Waste Elimination

Principles

1. Waste elimination is based on two fundamental principles:

1.1 The best way to deal with waste is to avoid producing it in the first place; and

1.2 Those who generate waste should be responsible for its full life cycle.

2. Waste is one of society's major environmental problems as in our current situation huge amounts of our non-renewable resources are wasted by making them into disposable items.

3. Most solid waste ends up in landfills, causing problems such as:

3.1 Ground water pollution;

3.2 Escaping methane gas;

3.3 Toxic off-gassing causing illness;

3.4 Odour and vermin;

3.5 Surface run off to water courses;

3.6 Air and noise pollution; and

3.7 Loss of high conservation natural areas;

4. Consumers pay more for throw-away products which generate higher profits for manufacturers but ultimately cost society more for disposal;

5. Australia's balance of payments suffers due to the cost of importing unnecessary packaging and materials which are not used as efficiently as possible.

6. The best solution is waste avoidance, via a number of strategies:

6.1 Refuse to accept wasteful and unnecessary items;

6.2 Reduce consumption levels and learn to live with fewer consumer goods;

6.3 Reuse containers and buy durable items;

6.4 Recycle what you can't reuse; and

6.5 Compost food and garden scraps.

7. The advantages of waste avoidance include:

7.1 Elimination of need for waste disposal through EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility);

7.2 Reduced consumption of energy and materials in manufacturing and transport;

7.3 Less need to make new goods;

7.4 Greater local self sufficiency;

7.5 Cost savings to consumers and society; and

7.6 Employment opportunities through repair and re-use.

8. The ultimate goal is to develop systems and products which require no final disposal.

9. Those who generate waste should be held responsible for disposing of it. The attitude of industry needs to be: "If it can't be reused or recycled, don't make it".

10. One of the major results of the current boom in environmental awareness has been a desire by many people to reduce their impact on the planet. Recycling is only one part of the waste hierarchy which has benefited.Manufacturing, particularly beverage and packaging manufacturers, argue that we only need to recycle more to solve our waste problems, implying that there is no need to question our high consumption, throw-away lifestyles. Their efforts to divert attention from the real causes of the waste crisis have been very effective, especially in convincing politicians not to introduce laws on waste avoidance.

11. From an environmental, economic and social view, waste reduction and re-use are far more effective ways of minimising waste than recycling. The transport and handling costs associated with municipal recycling make it very expensive, especially in non-metropolitan communities which generally have dispersed populations spread over large areas. By contrast, avoiding waste at its source and making better use of reusable containers not only cuts waste, but also saves money for consumers and society in the long term.

Goals

The Waste Crisis

12. New South Wales remains in the midst of a waste crisis. Sydney for example, is estimated to have a limited number of years of landfill disposal capacity remaining, yet numerous proposals have been made to transport Sydney's waste to distant rural areas in an attempt to maintain the city's unsustainable lifestyle. Rural communities and environmentalists remain adamant there should be "No Sydney Dump for the Bush".

13. There is an urgent need for enactment of an integrated waste elimination strategy. Without such a strategy country areas of NSW will bear the burden of Sydney's wasteful lifestyle.

14. Using expensive alternative technology which converts waste to energy is inappropriate and results in unnecessary “end of pipe solutions”.

Definitions

15. Waste elimination is not creating waste for disposal by adhering to the following hierarchy; consumption avoidance, product and packaging re-use, and organic and non-organic material recycling and composting (in that order of priority).

16. Avoiding is not consuming material and energy resources e.g. choosing not to acquire unnecessary products or packaging.

17. Re-using is using products or packaging again for the same purpose without further manufacturing, e.g. purchasing second-hand goods, returning refillable containers (such as glass milk bottles) so they can be used again.

18. Recycling is a closed-loop system using used material to re-manufacture the same product, e.g. the re-pulping and re-manufacture of new office paper from used office paper, smashing and melting old glass bottles to make new ones.

