National Waste Policy action plan

Environment Ministers from all states met on 15 April for the first Environmental Ministers Meeting since the demise of COAG, resulting in a commitment for the states to work collaboratively on a suite of actions to meet National Waste Policy Action Plan targets.

The National Waste Policy Action Plan follows on from the launch in early March of the Federal Government’s National Plastics Plan which includes phasing out problematic and unnecessary plastics such as expanded polystyrene (EPS); investing in new plastics product stewardship schemes; and strengthening Commonwealth procurement rules to kickstart demand and an initial ‘pull-through’ for recycled materials.

While numerous councils have already prohibited single use containers and utensils at their own events, several states are also running ahead of the ban. South Australia banned single-use plastics in March this year, while Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory have recently passed laws to ban single-use plastics including straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates and bowls. Victoria and Western Australia have plans in place to phase out and ban a raft of plastic items by 2023.

The Environmental Ministers agreed in principle to nationally consistent municipal waste collections, standardising kerbside recycling, and to support a roll out of Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) waste collection services in partnership with the Commonwealth to address current gaps in waste collection streams. 

Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) President, Linda Scott, said, “A one-size-fits-all approach assumes Australian homes are the same size and ignores the reality that Materials Recovery Facilities vary enormously in capacity and capability across Australia.

“We broadly welcome this plan as an opportunity for the Commonwealth to better engage with and enable local government to make further progress on managing waste sustainably and responsibly.”

Australia’s 537 local councils manage around 26 percent of Australian waste annually, either directly or through contractual arrangements. Each year, local governments collect around 9.7 million tonnes of waste from kerbside bin services, sort it at material recovery facilities, and dispatch what can be recycled to reprocessing facilities. The cost to councils is an estimated $3.5 billion annually.