Around 67 million tonnes of waste was generated in Australia in 2016–17, of which 37 million tonnes (55%) was recycled. This is below the national resource recovery target of 80% by 2030, which was set in the 2019 National Waste Policy Action Plan.
Constraints on the collection and processing of recyclable waste – including product design and lack of sufficient demand – led to recyclable waste ending up in landﬁll, contributing to the shortfall. These constraints include:
- lack of space for transfer facilities
- the ability of material recovery facilities to process and sort co-mingled, highly contaminated waste (particularly for communities in remote and regional Australia)
- under-developed domestic reuse markets as a result of previous over-reliance on the export of waste to international markets.
In March 2020, all Australia’s governments agreed to a ban on the export of waste-paper, plastic, glass and tyres. This means Australia must recycle an additional 650,000 tonnes of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres onshore by 2024 putting further pressure on waste recovery and processing infrastructure.
The environmental costs of greenhouse gases and leachate from recyclable waste entering landﬁll are signiﬁcant and are set to rise with a growing population.
In addition, limited landﬁll capacity and sorting facilities are increasing logistics costs as waste is being transferred greater distances for processing and disposal.
The initiative involves a coordinated strategy between all levels of government and the market to identify a program of investment in new waste recovery and reprocessing infrastructure. There is also an opportunity to use recycled content in infrastructure projects.
This aims to meet the long-term needs of Australians and to foster innovation and adoption of emerging technologies.
The Australian Government has committed $190 million to a new Recycling Modernisation Fund, and nominated Recycling and Clean Energy as one of six National Manufacturing Priorities. These efforts aim to support investment in new infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture materials such as mixed plastic, paper, tyres and glass.
Proponent(s) to be identified.