State Government is a ‘toothless tiger’ on EPR: NSW Greens

By Angela Dorizas

The New South Wales Greens have slammed the State Government over its failure to implement Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes.

Speaking at the recent NSW Sustainable Development Conference in Sydney, NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon labelled the State Government as a “toothless tiger” for its failure to introduce ‘polluter pays’ recycling and waste disposal schemes.

“NSW was a leader in implementing EPR legislation, enacting the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act in 2001,” Rhiannon told conference delegates.

“But the movement to solve NSW’s waste problem has been very slow. The government can sink its teeth in and regulate EPR but it hasn’t, choosing the wait and see approach – seemingly unwilling to take on the industry to do the work required.

“The NSW Government has not independently initiated one EPR scheme since this legislation was passed in 2001.”

She said the Government’s failure to act on EPR had placed an unnecessary burden on local councils picking up the bill through kerbside recycling services.

“Councils are being forced to fork out more and more, with costs rapidly outstripping what they get from selling waste for recycling.”

In an EPR scheme, producers are held responsible for recycling and disposing of their product. It can cover a range of waste streams, including tyres, cars, oil, batteries, e-waste and packaging.

The aim is to create incentives for the production of more environmentally friendly products.

“EPR seeks to prevent waste occurring, not just manage the problem once products are headed to landfill,” Rhiannon said.

“EPR has the capacity to promote exciting new approaches, like designing for disassembly, reverse logistical systems and ‘de-manufacturing’.”

EPR can also boost the economy. Modelling by the Boomerang Alliance of environmental groups has revealed that a national container deposit scheme has the potential to create at least 1000 new jobs.

According to Rhiannon, the infrastructure for the container return scheme could also be used to collect other “high priority” products including electronics, lead acid batteries, household chemical containers and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Rhiannon said while the NSW Government had “sat on its hands” other states had pursued plastic bag bans, container deposit schemes and industry led e-waste recycling pilots.

She also criticised state and federal governments for failing to adopt a national approach to e-waste.

“Environment ministers around the country should be red faced that the Australian Information Industry Association and the Total Environment Centre last week announced an End-of-life Computer Equipment Compact, which they are now asking federal and state governments to make feasible with regulatory backing,” Rhiannon said.

“These partners have developed their e-waste scheme in frustration, while the Environment Protection and Heritage Council – a COAG initiative – has been locked in a room wrestling with Regulatory Impact Statements and Cost Benefit Analyses.”

State environment ministers are due to meet with Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett on Friday for the latest meeting of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC).

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