With last year’s ban by China on recyclable waste products, it is very evident that states and councils across Australia are still struggling with waste management. Among these is New South Wales. However, the ban comes at an appropriate time when the state direly needed a wakeup call for the realisation of the pre-set 2017-2030 waste management agendum.
With reference to the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda on maintenance of the environment, NSW is now on its feet to hike the allocations on waste management. The key government allocation is on Waste Less, recycle more, an initiative geared towards the benefits of recycling the immediate environment. According to recent reports by the Office of Environment and Heritage, the government has allocated $802 million for the initiative which is supposed to run until 2021.
But, is the state pumping more on white elephant projects? Are there physical developments that can be seen linked to the initiative, or are they just on papers? In reality, the struggle is still evident. Many people across every economic spectrum in NSW are asking some basic questions.
What is the current rate of domestic waste products generation?
The Local Government Waste and Resource Recovery Data show that an estimate of 3.5 million tonnes of waste products is generated by citizens every year. However, it is the responsibility of the councils to manage and recycle this huge amount of waste.
It is also worth noting that the rate is not constant as it was some years back. Waste material generations are ever increasing. Meaning, lest the state integrates efficient recycling plants at the expense of landfills, the crisis can be lethal.
The efforts in waste management as seen in the collaboration between LGNSW and the Council are worth some credit. Their respective roles stand out in the overall management and recycling of waste products.
What is the current rate of recycling as compared to waste deposited in landfills?
The passing of POEO bill into act has seen the state undergo tremendous changes as far as waste production and recycling is concerned. The bill required licensed waste facilities in NSW to pay some contribution for every tonne of waste received. Arguably, this move has immensely seen the state through an increased rate of recycling and reduced amount wastes that end up in landfills.
The act clearly stipulates how domestic waste is measured and how the levy is imposed. It also guides on how the records and reports are to be made and kept by EPA.
However, we cannot generalise that recycling is taking its effect in the whole of NSW. It is true the act affects some specific parts of NSW. These regions include; Queensland Borders, Illawarra, and Hunter regions, Sydney Metropolitan, Central and North Coast local governments, and the Blue Mountains.
While it is prudent to acknowledge the fact that NSW as a state lacks data on the overall rate of recycling, it is also worth noting that not all of these licensed companies recycle their products to evade POEO levies. Some of these products end up in various stores in the form of stockpiles since they cannot be dumped.
The only data in the field as far as the state’s domestic recycling rates are concerned is that of 2015. According to the findings, an estimate of 50-60 percent of the domestic waste was being recycled in the state. But, it is way too illogical to consider such data since everything is prone to change.
In as much as levies are put in place, with the Chinese ban still in its effect, the state may not be able to manage domestic waste. Even the underlying initiatives may not effectively wheel the state’s greening agenda to its realisation. It is only through self-reevaluation and understanding the root cause of domestic waste products that can see NSW through the greening agenda.
To avoid bizarre occurrences like Ipswich Council last year’s announcement, the state needs to put other methods of waste recycling into place. It is time it starts to support domestic recycling companies in the state through grants and other incentives. Civic education to NSW citizenship on waste management should also be legged up.
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