Recycling investment better late than never

Published on Mon 6 July 2020 10:33am

Labor welcomes today’s announcement by the government that the Commonwealth will invest $190 million into a Recycling Modernisation Fund through a set of shared funding arrangements with the states, territories, and industry. But it means the Morrison Government has waited more than a year to come forward with any meaningful support to what is clearly a national waste crisis.

This long overdue announcement should help address a major gap in local reprocessing capacity at a time when investing in sustainable jobs is key. We look forward to further detail about the funding and especially the timelines, considering it is 6 months until the ban on glass exports and 12 months until the ban on plastic exports.

And let’s be clear, recycling and reprocessing infrastructure is only one part of the major reform needed to deal with Australia’s waste crisis.  Recycled material needs a commercial end-user and it is folly to think the market is ready to deal with the anticipated volume.

Industry knows we need action across the full waste-to-resource-to-manufacturing cycle. That requires innovation to design-out waste and design-in re-use and recycling; it requires product stewardship reform so that producers take responsibility for the life cycle of their products; it requires further improvements to collection and sorting, and infrastructure for recycling and reprocessing infrastructure; and it requires procurement to support demand at a necessary scale to kick-off what should be a job-creating surge in Australian manufacturing.

Unfortunately today’s announcement is belated action on one part of that integrated picture. It does not address the critical area of regulatory reform – indeed after two years we are still waiting on the completion of a 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 related mechanisms.  

So far the Morrison Government has commissioned an independent analysis that shows Australia may require a 400% increase in recycling infrastructure capacity to cope with the additional waste from the export ban, and a Plastic Waste Summit at which no clear policy or funding was announced.

Labor has always said that direct funding for the strengthening of Australia’s waste industry is vital, which is why we promised $60 million for a national recycling fund during the 2019 election. Until today, all Scott Morrison was willing to offer was repackaged funding that was already available in the form of loans through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.  And only last month we learned that not one cent from this fund had yet been allocated.

The Morrison Government has been slow to act on what they acknowledge is a crisis, yet there is no time to waste.

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