19. Reprocessing is, in contrast, an open-loop system using used material to manufacture a different 'new' product, for example, manufacturing other products from plastic soft drink bottles; insulation from waste paper.

20. Waste is discarded products and materials only found in human society.

21. Disposal is attempting to isolate waste from daily human activities by landfilling, river or sea dumping, or incineration - including waste to energy schemes such as biomass landfill gas collection and SWERF which do not achieve the objectives established by the waste elimination hierarchy.

Aims

22. The primary aim of this policy is to achieve 'Zero Waste’ through zero waste generation and zero waste disposal.

23. Other important and complementary aims include:

23.1 Reduce total consumption of material and energy resources;

23.2 Move toward a waste-free society as an integral part of ecological sustainability;

23.3 Maximise self-sufficiency at a local level;

23.4 Promote greater community knowledge, appreciation, and understanding of waste and environmental issues;

23.5 Promote greater community access to, and involvement in, decision-making at all levels of government;

23.6 Encourage more environmentally and socially beneficial resource use;

23.7 Ensure that the responsibility for waste is ultimately borne by those who produce that waste (i.e. polluter pays principle);

23.8 Achieve a greater level of employment in-line with increased product re-use and material recycling at a local level;

23.9 Avoid the pollution, waste of resources, and social impacts caused by the disposal or combustion of waste;

23.10 Seek alternatives to the generation and disposal of all types of hazardous waste - thereby avoiding the multitude of problems which would otherwise exist throughout their life-cycle;

23.11 Avoid the need to establish new, or to expand existing, waste disposal/reprocessing facilities;

23.12 Ensure an integrated and comprehensive approach to waste elimination;

23.13 Promote equity for present and future generations by ending the excessive consumption and the unjust distribution of material and energy resources; and

23.14 Promote a precautionary approach to the adoption of new technology.

Method

24. The strategic aim of 'Zero Waste' is pursued with recognition that the source of the waste crisis is the linear, excessive, and resource inefficient production-consumption process and that mechanisms are required to achieve clean production, and waste-free consumption.

25. In this context, the strategy sets out to:

25.1 Identify the legislative framework necessary to support avoidance, re-use and recycling in that order of priority;

25.2 Promote fiscal measures to minimise waste generation and resource use;

25.3 Set waste elimination targets backed by legislation;

25.4 Provide direct incentives for source reduction, source separation, and product longevity;

25.5 Promote the establishment of municipal scale composting facilities;

25.6 Establish systems that ensure physical and financial responsibility for waste is borne by those with whom that waste originated (i.e. cradle-to-grave producer responsibility);

25.7 Seek legislation to allow 'point-of-sale return' of products and packaging by consumers (via retailers) to manufacturers, including CDL;

25.8 Advance a life-cycle approach to the provision of products and services;

25.9 Seek to ensure that 'lowest impact' product alternatives have the lowest prices;

25.10 Seek to internalise environmental impact costs so that the absolute and relative prices of material and non-material components of products and services reflect their absolute and relative environmental impacts;

25.11 Encourage a greater level of product re-use and material recycling in that order of priority;

25.12 Seek to provide the public with the educative resources necessary to allow them to participate in the waste elimination process;

25.13 Promote a greater level of responsibility from consumers by enhancing their appreciation and understanding of the waste and environmental impacts associated with their consumption through informative product labelling; and

25.14 Promote a waste disposal pricing policy which actively discourages waste disposal and hypothecates the revenue to help eliminate waste.

Detail

Vision of a Waste-Free Future

26. This strategy presents an action plan suggesting how to move towards a waste-free society. It lists the types of actions required and identifies those required to take such action. It has been developed to operate best with a co-operative approach from all spheres of government and requires each to take responsibility for the actions it can pursue itself.

