Recycling water bottles

The transformation of Australia into a recycling powerhouse

Chris Hambling Principal Consultant
Chris Hambling

Chris is a waste, recycling and resource recovery specialist and environmental project manager with over 15 years’ industry experience. He has overseen the delivery and stakeholder engagement across a range of significant waste and resource recovery policy reforms in Queensland, and program managed the development of Queensland’s recently released Energy from Waste policy and reforms to other waste related legislation. Chris also has specialist experience and understanding of pollution, groundwater, surface water, soils, contamination, and carbon accounting, gained from working on projects in both Australia and the UK.

Legislation to regulate and limit the export of unprocessed waste has now passed both houses in a clear step towards driving the onshore processing of recyclables and the transformation of Australia into a recycling powerhouse.

Stemming from the updated National Waste Policy, the National Waste Policy Action Plan and subsequent COAG meeting commitments a waste export ban will come into effect for waste glass, plastics, tyres and paper beginning with glass on the 1st of January 2021. All in, the Commonwealth Government seeks to drive collective action by business, government, communities, and individuals to see significant change by 2030.

The legislation will also provide for the repeal of the Product Stewardship Act, which has been under review for several years, adopting the recommendations of the review into the new Recycling and Waste Reduction Act. This includes the continuation of provisions for existing accredited voluntary and coregulatory arrangements to avoid disruption.

The passing of legislation is supported by an unprecedented level of investment and available support in Australia, including the $190 million Federal Recycling Modernisation Fund, and state and local government initiatives such as Queensland’s $100 million Resource Recovery Industry Development Program.

The level of commitment and funding available gives a much-needed support to the recycling and resource recovery sector, at a time where it is increasingly under pressure due to impacts including the China Sword policy and COVID-19.

The future of recycling in Australia demands the establishment of economically viable markets, whether onshore or off, that take material that would otherwise be disposed of and reprocess them. Gaining sufficient certainty for investment can take time and expertise. It was recently reported that, so far, no funds had been allocated from the CEFC managed Recycling Investment Fund. The imposition of export bans may change this, but government certainty is critical.

The transition to a truly circular economy must be supported by long-term policy, consistency between states and territories, as well as effective and coordinated market development opportunities. These mechanisms take time and we must be patient.

Work is still needed on supporting those looking to invest, however, this is not just about throwing money at a problem. Proponents need expertise to understand the market and regulatory environment, assess feedstock, enter legally binding supply contracts, locate sites and gain environmental and planning approvals.

With a proven track record spanning more than 25 years, SLR is well placed to assist delivering independent, commercially focused advice to waste generators, service operators, infrastructure developers, funders, and the state and local governments. Feel free to contact me if you require assistance or further information.

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