Putting the case on recycling

ALGA representatives appeared before a Senate Committee this week to put the association's views on waste and recycling.

The public hearing session of the Senate Committee on Environment and Communications also involved the Federal Department of Environment and Energy and the ACT Government.

Senators sought ALGAs feedback about the impact on the Local Government sector of China’s decision to tighten contamination standards on the materials it accepts for recycling.

ALGA was asked about potential flow-on impacts to ratepayers and council budgets. It was also asked questions about the interest in waste to energy options, stockpiling, organic waste and landfill and container deposit levies.

The appearance before the committee followed ALGA’s submission on waste and recycling lodged in October and the attendance of an ALGA representative at a workshop on the issue last week where the Federal Government was urged to lead a national response.

ALGA highlighted the impact of the ban on councils. Local Government carries a disproportionate burden of the cost of waste management in general and the recycling issue with China has caused some severe waste management problems for some councils, particularly in Victoria. The Victorian State Government has eased the strain with short term funding.

In its submission ALGA made the point that manufacturers needed to do more to accept responsibility for the management and production of their waste. They should strive to ensure that waste packaging is reduced and contamination does not begin with them and they could do more to support the use of recycled materials.

Harmonisation of regulations and across jurisdictions is also generally supported by ALGA.

In another development the Queensland Government is moving to reintroduce a waste levy. NSW has a waste levy and hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste has been dumped in Queensland by NSW companies in order to avoid it. NSW recycling material is going straight to landfill.

Local Government Association of Queensland President Mayor Mark Jamieson said the State Government needed to demonstrate how its proposed waste levy could be used as a springboard to reform waste processing. “We will be insisting that all funds raised from the levy be channeled back to local governments to support new waste management solutions, rather than simply find their way into the Queensland Government’s consolidated fund.”

Mayor Jamieson said the recycling industry in his state had not only taken a blow because of China’s change in policy, it was also facing other challenges such as the interstate transport of waste, an approaching ban on plastic shopping bags and the introduction of a container refund scheme. The China ban had led to some Queensland councils starting to stockpile recyclable material and facing big losses of income.

“At the same time, we know the technology to progress to a true zero waste future now exists,” he said.

“Now is the time to invest in the infrastructure that can make this happen.”