Pressure is mounting on the Federal Government to take leadership on Australia’s recycling crisis and devise a national plan to prevent the industry’s collapse.
The Greens have released their own policy platform, which they hope will be adopted at a meeting of state and territory environment ministers on Friday.
Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who chairs a Senate inquiry into recycling, said the Greens push came in response to a federal policy vacuum on the crisis.
“There’s a very significant role the Commonwealth can play in fixing the recycling crisis in Australia,” he said.
“This is what industry stakeholders are calling for.”
The Greens are proposing enhanced technology and sorting processes at recycling plants as well as what Senator Whish-Wilson called a “clean energy finance corporation … to make it easy to correct the market failure we’re seeing in the recycling industry”.
The party also wants a national mandatory product stewardship scheme to encourage manufacturers to make recyclable products, a phase out of single-use plastics and community grants to encourage recycling.
“We need to help create markets to help buy recycled products,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.
He said China’s ban on importing some of Australia’s kerbside recycled waste had created a juncture where the recycling industry could either be reformed, or slip towards meltdown.
“We actually need to look at how we make recycling sustainable in Australia, and that’s going to take significant investment and some time,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.
“But if we get it right, then we will be self-sufficient, we will have a resilient recycling industry and create thousands of new jobs.”
States want Federal Government to get on board
Some state environment ministers attending Friday’s meeting are relieved the waste and recycling issue is on the agenda, and have also called for more leadership from the Federal Government.
Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the state was already investing in keeping the industry afloat.
“The Commonwealth can play a very significant role if it chooses to and thus far it has been absent,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“They need to articulate what they can do as a government, as a procurer of products and as an investor in major projects … to help to drive new markets and grow existing markets for the use of recycled products.
“But it’s also about reducing waste created in the first place.”
Ms D’Ambrosio said the Victorian Government had already forked out millions of dollars to help local governments continue kerbside recycling for the foreseeable future.
But she said she was disappointed that Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg had not done more to help.
“We only get responses that it’s a matter for local governments and state governments, well that doesn’t cut it,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
Some Queensland councils have even threatened to shut down recycling services, and state environment minister Leeanne Enoch also wants the Federal Government to step up.
“To co-invest with states and industry to set up the kind of infrastructure we need to support circular economy,” Ms Enoch said.
“From the creation of a product to end of life, [we need to] find use for it all the way through.
“[So] that there is actual dollar value in the use, reuse, repurposing, redirecting of an item right through to the end of life.
“That economy is what we are seeing in other countries.”