The state of waste reform in NSW

by Tiffany Paczek
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Mike Ritchie, former national vice president and NSW president of the Waste Management Association of Australia, discusses waste reform in NSW.

Waste and recycling reform is on the move. The Federal Government has announced it will revive the National Waste Strategy by the end of 2018. QLD is developing a new Strategy linked to its proposed $70/t landfill levy. Victoria, SA and WA are variously developing Energy from Waste (EfW) and infrastructure policies, CDS and plastic bag bans. NSW has its waste levy that does an enormous amount of heavy lifting in driving reform. It also funds a generous grants scheme. The NSW CDS scheme continues its roll out. ACT now has a CDS and a new Roadmap coming soon. Tasmania is exploring a levy and plastic bag bans. Even the supermarkets have joined the recycling reform club, albeit with some process hiccups. Almost all of these initiatives attract the full support of the recycling and waste sectors. This will create jobs and improve sustainability.

As part of the discussion on strategic direction I thought it would be useful to go back and revisit a previous strategic review and see what we have achieved (or not) in NSW. To put it another way, while there is a lot of movement at present, is the movement achieving the main priorities?”

In 2010 the Richmond Review completed a comprehensive assessment of waste management in NSW. It included independent experts and State Government departments. It set a forward-looking agenda for waste management, one which could be adopted by every State.

Set out below is each recommendation from the NSW Review and (my interpretation) of the level of achievement (using a common-sense test of whether it has been generally achieved rather than if it uses the exact mechanism recommended).

Focus Recommendation Achievement
Targets Develop annual targets for MSW, C&I, C&D Y
Develop FOGO and cardboard targets N
Strategy implementation Plan Sub-targets, actions, timeframes, responsibilities arising N
Data Accurate, timely and transparent Mixed
Reporting by EPA Improve analysis and reporting of progress Mixed
Municipal waste 75% recovery of dry recyclables N
FOGO bins or AWT Mixed
Mandate these by 2014 N
Education Waste avoidance and source separation Y (Ongoing)
Target priority waste Hazardous waste, gas bottles, plastic bags – bans and policies Y
Drop Off and Recycling Build network of drop off facilities Y (Ongoing)
C&I recycling 3 bin system (incl. FOGO) or AWT, recycling, dirty MRFs N
Place based collection Collection via precincts N
Financial Assurance Finalise financial assurance policy for facilities Mixed
Levy funding Levy expenditure toward best practice systems Y
AWT output AWTDORF Amend limitations; Permit on agric lands Y
Orders/Exemptions Establish expert panel to advise N
Energy from Waste Develop policy Y
Infrastructure funding Establish Waste Infrastructure Fund Y
Innovation and Investment Establish an investment strategy with Treasury Y
Waste governance Establish clear accountability for waste policy and enforcement within department and EPA Mixed
Advice Establish waste industry forum incl. councils N
Infrastructure strategy EPA and Dept Planning develop an Infrastructure plan N
Land use planning Dept Planning to develop standard conditions of development incl. source separation N
Case management Dept Regional Development facilitate new entrants into waste via case management N
National waste Support National Waste Policy and Australian Government grants for infrastructure Mixed

The table indicates a pass mark (perhaps a credit) would be appropriate.

While NSW is doing some bits really well (such as the levy, grants and new infrastructure) that is not enough, in and of, itself to deal with rising waste generation.

Much of the movement we are seeing nationally is focussed on the minor streams. Some of the biggest challenges remain to be addressed (such as land use planning, mandated FOGO systems, C&I sorting etc).

The China National Sword policy has also recently belted the government and the sector, from left field. But China is both a challenge and an opportunity. I hope we can use the China challenge to reinvigorate strategic action along the lines recommended by the Richmond Review almost a decade ago.

Mike Ritchie was national vice president and NSW president of the Waste Management Association of Australia. He was chair of the National Carbon Committee, Advanced Waste Treatment Committee and a member of the Resource and Energy Recovery Committee. He has been a senior manager of Local Government, Visy, Waste Services NSW and SUEZ. He is currently a member of ACOR, WCRA, ASBG and is a member of the Institute of Company Directors. He welcomes feedback on ‘The Tipping Point’.

Image: 123RF’s monticello ©  

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