House debates

Monday, 9 August 2021

Private Members' Business

Waste Management and Recycling

10:37 am

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that the 2021-22 budget continues to support significant reforms in Australia's onshore waste and recycling industries, including:

(a) $67 million to support new food and garden organic waste initiatives that assist Australian households to better understand what can be recycled, divert the amount of waste going to landfill and produce top quality compost;

(b) an additional $5.9 million to expand the existing National Product Stewardship Investment Fund to invest in innovative industry-led solutions to improve the way products are designed, reused, repaired and recycled; and

(c) $5 million to help small businesses to adopt the Australasian Recycling Label to help make recycling easier and to boost recycling rates;

(2) further notes that the $190 million Recycling Modernisation Fund is leveraging more than $600 million of investment in state-of-the-art recycling infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture waste materials onshore; and

(3) congratulates the Government for its leadership in driving a once in a generation $1 billion transformation of our waste and recycling industries that will reduce Australia's waste footprint by 10 million tonnes, protect our environment and create more than 10,000 jobs over the next decade.

It's a great privilege to be able to move this motion in this chamber, Mr Speaker, because as you and I and other members in this chamber know, one of the foundation pillars of being a Liberal is a sense of responsibility to ourselves and to each other—as well as to our environment, to steward it for future generations. A critical part of this is the challenge of waste and resource management. In fact, one of the reasons why I am a free-marketeer is that I believe in the efficient use of the world's scarce resources. The way to do that is through the utilisation and repurposing of waste and making it valuable, as part of a circular economy, so that people want to use it and re-use it and not needlessly diminish the world's scarce resources.

Part of the challenge of doing that is making sure that government measures are there to support and incentivise the efficient use of the world's scarce resources: to repurpose them, reuse them, make sure they have a continued life and value-add to the Australian community and economy and stop the diminution of other resources into the future. That's why the Commonwealth government, the Morrison government, has made such a strong priority of Australia's waste and recycling industries, particularly, of course, from the leadership of the Prime Minister but also from the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, the member for Brisbane, who has made this a core part of his work. We congratulate him as well for his contribution.

Australia currently generates 2.94 million tonnes of waste each year, 60 per cent of which is recycled and the rest thrown away, ending up in landfill; being sent overseas, often, to be burnt; or in our ocean. Plastic pollution is choking our precious waterways. In just 30 years time there'll be more plastic than fish in our oceans. This is why we are so strongly committed to practical pathways that address recycling and reduce the amount of waste that goes into the ocean, including through the billion-dollar transformation of our waste and recycling industry, which includes $190 million for our Recycling Modernisation Fund to leverage over $600 million of recycling infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture waste materials.

As many members will know, previously Australia has, as many countries have, simply exported our waste for a fee. Now we are taking responsibility for it, as we should. There is $100 million for the Australian Recycling Investment Fund, for products using clean energy technologies to support recycling. There is $49.4 million to help halve Australia's food waste by 2030. I know that my own local councils Bayside and Glen Eira are investing significantly in what they call FOGO to make sure there's a reduction in food waste, including the regularised pick-up, I understand, from next year of food and garden waste, with landfill waste pick-ups reduced to every second week to try and incentivise and encourage households to do the right thing.

We have the National Waste Policy Action Plan, to reduce waste, increase recycling rates and build capacity in our domestic recycling industry, including $59.6 million to the National Waste Policy Action Plan from the Commonwealth, to implement the waste export ban and to improve our waste data, because if you know the nature of the problem you can help fix it. There is $7.8 million on product stewardship for oil containers; a world-leading ban on the export of waste, plastic, paper, glass and tyres; $20 million for projects to reduce plastic waste and boost plastic recycling. At every point, we're implementing practical plans that will improve the recycling and waste management industries in this country as part of the broader framework of our environmental agenda to make sure that it's not just rhetoric but we're delivering in communities across our states and of course across the Commonwealth.

