Today we were fortunate indeed to hear from the Hon Trevor Evans MP, Member for Brisbane and Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management. He is the first Minister in government with this portfolio.
The environment, waste reduction, food waste – these are now much more in the public awareness than in the past, but the response across Australia is not consistent. States have different approaches to the problems, and a vital role of the Commonwealth is to rationalise the differing approaches into a coordinated, coherent response.
Many of the problems are well known through the media – “recyclables” not being dealt with properly, or exported to other countries. Pacific nations in particular suffer. There is even the extraordinary sight of waste being transported across the country to take advantage of different levies, charges etc. from State to State. Clearly what is needed is a national waste policy.
Trevor told us that landmark legislation (Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020) has recently been introduced to the Parliament. It will phase in the end of the 645 000 tonnes of unprocessed plastics, paper, glass and tyres that Australia ships overseas each year.
The legislation will be in conjunction with a Product Stewardship Investment Fund which will ensure that the manufacturers, retailers and industry groups take greater responsibility for the entire lifecycle of the products they produce and sell.
Trevor told us about some technological developments he has seen. One in particular was impressive in the suburbs of Adelaide, where there is an optical sensing machine that is able to separate recyclables. He explained to us how this technology allows recyclable materials to have value. All of this can, and should, be done in Australia and not overseas.
On the food waste front, organisations such as OzHarvest do a wonderful job, but there needs to be national coordination, and seed funding is to be provided. There is also the importance of the management of food waste and organic waste to reduce the production of methane, the effect of which is far more disastrous to air quality than the other more well-known greenhouse gases.
Package standardisation and labelling is something else which impacts on the efficiency of recycling schemes.
So much to do, but Trevor clearly has the enthusiasm and the drive to tackle the problems.