Mike Ritchie on Using the Waste Levy to Boost the Circular Economy : BLOG: Australian Labor Party War on Waste a Step in the Right Direction

mike ritchie waste recycling new south wales levy labor

Mike Ritchie, managing director of MRA Consulting Group and a prominent advocate for waste reform in New South Wales (NSW) has welcomed Australian Labor Party (ALP) policy to invest waste levy funds back into the circular economy.

“The Recycling and War on Waste policy released by Michael Daley and Penny Sharpe is an important step towards creating the circular economy and achieving a more sustainable balance between the economy and the environment,” he said.

Ritchie welcomes the commitment to maintain “approximately one third of the revenue raised by the waste levy “($250m/yr since the levy raises $760m/yr) to fund waste, regulatory and environmental programs.”

The commitment to invest the remainder of the levy funds (over $500m/yr) in a new Circular Economy Job Creation Investment Fund is a “sensible way to use the levy revenues for the long term benefit of recycling,” he said. "There is a massive shortfall between the current State recycling targets and the infrastructure needed to achieve them. “Ultimately we need to spend more money on waste infrastructure now if we want to achieve the targets.

“At the moment the ALP commitment to the Investment Fund appears to be on top of Waste Less Recycle More (WLRM) funding. Current WLRM is almost $100m/yr and we would need to see the Fund providing similar funding. My understanding Is that the additional $140m over 4 years promised by the policy will be coming from long term earnings of the Fund. At a 5% interest, the Fund’s $500m would be generating $25m in the first year, $50m in the second and so on.

“Overall, the last thing the industry wants to see is the $760m/yr levy being spent on anything but recycling and waste management. The levy and all the earnings from the fund need to provide for expanded recycling in NSW.

“ALP policy will stimulate the private sector investment needed to hit the NSW state targets of 70% recycling of household and commercial waste, and 80% of construction waste. These are impossible to achieve with the current policy settings and we have been telling the EPA that for years.

“We need at least 36 new waste processing facilities to be built in less than 3 years to achieve those targets. Right now it is unlikely they are achievable but the ALP policy, if fully implemented, would make a big step forward.

“The private sector is ready and primed to invest the $1-2 billion required to drive recycling. This investment will create at least 4,700 jobs in Sydney and half as many again in the rest of NSW. The industry will welcome a resource recovery infrastructure strategy to provide direction for this investment,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie particularly welcomed the Circular Economy Job Creation Fund as it will provide long term funding for infrastructure in the sector.

”It is only through infrastructure such as Food and Garden Organics collection and composting, Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), C&I ‘Dirty’ MRFs, C&D processing plants, AWTs, Process Engineered Fuel facilities and the like, that we can achieve the big recycling outcomes we need. We need to increase recycling rates by millions of tonnes not a few thousand. It is nice to recycle coffee cups but they are a tiny contributor to waste to landfill,” he said.

He welcomed the decision to split the roles of Chairperson and CEO of the EPA and to establish a Recycling Resource recovery and Waste Council (hopefully with a seat or two allocated to waste management industry members) to advise the Minister on waste reform.

As always, Mike welcomes your feedback on this or any other topic at ‘The Tipping Point’.

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