The recycling issue continues to make headlines, with the Queensland Government this week moving towards the reintroduction of a waste levy.
The previous levy in that state was scrapped in 2012 and the Government had said it had no intention of reintroducing it.
NSW has a waste levy and to avoid paying it businesses have been dumping large amounts of material in the northern state. Recyclables from NSW have been going straight to Queensland landfills.
Where levies are applied they should not encourage a movement of material across state borders. We should be looking to harmonise policies on waste and recycling between states.
And the money raised by states which apply levies, such as NSW, South Australia, Victoria and soon Queensland should go straight back to Local Government for waste control and recycling uses. It should not be seized by the states as general revenue or to improve balance sheets.
As we know, councils across Australia have been affected by the Chinese ban on certain recyclables, particularly in Victoria.
In my own state of South Australia, 14 out of 68 councils are affected by the SKM Recycling’s threat to charge for kerbside collection of recyclables.
In the short term it is a crisis, but it is also a great opportunity. We should not be sending our waste to other countries for processing. It is our responsibility.
All levels of government should work together to develop a circular economy, right here in Australia. We should create industries to processes the material, create industries to use it and create demand for the material. All of these steps will of course create jobs in local communities.
Recycled material can be used in road and building construction, park benches, bollards, furniture and fabrics and for a great variety of other purposes. Local Governments can create demand by insisting on purchasing recycled material.
We should demand that companies which produce waste do their best to keep it to a minimum and play a part with governments, in helping establish the circular economy. We should demand that such things as the disposable packaging, plates and cutlery we use be compostable, so they are capable of being returned to the organic stream.
Now that the recycling issue has been brought to the forefront of our minds it is time for Local Government to take a united stand. ALGA has been closely involved in every step of this process and will continue to advocate on behalf of Local Government for a truly sustainable local recycling industry.
Have you checked if your own council's procurement policy states a preference for purchasing materials or products made from recyclables? It’s a good place to start.