“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform recycling and waste management, to reduce pressure on our environment and create economic opportunity,” Ms Ley said.
The bill’s product stewardship rules establish a voluntary scheme to encourage recycling of products like electronics, and enables the minister to impose a mandatory regime forcing companies to deal with their waste if industry doesn’t buy in to the voluntary regime.
The Greens have argued for mandatory recycling targets and an immediate roll-out of stewardship requirements.
Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction, Trevor Evans, said in July that Australians wouldn’t accept the imposition of mandatory product stewardship before a voluntary scheme had been tried.
“Some alternative proposals rely on an ethos of heavy intervention and regulation which, to be frank, Australian businesses and households just won’t bear in the current circumstances.”
Greens waste and recycling spokesperson Peter Whish-Wilson said the bill lacked binding targets for waste management.
“It’s clear that voluntary schemes don’t work and whilst new incentives for product stewardship are worth considering on their merits, we hope the government will be open-minded in constructing the final detail with contributions from all stakeholders,” he said.
Under the new laws, exports of glass will be prohibited from January 1 next year, whole new tyres will be banned by December 1 next year, unprocessed single resin/polymer plastics will be banned from July 1, 2022, and finally, export of mixed and unsorted paper and cardboard will be banned from July 1, 2024.
Export ban breaches would incur up to five year jail terms or fines up to $330,000 for companies.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced a $600 million waste recycling stimulus in July, which she said would generate up to 10,000 new jobs by helping increase Australia’s processing capacity to handle more of its own waste instead of shipping it offshore.
The federal government has also set up a $30 million Product Stewardship Investment Fund to pay for schemes that return old products.
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Mike is the climate and energy correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.