National waste and resource agreement

Australia’s Federal State and Territory environment ministers have agreed to a new national policy on waste and resource management, following the biannual meeting of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) in Perth in November 2009.

Established in 2001 by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), EPHC addresses a broad range of national policy issues relating to environmental protection, particularly in regard to air, water and waste matters.

The Council also includes environment ministers from New Zealand Government and the Papua New Guinea Government.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has an observer status on the EPHC and is currently represented by Vice President Councillor Bill Mitchell.

The new National Waste Policy sets the agenda and provides national leadership for waste and resource recovery in Australia for the next ten years. It sets directions in six key areas and identifies 16 strategies across these areas.

The policy aims to avoid the generation of waste, reduce the amount of waste for disposal, manage waste as a resource and ensure that waste treatment, disposal, recovery and reuse is undertaken in a safe, scientific and environmentally sound manner. In addition, the strategies aim to contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and assist with energy conservation and production, water efficiency and the productivity of the land.

As part of its commitment to a national policy, the EPHC has agreed to release a National Waste Overview, with a National Waste Report to be published by the end of 2009. Ministers also agreed to a product stewardship framework that will include the provision for the Commonwealth Government to support industry run recycling schemes, where a net community benefit for intervention has been established. Legislation will prevent ‘free riding’ on the voluntary efforts of responsible companies.

Televisions and computers will be the first products to be covered by the new national product stewardship legislative framework, which also provides support through voluntary accreditation of community and industry run recycling schemes.

The full communiqué is available from the EPHC website at www.ephc.gov.au