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ALGA welcomes government move on circular economy

The Federal Government’s pledge to increase the recycling of waste plastic, glass, paper, and other products has been welcomed by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

The Remade in Australia recycling initiative announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Sydney on Monday includes a renewed focus on improving recovery rates by getting consumers to buy more products made from recycled materials.

Remade in Australia builds on existing Commonwealth measures to achieve an 80 percent average recovery rate from all waste streams by 2030.

 ALGA President Linda Scott said that to meet this ambitious target, the amount of waste diverted from landfills will have to rise from the current 43.5 million tonnes to at least 58 million tonnes, an increase of about 35 percent.

“This will require the Commonwealth to exert a greater leadership role focused on appropriate policy settings, incentives for business and innovators, and continued support for local government.

“Our 537 councils do all the heavy lifting when it comes to collecting, sorting, and recycling municipal waste. We partner with industry to improve materials recovery rates, and we help educate households to become more aware of recycling and about minimising food waste. These new commitments by the Morrison Government will support this work that is directed at accelerating Australia’s transition to a circular economy,” Scott said.

A recent report by consulting group PwC says that designing out waste and ensuring that products and resources are kept their highest utility and value will deliver a nearly $2 trillion boost to the economy over the next 20 years.

According to Scott, local governments are well placed to lead the transition to a circular economy and to help identify and implement front-line solutions in that journey.

“The Shoalhaven City Council, for example, is investing in technology that sorts red bin contents and recycles 90 percent, leaving just 10 percent for disposal. In the Northern Rivers region of NSW, the Tweed Shire Council recently opened a state-of-the-art organic recycling facility.

“This can process 25,000 tonnes of food and garden organics annually, with the compost soon to be made available to households, farmers, and businesses as well as being used on council-maintained parks and gardens. We need to facilitate more enterprises like this at the local and regional levels. That is why ALGA is calling on the next federal government to provide funding of $100 million per annum over four years to fund local government circular waste innovation projects,” Scott said.

Councils, particularly in rural, regional and remote areas, also need sustainable funding to help them address barriers to greater recycling such as thin markets, lack of infrastructure, and high transport costs.

“As we head into the federal election, we will be asking all candidates to commit to returning council Financial Assistance Grants to a level equivalent to 1 percent of total Commonwealth taxation revenue – which is the level they were at in the 1980s,” Scott said.

“Financial Assistance Grants today have shrunk to around 0.6 per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue. Boosting them back up to 1 percent will create over 16,200 jobs and boost GDP by $2.37 billion annually. It will also ensure that local governments continue to invest in waste collection services and modern materials recycling facilities that can create a greater supply of raw materials for remade products.”

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