Circular economy model

New $130 million Australian recycling fund will prevent 10 million tons of waste from entering landfills

Every year, Australians produce about 67 million tons of waste. Now, the Australian government has launched a massive $130 USD overhaul of its recycling systems, known as the “Recycling Modernisation Fund,” to catalyze a circular economy.

The new program is expected to divert 10 million tons, roughly 15% of all of the country’s waste, from landfills. To accomplish this goal, it will improve the efficiency of its recycling systems, while also facilitating the reuse of old products to manufacture new ones.

The government will also invest roughly $20 million USD to reduce the amount of waste generated per capita by 10% by 2030 and to phase out many particularly problematic plastic products by 2025. It will also invest roughly $15 million USD in collecting better data on waste in order to inform strategic solutions.

The move is a direct response to China’s 2018 decision to stop accepting Australia’s waste. Since, Australia has needed to overhaul its entire waste systems, finding ways to significantly reduce the need for landfills on its shores, rather that outsourcing the problem abroad.

Despite these major investments, many Australians believe the new program does not go far enough. In particular, they are concerned that it does not sufficiently address the plague of single-use plastics across the country.

They are right.

As with any government policy effort, this is a great step forward, but it is not enough. We cannot stop at simply overhauling the efficiency of our recycling systems. The circular economy requires that we continuously tighten our resource loops, until all waste is eliminated. To do so, we must reimagine our concept of “waste” altogether. We must realize there need not be any real “waste.” There are only useful resources that we’ve failed to imagine a suitable use for and single-use resource that we’ve failed to design out of our systems.

What more can we do to make this waste-free world a reality, in Australia and across the world?

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Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, son, and cat.

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