Sussan Ley, federal Environment Minister, welcomed the agreements with states and territories on a timetable.
“The next steps are… how do we design what happens across our jurisdictions to bring this to life and make sure that we create that general re-manufacturing circular economy across all of our waste streams?” Ms Ley said.
Industry and state governments, though, had warned that without financial support to develop the recycling industry, much of the waste would end up in landfills or stockpiles.
Minister Ley said the recycling investment fund was one source of support and “there will be other conversations when the time comes”.
Matt Kean, NSW’s Environment Minister said “there needs to be real money on the table”.
“We want to hit these targets but they are very ambitious and very expensive,” he said.
NSW exports some 420,000 tonnes of waste paper a year, and governments would need to complete “a whole pile of work” to phase out shipments, Mr Kean said.
Lily D’Ambrosio, Victoria’s Environment Minister, echoed those concerns.
“We need an urgent national plan to fund this ban …,” Ms D’Ambrosio said. “Victoria is already investing $135 million in the sector and we need to see Commonwealth funding, fast.”
Pete Shmigel, chief executive of the Australian Council of Recycling, said “everyone wants the material to stay here”, but more investment would be needed to make waste management sustainable.
“Given the last [meeting of environment ministers] couldn’t agree to crawl, the fact we are now walking is reasonable progress,” he said. “Dates for an export ban will need to see governments further speed up especially on investment in plastic and paper recycling infrastructure and ‘buying recycled’.”
“Tyres could have and should have happened right away as there’s markets here and clearly impact overseas.”
He estimated plastics would need about a doubling in domestic demand for recycled product, with about 187,000 tonnes exported out of the total 300,000 tonnes recycled.
Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.