptions to international markets, unregulated international standards and poor environmental outcomes.

“The status quo will not fully address interrelated systemic challenges in Australia’s recycling sector that limit domestic resource recovery,” the RIS reads.

“Without addressing these challenges, the imposition of import restrictions by other countries could result in a range of health, environmental and financial impacts.”

Listed impacts include increased landfilling, recyclable mismanagement, stockpiling and illegal dumping.

As an alternative, the RIS highlights a regulatory approach: prohibit or restrict plastic, paper, tyre and glass exports.

“Under this option, affected waste would need to be processed domestically,” the RIS reads.

“The material could be restricted from export until it had been re-processed into materials that are ready for further use, and should not harm human health or the environment in the importing country.”

According to the RIS, option two could be implemented through commonwealth legislation, or alternatively, through export restrictions such as permit systems and accreditation or supply chain assurance.

Exemptions could be considered, the RIS suggests, where continued export promotes circular economy principals.

“These could include exemption for materials that meet established industrial uses and have established markets,” the RIS reads.

The RIS also suggests exemptions could be considered for material that originates from clean well-sorted systems, such as container deposit schemes or single source collection, with demonstrated low contamination levels.

Option two contains two variants: under option two (a) government would not undertake targeted interventions or provide financial assistance to support implementation. While under option two (b), regulation would be supported by targeted government interventions to improve material standards and build markets and associated demand.

Listed targeted interventions include developing technical standards to encourage increased recyclable material use, changes to landfill levies and regulatory standards, product stewardship schemes, transitional industry assistance and changes to government procurement policies.

Benefits to this approach include providing future assurance to industry and all levels of government, and encouraging innovation and investment.

Submissions close 12 February.

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