Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) BILL 2021 | Bill

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan): I rise to speak on the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Bill 2021. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Honourable Lily D’Ambrosio, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and Minister for Solar Homes, and her staff for the important work they have done in this area. Their hard work, dedication and leadership will help deliver an important piece of reform that Victorians have been advocating for for a very long time. I am proud to be a part of the Andrews Labor government that is taking the next steps towards developing a circular economy that maximises the re-use of materials and reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfill. Across Australia and around the world governments are exploring new initiatives and processes to assist with producing less waste and recycling more. The common consensus is that we all need to do our part to support our environment in any way we can. Waste management is a big and complicated issue, however, and there is no easy, quick fix for it. It requires leadership, consultation, strategic planning and a government that is prepared to take on challenges and make difficult decisions.

The Andrews Labor government puts the needs of Victorians first and continues to develop and deliver much-needed reforms that help better shape and prepare our state for the future. As many of us in this chamber and indeed in this Parliament will remember, China implemented its National Sword policy. China’s National Sword policy restricted or banned the importation of most plastics and other materials, which meant recycling contracts in Australia were threatened, resulting in a waste crisis, including a waste crisis in recycling facilities locally here in Victoria. In 2019 in Victoria we witnessed severe disruptions to our waste and recycling services and we saw the collapse of SKM Recycling. The collapse of SKM Recycling resulted in 33 councils being without kerbside recycling services. This disruption left many people with no option but unfortunately to send recyclable materials to landfill. As a result at the time the Andrews Labor government acted and provided an important $6.6 million relief package to councils directly affected by the closure of SKM, which included a rebate to cover the cost of the landfill levy so councils were not out of pocket.

What we learned from China’s decision was the fact that Victoria’s waste and recycling system was dependent on decisions and changes made in global markets. It clearly demonstrated what the consequences can be for our local recycling service delivery here in Victoria. It showed that we need to have strategies in place to be less dependent on global markets. It was also clear that there is a lack of consistency across the state’s recycling system. The lack of consistency is as a result of each council having a different waste bin system, with different standards as to what can be placed in each bin. We all know that in some instances when you move around our state you can see differently coloured waste bins for different collection purposes, and this can be confusing. In some municipal council areas you may have more bins and in other areas you may have less bins to dispose of your waste. In my electorate of Western Metropolitan Region the collection services for Hobsons Bay City Council can be different to that of the neighbouring councils of Wyndham, Brimbank or Maribyrnong. This often can cause confusion, resulting in recyclable materials ending up in landfill by error.

We know that until now the state government has lacked the power to direct councils when it comes to these services, and we understand that this needs to change. The Andrews Labor government has worked in partnership with councils, industry and the wider public to develop a policy which would address the issues in our waste and recycling sector. In February 2020 the Andrews Labor government released the Recycling Victoria: A New Economy, our 10-year circular economy policy. The policy sets out the systemic change that is needed to cut waste and boost the recycling and re-use of our precious resources. This is our plan for a cleaner, greener Victoria with less waste and pollution, more jobs and a sustainable and thriving circular economy. Recycling Victoria: A New Economy is a 10-year plan to address the urgent challenges in the recycling sector and to make fundamental changes to help prevent those issues from recurring. Through this policy the Victorian government has committed to overhauling our household recycling services by introducing a four-bin system and a container deposit scheme to improve the value captured from the materials we recycle. This policy is a 10-year plan that sets four ambitious targets for improving our state’s recycling system. The plan also includes a commitment to addressing plastics pollution.

The bill provides the legislative framework for achieving many of the commitments outlined in this policy. The Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Bill 2021 is a central part of the Andrews Labor government’s once-in-a-generation reform of Victoria’s waste and recycling system to make it more effective, accountable and consistent with community expectations. We have invested an unprecedented $515 million to deliver this reform, which lays the foundation for the state’s transition to a circular economy and supports the creation of more than 3900 jobs. The introduction of this bill assists with having strong regulations in place to ensure that our recycling industry is better regulated. Until now we have not had a single central body to regulate the industry.

Through the establishment of Recycling Victoria we will have a body that will oversee and provide strategic leadership for the sector. Recycling Victoria will have the power to oversee, anticipate and mitigate risks to the stability of local waste and recycling markets. It will enforce service standards for the quality and performance of waste and recycling services. This includes the government’s reforms to kerbside waste collection. These reforms will mean that all across Victoria, no matter where you live, every household will have access to four separate waste stream services: food and organics, glass, commingled recycling and household rubbish. This will improve the quality and quantity of recycled materials and will reduce waste going to landfill. There will be a staged transition to the new system, which councils will complete as per the needs of their local communities. All households will have access to services for glass recycling by 2027 and to food organics and garden organics by 2030. Councils will adopt the new four-bin system, which will use standardised bin lid colours to make recycling easier.

The introduction of a container deposit scheme is a win-win situation for all Victorians. It will see less litter and pollution in our community and environment. It will provide economic opportunity for community and charity groups, and it will see fewer bottles and cans going to landfill as the recycling industry will have access to more pure streams of materials. Glass collected through a container deposit scheme is worth up to $100 more per tonne than glass mixed with other recyclable materials. And all of this has proved that the Australian recycling sector creates 9.2 jobs for every 10 000 tonnes of waste managed, whereas sending material to landfill creates only 2.8 jobs. This government’s waste and recycling reforms will create nearly 4000 new jobs.

The Andrews Labor government is committed to optimising the use of recycled and re-used Victorian materials across all rail and road construction through the Ecologiq program and the Recycled First policy. Victoria’s Big Build is delivering 120 projects and provides a crucial opportunity to drive significant change in the re-use of waste material. The Recycled First policy is the first step to achieving this. It requires bidders on infrastructure projects to demonstrate how they will optimise their use of sustainable materials.

Recycled aggregates, glass, plastic, timber, steel, ballast, crushed concrete, crushed brick, crumb rubber, reclaimed asphalt pavement and organics are all being used in place of new materials in major road projects. 190 million recycled glass bottles are being used in the $1.8 billion western roads upgrade. More than 400 000 tonnes of high-grade recycled content have been used in the western roads project, and another 2 million tonnes of recycled materials have been identified for use in the M80 ring-road, Monash Freeway and South Gippsland Highway upgrades. Residents of the Western Metropolitan Region are already benefiting from these innovative investments delivered by the Andrews Labor government.

In conclusion, I would like to state that this bill will deliver a comprehensive, consistent and enforceable approach to overseeing and supporting the delivery of waste, recycling and resource recovery services across Victoria. It will provide confidence and clarity to householders that their efforts to sort and recycle will minimise waste and maximise resource recovery. I commend the bill to the house.