A landfill.
Recyclable material piles up at landfills across Victoria.

The crisis in Australia’s waste management and recycling sector has been a long time coming.

Every year the waste we generate is increasing at twice the rate of our growing population. The average Australian produces around 2.25 tonnes of waste a year.

The waste crisis

In 2018, China enforced it’s “National Sword” policy, which introduced prohibitively high standards for the importation of waste. This effective ban on waste imports threw Australia’s already straining sector into disarray. Waste that was previously exported to China is now piling up in warehouses across the country, and recyclable materials are being sent to landfill.

While the National Sword policy might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, the waste sector in Australia has long been under duress. Governments at all levels have been aware of the challenges in the waste sector for years.

Seeking a solution

In Victoria, the Andrews Labor Government began consultation on waste-to-energy technologies in 2017. In 2018, the Upper House Inquiry into Recycling and Waste Management commenced, a process that is currently underway.

The waste sector is highly regulated and changes in policy are slow. Proponents of new technologies face labyrinthine statutory approvals processes involving multiple agencies at Local, State and even Federal Government level.

At the same time as the government scrambles to find innovative solutions, the social licence of landfills is being eroded by the perceived lack of oversight in protecting communities from their effects on amenity. Even with odour controls in place, the stench from landfills still reaches those living within the vicinity of the site, affecting both property prices and quality of life.

Earlier this month, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) moved to ban the export of recyclable materials. There is a clear desire within government to encourage innovation in the sector. And it is not as if funding is scarce: the Victorian Sustainability Fund, created in 2005 with the stated purpose of redirecting the Municipal and Industrial Landfill Levy into supporting innovative waste solutions and increasing recycling, has a balance of $511.3 million.

The challenge

The challenge for proponents of new waste management solutions is navigating a complex government, stakeholder and regulatory environment to ensure your proposal is well considered, based on robust evidence and is being heard by the right people, at the right time.

Effective advocacy is relevant, relentless and realistic. Even if an innovative solution presents itself, it needs to be framed in a way that will resonate with decision-makers.

The Civic Group has a deep understanding of the waste management industry, planning regime and regulatory landscape in Victoria. We are perfectly placed to help you advocate to government and other stakeholders on a range of issues including advocacy, funding and planning matters.

For more information email us at info@thecivicgroup.com.au or call us on +61 3 9620 9300.