President’s column

Council depots across the country end up bearing the brunt of failed, poorly designed or underfunded industry product stewardship or recycling programs – and that is why we should be involved right up front in the design and funding models for these programs.

Therefore, I am pleased to have secured a commitment from Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg that ALGA will be involved in further consideration of these matters.

The commitment was secured at last Friday's regular meeting of Environment Ministers in Melbourne, highlighting the critical importance of continuing collaboration between all levels of government in managing Australia's major environmental challenges. 

On your behalf I was particularly interested in the waste management issue on the agenda, and took the opportunity to highlight the importance of local government involvement in all aspects of the design and management of waste-management programs.  Whether it be industry-developed product stewardship schemes around used tyres, computers and televisions or used batteries, or statewide bans on plastic bags, or the management of organic waste such as food waste or green waste. 

While important, voluntary product stewardship schemes are at risk of not making a significant difference in reducing the burden on councils of managing waste across Australia, particularly in rural and regional areas where volumes are low and waste transport costs are higher.  These schemes need to be adequately resourced and properly promoted so that the public knows how to participate and where they operate.  This includes making sure that industry participants properly and effectively advertise that they are the receiving agency – not Council.

I made the point that people often need an incentive to participate in recycling schemes, and I highlighted the success of South Australia's Container Deposit Scheme as a potential model that could be applied to other waste streams. As this scheme has already been replicated in NT, and is soon to be rolled out in most states, I suggested this may provide an ideal opportunity for the new receiving depots to be considered in the future as ideal locations to manage receipt of a number of targeted recyclables such as batteries (rechargeable and otherwise), products containing mercury, and other smaller-scale products with specific handling needs.

Other matters considered, which ALGA supported, were the development of a common national approach to environmental-economic accounting, and the free and open sharing of environmental data between jurisdictions.  Positive progress is also being made by industry on a voluntary phase-out of microbeads, and the National Market Development Strategy for Used Tyres which will drive the up-take of tyre-derived products in road, rail and civil engineering applications and remove stockpiles of used tyres nationwide.

The full Ministers' Agreed Statement can be found here.

We will continue to keep a close eye on this forum to ensure that local government becomes part of the solution, and not the last resort for all problems, in the increasingly complex environment of waste management.