Prime Minister Announces New Recycling Policy; “Less Waste, More Jobs”

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Scott Morrison has announced changes to the Commonwealth’s procurement rules to factor in recycled products in the face of increasing demand and changes to the ability to export plastic waste, calling for “less waste” and “more jobs.”

The raft of changes to the procurement rules comes as demand increases, with a new necessity for “industry to respond,” according to the PM.

“Through months of consultation with industry, consumers, retailers and brand-owners, the one issue everyone comes back to is the need to increase demand for recycled products,” he told the National Plastics Summit in Canberra. “We’ve used Commonwealth procurement policy to energise our Indigenous businesses - and we’ve had a tremendous success,’ Morrison added.

The updated procurement policy states that all agencies will have to consider the use of recycled products as well as sustainability in their planning phases and as a factor for determining their value in the future. “The Commonwealth stands ready to work with the states to co-invest in these critical infrastructure facilities and with industry,” Morrison said.

“We are working with state and territory governments to identify and unlock the critical upgrades that will lead to a step-change in recycling capacity. We will invest with governments and with industry on a one-to-one-to-one basis.”

“Scientists estimate that in just 30 years’ time, the weight of plastics in our oceans will exceed the weight of fish in our oceans- that’s appalling,” Morrison added.

Just a few weeks ago, Infrastructure Australia officially listed waste management and recycling initiatives amongst the five highest priorities, while calling for Australia to improve its 55% recycling rate to more than 70%.

Peter Shmigel, chief executive at the Australian Council of Recycling said that “a summit that puts substance before stylistics is what we need to deal with the plastics problem,” adding that “we need to get smarter with the plastic we do use, especially ensuring its recyclability, and that plastic products are made with lower-emissions, domestically-sourced recycled resin ASAP,” he concluded.

“Different countries have tried this in different ways but, true to our principles, my government will not take a top-down, tax and punish approach - we want to encourage and incentivize the best.”

According to government figures, just 12 per cent of the 103kg of plastic waste generated by each and every Australian per year is recycled- and of that figure, it’s mostly recycled overseas.

“Plastic that is designed effectively, used correctly, recycled reliably, and remanufactured creatively can stay in the economy almost indefinitely with little environmental impact. But too often, plastic products are not designed to be reused or recycled.”

In a 2019 statement, the Minister for Science and Technology, Karen Andrews said that further funding “will strengthen Australia’s recycling industry and help us achieve higher recycling rates,” adding that “boosting our onshore plastic recycling industry has the potential to create over three times as many jobs as exporting our plastic waste, ensuring a more sustainable and prosperous future.”

According to a report from The SBS “At the summit, Nestle and Australian recycler iQ Renew announced a trial collecting soft plastics from more than 100,000 homes through kerbside recycling and diverted from landfill… McDonald’s is also announcing plans to move away from single-use plastics.”

Attendees of the summit included New Zealand’s Minister of Conservation, Euginie Sage, the Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, environment ministers for the states and territories as well as the Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Kosi Latu.

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