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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 3750 ..


Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Ms Dundas proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The need for the ACT Government and the Canberra Community to recommit to the target of "No Waste" by 2010.

MS DUNDAS (4.16): The ACT government, the Australian government and governments across the world have committed to a vision of a sustainable future, one where we do not consume more resources than our natural environment can support.

We all know intuitively that it isn't acceptable to keep contaminating more and more land with our waste. The fact that no-one wants to live on top of a landfill is a clear sign that we don't think that burial of our waste is an acceptable, permanent solution. To achieve a sustainable society we need to both reduce the amount of waste we generate and change the type of waste we generate to make sure that everything we produce and consume can ultimately be recycled.

Concern for our environment has grown steadily since the early 1970s. As is inevitable with every global movement, progress has been patchy and perhaps uneven. Global trade has served to both help and to hinder the progress of effective environmental strategies, and the area of waste management is no exception. Waste crosses international borders, so countries can seldom act alone.

Despite the difficulties posed in the national and international context, back in 1996 the ACT government committed to the bold vision of no waste to landfill by the year 2010. The ACT was one of the first jurisdictions to do this. I think most ACT residents hear about the target and scoff, and that is unfortunate. They think it simply isn't possible to reuse or recycle everything we produce and consume. But there are companies like Xerox and Ricoh, cities like Hong Kong and Dunedin, and countries such as Japan proving that it is possible. All that is needed is a genuine commitment.

Like the Californian zero emission vehicle program, the no waste target is stimulating innovation in recycling. When landfill disposal is priced at or near its true cost, new markets somehow open up for waste and, with that, new jobs are created. We have seen new markets recently opening up for waste such as old electrical equipment. Even complex mixed-material items, such as computer monitors, can be recycled under a true-cost-of-disposal pricing structure. We have also seen new markets open up for demolition waste and for food waste.

In the ACT, a detailed study estimated that it costs around $110 a tonne to dispose of waste in landfill. But tip fees are not currently meeting the cost of this disposal, so we are actually subsidising those who produce excessive waste. We need to turn this around.

Further, this $110 a tonne figure does not account for the flow-on impact on the environment of losing our non-renewable resources to landfill. Many items are made from materials which damage the environment during the mining or manufacturing stages, and these environmental impacts are seldom reflected in the cost of production

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