Future of Australia’s Waste and Recycling Industry is in COAG’s Hands

The Prime Minister and Premiers’ decisions on waste export bans at this Friday’s Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting will be key to determining Australia’s future capacity to capture and reuse the millions of tonnes of recycled materials currently being lost from the economy.

COAG is the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia, it is chaired by the Prime Minister, and includes State and Territory First Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

This Friday COAG will determine how their proposed ban on exporting waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, agreed back in August 2019, will be implemented. COAG directed the Meeting of Environment Ministers last year to consult and develop an implementation strategy including definitions, timeline and interventions to enable effective implementation of the ban.

The National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC), which represents both national waste and recycling companies and state and territory affiliates agrees Australia must manage its own waste locally.

In speaking about the ban the NWRIC CEO Rose Read, said “the NWRIC supports COAG’s proposed export ban of waste plastics, paper, glass and tyres, and is calling on COAG to extend the ban to unprocessed cars, white goods, unprocessed ewaste and waste machine lubricant oils.

“However, COAG must not shut down legitimate overseas markets for secondary resources recovered from recycled materials such as clean paper and cardboard.

“Plus it must address the real source of the waste export problem, the lack of recycled resources being used by the manufacturing, packaging and construction industries in Australia”, she added. “This lack of reuse of recycled materials has significantly stymied industry investment and innovation in recycling capacity over the past 10 years”.

“If Australian governments do not require the manufacturing, construction and packing sectors to dramatically ramp up recycled content in infrastructure, products and packaging then it will not achieve its 80% resource recovery target”, Ms Read said.

The NWRIC, is calling on the COAG to agree and commit to:

  1. Clear definitions on what waste can’t be exported.

  2. Realistic timeframes that allow time to build new processing facilities and secondary resource markets to develop.

  3. Procuring recycled materials for government infrastructure and mandating recycled content in products and packaging through the Product Stewardship Act.

  4. Fast tracking development application and licensing processes for expanding and building new recycling and processing facilities.

  5. Joint investment from commonwealth and state governments with industry for new processing equipment and facilities.

  6. Strong enforcement of the ban, ensuring government agencies are adequately resourced to ensure compliance.

In closing Ms Read said, “if COAG gets this decision right and supports it with joint national and state investment it will create the foundation necessary to move Australia to a country that values its waste as a resource, keeps these resources circulating in the economy, creating less waste and more jobs”. Ms Read said.

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