Rescue Our Recycling: A Call to Action - Presidentís comment

Article image - Rescue Our Recycling:  A Call to Action  - Presidentís comment Coral Ross, Municipal Association of Victoria

More than a year has passed since the impacts of China’s National Sword Policy were first felt in Australia and other countries that export recycled materials to China.

Despite a very costly and difficult 12 months in the recycling sector, we are still waiting for national and state governments to commit to a plan that will secure a sustainable recycling system for the future.

In February this year, Victoria councils and communities suffered another shockwave with the sudden shutdown of SKM materials recovery facilities used by more than 20 metropolitan, rural and regional municipalities. At least one other state has also been impacted by SKM’s practices, which were deemed a fire hazard by environment protection authorities.

There is no quick fix for what is essentially a broken recycling system. We urgently need national and state government leadership and investment to bring lasting beneficial change. Unsustainable levels of waste generation and market failure must be addressed to stop us lurching from one crisis to the next.

Councils across Australia are calling for urgent action to facilitate Australia’s transition to a circular economy – where we reduce, reuse and recycle (in that order) rather than simply focus on recycling after waste is produced.

The MAV has released a Rescue Our Recycling Action Plan to identify five key actions for each tier of government. It is incumbent on federal, state and local government, as well as the private sector and the community to ensure we manage our resources sustainably.

Nationally, we need the Federal government to mandate product stewardship for all products that generate waste. This would create incentives for designers and producers to take responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products. Mandatory obligations across the packaging chain are also needed, which requires a review of the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure 2011, in partnership with state and territory ministers.

More than $500 million of Victorian State landfill levy income can also be unlocked to invest in recycling infrastructure that bolsters our waste processing and sorting capabilities, as well as market development to increase the uptake of new uses for recycled materials.

As one of only two states yet to commit to a container deposit scheme, it is time for the Victorian government to catch-up and commit to introducing legislation for a scheme into parliament this year.

Councils and communities are calling for decisive leadership to rescue our recycling system. National and state governments must come to the party and commit to making the investment and policy change required to achieve a sustainable and smart system for a long-term solution.

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