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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Fed Govt invests $25M to clear environmental assessment backlog

The Federal Government has made a $25 million “congestion busting” investment in a bid to break through a multi-billion-dollar backlog of environmental assessments.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, just 19 per cent of key assessment decision points were being made on time in the December quarter last year.

“By March 2020, we are making 87 per cent on time and the department is on track to make that figure 100 per cent by June 2020, with no relaxation of any environmental safeguards under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC),” she said.

Additionally, Ms Ley said there was a backlog of 78 overdue key decisions in December 2019.

“That backlog has already been reduced by 47 per cent and is on track to be cleared by the end of this year,” she said.

“Cutting green tape is not about removing protection for the environment – it is about getting rid of unnecessary delays – delays that currently cost environmental groups, businesses and the economy hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Ms Ley said business confidence in a balanced assessment approach makes companies more proactive in identifying and complying with environmental safeguards under the EPBC Act.

“Professor Graeme Samuel will prepare an interim report into his review of the EPBC Act by the middle of this year, and I expect he will, in the course of the review, identify a range of measures that we can take to prevent unnecessary delays and improve environmental standards,” she said.

Ms Ley added that she would be prepared to make changes ahead of the final EPBC review report, if sensible opportunities presented themselves.

“We are getting congestion out of the system and we will continue to do so as the economy comes through the COVID-19 crisis, but we will also continue to ensure that our environment is protected and that proponents comply with environmental legislation,” she said.

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NSW and Fed Govt reach new bilateral agreement under EPBC Act

Major project assessments are set to be streamlined under a new bilateral agreement between the Federal and NSW Governments.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the new Bilateral Assessment Agreement will reduce the risk of Federal and state government duplication under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, while maintaining strong environmental safeguards.

“The changes are being made within the current Act, and do not form part of the wider EPBC review under Professor Graeme Samuel,” she said.

“They help all parties to understand what is expected of them in protecting the environment and the responsibilities they face in putting forward major projects.”

The new agreement includes harmonisation of the way proponents ‘off-set’ environmental impacts through the provision of alternate habitat areas.

“The NSW Biodiversity Offsets Scheme will now apply to all projects under the Bilateral agreement, and requires companies to contribute to the Biodiversity Conservation Trust that funds appropriate environmental protections to achieve strategic biodiversity gains across the state,” Ms Ley said.

According to NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes, the bilateral agreement is just one element of ongoing reforms designed to provide greater certainty, timeliness and transparency to the NSW Planning system.

“This agreement will mean environmental protections are applied more consistently than ever before to deliver better environmental outcomes,” he said.

“It will also help to achieve a single, streamlined assessment process that provides certainty for industry and investors by eliminating double-handling delays.”

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Applications open for $149M environmental science program

The Federal Government is investing $149 million in environmental science targeting plastic waste, climate systems and a range of key environmental issues.

Applications are open for the National Environmental Science Program’s second phase, with interested organisations urged to submit proposals by 30 June.

According to a Department of Agriculture, Waste and the Environment statement, the program is designed to support decision-makers from across the Australian community build resilience, while achieving positive environmental, social and economic outcomes.

“The program represents a critical cross-cutting enabler that provides the evidence base for the design, delivery and on-ground monitoring of core government environmental commitments, and the basis for long-term environmental programs,” the statement reads.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said phase two will build on past achievements through multi-disciplinary and applied research, consolidated into four hubs.

“The Sustainable Communities and Waste hub will deliver cutting-edge research on how to improve the liveability of our urban and rural environments, while delivering critical advice on how to reduce the impact of waste, chemicals and air pollutions on the environment, communities and the economy,” Ms Ley said.

According to program guidelines, the Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub will deliver research that supports targeted information and management tools to reduce the impact of plastic and other materials, and applied scenario modelling to support sustainable people-environment interactions in communities including liveability analysis.

Further criteria include projects delivering effective management options for hazardous waste, substances and pollutants throughout their lifecycle, and cross-hub coordination to support decision maker policy development, program management and regulatory processes in both marine and terrestrial environments.

Additional hubs include the Resilient Landscapes hub, Marine and Costal hub and Climate Systems hub.

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Fed Govt urges continued recycling

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley is urging Australians to correctly sort their recycling, in an effort to support the waste management industry as it fulfils its role as “an essential environmental service.”

“With a national focus on hygiene, the role of waste and recycling companies and their workers servicing homes, hospitals, building sites and supermarkets underlines the Prime Minister’s declaration that everyone who has a job in this challenging economy is now an essential worker,” she said.

According to Ms Ley, waste companies are working with state and local governments to ensure services continue to meet the needs of all Australians in the wake of COVID-19.

“Help where you can by recycling and reducing waste. It’s our waste, it’s our responsibility,” she said.

Ms Ley’s statement follows earlier calls for industry support, with the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) calling on state governments to provide waste and landfill levy relief to the sector.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said levy relief is an obvious and necessary measure that can be implemented quickly.

“Specifically, we are asking state governments to waiver landfill levy doubtful debts, put on hold all planned levy increases for at least six months and where appropriate consider waiving current waste and landfill levies for the next three months,” she said.

“We are also asking state and local governments to be more flexible on certain facility license conditions so that social distancing to protect staff can be maintained, and collection time curfews be lifted so that bins can continue to be collected.”

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