Media Release - Return of waste levies could defuse recycling crisis – for now, at least

14 March 2018

Councils across NSW are scrambling to avoid a recycling crisis, as China’s National Sword Policy on the acceptance of foreign waste materials begins to bite, a Senate inquiry has been told.

Local Government NSW President Linda Scott today appeared before the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee Inquiry into waste and recycling.

The inquiry was originally sparked by the transportation of waste to Queensland, but has been given fresh impetus by China’s decision to more strictly enforce rules on the acceptance of foreign waste.

The move has the potential to derail the current collection of kerbside recycling for many councils, with some being asked to renegotiate contracts so processors can recoup the increased cost of processing recycling material onshore.

“If the recycling industry in Australia falters then we all lose,” Clr Scott told the Inquiry.

“But this could offer us opportunities – with State and Federal Government support we could develop new regional jobs in a home-grown environmental  and recycling industry.”

“Councils in NSW are already seeking support to develop markets for recycled glass, paper and plastics; working proactively to improve the quality of what’s in the recycling bin, and reducing recycling contamination levels.

 “But that’s not enough, and councils alone can’t be asked to save the recycling industry in this state.

“There is an immediate need for financial assistance and fast tracking of approvals for on-shore reprocessing and remanufacturing.

“There is also an immediate need for market development such as requiring recycled content in certain products: glass sand for pipe bedding, road base and asphalt, for example.

“But most important is the need to ensure that the hundreds of millions of dollars in waste levies collected from the community each year are fully reinvested to support recycling.”

Clr Scott said the NSW Government had collected $659 million in waste levies in 2016/17.

“Yet our research shows only 18% of the waste levies paid by local government are returned to local government,” she said.

“That’s an enormous limitation on the ability of councils to invest in waste and recycling infrastructure, and it has made NSW tremendously vulnerable to this decision by China.

LGNSW is calling for:

  • the NSW Government to dedicate more of the waste levy to the cause for which it was collected – the safe, environmental disposal of waste
  • all spheres of government to work together to ensure waste levies across Australia are implemented equitably and consistently.

 

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