Building Australia's Circular Economy
During these difficult and challenging times, it remains imperative that we continue to invest and innovate in solutions that will drive the circular economy in Australia, shaping a sustainable environment and contributing to a positive impact on climate.
Friday’s COAG meeting will mark a milestone along a challenging but exciting road for SUEZ Australia – and our industry more broadly. Whilst the waste export ban timeframes will be challenging, they must be viewed as an important opportunity for industry, government – both state and federal – and all players along the supply chain to collaborate, stimulating much-needed investment and support across the entire value chain.
We have seen an important step-change in recent weeks from governments announcing policies and programs to support pull-through demand and funding for new infrastructure. Infrastructure Australia’s recent classification of national waste and recycling management as a high priority initiative is further proof that now is the time for collaboration and coordination across all levels of government and industry.
Of importance to so many Australians is the rate at which plastic waste is impacting our environment. SUEZ welcomed and was pleased to attend the National Plastics Summit in Canberra, along with 200 leaders from government, industry and community sectors. The Summit was an opportunity to discuss solutions to the plastic waste challenge and to further mobilise government, industry and non-government organisations. The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation’s (APCO) ANZPAC Plastics Pact was an important announcement made at the summit and we’re looking forward to working closely with the organisation in the coming months, developing targets across the value chain and a common vision of the circular economy for plastics.
The steps taken by governments in recent weeks should be commended and congratulated. With our nation’s leaders coming together on Friday, we at SUEZ continue to call for further action. We believe that there are five key elements that must come together to drive the industry and the nation forward towards a circular economy more sustainably and prosperously:
Greater product stewardship through every stage of the process, from the manufacturer of a product to the businesses and communities who purchase it. A federal waste strategy that supports the role of waste in the value chain and its contribution to a circular economy, through inclusions such as strict, enforced, incentivised targets and quality requirements on the percentage of recycled content in production and construction, will enable a bold new model of production and consumption in line with the UNSDGs (SDG 12).
Creation of end-markets for recycled products, both in Australia and overseas. Building and sustaining a thriving domestic market for recycled materials in new product manufacturing will encourage greater landfill diversion and drives demand for investment in the necessary scalable infrastructure that, in turn, moves the industry forward. There is a genuine opportunity for governments to lead by example through the creation of exceptional procurement policies, and to influence the demand for recyclable products through developing appropriate specifications and mandating minimum percentages for inclusion.
Investment in recycling infrastructure. Overcoming our traditional reliance on offshore processing of recyclable materials – and driving domestic confidence in local product – requires investment in large-scale infrastructure supported by a stable planning and regulatory environment, appropriate waste levy settings and balanced supply and demand.
Energy from Waste (EfW). We consider EfW to be the missing link in our nation’s waste management hierarchy, and believe that investing in both EfW and recycling infrastructure should be integral elements in a suite of interconnected solutions able to move us towards a circular economy.
A coordinated and concerted education effort. Contaminated waste streams hamper the industry’s ability to recycle waste for new products, and increasing awareness of best practice recycling in our homes, businesses and public spaces is key to reducing contamination at the source. Education programs must be driven by industry, governments and councils working closely with the communities they serve if we are to create sustained and widespread change.
Policy harmonisation across the states that must underscore all of these objectives if we are to realise the myriad of benefits the circular economy can offer. Delivering a consistent and competitive landscape relies heavily on a unified national approach where levies, incentives and broader policy positions traverse state lines in order to stimulate innovation that supports a more circular economy. We support the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia’s call for a national infrastructure plan, bolstered by a funding program to secure the success of the of the waste export bans.