Councils make pledge on procuring recyclables

A coalition of Southern Sydney councils has made a commitment to prioritise recyclables in procurement and to use their collective purchasing power to procure recycled materials from regional areas.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed by the eleven member councils of the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSRCO) also pledges to work together in creating a regional procurement framework and guidelines to drive the development of a circular economy.

Joint regional procurement by a significant number of councils is expected to create sufficient demand to influence market development beyond the capabilities of individual councils and allow councils to cost-effectively procure safe, high-quality materials.

It comes after a group of South Australian councils announced a similar MoU on September 18, and is a response to restrictions from neighbouring countries, including China, on recyclable materials exported from Australia.

“Joint regional procurement by a significant number of councils is expected to create sufficient demand to influence market development beyond the capabilities of individual councils and allow councils to cost-effectively procure safe, high-quality materials that meet specifications and resource recovery target,” the SSROC agreement states.

“Following the MoU, SSROC will engage participating councils to recommend procurement guidelines to prioritise recycled materials and seek input on a common framework for regional procurement, starting with civil works materials.”

A positive narrative

John Faker

The MoU notes the signing up to it will also boost regional infrastructure and will give councils a “positive narrative” to bring to their communities about their commitment to solving the recycling crisis.

SSROC General Manager Namoi Dougall said she would like to see the initiative adopted across the state.

“Not only will it allow councils to procure safe, affordable, and high-quality materials, but this model can be rolled out across the Sydney metropolitan area and indeed the entire state,” she said.

President and Burwood Mayor John Faker said the MOU was a significant step towards solving the recycling crisis.

“We know how important recycling is to the community, which is why our councils are taking the lead to ensure our recyclables are put to good use and kept out of landfill. This is a win-win for everyone,” he said.

SSROC says about 10,000 tones of recycled glass is required for civil works each year and it is also investigating the use of plastics, tire crumb and textiles in civil works. Member councils had committed to a target of recycling 45 million glass bottles a year.

Meeting of environment ministers

NSW environment minister Matt Kean applauded the commitment, saying the state government would release a plastics plan at the end of the year.

“We look forward to working closely with councils and industry so that together we safeguard the future of NSW,” he said.

The Australian Governments (COAG) ban on the export of recyclable announced in August is expected to be the focus of the Meeting of Environment Ministers (MEM) in Adelaide on Friday.

In a letter to Mr Kean, the CEO of the peak national waste and recycling body WMRR, Gayle Sloan said the sector was banking on concrete results this time.

“WMRR reminds Ministers that at the last MEM in December 2018, there was a commitment to develop a robust action plan underpinned by funding and targets, all of which do not appear to have materialised,” she said.

“Instead, the draft National Waste Action Plan that industry was presented with in October is devoid of policies and funding for market and industry development, or infrastructure delivery.”

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