Waste not, want not: Morrison government’s $1b recycling plan must include avoiding waste in the first place
The federal government today announced A$190 million in funding for new recycling infrastructure, as it seeks to divert more than ten million tonnes of waste from landfill and create 10,000 jobs.
The plan, dubbed the Recycling Modernisation Fund, requires matching funding from the states and territories. The federal government hopes it will attract A$600 million in private investment, bringing the total plan to about A$1 billion.
The policy is a welcome step to addressing Australia’s waste crisis. In 2016-17, Australians generated 67 million tonnes of waste, and the volume is growing.
Australia’s domestic recycling industry cannot sort the types and volumes of materials we generate, and recent waste import bans in other countries mean our waste often has nowhere to go.
But recycling infrastructure alone is not enough to solve Australia’s waste problem. We must also focus on waste avoidance, reducing contamination and creating markets for recycled materials.
A home-grown problem
In early 2018, China began restricting the import of recyclables from many countries, including Australia, arguing it was too contaminated to recycle. Several other countries including India and Taiwan soon followed.
The move sent the Australian waste management industry into a spin. Recyclable material such as plastic, paper, glass and tyres was stockpiled in warehouses or worse, dumped in landfill.
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