Relief arrives with Jobkeeper package

Vital businesses that support and serve the WARR industry will feel some relief following the release of a $132 billion Jobkeeper package by the federal government late yesterday.

Designed to assist workers who have been stood down, the package offers a lifeline to employers whose business have experienced a 30% revenue decline since March 1. By 8am this morning more than 60,000 operators had registered for the subsidy through the Australia Taxation office.

Any worker who was laid off since March 1 can talk to their employers to re-employ them so that they can receive the $1,500 fortnightly payment while the employer will be reimbursed from May.

Even employers whose business has been shut down on government orders will receive money to pay employees who cannot do any meaningful work or attend their workplace.

Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA) executive director Tony Khoury told Inside Waste that it welcomed the government’s Job Keeper $1,500 payment per worker per fortnight.

“Any waste & recycling business that incurs a significant financial hit of 30% revenue reduction caused by COVID-19 will be eligible. This announcement will ensure that a business will continue to directly pay its workers and therefore maintain a connection to those workers.

“In so doing, waste management operators will hang onto their valued, experienced staff,” he said.A statement by Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, and AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said that they had joined forces to urge that every effort is made to ensure Australian manufacturing businesses remain safe and can continue to supply the needs of Australian households, businesses, community organisations and health providers.

Limiting business closures

“It is crucial that businesses in vital areas keep operating through these difficult times and that people remain employed as much as possible.

“This includes businesses involved in manufacturing such as food processing, packaging, pharmaceuticals, chemicals (including sanitising and cleaning products), and health industry supplies. It also includes industries necessary for these activities to continue – those in their supply chains and service partners,” the statement said.

However, they acknowledged that many manufacturing businesses cannot be turned off and on with the flick of a switch. Closures can take time; they are costly and often hazardous.

“Restarting many manufacturing processes is similarly time-consuming, costly, and dangerous. These extra costs and risks need to be weighed in any assessment of a shut down. If they can operate safely they should remain open,” they said.

Retaining employment

They also noted that many workers are employed in industries that supply basic needs. Many more are employed in businesses that can continue to operate safely and without increasing risks of community transmission of COVID-19.

History suggests unemployment rises much faster than it falls. The costs of unemployment – both human and economic – last for many years beyond the passing of the economic downturn. Many people, particularly those who are older and less skilled, will never be re-employed.

Both the AWU and Ai Group welcome the measures the Government has introduced to improve the provision of mental health services in Australia. Avoiding unnecessary business closures will help avoid further escalation of the adverse mental health outcomes associated with unemployment.

EPA stays fixed on regulation despite challenges

The NSW EPA has assured the waste and environment industries that it will continue to fulfil its responsibilities as the state’s primary environmental regulator while maintaining the health and safety of staff, communities, industry and other partners.

In reference to the evolving situation with COVID-19, the agency explained in a statement that this includes working to minimise any disruptions to its regulatory activities, offering the industry guidance if required, and asking for cooperation from industry and partners.

“Please be assured that the EPA will continue to be guided by the latest advice from NSW and Commonwealth health authorities and will consider the impact of that advice in the delivery of our regulatory functions,” the EPA said.

Business continuity plan

The EPA said that it has a business continuity plan in place which is being reviewed regularly in light of the most up-to-date advice, to enable us to meet our regulatory responsibilities. That includes planning to allow staff to work remotely where appropriate so that we maintain our compliance, enforcement and pollution response activities as best we can to prevent environmental and community harm.

That means that compliance with licence conditions and issue clean-up notices and prevention notices where necessary will continue to be required.

However, the EPA may consider requests for exemptions on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the provisions of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

“As we continue to closely monitor the situation, we are providing on-going, up-to-date and appropriate communication with our employees, regulatory partners and government,” the statement said.

Expectations from the regulated community

As the country face the current unprecedented situation together, the NSW EPA has strongly recommended the implementation of a business continuity plan, if one is not already in place.

“That plan should take into account the updated advice being provided by NSW and Commonwealth health officials, including any sector-specific advice. Now is also the right time to check you have everything in place to enact your pollution incident response management plan,” it explained.