27. The strategy requires co-ordinated not competitive action by government at a National, State and Local level, industry, and the community to ensure:

27.1 Provision of efficient and effective Collection Systems for product re-use and material recycling (and disposal of 'waste' until zero waste is achieved);

27.2 Adoption and enforcement of Targets for reducing the waste from, and the environmental impact of, products, materials, and production processes;

27.3 Provision of educative resources to meet these targets; and

27.4 Use of fiscal measures which act to deter disposal.

Collection Systems

28. Point-of-sale return (for products and packaging) is the most efficient and effective means of collecting products and packaging for re-use or recycling. Point-of-Sale Return ensures these valuable resources are returned to the manufacturer (via the retailer) who then has the opportunity to re-use or recycle them. Point-of-Sale Return:

28.1 Applies to all non-consumable products and packaging;

28.2 Requires manufacturers (via retailers) to accept back the types of products and packaging they supply;

28.3 Should be supported by a sufficiently high refundable deposit, on appropriate items, to encourage a high rate of return;

28.4 Will significantly reduce litter and alleviate the need for public recycling/waste bins; and

28.5 Would encourage the supply of, and demand for, bulk and unpackaged produce.

29. Kerbside collection services (for materials) should be established or maintained, at least as an interim measure, for the remaining non-reusable but recyclable materials, namely:

29.1 Source separated office paper and newsprint (dependent upon the perceived appropriateness of point-of-sale return for the collection of such materials);

29.2 Source separated food and garden material (to complement home composting and worm farming); and

29.3 While ever the need remains (i.e. until the collection systems identified in this strategy are established) mixed waste should be collected on a user-pays by volume and weight basis. As the mixed waste-stream diminishes, disposal collection services can be progressively reduced until they ultimately cease.

30. Other collection schemes may be operated by Industry groups, local government, small businesses, or community-based organisations (such as 'house-to-house' or 'drop-off centres') as a community service or for profit.

Targets

31. To achieve zero waste, initial milestones for waste reduction should therefore be a 25% reduction in total waste disposal each year, based on the previous year, resulting in a 95% reduction in waste for disposal over a ten year period. Throughout the course of the strategy special attention should be paid to recalcitrant waste generators, resetting targets and penalties to achieve the commendable goal of zero waste.

32. Targets are to be met by each sector of the waste stream, such as paper, packaging, organics, and building materials - and within each sector, such as (for paper), office paper, newsprint and cardboard.

33. Targets are also to be met by each regional and industry sector.

34. Targets are to be set, and met, annually.

35. Significant and increasing penalties are to apply to each sector for each year of failure. Products and materials which meet targets should be eligible for government concessions.

36. Products and/or materials could be prohibited if they fail to meet the targets or pay the penalties.

37. Each product for sale and material for use should be 'represented' by a life-cycle analysis. Such analysis should detail the environmental impact of a product or material over its entire life-cycle. Factors to consider include: the impact of resource extraction, resource consumption, energy use, and the pollution caused by solid, liquid, and gaseous waste generation taking into consideration allowance for environmental impacts of product utilisation.

38. Standards should be developed to support the introduction of Life-Cycle Analysis to assess, compare, and label products and materials according to their environmental impact.

39. The provision of a life-cycle analysis should be required for all products for sale and materials for use. Severe penalties should apply for incorrect and/or misleading information.

40. Product-based environmental impact targets should be established:

40.1 Based on product alternatives with the lowest environmental impact within each sector;

40.2 With non-essential products that do not achieve the 'lowest impact' criteria able to be prohibited; and

40.3 Sectors required to minimise their overall environmental impact as well as achieving their waste reduction targets.

Educative Resources

41. 'Waste Elimination Committees' should be established at all levels of government. Such committees should be made up of community and environment representatives, providing ongoing input to the development of policies to reduce waste and environmental impact, and continual output to the community who need guidance in the form of educative resources to put waste and environmental impact reduction into practice.

42. Equipment and financial resources, including support for research and development projects, should be provided to these committees and the community as necessary.

