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Recycling is not just a load of Rubbish

A recycling summit was held in Canberra on Monday and it was attended by leaders from federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector. Among the commitments made by the business group Pact group agreed to spend $500 million developing recyclable packaging, Nestlé said it would increase its recycling of soft plastics as did Coles. McDonalds has pledged to get rid of plastic cutlery and straws. Australia Post has pledged to make all of its plastic bags from recycled material by December 2020.

The objective of recycling plastics is to prevent them going into landfill and using scarce land and also to prevent them getting into waterways and oceans. Previously waste plastics have been sent to countries like China and Indonesia. Some waste was recycled but in other instances it just ended up in the ocean. These countries have now banned the import of plastics.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened the Summit, telling major retailers, recyclers, industry groups, researchers and students that Australia needs to take responsibility for its plastic waste and he foreshadowed further budget announcements to encourage demand for recycled products and to expand industry capability.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley stressed the government’s commitment to fixing Australia’s plastic waste problem and the importance of industry working with government and consumers while Assistant Minister for Waste, Trevor Evans, highlighted the economic opportunities and the fact the recycling industry was ready to step up to improve recycling rates.

In Old Parliament House, children at the National Plastics Students Summit received a visit from the Governor General and considered ways individual households can reduce their plastic consumption, presenting their findings to the full Summit.

“We have had some amazing students who have already at a young age made outstanding contributions in raising awareness on these issues,” Minister Ley said.

“This summit has brought together a broad range of ideas and commitment and it has put plastic waste firmly on the national agenda.”

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans, said today’s summit was another important step in working with industry to drive long-term practical outcomes such as increasing Australia’s recycling rates and domestic reprocessing capabilities.

“We are looking towards fundamentally changing the way we think about and manage our waste, and creating new markets for recycled products,” Mr Evans said.

“This transformation towards a circular economy will both create jobs and help our environment”.

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef the Hon Warren Entsch said that the Student’s summit was an important highlight as he accompanied eleven-year-old Cairns student Molly Steer who led a national campaign against plastic straws to an address to the full summit.

“These kids are the ones we have to take note of, they are the leaders of our future,” he said.

Collectively, these commitments will save hundreds of tonnes of plastic from going to landfill each year and will assist in growing and transforming Australia’s recycling and waste management industry as we take responsibility for our own waste.

In closing the Summit, Minister Ley congratulated industry for their ongoing commitment to reducing the environmental impacts of waste plastics and making fundamental changes to their business operations to help transition Australia to a circular economy by turning waste into a resource.

The minister told Parliament on Tuesday that recycling waste creates four times as many jobs as disposing of it in landfill and that it provided economic prospects for many regional communities.

At the moment the Government is looking for opportunities to stimulate the economy that are targeted and job creating. Recycling represents one great opportunity.

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