We should also celebrate those people who see the opportunity and seize it, not just to take responsibility, though that is a critical part of the conversation and something that we can all do. They see how there are opportunities in waste management and recycling—companies like SomerSide, which was founded by Gabby Samkova, who I've spoken about previously in this chamber, a 27-year-old Brighton local who creates towels using recycled plastic bottles. Each towel contains around 14 used plastic bottles that would otherwise have gone into landfill. It is stories like Gabby's that highlight how enterprise can come off the back of recycling to repurpose items in a circular economy and reduce waste. There are companies like CopperRock, a waste and recycling centre that's based in Cheltenham. It is owned by John, who began his stint in the industry 23 years ago, working as skip truck driver. They have an enormous amount of experience, working with local soccer clubs and community organisations to reduce their waste footprint.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Celia HammondCelia Hammond (Curtin, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

10:43 am

Photo of Josh WilsonJosh Wilson (Fremantle, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] I'm glad to speak on this motion. The issue of waste and recycling is very important. The problem of waste in Australia, and in our world, is massive. It's also a big opportunity. We can move towards a more sustainable set of arrangements, and, by doing so, we can see new industry and new manufacturing created.

It's a big problem because it's a fundamentally broken market. We heard the member for Goldstein spout his credentials as a free marketeer. If you were a free marketeer and you looked at the circumstances worldwide and in Australia when it comes to waste and recycling, you'd run through all of your hankies, having a very bitter weep, because this is a profoundly broken market, where companies produce items according to a linear model, resources get used once, they get turned into things that are often disposed of after very brief use and then they get left in our environment, and the cost falls on all of us. Until we address that broken market, we're going to see more of the same.

We're going to see a continuation of the eight million tonnes annually of plastic that goes into the ocean that accumulate in fish and birds and that is finding its way into us. We've seen nanoparticles of plastic in rainfall. We are finding plastic in species that live in the deepest ocean trenches on the planet. Until we do something about that, it's going to keep getting worse. A circular economy is a sustainable economy. It means we use the limited resources that we have better, and we need to do more of that.

The government's made a big song and dance about waste and recycling, essentially as a fig leaf to cover its failures in other areas of environmental stewardship. The member for Goldstein talks about environmental stewardship, but we've seen precious little of that from this government after three terms, three prime ministers and nine years. It presides over a failed environmental protection framework that sees more and more Australian species pushed to the edge of extinction, and it has taken no action on climate change. Along it comes with this zeal for waste and recycling, but, sadly, despite sprinkling money here and there and making announcements and talking a good game when it comes to the circular economy, it's failed when it comes to waste and recycling too. The numbers don't lie, as is always the case. Australia barely recycles 10 per cent of its plastic. That has not changed under this government.

You think about the big pieces that need to be addressed—infrastructure on the one hand, product stewardship on the other—and there's been literally no new infrastructure created under this government to deal with processing material and recycling material for reuse. The $100 million Recycling Investment Fund that the member for Goldstein mentioned didn't advance a single dollar until just recently, and then it only advanced funds for a project that was already going ahead. None of the new infrastructure facilities that have been agreed with the states and territories have been delivered. There have been no new co-regulatory product stewardship schemes. If you look at something like APCO, a voluntary scheme, it hasn't even been accredited yet. It has targets, like trying to achieve 20 per cent incorporation of recycled material into plastic packaging by 2025. Twenty per cent is its target, and where we sitting now? We're sitting at four per cent.

We are doing abysmally when it comes to these things, because the government has essentially been late to the game. It's taken a hands-off approach. Its initiatives have failed. The funding mechanisms have not seen a dollar landed. We've switched off the exporting of mixed plastics, which is a good thing, but it was forced on us by the decision of other countries that they would no longer take our low-quality waste. The reality is: we've got nowhere for that 75,000 tonnes of mixed plastics to go. If you talk to people in the industry at the moment, they will tell you quite openly that those mixed plastics are going into landfill.

This is the government that crows about what it's done when it comes to waste and recycling. What it's done is recognised the realities internationally when it comes to not being able to send our low-quality contaminated waste to be burnt or thrown into rivers in other countries. It hasn't introduced one operational piece of infrastructure yet, and mixed plastics will be going into landfill. We need less talk, fewer fig leaves, less of the tricked-up self-congratulation and more cold-eyed focus on the failures of this government when it comes to waste and recycling.

10:48 am

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to thank the member for Goldstein for moving this motion today, and I'm proud to make a contribution to it. Just like him, I'm a waste warrior and I care deeply about our environment as well.

Many Australians won't know that the average Australian generates nearly three tonnes of waste every year and that more than a tonne of this is thrown away, relegated to landfills, sent overseas, burnt or dumped into the ocean—until now. This thing has changed in Australia. We know that almost 60 kilograms of plastic waste per person is produced each year, and that if plastic pollution continues, as it has, in 30 years our precious seas will be home to more plastic than fish. This is not a world any of us want to live in. The Morrison government unequivocally showed its support in the last budget by funding waste reduction measures, increasing recycling rates and building capacity in Australia's recycling industry. You cannot do this without industry and sector capacity. I'm proud to recall our parliamentary inquiry into our recycling industry; I encourage all to look at its final report, From rubbish to resources: building a circular economy,and its 24 recommendations.

