WA waste planning ‘inadequate’

WA’s waste recovery targets are under threat because councils are failing to recycle or encourage residents to minimise waste, an audit says.

WA Auditor General Caroline Spencer

The audit also found inadequate waste planning at all levels whether local, regional or statewide.

Auditor General Caroline Spencer says data from 2017-18 shows there’s 41 per cent waste recovery in the Perth and the Peel region, while in regional centres it’s only 28 per cent.

That’s well below the state’s 2020 targets of 65 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.

Ms Spencer says councils aren’t effectively encouraging waste avoidance or maximising waste recovery by reusing, reprocessing and recycling and they need more support from the state government.

‘Inadequate local, regional and statewide waste planning, including for waste infrastructure, and a lack of tailored support for local government entities that manage household waste has limited the state’s ability to meet its waste strategy targets,’ she said.

“If entities are to progress the State’s vision to become a sustainable, low-waste society and have a better chance of meeting recovery targets, better practice waste management techniques we saw at a number of entities need to be more widely implemented than what we observed.”

Waste Authority must do better

She said the Waste Authority, which oversees waste and recycling in WA, and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, could both do better to help local entities, especially in regional areas.

The Waste Authority had flagged state infrastructure planning as essential back in 2021 but there was still no infrastructure plan, she said.

Meanwhile, there are unused landfill levies that could go towards waste management projects and programs, with a current unspent balance of $40 million, up from $30 million in 2016.

In 2017-18 WA households produced more than 1.5 million tones of waste. The state’s total waste recycling rate of 53 per cent remains below the national average of 58 per cent.

Nearly 80 per cent of councils contract out kerbside waste collection.

“Our review of the main contracts from our sampled LG entities showed that none had obligations or targets for contractors to improve rates of waste recycling or reprocessing,” the audit said.

While the focus was on timely collection and transport, the opportunity for councils to ensure contractors were also contributing to State recovery targets was being missed.

Recommendations for change

Recent international export bans on recyclable materials made the need to plan and develop recycling facilities more pressing than ever, Ms Spencer said.

The audit contains a number of recommendations for the Waste Authority and DWER, including helping local government improve data accuracy, providing councils with materials explaining the benefits of a 3-bin FOGO system and developing statewide messaging, behviour change and education programs.

Meanwhile, local government should prepare waste plants, include performance measures in waste service projects and provide community updates.

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