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Australia looking to reform waste industry

December 15, 2020

In August this year, the Morrison Government introduced landmark legislation that sees Australia take responsibility for its waste and establishes a national industry framework for recycling.

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 will phase in the end of the 645,000 tonnes of unprocessed plastic, paper, glass and tyres that Australia ships overseas each year.

At the same time the reforms to the regulation of product stewardship will incentivise companies to take greater environmental responsibility for the products they manufacture and what happens to those products and materials at the end of their life.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the Bill will see the implementation of the export ban on waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres agreed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments.

“This is about tackling a national environmental issue that has been buried in landfill or shipped offshore for far too long,” Minister Ley said. “That is why the Morrison Government is the first federal government to place waste firmly on the national agenda.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to remodel waste management, reduce pressure on our environment and create economic opportunity as we move to a circular economy with a strong market for recycled materials.

“Our A$190 million (US$143 million/ €118 million) Recycling Modernisation Fund and our actions under the National Waste Policy Action Plan will create 10,000 new jobs over the next 10 years – that is a 32 per cent increase in jobs in the Australian waste and recycling sector.

“We are introducing legislation; we are driving a billion-dollar transformation of Australia’s waste and recycling capacity and we are investing in new technologies and new ideas to transform recycling and reprocessing.”

Assistant Minister Evans said the legislation will improve the existing framework for product stewardship by encouraging companies to take greater responsibility for the waste they generate through the products they design, manufacture or distribute.

“We are making it easier for industry to set up and join in product stewardship schemes. Yet where voluntary product stewardship schemes are not effective, or where they are not created in priority areas, the government will have new tools to intervene and regulate,” Assistant Minister Evans said. “Our legislative changes will transform our waste industry, meaning increased recycling and remanufacturing of waste materials which will create new industry and generate more jobs.”

Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Shmigel said: “Taken together with other reforms, this unprecedented legislation marks a new era of environmental and economic achievement in recycling through Government leadership and industry partnership and innovation. The Government deserves full credit for its proactive, positive and purposeful agenda, and industry looks forward to its full implementation.”

Australian Food and Grocery Council Acting CEO Dr Geoffrey Annison said: “Our sector welcomes this Bill as a significant leap in the right direction to reduce waste and increase access to high quality packaging with high levels of recycled content for Australia’s manufacturers. The Bill balances the needs and responsibilities of all industry sectors to collaborate and improve their management of end-of-life material recovery and recycling.”

The Government said it will continue to consult with industry as it develops rules for each material under the waste export ban, and ensure businesses understand their obligations and how to meet them.

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