The Morrison government is driving a $1 billion transformation of the industry. Putting $190 million towards the Recycling Modernisation Fund will allow millions in infrastructure to be leveraged in order to sort, process and manufacture waste materials. Not only will this allow Australia to phase in recycling of 645,000 tonnes every year, in alignment with the Morrison government's world-leading export ban—as the Prime Minister has said, 'It's our waste, it's our responsibility'; this fund will create 10,000 new jobs over the next 10 years by expanding Australia's recycling industry and infrastructure. That translates to an increase of 32 per cent of jobs in the Australian waste and recycling sector.

I was very pleased to speak to the Australian waste conference earlier this year. All the Australian states and territories, bar Northern Territory, have Recycling Modernisation Fund agreements in place, with 52 new infrastructure projects across the country. Just one instance is in Victoria: the Morrison government has funded equipment to produce a new patented system for concrete slab foundations made from 100 per cent recycled plastic. This kind of innovation is valued by the government, and grants like this will continue as Australia phases in our waste export ban.

The Morrison government is establishing a Food Waste for Healthy Soils Fund to divert 3.4 million tonnes of organic material from landfill for productive use in agricultural soils. This is all about returning today's organic waste back to the soil to ensure that soil grows our food for tomorrow, and our topsoil in Australia needs this organic waste. By achieving the Morrison government's goal of 80 per cent recovery for organic waste Australia will generate $401 million in industry value and add that to the Australian economy. It will create up to 2,700 additional jobs and it will avoid over two million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Morrison government has also committed $20 million towards product stewardship, whereby responsibility is shared for managing the environmental impacts of products we use every day. Gone are the days when companies can wilfully ignore their products' ongoing environmental effects. The Morrison government is committed to this, and 20 businesses have already been supported through this scheme. One of those organisations is the Australian Food and Grocery Council, which has been granted less than a million dollars to work to bring the food and grocery supply chain together to deliver a national scheme to enhance the collection and processing of plastic packaging. If you go into your supermarket you can already see these sorts of initiatives being rolled out. This will help us to recover plastics—an estimated 189,000 tonnes each year. This is about getting on with the job of helping Australia's future.

The Morrison government understands that we need to invest in this sector and to continue to support Australian businesses which are not just innovative but future focused. That's why we're supporting small and medium-sized businesses to adopt the Australasian recycling scheme. This will help them to improve their recycling of packaging and to compete with larger businesses, and it will help Australians to be better informed about the purchase they're making and foster an attitude that's considerate of their role in the environment and our world's future.

This billion-dollar transformation of the recycling sector is once in a generation, and I commend the Morrison government for their leadership and investment in Australia's future—an investment that will see Australia's waste footprint fall by 10 million tonnes. It will help to protect our environment and it will help to create 10,000 jobs over the next decade. What's not to like about that?

10:53 am

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] There is no doubt that plastic is a huge problem that we have in Australia. It is everywhere and it is [inaudible]. We need to do more. In every school I visit in every corner of Warringah—and, I have no doubt, in every school in Australia—it is the No. 1 [inaudible]. It is always front of mind and it worries my constituents very much.

It really is no surprise that so many are concerned [inaudible] this global waste crisis that we have. Waste forms islands in the Pacific and it is found [inaudible] vulnerable creatures. A study published last week found that over 1,550 wildlife species have eaten plastic. It's also found in our food, on top of our mountains and on our coasts. It's everywhere. And in this pandemic we've made it worse; it hasn't helped. In 2019 the world was poised to improve our record. We were poised to shift away from single-use plastics and jurisdictions had plastic bans coming in. Unfortunately, a lot of those have been offset by the pandemic, which has forced many to pause those initiatives, and we've seen a vast surge in the use of single-use items and plastics. We've had disruption and we've seen disposable personal protective equipment, like masks, gloves and gowns, protecting from the spread of the virus. These are plastic and, whilst they're playing an important role in helping our frontline workers and communities to ward off the virus, they're having a very negative effect on our environment.