The EPA has asked all licensees to assist in managing risks during this period notifying it by email to info@epa.nsw.gov.au:

  1. If you anticipate any significant risk to your ability to comply with your licence or licences under which you operate.
  2. If you need advice on business continuity preparedness for your operations.

The EPA stressed that this is not a legal obligation but, rather a request to assist the EPA and the NSW Government in managing the current situation in the public interest.

It explained that a business continuity plan would help meet responsibilities for any environmental impacts from activities because as licence conditions and other regulatory responsibilities remain in place, associated obligations will also remain in place.

These include the priority responsibilities of maintaining and operating pollution control equipment, and storing, transporting and disposing of waste appropriately. The EPA said that it expected licensees in the waste industry to continue to maintain good communications with clients and the EPA, particularly around any predicted service disruptions. Licensees must continue to notify the NSW EPA of pollution incidents and other regulatory or compliance issues.

Federal Government releases $100billion to save business

Minutes after the Reserve Bank lowered the cash rate by 0.25%, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg this afternoon, said they were accessing up to $100billion to “get Australian’s across a bridge” during the COVID-19 crisis. The details of the spend are sketchy however, both leaders and then the Reserve Bank Governor, Philip Lowe then outlined the financial mechanics to sustain the economy.

This followed an initial stimulus package announced by the Federal government last week. The state governments have also released a series of stimulus packages in the last few days aimed at putting a financial floor under businesses to enable them to survive the impact of Covid-19. The Federal government released a significant package for business and organisations late last week and another is expected shortly.

These are the details of the first package:

Incentive for purchases more than $150K

  • Instant asset write-off for any machinery purchase made up to $150k
  • Asset can be new or used
  • No limit on number of assets
  • Only available until June 30, 2020

Incentive for purchases less than $150K

  • Accelerated depreciation deduction incentive
  • 50% immediate deduction followed by normal depreciation rules applied to the balance
  • Asset must be new
  • Also available for assets <$150k but purchased after June 30, 2020
  • Available until June 30, 2021

NSW to waive payroll tax

The NSW government has allocated $450million to waive payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months. The should deliver immediate relief as these businesses would not have to pay the tax for the rest of this financial year.

The government has also bought forward the next round of payroll tax cuts effectively raising the threshold limit to $1million for the next financial year.

“The Government stands ready to do whatever it takes to keep people safe and ensure our economy withstands this storm,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.

The Treasurer added that he will drawing on the state infrastructure as part of his plan to stimulate the economy, with more than $750 million will be spent on capital works and maintenance of public assets.

WA grants for business

In WA small to medium enterprises (SME’s)  with a payroll of between $1 million and $4 million will receive a one-off grant of $17,500. It’s anticipated that this will bolster 7,400 businesses in and cost the Government $114 million.

Changes to the payroll tax exemption threshold are also being brought forward, in an effort to support 11,000 businesses.

The threshold was previously lifted from $850,000 to $950,000, with an increase to $1 million scheduled for January 2021 but this will now happen earlier on July 1, 2020.

SME’s which pay less than $7.5 million in taxable wages each year can apply to defer their payroll tax payment to July 21, 2020.

The ACT government is prioritising support for small business owners, contractors and “gig” economy workers in the first tranche of a multi-stage stimulus package to help the territory weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said smaller infrastructure projects would also be fast-tracked in a bid to keep the economy moving amid the rapidly escalating global emergency.

Victorian business hotline

The Andrews Labor Government today launched a hotline for businesses dealing with the significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses across the state can now access information on dealing with COVID-19 by calling the Business Victoria hotline on 13 22 15.

Operators calling the hotline will be able to get information about support services, including those available through Business Victoria, which offers mentoring to help operators develop business continuity and recovery plans.

The hotline will provide the latest information on the response to COVID-19 and how this affects businesses, including how to access financial support available through the national stimulus package.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is hurting Victorian businesses and an important way that we can help is by giving them access to the information they need to make key decisions. This dedicated hotline will help businesses of all sizes get the facts and connect them with support services so they can best weather this storm,” Andrews said.

Letter from Prime Creative Media CEO

As Australia’s largest B2B publisher we have been looking at how we can best support our many industries through the changing COVID-19 situation.

