On Monday night, I had the privilege of representing local government on the ABC’s Q&A program and engaging in the national debate on how we can, as a nation, do better with our recycling. It was a delight to join other panel members – Craig Reucassel, host of ABC’s War on Waste, Ronni Kahn, CEO & Founder of OzHarvest, Gayle Sloan, CEO of the Waste Management Association of Australia, and Jo Taranto who joined the panel as the People’s Panelist – to talk about this important issue.
It was clear from the show that our communities are not only interested in recycling, but are passionate about it and as the level of government closest to communities, I believe it’s our duty to support this passion. We don’t want to see the confidence our communities have in recycling collapse.
2018 has brought forth a range of new challenges for our sector, including balancing the rising costs of collection and processing services with meeting the expectations of our resident rate payers. However, in the face of these challenges, I believe our sector can work closely with industry and other governments to take action in the following areas to make the most impact:
- Advocating for a national approach to consistent labelling of plastic packaging and items to indicate their recyclable potential.
- Developing a nationally-consistent approach to labelling of new products made from recycled content to indicate the proportion of recycled content.
- Providing consistent education of householders, businesses and the general public as to how to recycle correctly. This can be done by working with state governments to access waste levy funds, where available, and to agree on consistent messaging and ongoing campaigning.
- Promoting the benefits of diverting food organics into green organics bins and composted waste streams.
- Infrastructure capacity building through, again, accessing state waste levy finds where available to invest wisely and strategically in infrastructure and technologies that improve sorting and processing and reduce contamination.
- Driving demand by supporting pathways (including local and other government procurement processes) for more recycled materials to be included in the manufacture of products/materials, including materials used for construction such as roads.
- Reinforcing the value of recycling to the local economy and as well as for employment opportunities by continuing to reinforce the importance of good recycling practices at the community/householder level.
- Closing the loop by using local government procurement powers to track and evaluate waste outcomes, award contracts to genuine recycling pathway participants, and to give preference to purchasing products with high levels of recycled content – particularly where this adds value to kerbside collection content and lowers waste management costs.
Many councils are already doing fantastic work in these areas and taking steps to further explore local recycling options for waste materials. But of course, we need support from the other levels of government, as well as the key players in industry, to effectively plug the gaps in the circular economy; our efforts at the community level are wasted if the whole system is compromised.
That is why ALGA has been active in engaging with the recycling industry and with environment ministers in the other levels of government on your behalf to put in place a comprehensive approach to addressing the issue. In particular, ALGA is advocating for more cost-effective and equitable funding approaches, including greater access to state waste levies to support education campaigns, infrastructure upgrades and innovative product development that would in turn drive demand for more recycled materials.
We are also working with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation to reduce the amount of waste generated, especially materials which are difficult and expensive to recycle.
The need to address waste and recycling will also be one of the election priorities for ALGA’s advocacy in the upcoming federal election.
I hope you enjoyed the episode and that it sparks a discussion in your council on how we can increase our capacity for recycling through investment and, importantly, what we can do to increase the demand for recycling by utilizing our own procurement powers. If you missed it, here’s the link: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s4858438.htm
Let’s do this!
Mayor David O’Loughlin