Eight per cent of the $2.6 billion collected through waste levies is reinvested by governments in recycling infrastructure and technology, an Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) report has found. ACOR’s CEO, Pete Shmigel, said this figure is too low in a time where industry is being expected to support greater onshore infrastructure and markets for recyclable materials.
ACOR’s findings suggest that in 2018 and 2019, a total of $446,093,088 million in waste, recycling and resource recovery grants funding was given or pledged by Australian state and Federal governments. This excluded materially insignificant funding packages from Tasmania and Northern Territory, the report indicated.
The figures compare to $2.67 billion collected in waste levies by mainland state governments over 18/19 and 19/20 financial years according to the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council Levies White Paper.
Shmigel said that governments set up waste levies with the explicit aim of incentivising waste reduction, but more than 80 per cent of these state-based levies are ending up in consolidated revenue or other purposes.
“This is problematic because recycling rates have plateaued and Australia will no longer be allowed to export a great deal of material to Asia for recycling,” Shmigel said.
“Without substantial investment soon, current kerbside recycling services may be put at risk and stockpiles of material could occur when the Council of Australian Governments (COAG)
ban on some waste exports starts less than six months from now. Those who decided on the ban – the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers, and their Treasurers – need to realise that without reinvestment in domestically sustainable recycling and its necessary infrastructure, more material that Australians expect to be recycled – especially plastic – will need to go to landfill,” Shmigel explained.
He highlighted that independent modelling by MRA Consulting, showed that about $300 million in one-off investment is needed to be able to process and remanufacture the types of paper and plastic that Australia has been exporting.
“While the industry is very prepared for matching arrangements and low-interest loans, there has been nowhere near that level of expenditure in 2018 and 2019, and our political leaders need to come to the both the upcoming Plastic Summit and next COAG meeting with substantive commitments for infrastructure and for procurement. Australian recycling can be domestically sustainable and a world leader, and it requires waste levies to be expended on what they were set up for: support recycling,” Shmigel said.