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Waste challenges discussed between ministers and industry in Melbourne

Australia’s Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environment Management, Trevor Evans, and Victorian Ministers met with members of the waste and recycling industry to discuss improving markets and tackling challenges in the waste industry.

The meeting, on August 6 in Melbourne, covered discussions on solving recycling challenges, developing markets for recycled materials, new infrastructure capacity, and how waste levies should be managed and reinvested into the sector.

Along with Evans, Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, attended the meeting, which was facilitated by the National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC).

NWRIC chairman, Phil Richards, said with recycling services under threat in Victoria, growing stockpiles across the country, exemptions revoked for the recovery of organics from mixed waste in NSW, now has never been a more important time for industry and government to work closely together.

The ministers and NWRIC members and affiliated representatives from state and territory associations covered the critical importance of long term infrastructure planning coordinated across all levels of government, as well as consistent, regular community education campaigns to rebuild community confidence in recycling.

It was suggested that local procurement of recycled materials and setting appropriate recycled content levels for packaging plus civil construction could revitalise domestic recycling. Industry representatives at the event believe regulated product stewardship schemes are necessary to make recycling more accessible to communities, reduce contamination and ensure higher recovery rates.

An important matter considered was the role of waste levies in addressing the current challenges facing the sector. This included the need for states, territories and the Federal government to develop a national levy pricing strategy through the Council of Australian Governments.

This pricing strategy could prevent the inappropriate disposal and movement of waste, stop levy avoidance activities, and ensure the resource recovery industry is viable and competitive.

A statement from NWRIC explained that to advance industry it is essential that inconsistencies between states and territories on what waste is levied are removed. This includes inconsistences where the liability for the waste levy sits (called ‘portability’), how far waste can be moved (called ‘proximity’) and how the levy is administered through a mutually agreed Waste Levy Protocol.

Additionally, NWRIC called for all state governments to be more transparent and accountable for the total amount of levies collected annually, what proportion of the levies are invested back into the waste and recycling sector, and what outcomes are achieved.