We are committed to keeping our industries connected and supporting our clients and readers through this challenging time.

We recognise that meeting in person will be limited in the months ahead. Major conferences and events have been postponed for the next six months, including some of our own. Many companies are discouraging face-to-face meetings, and organising for team members to work from home.

With the potential for companies and individuals to become isolated we recognise communication within the industry has never been more important. Fortunately, through our media brands we are in a position to facilitate the necessary lines of communication that must be kept open between staff, suppliers, and clients.

We are in a strong position to support our industries through our media platforms: magazines, e-newsletters and websites. To that end, using print and digital platforms to communicate with the market has never been more important.

Prime Creative Media is committed to continuing our frequent communications. Our regular newsletters, web sites, and printed magazines will continue to be produced on schedule, with our entire team prepared to work remotely as needed. With so many other businesses moving to remote workplaces, we are now offering complimentary home address delivery of our publications to ensure continuity of service to our existing subscribers. Additionally we will offer three-month complimentary subscriptions to anyone else in the industry who would like a subscription to stay informed.

The economic challenges we face with COVID-19 are significant, but temporary. At Prime Creative Media we are taking a long-term view to our business, marketing, and investments, and it has been encouraging to hear this week from many clients who share our mindset.

We look forward to supporting our industries through our communication platforms in the coming months, so that our economy can push through this challenging time.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly to discuss your situation and how we can help.

Warm regards,

John Murphy
CEO
Prime Creative Media

john.murphy@primecreative.com.au

Historic COAG Waste Response Strategy sets the stage for immediate action

The first target of the Waste Response Strategy issued by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) last week is to ban the export of plastic, paper, tyres and glass waste between July 2020 and December 2024.

All waste glass will be banned by July 2020, mixed waste plastics by July 2021, all whole tyres including baled tyres by December 2021 and remaining waste products, including mixed paper and cardboard, by no later than 30 June 2022.

COAG clearly stated that the Commonwealth has committed to improving the quality of waste streams, driving demand, supporting investment and leading by example in projects to significantly increase Australia’s recycling rates. It has also committed to collaborating with states and territories that do the same.

It said that our domestic waste and recycling sector needs to be futureproofed and resourced to deliver the waste reduction and recycling outcomes that the community expects.

“Without changes driven by all Australian governments, there is an ongoing risk of stockpiling and illegal waste dumping, rising landfill rates and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions, and business closures as trading markets and the value of materials change,” the statement said.

COAG said that the response strategy is intended to do two things: the first is to explain what the export ban involves, which materials are affected, and the timeframes for implementation.

The second is to set out the system-level and material-specific challenges and complementary actions needed by all levels of government and industry to support transition to the ban and drive broader long-term change in Australia’s waste and recycling sector. Based on the challenges and opportunities outlined in this document, Commonwealth, state and territory governments will announce specific commitments in the lead up to the ban’s commencement.

 Developing markets

According to the strategy, market analysis demonstrates that a key benefit of the export ban is the certainty that it creates for industry. It said that a predictable phased ban, rather than sudden and unpredictable changes in export markets, can assist to reduce further shocks to the waste and recycling sector.

Already there has been a flurry of federal and state initiatives released in the past month and the strategy also stated that, based on the challenges and opportunities outlined in this document, Commonwealth, state and territory governments would announce specific commitments in the lead up to the ban’s commencement.

Historic change

Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley described the strategy as representing an historic change for the environment and the recycling industry. She said that the ban signaled a generational transformation of the recycling industry that could generate $1.5 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years and more than 2000 jobs.

Ley added that the ban was the result of months of consultation with industry, state and local governments, and it represents a fundamental change that recognises waste as resource instead of a problem.

“This is about waking up to an issue that has been buried in landfill for too long,” Ley said.

“Most importantly, it is about Australia saying it is our waste and our responsibility and it is about industry and government being prepared to invest in change,” she added.

