Calls for organic waste policy

By Angela Dorizas

The Federal Government needs to set a national target on organic waste recovery and rapidly increase greenhouse gas capture on landfill sites, according to the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA).

Speaking at the Zero Waste Summit in Sydney yesterday, WMAA NSW president, Mike Ritchie, urged governments to develop policies that would divert organic materials, such as food or paper, from landfill.

“There is no serious program to address organic waste in the body politic at this point in time,” Mr Ritchie told GovernmentNews.

“I think we should be establishing a 70 per cent target for organics diversion from landfill by 2020, mandated by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council and then driven down to local government and the commercial sector.”

He said the national recycling rate for organic waste was just 36 per cent, despite it being the most carbon intensive material in landfill.

“We only recover about three million tonnes and we send ten and a half million tonnes to landfill,” he said.

“We only process five per cent of Australia’s waste through new technologies and less than 20 per cent of households have an organic bin of any sought.”

Mr Ritchie said the National Waste Policy, currently being developed by the EPHC, was unlikely to produce any significant changes.

“It mentions organics, but the National Waste Policy is not an implementation document,” Mr Ritchie said.

“What needs to sit below the National Waste Policy is a set of implementation documents which have specific targets, for example a 2020 target for organics recycling.”

Mr Ritchie said organic waste was the “low-hanging fruit” which could easily be recovered through price signals and regulatory reform.

Mr Ritchie welcomed amendments to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), which included permit credits for gas capture on legacy waste and closed landfill sites, credits on soil carbon for land cleared since 1990 and voluntary credits for soil carbon on other land.

He said the only issue that had not made it to the negotiating table was the embodied energy value of recycling.

“There needs to be an embodied energy credit or some additional credit which recognises the energy savings associated with recycling,” Mr Ritchie said.

“A thousand tonnes of aluminium will save 95 per cent of the energy value of making the next thousand tonnes of aluminium.

“In other words, by reusing old aluminium cans we can save 95 per cent of the energy. That’s not valued in the CPRS at all.”

A spokesperson for Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said organic waste would be considered as part of the National Waste Policy.

“The policy sets a clear direction for Australia over the next 10 years, toward producing less waste for disposal, and managing waste as a resource to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits,” he said.

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