Victorian state budget – new funds announced but devil is in detail

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has welcomed the establishment of three new funds in the Victorian state budget yesterday that are in addition to the Recycling Victoria allocation, saying it is looking forward to more detail on how the waste and resource recovery industry can participate.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read acknowledged that while the focus of the budget is on supporting Victorians in a COVID normal recovery, business and industry rightly form a key part of the equation.

“Going into the budget, Premier Andrews flagged that a focus on ‘skills and jobs, confidence and investment’ would be the catalyst for Victoria’s economic recovery beginning in 2021.

“That is exactly what the waste and resource recovery industry is positioned to deliver, when the right economic and policy frameworks are in place,” Ms Read said.

“The announcement of a $2 billion Breakthrough Victoria Fund, a 10-year commitment to invest in research and innovation across key industry sectors is encouraging. The sectors noted include health and life‑sciences, agri‑food, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and digital technologies.

“We’ll be looking at this Fund in more detail and seeing how the waste and resource recovery industry can contribute as a supplier of quality recovered resources for manufacturing, agriculture and construction as well as a provider of innovative resource recovery services.

“The new Manufacturing and Industry Development Fund announced to the tune of $60 million, while focussed on the production of medical products, medicines and food manufacturing, should not lose sight of the importance of a product’s whole of life and the circular economy. The waste and resource recovery sector should be involved as these initiatives roll out.

“Similarly, the new $40 million Industry Recovery and Growth Fund will aim to attract more investment and create jobs in areas like manufacturing, clean energy and digital technology, and this again is another area where the waste and resource recovery sector should have a seat at the table,” Ms Read said.

“NWRIC welcomes the establishment of these funds, and together with the Recycling Victoria initiative announced in February this year, they should serve as a solid foundation to shift Australia to a circular economy and encourage greater resource recovery and reuse.

“There is a very real economic argument for this approach. According to the Centre for International Economics, just a 5% improvement in material efficiency would add $24 billion to Australia’s GDP,” Ms Read said.

Ms Read also acknowledged the launch of Victoria’s Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre this week to help businesses streamline how they can reuse and reduce waste as well as create new revenue streams.

“Reducing food and organic waste is the Centre’s initial focus, which is important if the National Waste Policy Action Plan target of halving the amount of organic waste sent to landfill by 2030 is to be achieved.”

Ms Read said other key announcements in the budget included the increase in landfill levies from 1 July 2021 to a rate that aligns with neighbouring state landfill levies, something NWRIC has long advocated.

“Importantly, the Government has provided sufficient notice to the industry regarding the increase in landfill levies. This gives businesses time to plan and adjust any contracts in time for the increase from 1 July next year.

However, Ms Read called for an increased level of transparency on how the additional levy funds will be invested.

“In 2017-18 just 16% or $35 million of the $215 million raised from the Municipal and Industrial Landfill Levy (MILL) went to local government, community or industry led waste projects.

“We need to know how much of the levy raised is actually going towards Recycling Victoria initiatives, as the Victorian Government, via its Sustainability Fund has used the levy to fund its greenhouse gas emission reduction and climate change initiatives.

“The only way we can achieve the National Waste Policy Action Plan’s target of 80% average resource recovery rate by 2030, is to invest more of these levy funds into creating local markets, stamping out waste crime and fast-tracking the approval of material, organic and energy recovery infrastructure,” Ms Read said.

Ms Read said the budget was also a timely reminder that Victoria has yet to match the Commonwealth’s Recycling Modernisation Fund announced in July to ramp up Australia’s processing capacity necessary for the successful implementation of the export ban.

“The Commonwealth has put $190 million on the table for states and our industry to match and yet we’ve still not seen any action from Victoria in signing up to the Recycling Modernisation Fund and initiating projects. Tardy progress by eastern states in rolling out the Recycling Modernisation Fund will result in unwanted stockpiles.

“Together we can rapidly scale up Australia’s paper, plastic, glass and tyre recycling capacity to become world class, but there seems to be slow progress from the majority of the states, Victoria included.” Ms Read said.

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