The strategy was also clear regarding the challenges facing the waste industry, the governments and the community in pivoting to a new paradigm. It has detailed initial steps in mapping out what all jurisdictions (Inside Waste will detail these in our April/May magazine) must do to tackle these challenges:

  •  Address waste origins and generation

There are opportunities for industry and governments to contribute to changing the materials we use in everyday products, in order to reduce the total volume of low-value or hard to recycle material in the waste stream. Where possible, the best outcome is for waste to be managed, processed and returned to productive economic use close to its point of generation.

  • Kerbside waste collection

This is a significant issue which impacts on the sustainability of collection systems, the value of recycled materials, and the ability for materials to go to their highest value use.

Despite strong community interest and willingness to support strong recycling outcomes, consumer awareness of the ‘right’ way to recycle is limited and there is no consistent approach to labelling to assist the community to determine whether a product is recyclable in Australia.

Additionally, it said that households face mixed messages about what materials can be recycled, as requirements are often local government specific based on which materials recovery facility receives the recycling.

  • Drive domestic demand for recycled products

Increased demand for recyclable materials as inputs for processing, and for products manufactured from these materials, is needed to make new recycling capacity cost effective. Consistent quality and performance standards and specifications can assist in driving industry and household confidence in the use of recycled content and the value of recycled products.

  • Understand resource volumes, value and movement

Governments have been working collaboratively for several years to improve the availability, consistency and specificity of waste data collection and information, including through the National Waste Report and National Waste Account. The movement of waste through metropolitan and regional areas and states and territories and reporting on imports and exports have been identified as a data gap by all Australian governments.

  • Invest in new technologies and infrastructure

Market research to assess national infrastructure capacity has identified significant processing gaps for some materials and new capacity coming online for others. There is a substantial capacity gap in Western Australia, particularly for paper processing.

For high value plastics such as HDPE and PET, there has been investment in new facilities in the past two years and some of these facilities appear to have spare capacity.7 The need to fill existing processing gaps should guide investment decisions in all jurisdictions.

A significant challenge raised in industry consultation is the ability for businesses to secure investment for facilities and equipment upgrades, and to develop and test new technologies for creating value-added products from waste.

  • Coordinate regional recycling capacity

Cross-jurisdictional actions are needed to address the particular waste and recycling challenges associated with remote and regional areas, such as Northern Australia. The transport costs involved in moving waste long distances from its source to processing facilities can significantly increase the total cost of recycling. Dispersed populations can also reduce the cost-effectiveness of collection services.

  • Drive international cooperation

Marine plastic pollution is an issue which goes beyond national borders. Coordination and alignment across the Indo-Pacific region is needed to prevent products like single-use plastic bags from entering the marine environment, and to manage marine plastic debris.

  • Streamline approval processes and requirements

For investment in waste and recycling infrastructure to occur in response to material supply generated from the export ban, state, territory and local government approval processes need to be timely, transparent and fit-for-purpose. Industry has raised the length of time for approval processes as a barrier to investing in major infrastructure projects. Planning approval, community consultation, financing and building takes time. It can take several years to meet requirements and construct a new recycling facility. This can represent a significant cost for business, particularly small businesses.

  • Consider waste levy settings

Waste levies are currently collected in five states (NSW, Victoria, Qld, SA and WA) and aim to reduce the amount of waste being landfilled and promote recycling and resource recovery. States and territories invest a share of this funding in programs and initiatives to support enhanced waste and resource recovery outcomes. Industry, however, has called for a greater proportion of waste levy revenue to be committed to these programs and initiatives.

Packaging and e-waste grants open in Victoria

Sustainability Victoria (SV) is offering significant grants focused on and packaging and e-waste to build Victoria’s e-waste resource recovery sector.

The largest grant of $2million, which will be capped at $500,000 for each project, is designed to support organisations in Victoria to reduce packaging waste disposed in landfill and is open for small to medium enterprises, not-for-profits and social enterprises with applications open until March 5, 2021.

SA has stated that only projects that address or use a combination of key criteria will be considered:

  • reduce generation of packaging waste
  • increase or improve recovery of packaging waste
  • manufacture packaging using recovered materials
  • remanufacture using packaging waste.

To receive the grant, they must primarily reduce, recover or reuse plastics, paper and cardboard, glass and rubber, while those that primarily recover metals are excluded.

