The Morrison recession Budget is replete with recycled announcements when Australia desperately needs recycling achievements.
In July the Minister for Environment announced the $190 million Recycling Modernisation Fund. It was re-announced last week. Meanwhile last year’s $100 million Recycling Investment Fund has not advanced a single dollar, and last year’s $20 million National Product Stewardship Investment Fund has not made a single grant.
In March at the slickly-packaged Plastics Summit the Prime Minister said there would be reform to Commonwealth procurement arrangements in order to create demand for recycled material. That still hasn’t occurred and there is a risk the Government’s infrastructure splurge will be contracted before the procurement changes are made.
In order to improve Australia’s poor rate of recycling when it comes to environmentally harmful materials, like plastic, it’s vital that we dramatically improve our local reprocessing and manufacturing capacity. But that will only be viable if there are end-markets for this material. In addition to supportive procurement policy there needs to be greater producer responsibility when it comes to product design and the incorporation of recycled content.
The Australian community and our waste and resource management sector are crying out for national leadership through reforms that would not only reduce landfill and plastic pollution, but actually build the foundation of a sustainable and circular economy in which materials are recycled and re-used, and waste is reduced to the bare minimum. This should in turn create new business opportunities and jobs, while pioneering innovations that support better waste and resource outcomes in our region.
In its Budget papers the government promises 10,000 jobs will be created through the diversion from landfill and remanufacture of 10 million tonnes of recyclables over the next decade. In May last year they promised $120 million in two key recycling support programs, and 15 months later not a single dollar has been delivered. Oddly, the Morrison government is so keen to puff-up its waste claims that the National Waste Action Plan blurb appears twice in the Regional Ministerial Budget Statement. Needless to say it would be better to say it once, say it accurately, and act on it.
The truth is that plucking numbers out of the air is easy. Making the changes required to address Australia’s waste crisis requires leadership, effective policy, and programs that are actually implemented.