WMAA asks Price to step up on circular economy

WMAA asks Price to step up on circular economy

Ahead of the December Meeting of Environment Ministers, the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) is calling on the federal government to introduce policies such as tax disincentives and import bans to incentivise the use of recycled material in Australia. And the association is encouraging all state and territory ministers to hold the federal government to account.

While supporting programs such as plastic bag bans, the WMAA believes is time for politicians to look beyond the media-friendly initiatives and towards the policies, regulations and frameworks required to catch Australia up to the rest of the developed world. Specifically, it believes it is time for the federal government to start using the tools and levers only it has to turn Australia’s circular economy aspirations into reality.

“The one thing we all know about waste is, it just keeps coming,” said WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan. “The role of ministers at this meeting must be to start pulling the right levers for Australia, to leverage demand for these resources to meet this ongoing supply.

“Take the GST as an example. This is not payable on second-hand products, so why couldn’t the same exemption be applied to recyclate? There are other levers such as R&D incentives, import bans, tax disincentives… all of which can go a long way in incentivising the use of recycled material in Australia.”

The WMAA is also seeking to address problems with packaging, claiming that the co-regulatory Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has seen little to none recyclate used in packaging by brand owners over its 10 years of existence. The WMAA instead calls for a scheme that includes mandated percentages of recycled content.

“Next year, Germany will have a new packaging law requiring all manufacturers, importers, distributors and even online retailers to meet strict material generation targets or face hefty fines,” Sloan said. “Packaging producers must also license their packaging and all businesses will have to register with a central packaging registry to ensure compliance and maintain market access. Australia can draw lessons from Germany because it is time for our federal government to take our Extended Producer Responsibility laws and frameworks seriously if Australia is genuine about creating jobs and investment.”

While each state and territory must focus on particular policies, the WMAA believes there is value in developing some commonality across key regulation and policies — or risk further exacerbating what is now an uneven playing field and continue to create confusion and uncertainty among businesses that operate nationally.

With this in mind, the WMAA is calling on the federal government to take the lead at next week’s Meeting of Environment Ministers (MEM) and drive a common approach — from finalising a national proximity principle, to developing minimum standards across policies, to driving collaboration between jurisdictions to develop meaningful national data.

“When we harmonise policies and regulations, when we collaborate on schemes and market development on a national level, what we are essentially doing is ensuring that each jurisdiction has the certainty of volumes to build infrastructure, create jobs and grow domestic processing,” Sloan said.

“The federal government is the key to our nation’s success in building a circular economy. It is in the position to coordinate the national policies that Australia desperately needs, and draw all members of the supply chain to the table.

“The federal government must begin to act like the European Union and drive a coordinated approach to both policy and business. It needs to deliver the updated National Waste Policy and not let it suffer the same fate as the 2009 policy, which simply fizzled out. State environment ministers need to hold the federal government to account.”

The WMAA has thus written to Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price ahead of the 7 December MEM, detailing five key policies that the government should drive:

  1. A national proximity principle, with the goal to manage our waste as close as possible to where it is generated.
  2. The creation of a level playing field, including a common approach to levies and market development.
  3. Strengthening product stewardship and extended producer responsibility schemes.
  4. Government leadership in sustainable procurement and market development.
  5. A whole-of-government approach.

Letters have also been sent to all state and territory environment ministers ahead of the meeting.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/TSUNG-LIN WU

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