The costs that the grants will assist with include piloting new systems, processes or technologies, acquiring additional plant and equipment, expanding facilities to enable increased resource recovery on existing premises, enabling works to house new plant and equipment and research, development and demonstration.

Financial co-contribution is required at a ratio of 1:1 and small to medium enterprises can contribute up to 25% of their co-contribution as in-kind. Funding from other government sources cannot be included in the co-contribution.

Meanwhile not-for-profits and social enterprises can contribute up to 50% of their co-contribution as in-kind. Funding from other government sources can be included in the co-contribution.

E-waste streams of funding

Round two of SA’s e-waste grants will prioritise building reprocessing capability and capacity, and ensure collection and storage of e-waste is conducted to a high standard.

Up to $500,000 is available across two streams of funding for industry and local government and Waste and Resource Recovery Groups (WRRGs) to invest in projects that increase recovery of e-waste materials and/or ensure the safe collection and storage of e-waste.

E-waste reprocessing grant

This has been designed for projects which will increase Victoria’s e-waste processing capacity and capability by delivering e-waste reprocessing solutions and/or upgrades to existing e-waste reprocessing facilities. SV will provide up to $500,000 to purchase and install equipment and/or upgrade infrastructure at existing e-waste reprocessing facilities. Projects must address one or more of the below benefits and be completed by March 31, 2022.

  • build e-waste reprocessing capacity and capability in Victoria
  • improve the value of e-waste materials through better sorting and reprocessing of e-waste
  • increase recovered e-waste materials with secured end markets
  • align with the goals and directions in the SWRRIPand relevant regional and metropolitan waste and resource recovery infrastructure plan(s)
  • be located in and servicing Victoria

This funding conditional on a minimum co-contribution model towards total project cost. For applications by business/ industry, each $1 of funding must be matched by a $2 co-contribution.

While applications by local government or WRRGS, each $1 of funding must be matched by a $1 co-contribution.

The e-waste Collection and Storage grant

Projects focused on ensuring collection and storage of e-waste is conducted to a high standard are eligible for the collection and storage grant which also closes on March 31, 2022.

SV will provide funding of up to $100,000 for projects delivering fixed, semi-permanent e-waste infrastructure upgrades and alternate non-fixed collection and storage solutions such as an e-waste collection trailer.

Projects that meet the following criteria will be considered by SV for funding:

  • collection and storage projects must be designed and constructed in line with:
    • key requirements of the AS/NZS 5377: 2013
    • all relevant building codes
    • all OH&S Act requirements including Section 28
    • all relevant EPA requirements
    • any other relevant requirements that may not be listed.
  • projects in identified geographical e-waste collection gaps including:
    • eastern suburbs of Melbourne and Warrnambool.
  • other geographical locations with a demonstrated need which are located in and servicing Victoria

SA has stated that this funding type is conditional on a minimum co-contribution model towards total project cost. Applications by business/ industry, each $1 of SV funding must be matched by a $2 co-contribution while applications by local government or WRRGS, each $1 of SV funding must be matched by a $1 co-contribution.

KESAB CEO leaves environment educator after three decades

South Australia will farewell a waste industry and environmental champion when KESAB environmental solutions CEO, John Phillips retires in July after 31 years’ service.

KESAB chair, Ros DeGaris told Inside Waste that the future CEO would continue to grow KESAB’s role as SA’s leading non-government environmental sustainability educator.

She described John’s service to KESAB as exceptional and personal, that brought about massive growth to the organisation in capacity and value to the state and the nation.

“The work ethic of John Phillips has been truly outstanding across three decades of change and challenge that has enabled KESAB to be flexible, proactive and creative in delivering education programs to reach a wider community here and overseas,” she said.

“KESAB now works and delivers education on the global stage due to John’s excellent management skills and personable natural style.

“With a track record like this, it is imperative that a highly suitable, proactive and well-connected successor is secured. The total remuneration package will be dependent upon the skills, knowledge and experience of the preferred applicant who will start sometime in June.”

Speaking last year on the challenges ahead, Phillips said that KESAB believed that environmental sustainability action in response to all that is happening around us will require a hybrid mix of measures.

