Australia will ban export of recyclable waste ‘as soon as practicable’

Packed for export…waste

Cairns, AUSTRALIA – August 12, 2019: 3.50pm (THE GUARDIAN): The prime minister has vowed to do more to tackle plastic waste in the world’s oceans, saying the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres will be banned.

Scott Morrison said only about 12 percent of materials are properly recycled in Australia and he wanted that to change. With state and territory leaders, he has laid out a plan for environment ministers to improve the recycling system. 

“There will be no export of plastics and paper and glass to other countries where it runs the risk of floating around in our oceans,” he said in Cairns after a Council of Australian Governments (Coag) meeting on Friday. 

“This stuff won’t change unless you say: ‘There’s going to be a point in time where you’re not going to be able to put this stuff in a ship and send it off to someone else.’ 

“We’ve got to start thinking about what we do when that happens. I would like that date to be as soon as is practicable.” 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference on November 22, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Last year it cost Australia $2.8billion (US$1.8 billion) to export nearly 4.5m tonnes of waste, with most going to Vietnam, Indonesia and China. 

Morrison’s move comes amid concern about Australia’s kerbside recycling program and the amount of plastic waste in the Pacific region. 

The issue rose to national prominence after China decided to reject recycling imports and after the recycling operator SKM told 30 Victorian local councils it could no longer collect material. 

Although New South Wales has the bigger population, it exported less waste than Victoria and Queensland, and only just more than Western Australia, which has about a quarter of the population. 

Morrison said the export changes would be done with industry partnership and consultation, with environment ministers to develop a timeline. 

“We want this to be a seamless change, but it’s going to be a change,” he said. 

He believed it would create jobs in a bigger local recycling industry. 

“There is the work on the science but there is also the work on the economics, because we want to see this introduced as an opportunity,” he said. 

The federal government said instead of being sent overseas, waste could be turned into packaging, plastics into furniture or railway sleepers, and glass into road surfaces. 

It was exploring using waste in energy plants to power Australian homes. 

Morrison said it was also important for Australians to consider how they generated waste. 

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian joined other state leaders in endorsing a plan for the Murray-Darling river system, despite calls from within her own government to ditch the long-standing agreement. 

Deputy premier John Barilaro said earlier in the week the plan was “untenable for NSW” and not making major changes represented a missed opportunity to deliver certainty and transparency for drought-hit communities. 

However, Berejiklian told reporters in Cairns on Friday – after all basin states reaffirmed their commitment to the plan – working more closely with other states would positively impact on struggling rural communities in her state. 

“What was signed this morning was a commitment in relation to freeing up infrastructure dollars to put back into those communities that are currently suffering,” she said. 

“If we can do a better job in increasing water storage and capacity that is going to help our communities into the future.” 

But she said all states needed to “pull their weight” in regard to the river system. 

“The objective of the plan is not in question – it’s how we deal with the plan given the current stresses on NSW and other parts of the basin that are covered.” 

South Australian premier Steve Marshall said there had been a “coming together” at the Coag meeting on the importance of the plan. 

“We need to be working together at this difficult time so that we can implement that plan but do it in a way which is going to be respectful for communities all along the Murray-Darling Basin,” he said. 

The leaders agreed to fast-track infrastructure for improving water availability. 

As well, they signed onto a joint response to the Productivity Commission’s five-year assessment of the plan and endorsed a new inspector-general of Murray-Darling basin water resources….PACNEWS

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