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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2021) . . Page.. 1964 ..


Mining new materials has a big impact. The people who do it often work in terrible conditions. The mines are often located in ecological sanctuaries or rare wild places. Even if we are mining on land that is already pretty degraded, we cannot do anything else with that land. We cannot live there, grow food there or let animals live there if we have turned it into a dirty hole in the ground.

I know people who will not buy an EV because they are so worried about lithium mining overseas. Personally, I think that is the wrong ethical call, but the best option would be if we stopped mining lithium and we just recovered it instead. If we do not recover these materials, they can transform from precious resources into a toxic hazard. They can leach into our groundwater and they can contaminate our soil.

Fortunately, here in the ACT we have a really well-managed landfill. It is lined, it is capped, and we remediate it afterwards. But some of our waste will end up in other people’s landfills, and they are not always well managed. Even in a lined and capped landfill, it is still a waste of space. The faster we fill it up, the faster we need to find more land for the next one. In Canberra, that means we would be using land for landfill instead of using it to house people, provide habitat or protect a little bit more green wild space.

The good news is that all of these materials are recyclable. The adage in the industry is that everything is recyclable with the right system in place. Electrical appliances, in particular, are made up of the same materials as televisions and computers. Pretty much anything that has a plug can be recycled in the same factory.

Some of our Canberra appliances are being repaired, resold or rescued. I know that the Green Shed does a great line in that trade. They tag, test and resell quite a few of these. But not all of our appliances are getting that second life and, even when they do, they still need a recycling chain at the end; otherwise they end up in landfill.

I like recycling because it is really simple. It is just logistics. All we have to do is get the right stuff to the right place with the right business model. There are a lot of different business models that work for recycling. I am pleased to see real-life examples of all of them here in the ACT. Sometimes the private sector does it without assistance. Prior to this role, I ran a recycling company with some colleagues, and we sold our service directly to customers. There is a big industry full of jobs based on that straight commercial model.

There are socially progressive recyclers, from the not-for-profits like Lids4Kids that run on time, goodwill and donations, to the more commercial operators that make money but also play a social enterprise role by giving back cash and goods to the community, again like the Green Shed.

There are government programs, like our kerbside recycling and the recycling drop-off centres. They provide a service that we all need, free of charge, to households and districts all around Canberra. The government pays, and it rolls it out for free to customers.


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