The NSW Government has released its draft Circular Economic Policy, but the local government and waste and recycling sectors say the government needs to do more.
It comes as the Federal Government works with the states and territories on an updated national waste policy incorporating circular economy principles, which the waste and recycling industries have been lobbying for throughout this year.
Announcing the draft policy on Monday, NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the new approach was a better way of managing the state’s waste and resources.
“Achieving a circular economy will minimise our waste, reduce our impact on the environment and is an opportunity to boost the NSW economy,” she said.
“It’s an antidote to the current ‘linear economy’, where we make things, use them and then throw them away.”
Minister Upton said “having a circular economy provides a better operating environment for the recycling industry, as well as manufacturers, retailers and consumers. It will encourage innovation and create jobs.”
But peak bodies representing the waste and recycling sectors have criticised the NSW Government’s approach on the issue.
The Waste Management Association of Australia yesterday slammed the government’s response to a state parliamentary inquiry into technology deriving energy from waste, saying its lack of leadership was leading to frustration and delays.
The WMAA wants greater funding from the state’s current landfil levy returned to industry to incentivise landfill diversion, and for the stalled Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Strategy to be completed.
Similarly, the Australian Council of Recycling has criticised the NSW Government’s use of the funds raised by its waste levy.
The “vast majority” of the $727 million collected last year through the waste disposal levy went to consolidated revenue – while the levy’s stated goal is to reduce landfill, ACOR chief Pete Shmigel told a sustainable cities conference last week.
Mr Shmigel said:
“States like Victoria and South Australia have had greater levy reinvestment into recycling. They both have higher performance than NSW. It’s why, starting from scratch, Queensland has decided to re-invest 70 per cent of its new waste levy into recycling initiatives where NSW may be on about 10 to 20 per cent.”
On Tuesday the state’s local government sector also called on the NSW Government to divert the levy funds into waste management and recycling.
Local Government NSW’s Save Our Recycling Campaign, launched at the peak’s annual conference in Albury, calls on the State Government to re-invest the $727 million it collects from the waste levy each year in waste management and recycling.
LGNSW president Linda Scott said the moves to a circular economy didn’t need to involve any new costs on residents or businesses.
“A new statewide approach to recycling must be funded by the $727 million the state government currently collects through the Waste Levy, around $300 million of which comes from local government,” she said.
“At present, only 18 per cent of that $300 million is reinvested in recycling and waste management, with the rest disappearing into the government’s coffers. Local government is not asking for more money, just for the money already raised as the Waste Levy to be used where communities expect: on better recycling and waste management,” she said.
NSW is currently among the poorer performing states for resource recovery, according to the latest National Waste Report. It has a waste recovery rate of 65 per cent, putting it below Victoria (69 per cent), the ACT (75 per cent) and South Australia (80 per cent).
Minister Upton said the NSW Government is also working with the Commonwealth on the development of national circular economy principles.
Commonwealth and state ministers have committed to updating the national waste policy by the end of the year.
Australia would reduce its total waste by 10 per cent per capita by 2030 under the latest proposals for the updated national waste policy.
The proposals would also mandate 30 per cent recycled content across all goods and infrastructure procurement and diverting half the organic waste currently sent to landfill by 2030.
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