Thanks to an overwhelming reliance on ‘go-slow’ review processes and voluntary action, Australia's strategy for a sustainable future is leaving us behind the rest of the world - economically and environmentally.
The situation is now critical, as Asian markets for Australian recyclable material are closing down. And as leading economies move to secure resources through new domestic capabilities in recycling and reprocessing, Australia has to drastically fill its recycling gap.
And with just weeks to the Federal Election - with focus on mid-May but date TBC - Boomerang Alliance and Australian Council of Recycling has released a set of key measures to ensure tightening and enhancement of a National Waste Policy that will deliver economic value, jobs and environment protection.
$150 million investment in a domestic recycling industry is needed NOW and can create 500 new jobs while removing the equivalent of 50,000 cars in greenhouse gas emissions. Existing (and new entrants) involved in sorting and reprocessing have the capacity and desire to grow. The Commonwealth should contribute and arrange for all States and Territories (through their waste levies) to contribute to a National Recycling Industry Development Scheme.
A Resource Recovery Incentive should be constructed via different tax levels for virgin and recycled content covering imported or material produced in Australia.
Further, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation should dedicate funds to infrastructure and projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the production of recycled content products and materials. To assist industry development, genuine residuals (a small percentage) from recycling should be exempt from waste levies, subject to strong quality controls.
2. BUY RECYCLED
Provide tax incentives to business and industry to ‘buy recycled.’ The incentives should be designed to meet to have 30% average recycled content of all goods and infrastructure procurement by 2025. The Commonwealth and states must introduce their own procurement targets consistent with this goal.
3. PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP
Strengthen the Product Stewardship Act to require eco-design and resource recovery standards on all imported packaging. If there is no significant progress within two years through the APCO plan, introduce a mandatory stewardship scheme for domestically-used packaging that meets the APCO target of having at least, 70% of all packaging composted or recycled by 2025, and includes full funding of kerbside recycling.
Adopt a transparent and accountable method to fast track product stewardship for hazardous materials such as batteries, e-waste and solar panels in concert with landfill bans. Ensure a wide range of benefits are included and quantified in any benefit-cost study.
Reinstate an expert, external advisory group to drive efforts.
4. PLASTIC POLLUTION
Adopt a Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan with funding and clear actions using a variety of effective instruments (bans, refunds, support for alternatives), within 6 months of the election.
Play a leading role in global waste and marine plastics reduction efforts. Contribute, through foreign aid budgets, to clean up and resource recovery industry development in countries in our region.
5. DATA COLLECTION AND RESEARCH
Develop new national data metrics on waste and litter reduction, recycling and resource recovery performance and their socio-economic benefits. This should specifically include economic opportunities and job creation, greenhouse gas abatement, toxicity avoidance, environmental and human health impacts, regional development contributions and future innovations.