I thank the member for Higgins for this resolution. Every chance we get to highlight and discuss the situation of waste and recycling is a good thing. Australia does well on recycling masonry, metals and ash with about 60 per cent recycled. But by far the worst outcome is the recycling of plastics: between 2006 and 2017, we only increased our rate of recycling from 10 to 12 per cent of total plastics. We read about the great Pacific garbage patch with plastic debris older than 50 years. We read that by 2050 the weight of plastic in our oceans will be greater than the weight of fish. Countries like China and Indonesia refuse to take our contaminated waste. We have a crisis and we need to deal with it.
Throughout my electorate of Corangamite, the issue of waste and recycling is the No.1 issue. The amount of anger and frustration that has built around these two issues is amazing. But, worse still, after decades of education and pleading for people to do the right thing, good people are losing faith in the system. So two points of the resolution are without controversy—that is, we must deal with the problem of unnecessary waste and packaging; we must improve recycling, acknowledging that only 12 per cent of the 103 kilograms of plastic per person is recycled, mostly overseas, and that recycling and waste related economies boost our economy—for every 10,000 tonnes of waste recycled, 9.2 jobs are created.
But where I part company is with the self-congratulation in points 3 and 4 of the resolution. Of course, the 2018 National Waste Policy agreed between the Commonwealth and states is a good start with its aim to use and re-use resources in a circular economy. And, yes, the Commonwealth has made a $20 million contribution through the Cooperative Research Centres Projects Grants as part of its $167 million recycling investment plan. But, in reality, this money is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed to fix the problem. It is too little too late. Each plastics recycling or pellet plant can cost between $50 million and $100 million, so $20 million here and there isn't going to fix our problems in this area. Worse still, when the coalition came into government, they wound back some reforms such as the product stewardship advisory committee which Labor introduced in 2011.
I have to say: on both sides of politics, we do need to do more. There has been market failure with recycling collapsing in the wake of the failure of SKM Recycling in Victoria and other states. Cheapest is not always the best. Now millions of tonnes of waste are going into landfill. Local councils don't have millions to invest in recycling facilities and, for private operators, the margins are just too small. Even state governments are pressed to find additional infrastructure funds as they struggle with growing populations.
I must say, however, that state governments collect 1.5 billion in waste levies but only $200 million is reinvested in the waste and recycling sector each year. We have to ask: why isn't that spent on recycling? All levels of government simply need to make waste and recycling a higher priority. We don't blink at allocating billions into roads, rail and other physical infrastructure. We should be lifting our sights on how much we invest in recycling infrastructure, especially around plastics, and $168 million over the forward estimates for the Commonwealth is simply not enough.
Labor went to the last election with a more ambitious $290 million commitment to support waste reduction and recycling that included a national ban on single-use plastic and microbeads from 2021; $15 million to help our Pacific neighbours deal with waste; targets for governments to purchase recycled products; establishing a national waste commissioner to work with industry on the expansion of stewardship schemes to include e-waste batteries and white goods; and $200 million on cleaning up our urban rivers and corridors and to stop plastic waste entering the ocean. These are vital initiatives that the Commonwealth would do well to adopt.Share Tweet