New National Waste Policy to be based on circular economy

Monday, 10 December, 2018

New National Waste Policy to be based on circular economy

The 8th Meeting of Environment Ministers, held on 7 December in Canberra, saw Australia’s Environment Ministers set a new unified direction for waste and recycling, agreeing to a National Waste Policy based on the principles of a circular economy.

Ministers agreed, by their next meeting, to the urgent development of a strong, national action plan that includes appropriate funding, robust targets and milestones to implement the 2018 National Waste Policy. The next meeting is likely to be held in the first half of 2019.

Ministers agreed to strengthen the national action plan to address Environment Ministers’ waste priorities. These include reducing plastic pollution, supporting industry development, increasing demand for recycled materials through procurement and a national approach to waste policy and regulation. Ministers also agreed to annually review the future targets and milestones to ensure that priority actions stay focused on the issues most important to effectively manage our waste.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) is now urging for continued leadership from the federal government to ensure consistent intergovernmental policy for waste management and resource recovery, with the association’s President, Prospect Mayor David O’Loughlin, saying, “We congratulate the Environment Ministers on the delivery of Australia’s new National Waste Policy, but the job is not done yet.

“The new policy may be full of good intentions and strong principles, but has as much backbone as you’ll find in the average plastic shopping bag,” O’Loughlin said.

“Industry and communities need to see real on-ground action and there is a critical need for national leadership to maintain a unified approach.

“Dedicated and nationally coordinated action on recycling will give industry the signal it needs to increase investment in sustainable resource recovery and support the nation’s move towards a circular economy.

“It is essential that councils, federal, state and territory governments increase their procurement of goods and infrastructure that incorporate recycled materials — such as those used in road bases — which will help to reduce items entering the waste stream in the first place and create jobs.”

O’Loughlin said that there are already many local governments paying for innovative products made entirely or partly from recycled materials, but that state and territory governments also need to take the necessary steps to help the recyclate industry sector go further.

“There is more than $1 billion sitting in state waste levy funds that could be invested in industry innovation, pilot projects and financially supporting transitions from virgin product feedstock to recycled feedstock.

“There’s another $1 billion to be collected next year, but the meeting achieved no strong policy commitment, no agreement on concrete targets or time frames, miniscule investment and little progress.

“Let’s work together over the next few months, years and beyond to fulfil the vision of a sustainable future — one that supports jobs, local businesses and the environment.”

Image caption: Mayor David O’Loughlin, ALGA President.

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