China, as reported by the ABC, has recently changed its legislations to ban the import of 24 different categories of foreign waste.
Industry has signalled to government for a long time that relying on the export markets for recyclables was dangerous and now we find ourselves, with the change in China's legislation, walking towards this inevitability.
"Whilst stockpiling is a legitimate business practice, we know that the community is not happy with simply stockpiling recyclable materials, they rightly want this material to be used in making other products in Australia- reducing reliance on natural material," said Gayle Sloan, WMAA CEO.
Australia needs to act now to ensure that the Circular Economy is real, which means consumers, industry, government and generators of waste starting to work together and think a bit differently to use recycled material in as many products as possible that we make here.
"It is not enough that products we purchase in Australia are capable of being recycled, we need to ensure that they are also made from recycled material," said Ms Sloan, "in this way we can create real demand for commodities like those that households put in their yellow bins."
This is simply too important an issue for the Federal Environment and Energy Minister, Josh Freydenberg to continue to repeat his mantra "it is up to the States," this is one that the Federal Government actually needs to "step up to the plate on," said Ms Sloan.
At all levels of Government, including National, we need to put policies in place that support the development of sustainable secondary markets for recycled materials.
"The best first step would be sustainable procurement being introduced nationally by all, allowing government to actually walk the talk and model these behaviours," said Gayle Sloan.
The added benefit of moving to a Circular Economy is increased job creation. Studies have found that for every 1 job involved in landfilling 10,000 tonnes of waste, over 4 can be created through recycling. Investment in new recycling infrastructure creates construction jobs and economic activity that provides a real boost to local economies. While the change in China's legislation can be seen as a short-term "crisis" in reality the change to a Circular Economy will not only bring long term employment, through Green-Collar manufacturing, but also sustainable economic growth.
"We have seen the change that programs like War on Waste have had on supermarkets; let's get the changes we need to ensure that packagers are using recycled products as an input in all they do – but we cannot do this without the support of Government," said Gayle Sloan.
Container Deposit Schemes are being introduced nationally, and while this is a great way to collect containers for recycling, the key is that the recycled product made in Australia is used by the beverage companies that participate in this scheme take it back and use it in their packaging. Only then we will be circular and fix some of these issues.
WMAA and the industry have had semi-circular conversation with the industry, generators, and the community – all of whom want to see a change to a Circular Economy as quickly as possible, as we all see the benefits. Hopefully China will force the governments hand to join us at the table and close the loop.
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