Local Government NSW has launched a new report and campaign to improve recycling, saying the rate of recycling across the state has fallen since the first national waste policy was agreed almost a decade ago.
The At The Crossroads: The State of waste and recycling in NSW report said while local councils work with their communities to collect waste and recycling, they’re shouldering the burden, while opportunities to create a circular economy are being wasted.
“This makes it difficult to develop new products and industries that re-use waste in innovative and productive ways,” the report said.
“And, when we do break through and bring recycled content to market, rules and regulation often hamper its use in areas such as roads, footpaths or rail infrastructure.”
Purchasing decisions by the State and Commonwealth Governments could help Local Councils to help create markets for recycled content, such as plastics in playground equipment and park benches, and crushed glass road bedding.
The report also calls on the State to return to councils the $770m waste levy it collects so they can develop regional plans for waste and resource recovery.
“It’s almost 10 years since the launch of a national policy designed to solve waste issues and invigorate sustainable recycling, but every indicator shows NSW recycling rates are declining,” Cr Scott said.
“We know we can do better, but it requires investment.”
LGNSW also wants the NSW Government to fund and deliver a state-wide education campaign to support recycling, focusing on the right way to recycle, as well as promoting the purchase of recycled products.
Meanwhile, the Municipal Association of Victoria’s ongoing Rescue Our Recycling campaign is aimed at increasing State and Commonwealth investment, greater regulation, and ensuring Victoria joins the rest of the country in operating a Container Deposit Scheme.
The closure of recycling company SKM’s recovery facilities and the business’s subsequent collapse earlier this year affected numerous councils across Victoria, and others in Tasmania, leading to calls for greater regulation and investment.
Looking north, local councils in Queensland recently passed a resolution on the waste levy at the 2019 Local Government Association of Queensland’s annual conference.
Councils have called on the state government to ensure there is funding transparency around the levy, which has been collected since July 2019.
Some $100m in the levy’s third stream is for councils and others in the waste industry, but only $350,000 has been shared with Townsville and Cairns councils and smaller amounts for other projects, Cr Nancy Sommerfield of Toowoomba Regional Council said.
“The amount of money that’s already been distributed is so minimal and yet we need this funding to be able to deliver the infrastructure required, so that we can actually deliver really good waste outcomes for our environment in Queensland,” Cr Sommerfield said.
“We’re encouraging the Queensland Government to start rolling more of that money out so that we can build the necessary infrastructure to do the right thing for our waste.”
Cr Sommerfield said the levy was estimated to raise $400m, all of which the LGAQ has advocated should be returned to the waste industry, but the State Government maintains 70 percent will be returned.
“So we’ve also asked for transparency,” she said.
“We want to see exactly where all that money is going.”
ALGA has been advocating for national leadership on recycling and waste, including at the COAG meeting in August, and at the Meeting of Environment Ministers.
ALGA President, David O’Loughlin, told COAG that all governments should insist on minimum recycled content levels for plastics, rubber tyres, and glass fines for every new road surface funded or built.
SKM Recycling Group
Meanwhile, Cleanaway Waste Management announced on 10 October it will acquire SKM’s assets – including five recycling sites in Victoria and Tasmania – for $66m in a deal. The deal also includes two properties in South Australia which are not expected to be part of future operations and may be sold.