Government recycling program in crisis

Published on Thu 1 July 2021 7:12am

The Morrison Government’s 1 July export ban on mixed plastics is in disarray after industry confirmed that Australia was not ready to reprocess additional plastics from 1 July, which means plastic may go into landfill or be dangerously stockpiled.

Despite being warned by the government’s own commissioned report that stockpiling and landfilling of mixed plastic was not a low risk as result of its reforms, there are no contingency plans in place.

The only response from the Minister for Environment is to blame the sector, the states and territories, and local government.

Information provided via a recent Senate inquiry into Hazardous Waste shows the government was put on notice of this risk more than a year ago.

In May, Departmental officials confirmed that Scott Morrison’s claims about improving recycling infrastructure had failed the delivery test, with the Recycling Modernisation Fund having disbursed only 2 per cent of $190m.

So far only $4.5 million has been spent relevant waste reprocessing projects. That follows the utter failure of the $100 million Australian Recycling Investment Fund (announced May 2019) which has not advanced a single dollar.

At the same time the Government has failed to implement effective product stewardship measures to ensure companies get serious about taking responsibility for their waste, and failed to implement Commonwealth procurement targets, which were promised by December 2020.

This lack of action comes after two years of grandstanding from a Government that is desperate to use waste and recycling as a fig leaf to distract from their broader failures on environmental protection and climate change. In the Prime Minister’s 2019 address to the United Nations he stated:

‘To protect our oceans, Australia is committed to leading urgent action to combat plastic pollution choking our oceans, tackle overexploitation of our fisheries, prevent ocean habitat destruction, and take action on climate change.’’

But the facts speak for themselves— while this Coalition Government has indulged in a lot of shiny waste reform packaging, the package itself is empty.

The Australian environment will bear the brunt of that failure as we continue to miss opportunities to create new industries and jobs in the circular economy.

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