Fiscal Measures

43. Ultimately, a revenue-neutral rebate scheme is required to ensure the cost of a product to a consumer reflects that product's environmental impact in relation to alternative products which may serve the same, or similar, purpose. Prompt inception of the scheme, and its progressive development, will ensure the necessary transition to environmentally sensitive production. The scheme should:

43.1 Be based on the life-cycle analysis of the product; and

43.2 Apply tax (on a range of 'life-cycle' criteria) to the more damaging and grant rebates to the less damaging products. In this way, taxes fund rebates so the system is 'revenue-neutral'.

44. A new-material tax is proposed as an interim measure to discourage the use of new materials in favour of pre-used products and 'post-consumer' recycled materials. The tax should be:

44.1 Proportional to the new-material content of the product; and

44.2 Used to improve the collection of closed-loop recyclable materials and promote the use of closed-loop recycled products (in preference to new-material products) within the sector which generated the tax revenue.

45. Subsidisation of collection systems for recycled/recyclable products is not desirable in the long-term but may be necessary as an interim measure until such time as they are viable in their own right.

46. As an immediate measure, used material tax exemptions must be applied. For example, tax exemptions should apply to a wider range of products by granting varying degrees of tax exemption to pre-used products and products containing 'post-consumer' recycled materials.

47. Purchasing policy of industry and all levels of government must be consistent with the targets outlined above. Such purchasing policies need to be mandatory to ensure the targets are met and to assist the markets for environmentally sensitive products which reduce waste. Progress reports, produced annually, should be subject to public scrutiny.

48. A state-wide waste disposal pricing policy is required.

49. No new landfill or incineration, e.g. waste to energy, disposal facilities, or expansion proposals should be approved, at least until the waste elimination measures presented in this strategy are fully implemented.

50. Pricing should reflect the finite nature of landfill and the environmental and social problems caused by landfill, incineration, and waste to energy as a means of disposing of otherwise valuable resources. A 'half-life' approach should be adopted whereby the cost of disposal is inversely proportional to the remaining landfill capacity. Thus, each halving of capacity would double the price of disposal.

51. Upon landfill charges rising to the level of an alternative form of disposal, the two should be linked, and continue to rise together, according to the above-mentioned formula - thus discouraging all forms of disposal and promoting an ever increasing commitment to waste elimination.

52. Differential tipping fees are required to further discourage the generation of mixed waste and encourage source separation.

53. Source-separated materials, that can be re-used or recycled, should attract fees which are significantly less than the mixed waste disposal fee.

54. Revenue from mixed waste disposal should be used to help fund waste elimination in accordance with the hierarchy for waste elimination.

55. With just a few years of landfill capacity remaining, adoption of such a policy would demonstrate a responsible attitude - otherwise the landfill capacity which does remain will be squandered quickly and allow even less time for the necessary transition to a waste-free society.

56. Funding priorities and allocation should be revised so that, until zero waste is achieved, revenue from waste disposal is targeted to fund waste elimination with the following priorities:

56.1 Avoidance should receive the highest priority and greatest proportion of funds;

56.2 Re-use should receive the next highest priority and next greatest proportion of funds after avoidance;

56.3 Recycling should receive the next highest priority and next greatest proportion of funds after re-use;

56.4 Reprocessing should receive a lower priority;

56.5 Disposal should receive the lowest priority and smallest portion of funds; and

56.6 Hazardous waste, being a special case, needs to be addressed under all headings of the hierarchy with an adequate portion of the funds for each.

Hazardous and Intractable Waste Elimination

57. Extended Producer Responsibility, both physical and financial, must be required of all hazardous and intractable waste generators. Additionally:

57.1 Hazardous waste generation should cease as soon as possible;

57.2 Until hazardous waste has been eliminated, hazardous waste collection and treatment should be co-ordinated by government authorities and funded fully by those industries with which such waste originated;

57.3 Intractable waste generation should cease immediately; and

57.4 For that intractable waste that does already exist, guaranteed safe storage is the only appropriate means of ensuring the long-term protection of the wider environment.