With Christmas in four days, and the first waste export ban due to start on 1 January, the Morrison Government looks set to fail on the delivery of key targets within its own National Waste Policy Action Plan.
Promised by the end of 2020 the government’s national plastics plan is still nowhere to be seen. At the same time the latest ABS Waste Account data shows that since 2016-17, Australia’s recycling rate for plastics has dropped from an already unacceptably low 12 per cent to 9 per cent.
At the National Plastics Summit in March this year Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the acute problem with waste plastic, especially in terms of its impact on our marine environment. While very little of substance was put forward at the carefully packaged event, the few commitments made have not been delivered.
Indeed, the list of missed targets that were to be achieved this year include by:
- A national plastics plan to increase recycling rates and reduce plastic pollution;
- Reform to the Commonwealth sustainable procurement guide with targets for the use of recycled material;
- Support of recycling infrastructure through the ‘centrepiece’ Australian Recycling Investment fund (not a single dollar has been advanced); and
- National standards and specifications for the use of recycled content in capital works projects, especially road and rail, and baseline levels for recycled content in road construction.
While the Government wants to hang its environmental policy hat on the passage of the relatively lightweight Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill, it remains predictably silent about its failure to address the key reforms needed to move towards a circular economy, namely: infrastructure, procurement, producer responsibility, and labelling.
If Scott Morrison wants the Australian people to take him seriously, he needs to deliver less packaging and more substance, fewer claims and more haste.
Unfortunately it appears the Morrison Government will continue its approach of responding to Australia’s waste crisis with throwaway lines and recycled announcements.