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City of Melbourne propose new-plastics tax

A tax on “virgin” plastics, paper and metals has been proposed in the City of Melbourne’s Current Recycling Challenges discussion paper released today.

A container deposit scheme, a ban on some types of packaging, and a retailer and manufacturer waste take-back scheme are some of the paper’s other suggestions for alleviating the strains currently felt by Victoria’s waste and recycling industry.

The discussion paper also suggests halting the recycling of low value materials, and investigating waste-to-energy options.

The council’s paper also highlights noteworthy initiatives underway elsewhere, including the South Australian government’s grantsfor stimulating the state’s recycling market.

The aim of SA’s grant program is to “encourage a closed loop economy to process recyclables within the state and increase the market share of products containing recycled content”, according to the paper.

The discussion paper, which has been released for public feedback, is part of the council’s broader response to the significant and rapid changes to the global recycling markets caused by China’s decision to restrict certain recycling imports earlier this year.

For councils, the changes mean that it costs more to get recyclables from kerbside collection to processing plants. This is because the over-supply of materials has reduced its value.

In response to the changes, the Victorian government has provided $12 million in emergency funding to support all Victorian local councils until the end of June 2018 to tackle this issue.

With responsibility for collection and recycling or disposal of waste from residents and public places, local governments are adapting swiftly to the changes facing the waste and recycling industry.

However, councils are increasingly looking to the upper tiers of government to provide long-term guidance and action on the issue.

“We are calling on the state and federal governments to invest in recycling infrastructure that provides cost effective and environmentally beneficial solutions,” City of Melbourne’s environment portfolio chair Cathy Oke said.

The mayor of NSW’s Waverley Council in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, John Wakefield, also told The Fifth Estaterecently that immediate action from all levels of government was required to avoid acrisis, and that joint recycling processing facilities for local governments should be considered as part of the broader solution.

Some direction on this issue can be expected from the federal government as part of its response to a Senate Inquiry into Australia’s waste and recycling problem, which was delivered to parliament on Tuesday 26 June 2018.

Feedback on the City of Melbourne discussion paper will help inform the council’s Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030, which is currently available in draft form.

The strategy is intended to position the council as a “global leader in waste management, resource recovery and reduction of all waste streams to landfill”.

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