Australia 2030: the new vision of a less wasteful Australia
In late 2018, a new National Waste Policy was released, promising less waste and more resources. The policy is a collaborative effort by federal, state and local government and pledges that the “2018 National Waste Policy embodies a circular economy, shifting away from ‘take, make, use and dispose’ to a more circular approach where we maintain the value of resources for as long as possible.”
The new policy is the first update since 2009 and follows the United Nations and European Union goals of building a working circular economy by 2030. This policy is, however, a high-level guide and does not commit to specific targets. In late 2018, the targets for the policy were abandoned as the states and territories could not agree to a common set of goals.
Instead, the policy sets out five key principles for all government, industry and Australian’s to support.
Our National Waste Policy Principles
1. Avoid waste:
a. Prioritise waste avoidance, encourage efficient use, reuse and repair
b. Design products so waste is minimised, they are made to last and we can more easily recover materials.
The first principle focuses on waste reduction across households and industry. Australians generate 2.23kg of waste per person, per day. This is almost twice the global average of 1.2kg.
The below graph shows daily municipal solid waste (MSW) generation per capita worldwide in 2018, by select country (in kilograms)
When compared to other similar countries in the OECD, Australia is still producing 9% more MSW (otherwise known as household garbage). The 2018 National Waste Report states that "the average MSW waste generation across the reported countries was around 500 kg per capita. Australia’s adjusted MSW waste generation was about 540 kg per capita or 9% higher than the average".
The National Waste Policy strategies for reduction of waste include supporting businesses and households identify how they can reduce waste, focusing on a waste hierarchy and designing systems that maximise all materials at every stage of a product’s life.
2. Improve resource recovery:
a. Improve material collection systems and processes for recycling
b. Improve the quality of recycled material we produce.
When it comes to recycling, Australia is again falling behind our OECD allies with only 46% of all MSW being recycled (compared to the average of 50%). When including all waste, our recycling rates improve slightly, however, we are still behind in resource recovery and disposal:
A strategy to increase recycling rates would be the introduction of a national container deposit scheme. Container Deposit Schemes are proven to increase recycling and resource recovery, however, not all states in Australia have implemented a system. Further, a national system would arguably increase ease in the system and encourage more people to take up recycling. As shown through the process with the National Waste Policy, state endorsement of plans can be extremely difficult – even when all states want the same outcomes. However, the establishment of a national container deposit scheme would be a symbolic first step for a more strategic national recycling and waste management plan.
The National Waste Policy’s strategies for this principle focus on working with industry to develop more capacity for recycling, as well as exploring international market opportunities to counteract the China import ban on recycled goods.
3. Increase use of recycled material and build demand and markets for recycled products.
The National Waste Policy highlights its desire to create domestic and international markets for recycled products. This means that globally, it is an opportune time for the recycling industry to invest in innovative technologies which support streamlining the production of recycled goods.
The key is investment in advanced manufacturing to produce – or reproduce – recycled goods here in Australia. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation argues that globally, 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80-120 billion (USD) annually, is lost to the economy. The introduction of innovative technology for a sustainable industry would further increase jobs and drive Australia towards the circular economy. The National Waste Policy states that New products and new technologies are changing the way we create and manage materials. Changing international markets are affecting the final destinations for recycled materials. Together, this means that improving Australia’s domestic resource recovery capacity and sustainable consumption is critical. A hypothetical five per cent improvement in efficient use of materials across the Australian economy could benefit Australia’s GDP by as much as $24 billion.
4. Better manage material flows to benefit human health, the environment and the economy.
The fourth principle in the policy focuses on improving waste management systems. This includes chemical and hazardous waste, as well as reducing organic waste.
For households, organic waste is one of the key ways to support the national waste reduction agenda. In Australia, around a third of landfill waste bins routinely contain recyclables or green waste. Further, it is estimated that 16.5Million tonnes of C02e (Carbon Dioxide equivalent) are released each year from food waste and 5.3Million tonnes of food ends up in landfill each year.
It is important for all Australians to understand how to deposit green waste correctly. Container Deposit Systems has outlined how all Australians can support this agenda here: https://www.containerdepositsystems.com.au/articles/green-waste-recycling
5. Improve information to support innovation, guide investment and enable informed consumer decisions
The government is dedicated to capturing data and reporting on waste management in Australia. Even though the National Waste Policy took nine years to update, the government does release a National Waste Report regularly which highlights the improvements (or otherwise) in waste management at a state, national and international level.
The policy has also identified market development and research as a key strategy. Identifying new international markets to take recycled materials is a short-term necessity for the government. In March 2019, India has followed China with banning imports of raw products for recycling. This is a large concern for the government as there is now a high risk for Australia’s recycling industry that Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia follow this trend.
Where to from here?
In an interview, The Australian Council of Recycling’s chief executive Peter Shmigel called for a proportion of the $1.5 billion that’s raised by state governments through hidden waste disposal levies, or currently allocated by the federal government to initiatives that don’t produce regional jobs, to be spent on recycling infrastructure.
Container Deposit Systems believes in order to create the desired circular economy, the next step from the government is dedicated investment to fund innovation within the recycled products manufacturing industry. As a country, Australia is performing OK when it comes to recycling and recovery rates. And whilst there is much room for investment here, there is room for improvements within the current established system.
Where Australia needs more investment is in the product manufacturing stage. We need more focus on not just recycling collection but on the remanufacturing of recycled products.
(National Waste Policy 2018)
Australia has the opportunity to become a leader in the recycled products field – in both manufacturing and research and development. It’s now up to the government and the industry to commit the investment and effort required to bridge this gap.
About Container Deposit Systems
Container Deposit Systems was formed with a vision to oversee the implementation of improved operational practices in recycling facilities. The company offers a range of services to recycling depot facilities to drive productivity improvements and transition traditional recycling facilities into modern technically advanced operators.
The company achieve this through patented technologies which deliver manufacturing automation to auto-sort materials via a highly sensitive multi-sensor integration. Systems integrations enable facilities to further gain efficiencies through workflows, materials handling, logistic processes, facility layout and design, customer interaction and data acquisition and management.
Container Deposit Systems technologies are designed and manufactured in Australia with local partners Sage Automation and Macweld Engineering.
For more information, please contact us directly.
 http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/d523f4e9-d958-466b-9fd1-3b7d6283f006/files/national-waste-policy-2018.pdf | Centre for International Economics, Final report: Headline economic value for waste and materials efficiency in Australia, 27 October 2017