“These include measurable community behavioural change, continuing to build community resilience and capacity, sometimes with yet to be tried and tested strategies and actions, the likelihood of increased regulation and legislation to strengthen objectives meeting required outcomes and most importantly, a more urgent approach.”

“Outcomes achieved in the past year demonstrate that environmental sustainability education and engagement are increasingly becoming embedded in our everyday lifestyle, recreational and workplace action and behaviour. Such education is fundamental as the world around us transforms and embraces the circular economy”.

KESAB’s role to grow

Meanwhile, DeGaris said the future CEO would continue to grow KESAB’s role as SA’s leading non-government environmental sustainability educator.

“KESAB’s initiatives will focus on capacity building, professional development and training, underpinned by research and waste auditing which in turn, provide a platform to identify new opportunities to target problematic waste streams.

“The combination of our service agreements with Green Industries SA and Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges NRM and corporate partnerships such as those with Sims Metal Management and SA Water underpin new education materials and resources that allow KESAB to extend the reach and scope of its service,” DeGaris said.

She added that KESAB is increasingly in demand by business and industry to deliver waste and recycling auditing through its trained waste audit specialists to better understand waste streams and opportunities to identify new recycling and implement food waste to resources initiatives.

 

 

$24m push to councils to stem organics in landfill

Local councils along with the alternative waste industry, will receive $24 million from the NSW government to support improved kerbside separation of food and garden waste and encourage other better uses of waste.

According to NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, the funding will help local councils and industry adopt and improve sustainable management of organic waste while the government undertakes consultation. He said that the initiative would help reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, is financially viable and will create a beneficial product that helps improve soil health.

“We know from the $105 million investment currently provided under the Waste Less Recycle More initiative that recycling food and garden waste through a dedicated kerbside bin works,” Kean said.

“Already more than 40 councils across NSW have food and garden kerbside collections with good results. To help make this change, we’re investing $24 million to support local councils and industry operators which were putting organic waste in red bins to produce mixed waste organic outputs, Kean said.

The $24million investment includes:

  • $6.26 million Research and Development grant – available for alternative waste treatment operators to develop new products, purchase new equipment, undertake infrastructure and technology upgrades and develop new end markets for waste-derived products.
  • $5 million Local Council Food Organics Garden Organics (FOGO) grant – to support councils previously producing mixed waste organic outputs to plan for or improve FOGO collections through community education.
  • $12.5 million Local Council FOGO Infrastructure grant – to support councils previously producing MWOO to implement kerbside organic collection bins.
  • $240,000 The Greenlight Organics research package – to strengthen the evidence base and create momentum for kerbside source separation of organics.

According to an EPA spokesperson, along with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, the EPA will also undertake research into organics to improve investor confidence in collection and processing.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) is working to have grant documentation available soon, with grants due to open by mid-2020.

Funding may be continued

If the funding is not exhausted in the initial rounds funding may be continued, depending on demand. This is an interim boost while the 20-year Waste Strategy is under development which will bring industry, councils and the community together to find the best, long-term solutions for waste management and resource recovery in NSW.

The spokesperson added that, the NSW Government will provide stimulus funding to support local councils and the alternative waste industry with improving kerbside separation of food and garden waste and other better uses of waste.

“Organic waste can be a valuable resource and we want to make the best use of it. We also want to encourage innovative solutions to waste management,” he said.

Inside Waste spoke with Morne Hattingh, Tamworth Regional Council manager, waste and resource recovery who acknowledged the high associated costs of improving kerbside separation of food and garden waste and encouraging other better uses of waste.

“There are also many aspects involved in creating a circular economy where good quality resource recovered products move from kerbside collection to the open market. The recent funding announcement by the NSW government will assist Tamworth Regional Council in improving the separation of food and garden waste within our Local Government Area. Whilst this a welcome first step in the right direction further funding will be necessary to materialise the circular economy,” Hattingh explained.

She added that the council will utilise the funding provided by the government to off-set the cost of implementing basic auditing systems and communication campaigns that will help educate residents on the importance of separating waste.

“Source separation is the first intervention point in the recycling system. Focusing on effective waste separation is imperative as it has a knock on effect that, if done well, can positively influence consumer behaviour.”

