President’s Column – 15 November 2019

ALGA President David O'Loughlin gestures at a lectern

This week has been National Recycling Week, a chance for councils across Australia to highlight the major role local government plays in dealing with the country’s waste challenges and opportunities.

Some held tours of waste transfer and recycling facilities, or promoted the range of recycling services they offer, or will be introducing, or explained the value of recycling.

Adelaide Hills Council, for example, emphasised employment by telling its residents that every 10,000 tonnes of material recycled through kerb side bins created 9.2 full-time jobs, compared to 2.8 jobs if that material was sent to landfill.

Other councils reminded residents of what can and can’t be recycled, and stressed the importance of reducing contaminants to increase the quality of materials so these can become new products.

I liked the Municipal Association of Victoria’s tweet that noted the power shoppers can wield by saying no to products that have unnecessary packaging.

Local council leadership is vital. Local Government NSW highlighted how 11 councils in southern Sydney pledged to recycle 45 million glass bottles and buy recycled materials to help advance a circular economy in that state.

Those efforts follow a circular procurement pilot project announced in September by the Local Government Association of South Australia and nine SA councils including City of Prospect, of which I am Mayor.

2019 National Recycling Week follows the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in August at which all three levels of government agreed to cooperate on a waste export ban for waste tyres, plastics, paper and cardboard and glass.

I said at the time that local government welcomed national leadership, and that councils hoped the First Ministers’ decision would be matched with action by the Commonwealth and States in the form of money, standards, and procurement targets.

I’m pleased to see that that action is beginning to take shape, as outlined at the Meeting of Environment Ministers in Adelaide last week, which my colleague, Cr Linda Scott, President of LGNSW, attended as Acting President of ALGA.

That meeting was the first step in a process where Environment Ministers will advise COAG on a proposed timetable and response strategy for the export ban, following consultation with industry, local governments and other parties.

As outlined in the Environment Ministers’ communique, participants agreed to phase in the Waste Export Ban from 1 July 2020, starting with waste glass.

Mixed waste plastics will follow by July 2021, tyres by December 2021, and remaining waste products including mixed paper and cardboard by no later than 30 June 2022.

“Ministers will further test the timetable with industry and local government, while also developing response strategies and undertaking independent market analysis,” the communique said.

Ministers also agreed to a new National Waste Policy Action Plan which includes ambitious targets like an 80 percent ‘recovery’ rate of material across all waste streams, and boosting government procurement of recycled materials.

This is great news for local councils. The ministers noted opportunities such as road projects that could use significant amounts of recycled material – something councils have been demonstrating in test sites for many years now.

This is also an area which features on the program of next week’s National Local Roads and Transport Congress being held 18-20 November in Hahndorf, South Australia. Register via this link.

The Environment Ministers’ communique also said “the Commonwealth Government will prioritise work with states and territories and relevant industry and standards bodies to develop engineering specifications and standards to support the use of recycled materials in building, construction and infrastructure development, for use across all jurisdictions.”

ALGA and I will continue to keep you informed about those developments, because none of the National Waste Policy’s commendable goals will be achieved without partnerships with Local Government.

David O’Loughlin

ALGA President