Yesterday’s consideration of the waste crisis by the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) was notable for the ongoing lack of direction and action from the Morrison Government, seven months after announcing an export waste ban.
Since that time the government has received a report that indicates there will need to be a 400% increase in recycling infrastructure, and held a Plastic Waste Summit at which no clear policy or funding was announced.
The ‘response strategy’ issued yesterday simply restates the details of the government’s $167M so-called Recycling Investment Package, of which $100M is repackaged funds that were already available through the CEFC, and $16M is money shifted from the regional aid budget for the Pacific Ocean Litter Project.
It is past time for the Morrison government to take clear action in the three key areas of product stewardship, infrastructure investment, and procurement policy.
Yet there is still no detail on the quantum or focus of any co-investment scheme for recycling infrastructure. There is still no detail on regulatory reform – indeed after 18 months we are still waiting for review of the Product Stewardship Act. And there is still no detail on how demand for recycled content will be supported through meaningful procurement targets and mechanisms. The reference to amending procurement guidelines is worryingly vague and not likely to be an effective basis for investment.
While the acknowledgement of the specific waste management issues in rural and regional areas is welcome, and the government has belatedly followed the states and territories in their move to adopt container deposit schemes by agreeing to the creation of a Container Deposit Scheme Jurisdictional Committee, the Australian community is still waiting for the Morrison government to grasp the nettle of our growing waste problems.
In the face of the current crisis it’s important to remember that plastic recycling infrastructure capacity is worse today than it was in 2005, and the proportion of packaging that contains recycled content has also fallen.
The waste crisis will not be fixed by relabelling old funding, failing to implement existing recommendations, and holding shiny but insubstantial summits.
The Morrison government has to stop talking rubbish and respond to community concerns with meaningful policies and serious resources, not bureaucratic waffle and repackaged funds.