Now is the time to futureproof our systems to deal with future influxes of plastics, which are likely to happen again and again, in line with our national circular economy goals. The Australian Council of Recycling has said that household waste production and recycling contamination has increased despite growing awareness, and business and commercial recycling has deceased. These are worrying trends. I would ask the government: where is our national campaign on encouraging people, whilst they are at home in this pandemic, to do something about their own personal use? Waste is ending up in the environment, clogging up waterways, sewerage systems and beaches, and it is choking animals. The amount of plastics use now happening is just incredible. The risks of the masks at the moment—unfortunately we're seeing them all over our environment. We've seen, unfortunately, a growth in use of take-away because, for example, here in Warringah, we're all in lockdown. Too often plastics are still being used in the packaging of foods, drinks, groceries and online shopping. We need to make sure that stops. It can only stop by behaviour change, which requires information campaigns and legislation. We require legislation to ensure we stop single-use plastics. We need to improve infrastructure to promote circularity and we need to invest in research and development, corporate action and government policy.

I call on the government to not come to the House to congratulate itself and claim big wins when we are not even scratching the surface of what really needs to be done. We need to see leadership. This is a problem that we can't delay. We need to manage that surge in waste and also the surge in PPE waste that has come with COVID in the last 18 months. We need dedicated programs for this kind of waste. These are the kinds of things the government really should be focusing on and funding. We also need to address the broader problems of environmental management and protection. At the end of the day, this will all come back and compound.

I am proud to say that here in Warringah we have great progress being made. We have Ocean Action Pod, which is seeking to raise awareness of plastics in our ocean and the waste build-up in those areas. I've also implemented the Roadmap to Zero, which is implementing awareness and providing education to individuals, businesses and schools on how they can reduce their waste. We have great leadership in the electorate, with companies like Worn Up, which is recycling school uniforms; and BlockTexx, which is recovering polyester and cellulose from textiles in clothing, diverting textiles from landfill and using them in a more sustainable manner. We have so many companies leading the way. Government needs to do more. (Time expired)

10:58 am

Photo of Rick WilsonRick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to support the government funding initiatives that will help fulfil our commitment to enhancing domestic and industrial recycling and supporting Australia's waste export ban. As a farmer, I've been conscious all my life of the need to minimise our waste, being largely responsible for its disposal on farm. Our family food scraps and organic waste usually end up fed to a chook to lay eggs, or it's made into compost to keep the veggie garden looking great. But inorganic waste was always a problem—tyres, oils and plastic items that would never break down in a thousand years.

I take this opportunity to commend the government on driving a $1 billion transformation of our waste and recycling industry, and in particular the budget commitments towards food and organic waste. These include the $67 million for a new food and organic garden waste initiative and establishing a Foot Waste for Healthy Soils Fund to divert 3.4 million tonnes of organic material from landfill for productive use in agriculture soils. This fund complements other Australian government actions in this space, including the $190 million Recycling Modernisation Fund, which supports new infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture materials such as plastics, paper, tyres and glass. As our waste export ban phases in, Australia must look at recycling some 645,000 tonnes of inorganic waste domestically. To achieve this we need additional recycling infrastructure.

At this junction, I would like to update the House on a significant shovel-ready project in my electorate of O'Connor which illustrates how even small towns can dream big when it comes to recycling. The Shire of Coolgardie sits at the crossroads of two major transport routes in my electorate and is perfectly positioned to receive waste from a vast catchment area. The north-south railway line carries minerals over 600 kilometres from the Northern Goldfields via Kalgoorlie and Norseman to the Esperance port. The east-west national highway is the main road freight route from Perth to Adelaide and onwards to the eastern states. The Shire of Coolgardie has capitalised on geographical and logistical opportunities to propose a waste recycling hub that will process the huge volumes of plastics, tyres and conveyor belt rubber created by mining operations in the greater Goldfields region and beyond. In addition, they plan to process household and other waste backloaded from Perth, Esperance and potentially further afield.

I met with the Shire of Coolgardie on numerous occasions, and they were enthusiastic about creating an integrated waste sorting and processing facility at their class-3 landfill site. They have advanced plans for a pilot plastics and tyre pyrolysis plant, which will convert 98 per cent of the total waste to energy rich fuel and by-products without the harmful burning of emissions. To this end, they have established a memorandum of understanding with some of Australia's biggest miners in the Central Goldfields region, which produce minerals to the value of over $6.8 billion. The Shire of Coolgardie alone represents the largest mineral value, comprising $3.4 billion. Furthermore, this has enabled the shire to enter into negotiations with Circular Economy Alliance Australia to create a circular economy hub linked to the soon to be established Global Centre of Excellence in Circular Economy. The shire also has in-principle agreements with the Shire of Esperance and the eastern metropolitan group of local government authorities in Perth to sort and process commercial and industrial waste in Coolgardie which would otherwise be destined for local landfill.

