Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 3757 ..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
All in all, there is a great deal to think about in this field, and if we are to become a truly sustainable community we will need to look very hard at the available alternatives to treat waste as a resource and not just a problem.
I commend to the Assembly the matter of public importance proposed by Ms Dundas.
MS TUCKER (4.43): Ever since the Greens entered the Assembly in 1995 we have been concerned about the need to reduce the level of waste generated in the ACT. We have raised questions and moved motions on this issue many times and have put forward various initiatives to reduce waste-for example, our legislation to require recycling of building and demolition waste.
We were surprised and delighted by the announcement of the former Liberal government in December 1996 that they had set a target to eliminate waste going to landfill by 2010. Coming from a Liberal government, this was certainly a visionary and courageous act and I give full credit to them.
The Greens have no doubt that a waste-free society is an essential element of a sustainable society. As someone once said, if you are not in favour of zero waste, how much waste are you in favour of? It has to be noted that waste is a human creation. There is no such thing as waste in the natural world. Cast-offs of one species become food or resources for another. Materials go through circular processes of breakdown and renewal in other forms. On the contrary, our modern society developed a linear approach to the use of our resources, where we mine, make, use and then throw away. Waste production became a key part of the market economy. This approach is, however, extremely wasteful of non-renewable resources. As well, it generates significant environmental impacts at landfills themselves.
In the late 1960s recycling began to be taken up by governments in an effort to reduce the growing mountains of rubbish around the world and the declining suitable land available for rubbish dumps. Yet, after more than three decades of trying, society is still making more waste. The three Rs-reduce, reuse and recycle-have barely made a dent in all but a minority of communities. The setting of a no waste target is so important because it sets a new standard in our attitude to waste and a willingness to go beyond current recycling practices.
In the ACT though, the reality of the large amount of waste continuing to be generated has hidden the grand vision of the no waste target. In 1999 the ACT Commissioner for the Environment undertook a review of progress towards the no waste target. He found that there was a lack of a whole-of-government commitment to achievement of the target. Work on the target was being left to a small but dedicated team within Urban Services and a handful of committed community and business interests.
To achieve the target, the government needs to give a high priority to the implementation of measures but the commissioner found that this commitment was lacking. The commissioner also found that not enough was being done to get community commitment to the no waste target. He put forward a number of recommendations to provide a clearer focus for the government's implementation of the strategy and to facilitate the identification of further actions to achieve the target.