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Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 introduced into Commonwealth Parliament

On 27 August the Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment introduced the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 into Parliament.

The Bill sees the implementation of the export ban on waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres agreed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments in March this year as well as refinement of the current product stewardship act to further incentivise and encourage companies to take greater responsibility of the products they make and for the products and materials at their end of life.

The NWRIC considers the introduction of this Bill as a significant element of the reform process that can contribute to achieving a circular economy.  Most importantly this step by the Australian Government acknowledges that waste and recycling services are an essential service. In addition, they constitute a vital resource industry that makes a substantial economic contribution to the nation. It is an industry that has great potential to strengthen Australia’s resource security, generate clean energy, create jobs and protect the environment.

The raft of measures and initiatives currently in play are creating much needed momentum for positive systemic change. The Commonwealth’s Recycling Modernisation Fund, the National Waste Policy Action Plan, the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund and CRC-P funding for R&D, are collectively shaping a more coherent approach to how waste management and resource recovery should be planned and managed in Australia.

The NWRIC is still reviewing the details of the Bill within the context of feedback it provided on the draft bill in July, especially in regard to definitions, objects, charges and the Minister’s Priority Product List. The NWRIC is eager to see evidence that industry’s views are being understood, acknowledged and acted upon.

The NWRIC advocates for stronger national leadership and coordination across several key areas of activity, including market development, infrastructure planning, product stewardship, harmonisation of state waste and recycling regulations, plus increased investment of landfill levies back into the waste and recycling infrastructure, education and compliance.

The actions of the current Commonwealth Government, in particular Assistant Minister Evans, Minister Ley and the Prime Minister, have gone a long way to demonstrating national leadership and state coordination.

Nonetheless, there are still some key aspects of the reform process that demand detailed attention and completion including; creating markets for recovered materials through government procurement and requiring companies to increase recycled content in products and packaging, including imported goods.

Greater coordination of waste and recycling infrastructure planning across all levels of government and investment of the $1.5 billion state landfill levies collected annually, is also an outstanding area of work needing further development. Cleaning up what is collected by harmonising collection bin contents, urgently establishing a regulated battery recycling program and removing hazardous substances like PFAS from products, are obvious imperatives at this time. Focused action is also required to harmonise waste and recycling data, definitions, movement tracking, landfill levies and licensing.

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 is a key element to building a circular economy. Its success and sustainability will require commitment to timely and efficient implementation. The NWRIC looks forward to working closely with the Australian Government to deliver practical action over the coming months and years. To view the Bill and its progress click here.

UPDATE 14 September 2020

Click here to view NWRIC’s response to the Senate inquiry into the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bills 2020.