South Australia’s recycling industry is set to benefit from a cash injection of $45m following an agreement between State and Federal governments that will see SA’s circular economy continue to expand.
State and Federal government figures have said that if industry bodies are willing to commit $15 million of their own funds, they will match these contributions with $30 million of government funds to underpin the state’s recycling infrastructure.
Environment Minister David Speirs has said that the $45m cash injection for the South Australian recycling industry is set to increase the state’s recycling rate, which is already at nation-leading levels.
According to government figures, more than 83.8% of the waste produced in South Australia is diverted from landfill, where it is either recycled or reused as much as possible, under the circular economy model.
South Australia’s recycling industry has also created more 4,800 full-time jobs.
Minister Speirs added that cash would be in the “hands of developers” by Easter, and the government would be taking applications for grants that offer new, environmentally sustainable means of recycling and reusing waste.
“We’ve got this opportunity to say to the private sector – and it’s often councils that form those conglomerations around recycling and waste management – tell us your ideas,” Mr Speirs said at the announcement.
“We can get good technology, get innovation in place, create jobs here and set up industries that recycle.”
The Federal Government’s contribution of funds will be taken from the Recycling Modernisation Fund that was announced last year. The creation of this fund will see around $190 million of government funding invested in recycling infrastructure around the country.
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has praised South Australia for its proactive approach to recycling and environmental management of waste.
She said that the government’s Recycling Modernisation Fund is set to create a “$1 billion transformation of Australia’s treatment of waste and recycling,” adding that more emphasis should be placed on low-energy and sustainable recycling practices.
“People often think of transforming plastic into new plastic as requiring a lot of energy,” she said. “There’s actually a cold, mechanical process, where we shake the plastic really hard – to put it in simple terms – that uses a lot less energy.”
Following China’s 2017 decision to halt all imports of foreign waste, Australia was forced to find other options for the more than 619,000 tonnes of recyclable material that is produced each year.
A report from the ABC puts the value of this 619,000 tonnes of recyclable waste at $523 million.
South Australia’s Environment Minister Speirs said in relation that “about a year-and-a-half ago, the Prime Minister made an announcement that he wanted to ban waste being sent overseas.”
“South Australia has never done a great deal of that anyway,” he added. “We have quite an advanced recycling sector here – there’s no big stockpile, no big waste mountain in SA – but we can always get better.”
The news of $45m being injected into South Australia’s recycling industry comes as the state looks to implement new environmental protection laws for consumer goods.
Notably, South Australia has also implemented a ban on the sale of single-use plastic items like plastic straws and cutlery that will come into effect on the 1st of March.
The ban will extend to single-use items like polystyrene coffee cups and takeaway containers from 2022.