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Scott Morrison is ramping up a push to combat the poor rate of plastic recycling in Australia as part of plan to develop a new policy agenda as well as to ameliorate concerns in the region about Australia’s environmental credentials.
Morrison, who first flagged the plastic push in the election campaign, made it the subject of one of three policy “deep dives”, or brainstorming sessions, that the government has undertaken since the election.
The others were related to veterans’ mental health and indigenous youth suicide.
Morrison is keen to co-opt the states into his plastic recycling push but it is not on the agenda at Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns, the first since the election.
However, it is understood Morrison is keen to talk up the recycling push ahead of next week’s Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu. Australia is bracing to be criticised by its Pacific Island neighbours for what they regard as its lack of leadership on climate change.
Taking a strong stance on plastic waste, which is littering the oceans, will be presented by Australia as an exercise in practical environmental leadership. The issue has become urgent, with developing nations including China no longer accepting, or accepting fewer shipments of plastic waste from Australia and other developed nations.
Morrison is disturbed that just 12 per cent of plastic put in recycling bins in Australia is actually recycled.
He vented his frustration on the Seven Network last week.
“We’re breaking the faith with Australia,” he said.
“I go and put that little plastic bottle in the [recycle bin] and you do that because it’s the right thing to do.
“The right thing has to be done on the other side of where you put that plastic bottle.
“We're not recycling plastic in this country. It’s going into landfill or going on to boats and being sent up to Asia and it’s washing out in rivers and creating islands of plastic off the coast of the United States which are three times the size of France.”
During the election, Morrison announced a series of measures to improve recycling rates in Australia.
These included $100 million (US$67.5 million) to be allocated from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for a “recycling investment fund”, which would bankroll manufacturing projects using recycled products
There would be another $20 million for a “product stewardship fund” to encourage industry recycling schemes for products such as batteries, electrical products, solar cells and plastic oil containers.
Co-operative Research Centres were promised $20 million (US$13.5 million) in grants for research into plastic recycling and waste while he also pledged $16 million (US$10.8 million) to support the Pacific Ocean Litter Project, “working with Pacific neighbours to reduce plastics and other waste in our oceans”. This $16 million will come from the foreign aid budget.
The government’s aim to establish a meaningful recycling industry in Australia will require the help of the states and many are sympathetic, including Victoria.
Premier Daniel Andrews has been accused of sitting on a $500 million (US$337 million) fund dedicated to recycling so he can prop up his states’ credit rating.
Victoria has also declined to introduce a container deposit scheme.
This week, he said government was about to intervene with “substantial amounts of money” with the aim of working with councils and industry to introduce more recyclers into the market. Commonwealth Bank locks in KPMG for waste business SKM.
SOURCE: FINANCIAL REVIEW/PACNEWS
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