News, Opinion

Circular economy needs to gain more traction

Research commissioned by Veolia reveals that outside of the economy and cost of living, NSW voters are most concerned about the environment, which needs to get more traction in terms of a circular economy. In a post-pandemic world, voters say environmental sustainability is a priority, and that they support investment in recycling and waste initiatives to help prevent climate change – even if it means diverting funds from elsewhere.

Research shows:

  • 75 per cent of people say waste management issues – such as reducing waste, increasing recycling and minimising emissions – are of concern
  • 67 per cent of people support diverting funds away from other key areas to increase investment in waste management initiatives and infrastructure.

The NSW Government has set the roadmap for a sustainable future, with commitments to halve emissions, drive greater recycling and adopt technology, such as Energy from Waste (EfW), to reduce the reliance on landfills, all by 2030. This aligns with the Federal Government’s targets to recover 80 per cent of materials and reach net zero by 2050.

Despite this, Veolia’s research reveals that voters are not aware of the Government’s environmental agenda.

Only 3 per cent of people say they are ‘definitely aware’ of NSW climate policies and only 4 per cent say they are aware of the transition to a circular economy.

Read more: What are the Top 10 marine waste items

When asked about globally proven technologies that allow for the shift away from landfilling, voters strongly supported it. Up to 82 per cent of voters say that NSW should invest in Energy from Waste technology to reduce landfilling. Voters also want recycling and waste companies to play a greater advisory role on waste management initiatives (79 per cent agree).

“The NSW public have a sophisticated understanding of climate issues. Numbers show that people want change and they support the investment needed to make it happen,” said Richard Kirkman, CEO and managing director for Veolia Australia and New Zealand. “This is fantastic news because their priorities already align with policies that preserve resources and protect biodiversity.

“Interestingly, those voters who were less supportive of the green agenda were motivated by economic matters. These voters overwhelmingly support initiatives that focus on creating jobs, driving new industries, and stimulating growth. This means that investments that deliver financial gain and employment – like the development of Energy from Waste facilities – also align with public motivation.

“Australia is one of the highest producers of waste in the world, and landfills all of its non-recyclable waste, which emits greenhouse gas emissions, and remains in the ground for generations. We need to move away from this – the voters want it, the government wants it, and we are ready to deliver it.”

Veolia says there has never been better time for the NSW Government to drive forward their climate policies for voters by:

  • Investing in infrastructure – through more recycling facilities, and the quick adoption of energy recovery technologies to extract value from food organics in the form of biogas, and energy from non-recyclable waste, which helps to decarbonise.
  • Work closer with the waste management industry – recycling and waste management.
  • Companies welcome continued engagement with the NSW Government on the steps required to generate a more sustainable state.
  • Re-engaging the public – closing the knowledge gap on existing policies will help everyone to play their part in moving up the waste hierarchy toward recycling and away from landfilling.

Kirkman said voters can also do their bit by ensuring they avoid waste where possible, reuse where they can and recycle everything that can be recycled.