Viability of recyclers threatened

Wednesday, 24 September, 2008

Australian recyclers will lose out against energy-intensive manufacturers who use virgin materials under the Rudd government’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), according to theTotal Environment Centre (TEC).

“It would be a tragedy for Rudd’s climate change policies to kill off Australia’s greenest companies,” said Sarah Van Erp, waste minimisation officer for TEC.

“Companies that are considered emissions intensive trade exposed, which includes paper and packaging industries that use virgin materials, stand to receive a subsidy for 60–90% of their carbon emissions through free permits. This will severely disadvantage domestic recyclers who won’t get the subsidy and may no longer be viable in Australia.

“For example, a packaging and paper manufacturer who uses virgin material emits 14.8% more carbon than a manufacturer who uses recycled materials. Recycling reduces emissions a further 75% by avoiding methane emissions from the landfilled paper waste. Additional co-benefits of recycling include reduced water use and conservation of non-renewable materials makes support for the sector a no-brainer.”

Sectors that could be affected include: metals, glass, plastics and other recyclers. The recycling industry represents over 1.2% of Australia’s GDP.

“The waste and recycling sector is able to deliver reductions for over 5% of Australia’s net emissions by 2020. These fast cuts can be achieved because the technology already exists and is proven, and the lead time to construct infrastructure is relatively short,” said Van Erp.

“It’s vital that the commonwealth and state and territory governments act to ensure that the CPRS does not produce an unintended perverse outcome.”

TEC believes that complementary measures are needed to ensure the survival of the recycling industry in the short to medium term. These should include:

  • the phase-out of non-stabilised biodegradable waste from landfill (as currently required in Europe); and,
  • an inclining carbon levy on all landfill waste, similar to the NSW or the UK systems, with accumulated funds directed to investment in recycling and alternative waste technology infrastructure.
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