Overcoming the Recycling Challenge – Still a long way to go

With the recent closure of SKM Recycling facilities by the EPA, the issue of Recycling is back at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Just over 12 months ago China’s ban on the importation of recyclable materials caused a scurry of activity within the waste management industry, local government and state & federal government agencies as solutions were identified to address what should be done with recyclable material. By and large one approach appears to be to stockpile the material until someone comes up with an answer.

This approach may have bought some time in the short term but has caught up with the industry with the recent crackdown on SKM and once again councils desperately searching for alternate solutions for alternative outlets for material.

Whilst some reprieve may be in sight, with SKM progressively reopening facilities, there is some irony in the fact that this is not an issue that has crept up on the industry and government alike but rather a case of missed opportunities. Firstly, here in Victoria, we have a landfill levy which goes in part to funding Environmental agencies with the remainder going into the Sustainability Fund to foster sustainable use of resources, best practice waste management and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The common criticism however, is that the fund is not being directly used for projects that will build capacity of a local recycling industry. There is more than $500 mill that has been accumulated in the fund which could have been allocated to capacity building projects that would have better positioned Victorian communities to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Secondly, the lack of incentive to create a local industry has led to a reliance on exporting our material to other countries where they have capacity to process it. In the short term this may be an economic and viable option but, as we have learnt, this option is vulnerable to market or political influences that can rapidly change and are outside of our control. In the absence of a local industry that can quickly adapt to market demands we have the crisis we see before us.

So how do we respond to the situation before us? Although we may have been dragging our heels on building a local industry, this ultimately will give us protection against an unpredictable market managed by other jurisdictions. It will take time, but we need to take the initial steps to build a sustainable local recycling industry. Within Victoria the Landfill Levy should be used as a catalyst to build the industry with the funding of initiatives.

It was encouraging to see that the NSW Government recently pledged to reinvest 100 per cent of the revenue collected from their Waste Levy into recycling facilities, a circular economy fund and support for the local government sector in NSW. In particular, they have announced a Circular Economy Job Creation Investment Fund, which will allocate $140 million in funding towards local recycling facilities, supporting the growth of the recycling industry in regional and rural areas and increasing community-based waste reduction initiatives. It would be great to see Victoria follow suit with similar announcements.

Funding is part of the solution. Being able to identify suitable initiatives and having the capacity to plan for them and deliver on future waste management and recycling initiatives is equally as important. Many councils do not have at their disposal resources with the background or the time to manage complex waste management or recycling projects. Others have resources stretched to the limit dealing with new issues arising from the recycling crisis and do not have the time to manage the day to day issues arising within their Waste Departments.  Whether it be writing specifications for a collection service or project managing the construction of processing facility or even undertaking analysis to verify that your waste fees and charges and complying, CT Management Group have a team of Associates who can provide support to your council.

To enquire about our Waste Management Services or for any further information or assistance on any of our services, please contact CT Management Group on P: 1300 500 932 or via our Contact form below:

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