Government Support for Recycling

  • March 15, 2021

I am pleased to move this motion which recognises the work of the Morrison government to transform the way in which Australia manages its waste stream. The government has set ambitious goals for Australia to take responsibility for our waste, to reduce plastic in our oceans and to support recycling. We are backing these targets with strong leadership, financial support—in fact, $1 billion—and new world-leading recycling legislation. Australians want to do the right thing and ensure the waste we generate does not simply end up in landfill or cause harm to the environment as litter or more serious pollution.

Many of us of my generation saw the potential economic value of waste and recycling when we were just kids. For me, my first income-earning activity was collecting aluminium cans. I think I could get one cent per can at a recycling centre. I remember weekends spent scouring rubbish bins and collecting cans that had been thrown away as litter. Despite little interest in rugby league, football grounds like the local Henderson Park, home of the then mighty Newtown Jets, became a drawcard because of the bounty of drink cans that could be collected. Today, a new generation of young Australians is equally interested in recycling but perhaps for more altruistic reasons. In my own electorate I have been so impressed by the work of many school students who have campaigned hard to reduce plastics and their impact on the marine environment. This is an issue I have spoken about before in this parliament, because our world’s oceans risk devastation if we don’t reduce that waste—80 per cent of which is plastic that poses such a great threat to marine wildlife.

Better management of our waste can fulfil these twin outcomes: protection for our environment while also utilising resources which will bring economic benefits. That’s why I am pleased that Australia now leads the world in taking responsibility for our own waste. As the PM has said, it’s our waste, so it must be our responsibility. We are the only country in the world that has banned the export of its unprocessed waste glass. We will shortly be banning unsorted and unprocessed plastics, tyres and paper and cardboard for disposal overseas. For too long, we were shipping out of sight and mind our own waste problems, often to nations that did not have proper stewardship. Too often, we saw that waste coming back—not as recycled products, but returned by ocean currents as litter on our own shores. The new approach is already bearing fruit. Since the ban was agreed, exports of plastic waste alone have fallen by about 5,000 tonnes per month. By accepting responsibility for our waste through the export bans, we are actually creating new economic opportunities for Australians. Our waste export ban is being implemented in a phased approach and began on 1 January this year for all waste glass. Over the course of this year, additional bans on waste streams will take effect for tyres and various forms of plastic.

But our approach does not stop there. To simply ban waste exports would create problems in Australia if we were not to be matching that by expanding our own domestic recycling industry. That’s why the government has committed $1 billion to drive the transformation of our waste and recycling businesses. This will generate something like 10,000 jobs and divert 10 million tonnes of waste from landfill. Backed by ambitious targets, our approach addresses the full gamut of the waste stream, creating new industries, promoting stewardship and the uptake of recycled products, addressing excessive packaging and also promoting textile and food waste. For example, $49.4 million is being spent to help halve Australia’s food waste by 2030. Food waste costs the economy around $20 billion each year, and each year we waste around 7.3 million tonnes of food. This wastage equals about 300 kilograms per person, or one in five bags of groceries. This is far too much.

All of us can play our own part, from the decisions we take in our homes to the support we provide to activities like Clean Up Australia Day. I want to thank the many hundreds of my local residents who were out collecting waste just a few weeks ago on Clean Up Australia Day. When we do so as individuals, it is important to know that governments across Australia are working alongside us to support our efforts to reduce the impact of waste, which is why I’m so pleased this government has made recycling and better waste management a priority. We can lead the world and, in doing so, leave future generations with a more sustainable economy and a better environment.