Page 2365 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2016

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Although the ACT Government’s adoption of No Waste by 2010 strategy in 1996 led to various strong increases in the recycling rate up to 2005-06, when it reached 75.1 per cent, no further lasting improvements have been achieved.

The Greens want the ACT to again be a leader in waste management, not only reducing the amount of waste to landfill but in supporting the establishment of innovative new industries and social enterprises. Apart from better managing the waste we currently generate, the Greens also believe we need to focus on waste minimisation, actually reducing the amount of waste we generate as a society in the first place.

The long title of this act states that this is a bill for an act “to provide for the minimisation of waste, the recovery, recycling and reuse of resources, and for other purposes.” Many of the provisions of this bill relate directly to the recovery, recycling and reuse of resources through regulating the activities of waste management businesses. While the generation of waste is generally not the subject of direct regulatory action under the bill it will be the strong focus of the educational role of the waste manager and, potentially, future codes of practice. In the longer term it should be expected that the generation of waste will be discouraged through differential fees and charges which will aim to encourage the recovery and reuse of resources rather than sending material to landfill.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Bill delivers a number of things. It fills a management and regulatory gap in the current legislation. The legislation is designed to bring the commercial waste industry within a framework of regulation that is simple to administer. The bill addresses, for the first time, a number of matters that have been of concern to the government and the ACT community for many years. It provides a framework for regulating behaviour of waste operators that is not limited to the threshold environmental harm criteria in the Environment Protection Act 1997.

It establishes the necessary environment of permission to operate in the waste industry through licensing and registration and industry management. Without this it is not possible to effectively regulate the waste industry. It means the stockpiling of waste will be manageable through directions and codes of practice and the territory will be protected from financial losses through the provision of financial assurances where appropriate. Mandatory data reporting will be simple but will provide essential knowledge about waste activity, making it possible to effectively review policy and practices. Targeted charging for waste will guide waste behaviour within the industry and the broader community, adding momentum to the achievement of targets in the ACT waste strategy.

One of the important features of this legislation is that it is technology neutral so that new processes and facilities can be introduced and managed without the need for legislative change. This could include, for example, mattress recycling, which has recently been established, or potential facilities for polystyrene recycling or processing food waste. Under this legislation illegal behaviour will be more severely punished but genuine operators will be encouraged to invest in the waste industry, something that can only benefit this city and the planet. It is important to note that ordinary domestic waste collection is unaffected by this legislation.

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