NSW signals imminent plastic bag ban

Two weeks after the Victorian government released a comprehensive resource recovery strategy and a week after Australia’s first Plastics Summit, the NSW Government has called on the state community to contribute to its plan to tackle single-use plastics, reduce waste and pollution and increase recycling across the State.

The government has released two papers which include a Plastics Plan aimed at managing plastic waste and pollution in the state, and an issues paper that will shape the 20-year waste strategy.

NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian said that the community had high expectations and the government needed to ensure it created the best plans for the future.

“We know that we need to do a better job of dealing with our waste and delivering sustainable solutions. The NSW Plastics Plan and 20 Year Waste Strategy will be key to ensuring that NSW is a leader when it comes to reducing waste, maximising recycling and protecting our environment,” Berejiklian said.

“We also want to make sure any businesses potentially affected by phase-outs have enough time to adjust and source sustainable alternatives.”

Clear pathway

The NSW Plastics Plan discussion paper Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW, outlines a clear pathway to reduce single-use, unnecessary and problematic plastics in NSW and help build its circular economy. Feedback can be made on the discussion paper until Friday, May 8.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean explained that the Plastics Plan set the stage for the phase-out of priority single-use plastics, tripling the proportion of plastic recycled by 2030 and reducing plastic litter by a quarter.

“Lightweight plastic bags are proposed to be phased out six months from the passage of legislation with other timelines to be determined after feedback from the public consultation process.”

Meanwhile, the waste strategy canvasses options to reduce waste and increase recycling, outlines the opportunities and strategic direction for future waste and recycling infrastructure, and for growing sustainable end markets for recycled materials.

Government delay

NSW Labor shadow minister for environment and heritage, Kate Washington pointed to the state government’s delay in addressing the state plastics crisis with its decision to block a Labor bill to ban single use plastic bags in October 2019.

“This came despite broad support for action within the government and state parliament,” Washington said. She also voiced concern that this consultation would continue a cycle of inaction by the government.

However, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO, Gayle Sloan said that the NSW Plastics Plan and 20 Year Waste Strategy were encouraging and would  assist with getting the industry back on track in the state.

“Australia absolutely needs to transition away from the current take, make and dispose approach and recognise that valuable natural resources must be designed and used in such a way to manage out waste, and ensure the ability to re-use, repair and recycle. Unless this transition occurs, industry agrees with the government’s sentiment that we will never be able to achieve the targets set, or sadly, create the environment in which we want to live in,” Sloan said.

“Plastics remain at the forefront of the community’s mind and it is encouraging that NSW is looking to align with other jurisdictions to design out unnecessary single–use items. It also appears that NSW is prepared to go further, with mandated recycled content of 30% by 2025 and emphasis on designing out waste and making producers take greater responsibility for collecting and recycling in NSW, including the possible use of more extended producer responsibility schemes. These are all positive policies that may result in less reliance on councils and householders to meet the costs of these schemes,” she added.

Industry remains under pressure

Sloan also acknowledged that the papers’ discussions and plans for market development and infrastructure, were both important, particularly as NSW’s waste and resource recovery industry remained under immense pressure.

Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA) executive director Tony Khoury told InsideWaste that the NSW waste and recycling industry was currently facing many challenges, including increased regulations leading to complexity and higher compliance costs, increasing insurance premiums, tightening end-product specifications, with decreasing end markets, loss of kerbside materials to CDS, decreasing revenues for commodities and compliance costs for C&D recycled products.

He added that there was also no agreed procedure for dealing with a small piece of asbestos in C&D recycling and that fires, fatalities and accidents had led to the formation of a WCRA WHS Group.

Key issues

Khoury was clear in describing these detailed requisites that the industry needed from its regulators:

  • a level commercial playing field
  • regulations that provide certainty
  • consultation and acknowledgment of the content of discussions
  • a regulatory environment that allows waste and recyclables to be managed in a safe, sustainable & environmentally sound manner
  • regulations, laws and proper practices to be enforced by all bodies
  • funding

“It is our hope that the much-anticipated NSW Government’s 20-year waste strategy addresses these key issues,” he said.