LGA applauds National Plastics Plan

Council is trialling a soft plastics recycling initiative as part of its kerbside collections

Central Coast Council says the Federal Government’s recently released National Plastics Plan aligns with the vision and objectives of Council’s own Waste Resource Management Strategy 2020-2030 with its focus on reducing plastic waste and enhancing opportunities to reuse products and recycle materials.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has hailed the plan as an important milestone on the road to a more environmentally and economically sustainable future.

Released following long-standing ALGA advocacy for stronger action on national waste reduction and recycling, the plan will help achieve many of the 2020 National Waste Policy Action Plan targets endorsed by Australia’s Environment Ministers.

ALGA President, Linda Scott, said better waste management represents a billion-dollar economic opportunity for Australia.

“Done well, it will lead to a greater recovery of valuable and finite resources, create thousands of new jobs, and protect fragile ecosystems from the scourge of single-use plastics,” she said.

“We broadly welcome this plan as an opportunity for the Commonwealth to better engage with and enable local government to make further progress on managing waste sustainably and responsibly.”

A spokesperson said Central Coast Council was already well advanced through implementation of a wide range of initiatives consistent with the goals of the plan.

These included the phasing out of single use plastics from Council’s operations and events and the collection and subsequent recycling of soft plastics generated from across Council’s operations.

“Council is believed to be the only council in Australia currently undertaking the collection of soft plastics as part of its communities kerbside recycling service,” the spokesperson said.

“A successful trial is underway with 2,054 households currently participating and further rollout planned.

“(Council is also) working with its industry partners to develop new innovative recycling technologies and end markets for recycled product (and is) supporting recycled plastic processors and manufactures through the purchasing of products with recycled content for use within Council’s operations.”

Australia’s 537 local councils manage around 26 percent of Australian waste annually, either directly or through contractual arrangements.

Each year, local governments collect around 9.7 million tonnes of waste from kerbside bin services, sort it at material recovery facilities (MRFs), and dispatch what can be recycled to reprocessing facilities.

“The cost to councils is an estimated $3.5B annually.

The Federal Government’s commitment to the National Plastic plan includes: phasing out problematic and unnecessary plastics such as expanded polystyrene (EPS); working with industry to deliver national packaging targets; investing in new plastics product stewardship schemes; and strengthening Federal procurement rules to kickstart demand and an initial “pull-through” for recycled materials.

However, Scott said a further commitment by the Federal Government to “work with the states and territories to harmonise kerbside recycling collection” has raised concerns across local government.

“Creating the same bins for every area of Australia without significant additional funding for local governments is not a practical way to achieve increased recycling,” she said.

“A one-size-fits-all approach assumes Australian homes are the same size and ignores the reality that Materials Recovery Facilities vary enormously in capacity and capability across Australia.”

Terry Collins