Australia’s recycling industry is on the brink of an overhaul

Rebecca Gredley
(Australian Associated Press)


Australia’s recycling industry is on the brink of an overhaul as the federal government hopes to create more than 10,000 jobs through a $190 million fund.

The Recycling Modernisation Fund aims to generate $600 million in innovative recycling investment, with states and industry to chip in.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley expects the fund to help divert more than 10 million tonnes of waste from landfill to make useful products.

“Turning our waste into something that has value is the critical thing here,” she told ABC radio on Monday.

“It starts at the curb – sorting, collecting and clean streams of waste.”

About half of Australia’s waste is recovered and the government is aiming for 80 per cent by 2030.

Ms Ley concedes plastic is one of the harder materials to recover, while food waste is also a huge issue.

“The trip between your fridge and your bin is probably the one we want to encourage Australians to make less of.”

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia says more needs to be done to turbo charge recycling, including fast-tracked products, markets for recycled products and more focus on packaging design.

“Genuine product stewardship legislation that makes producers responsible for managing what they bring to market is required,” the group says.

Labor’s Josh Wilson has welcomed the announcement but says it’s long overdue.

“Recycling and reprocessing infrastructure is only one part of the major reform needed to deal with Australia’s waste crisis,” he said.

“Recycled material needs a commercial end-user and it is folly to think the market is ready to deal with the anticipated volume.”

Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson says all the money in the world won’t fix the waste crisis unless people are better at recycling.

“This means stopping the problem at its source: we need to stop producing so much waste and invest in a circular economy.”

He says the government should introduce mandatory recycling targets and product stewardship schemes, rather than voluntary.

Ms Ley will introduce legislation to parliament later this year to implement waste export bans, which was supposed to begin this month with glass.

Because of coronavirus the export ban will instead begin in January.

Bans on plastic, paper and tyres will be staggered, beginning from July next year through to July 2024.

The minister says the industry will feel more confident to invest when the export bans are in place.

The government has also announced $24.6 million to improve national waste data and $35 million to implement the National Waste Policy Action Plan, which sets the direction for waste management and recycling in Australia until 2030.


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