Kicking off 2022 – What can we expect across the country
There are a number of key priorities that will drive reform in the waste and resource recovery sector nationally and within the states and territories in first half of 2022 with many jurisdictions focussing on recovering more food, organics and plastic waste.
From 1 July 2022, phase 2 of the waste plastics export ban comes into place, and baled plastics can no longer be exported. Plastics will need to be sorted into single polymer type and further processed into flakes or pellets before they can be exported. The coming six months will therefore be critical to continuing to modernise and grow Australia’s processing capacity for plastics to ensure the sector is prepared to handle the processing demand ahead of the deadline.
While facilities upgrades are on track for processing PET by this deadline, it is very unlikely there will be capacity to process HDPE, PP and LDPE until 2023 at the earliest, raising the need for state governments to work constructively with industry in managing temporary stockpiles until these facilities are operational.
Environment Ministers will review progress towards meeting the 2025 national packaging targets, following the Collective Impact Report released late last year by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), which showed that minimal progress had been made through the voluntary regime. There will be significant pressure to put in place regulatory measures that will accelerate action by the packaging industry and brands.
The Federal Government is also expected to release its response to the recommendations of its review of the Used Packaging Materials National Environmental Protection Measure (NEPM).
They will be held in Canberra on 14 February and focus on designing reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic products in every-day applications. The summit will also explore opportunities to unlock growth for new industries and new markets.
The Federal Government will finalise its investigation into strategies to ensure all types of e-waste are recovered. This follows the release late last year of the Stewardship for Consumer and Other Electrical and Electronic Products discussion paper, with comments and submissions due by 25 February.
Allocation of the first two rounds of the Food Waste for Healthy Soils Fund in partnership with States and territories to divert food and organic waste from landfill.
The national Battery Stewardship Recycling Scheme B-cycle will provide free battery recycling to consumers across Australia. The industry-led initiative will officially launch in January. Plus multiple new stewardship schemes are currently under development for a raft of products as a result of the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund including agricultural plastics, child car seats, clothing textiles, plant pots, cosmetic packaging and uniforms, compostable packaging, coffee capsules and oil containers.
With the Federal Election looming, NWRIC’s attention will focus on party commitments to meet the National Waste Policy Action Plan 2030 resource recovery target of 80% by fast tracking government and industry procurement of recycled content; putting regulatory pressure on packaging companies and brands to deliver the 2025 national packaging targets; supporting the export ban unprocessed steel scrap; continuation of the Recycling Modernisation, National Product Stewardship Investment and Food Waste for Healthy Soils Funds; and to better manage hazardous chemicals like PFAS and persistent herbicides including implementing nationally consistent risk-based guidelines for the safe management of these chemicals.
State and Territory waste and recycling reforms and investment
New South Wales
The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) welcomes Manly MP James Griffin as the new Minister for Environment and Heritage, following a Cabinet reshuffle by NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet. Griffin’s appointment will coincide with new leadership for the state’s EPA, with EPA chief executive Tracy Mackey recently stepping down.
As part of the NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy the NSW EPA has initiated an independent review of the resource recovery framework. This is a critical mechanism that needs to be overhauled to drive better resource outcomes and rebuild industry confidence in investing in resource recovery activities in NSW. New rules for the recovered fines from construction and demolition waste are being established with drafts to be released early in 2022 for industry comment.
Other areas of priority are diverting organics from landfill, supporting councils to jointly procure waste services and strategic infrastructure planning (focussing on infrastructure necessary to manage residual, organic and plastic waste).
The recent passing of the Plastics Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021 has laid the foundations for the establishment of the new Recycling Victoria agency, which will commence operation within the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, from the 1 July 2022.
Recycling Victoria will oversee and regulate the state’s waste and recycling sector, including helping to deliver the new Container Deposit Scheme (CDS), and transitioning all Victorian households to a four-stream waste and recycling system. Copies of the draft standards for glass, organics and mixed recycling that Victoria has recently consulted on are available here.
Queensland will decide on the form of its proposed new independent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is currently seeking industry and community feedback by 6 February. The Queensland’s environmental regulator role is currently undertaken by the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science (DES).
Meanwhile, the DES is inviting submissions as part of its annual call for submissions for the development of End of Waste codes under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011. Submissions close on 31 January.
Queensland’s waste levies will start to increase from July ($10 per annum for metropolitan zones through to 2027-28 then CPI increase), with the revenue directed towards a new recycling and jobs fund. The two-speed system of increases will see rates rise more rapidly in south-east Queensland, where more waste is directed to landfills and there are greater opportunities for recycling and resource recovery. Annual payments to councils will decrease year on year from 2023 for Metro and regional councils in Bundaberg, Cairns, Fraser Coast, Gladstone, Mackay, Rockhampton and Townsville to 30% in 2030
Like NSW, WA has recently appointed a new WA Minister for Environment and Climate Action, Baldivis MP, Reece Whitby who will replace Amber-Jade Sanderson who is now Minister for Health and Mental Health.
Western Australia will be focussing heavily on the role out of FOGO in the first half of the year. Expressions of interests closed this week in WA for grant funding to support the development of new or enhanced organic waste processing infrastructure in WA, as part of the Federal Government’s Food Waste for Healthy Soils Fund. The fund, announced in the 2021-22 Federal Budget, aims to support the diversion of nutrient-rich household and commercial organic waste from landfill to soils.
SA will complete a review of its long-running Container Deposit Scheme (CDS), to modernise the CDS and move towards a more circular economy. It will look at options to divert beverage containers away from the current co-mingled kerbside waste system, reducing the waste management costs of local government and increasing the recovery of high value materials in line with a circular economy, in particular the recovery of glass cullet for bottle manufacturing in SA.
A modernised CDS has the potential to provide an estimated 73,440 tonnes of beverage containers returned to the CDS for recycling each year and $68 million worth of refunds to the SA community each year.
The SA Environment, Resources and Development Parliamentary Committee is currently investigating and reporting on the appropriate and safe disposal of PFAS contaminated waste in South Australia, including criteria for disposal of PFAS contaminated waste; criteria for site selection (landfill engineering); consequences of not having an appropriate pathway for PFAS contaminated waste disposal, including reference to case studies; and
any other related matters.
The SA state election is also being held this year on 19 March.
A split of Tasmania’s EPA from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and Environment (DPIPWE) into a standalone independent State Authority will be formalised by legislation this year.
The NT government will introduce a risk-based licensing regime for waste and recycling companies, and strengthen laws and policies on hazardous waste, which will involve the development of acceptance criteria for waste imported into the NT. The commitments are given in a draft NT Circular Economy Strategy for 2022 to 2027. Feedback on the strategy closes on 14 February.
The Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security is also seeking a consultant to report on a possible waste levy regime that must be completed by mid-year. The NT currently has Australia’s lowest resource recovery and recycling rate – 19% compared to the national average of 63%.