Currently, WA trucks approximately 30,000 tonnes of unwanted plastics to South Australia for processing. The most recent update from the shire indicates they are fast-tracking their tyre and plastic pyrolysis plant, having received multiple responses to their expressions of interest regarding the most appropriate technologies from across the world. They have also gone to tender for a tyre shredder. In the near future, I see this innovative shire using large volumes of industrial waste to create syngas and diesel, a by-product that is truly carbon free and marketable to industry. Other by-products from the tyre and plastic pyrolysis plant will be used by the shire for road building into one of their local Aboriginal communities. Finally, the shire hope to mobilise their local unskilled labour force, providing training and employment opportunities particularly for their indigenous community members.

I commend the Shire of Coolgardie for their vision and passion for this transformational project and acknowledge the enormous work done on this project by the executive team, led by CEO James Trail. My commitment to Coolgardie is to work with Assistant Minister Evans to ensure that this project, which is so vital to the entire Goldfields region, receives the necessary support to get it off the ground.

11:03 am

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for the Republic) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] [inaudible] over substance. Why you'd want to move a motion in an area where you've had abject failure is beyond me, and that is exactly what has occurred with this Morrison government and improving recycling in Australia. They have been a massive failure.

In the wake of other nations' decisions to stop accepting Australia's recycled material, I had a meeting with a recycling officer at a local council in the area that I represent. I asked that officer where most of the material that we put into our yellow recycling bins is now going if China, Indonesia and other nations are no longer accepting our recycling material. The answer horrified me. The council officer said that most of it just goes into landfill. When the Australian people go out of their way to sort their recycled materials—to put them into the yellow recycling bins, which are accepted and picked up on a separate basis to our other waste—they expect that that material is actually going to be recycled. But unfortunately in Australia under the Morrison government the majority of that material now goes into landfill. That is an absolute disgrace.

Only 18 per cent of plastic in packaging is recycled. That's well short of the target of 70 per cent by 2025 by this government, and recycled content and plastic packaging is only around four per cent, with the 20 per cent target to be reached by 2025 again being missed.

We know that for eight long years the coalition government has done virtually nothing when it comes to waste and recycling. It's a shame that it took a ban on imports from China and Indonesia and other key nations for Australia to finally do something under the Morrison government. Again, it's a recurring theme under this government—always reacting, never leading.

The Australian community in our waste and resource management sector have been crying out for a national program of reforms that would not only reduce landfill and plastic pollution but increase the rate of recycling. In order to improve Australia's poor rate of recycling when it comes to environmentally harmful materials like plastic, it's vital that we dramatically improve our local processing and manufacturing capacity. But that will only be viable if there are end markets for the materials.

In addition to supporting procurement policies there needs to be greater product producer responsibility when it comes to product design and the incorporation of recycled content. But this government, the Morrison government, has shown it's incapable of developing policies that actually encourage recycling and lead to the creation of new companies and opportunities for industries to grow. Where's the leadership on that in Australia?

We know that the export ban of mixed plastic that was in place from 1 July is in disarray. The industry itself has confirmed that Australia is not ready to reprocess additional plastics from the 1 July date. As a result, where does it end up? In landfill. There are more plastics going into landfill. And, despite the Morrison government being warned by its own commission report that stockpiling landfill of mixed plastic, as a result of its reforms, was not a low risk, the only response from the minister for the environment is to blame the sector, the states and territories and local government. Again, it's a familiar theme of this government—they don't take responsibility for anything—'I don't hold a hose, mate.'

Information provided by a recent Senate inquiry into hazardous waste shows that the government was put on notice of the risk more than a decade ago, and we know that the Recycling Modernisation Fund has only spent around two per cent of its $190 million and so far only $4.5 million has been spent on the relevant waste processing projects. That follows a failure of the $100 million Australian Recycling Investment Fund that was announced in May 2019, which has not spent or advanced a single dollar. That says everything about this government's failure when it comes to recycling—the principal investment fund that they set up to encourage recycling in Australia hasn't spent a single dollar, because this government has failed. When the Australian people are asking themselves, 'What's the point of those yellow bins anymore?', they should be asking, 'What's the point of the Morrison government?'

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.