Key sections from options paper
Reducing contamination at households is a good place to start in improving the value and stability of the waste and recycling market. This is best done through informative, educative and non-punitive measures. In particular, standardising services will go a long way to reducing confusion among householders about how to recycle correctly.
Set minimum standards for household waste and recycling services
The ability for the waste authority to set service standards will be important to ensure that all Victorian households receive services that are consistent state-wide and meet community expectations. This is in line with the Recycling Victoria commitment (action 5.1) to ensure all households have access to four core waste and recycling services (organics, glass, comingled recycling, and residual waste). These standards will support and complement the Victorian Government’s state-wide recycling education campaign (Recycling Victoria action 2.3), with both interventions vital to ensure households know which items go in which bin.
The standards will be enacted through subordinate legislation. It is likely they will cover aspects of household waste and recycling services, such as items that must be accepted, bin lid colours, and transparency on household waste charges. It is intended that standards will be reviewed regularly.
It is important to balance the need for state-wide consistency against the potential for standards to discourage innovation or improvement in the service. Options to overcome this include:
- requiring that services are consistent with the standard, but providing for exemptions for councils to test improvements, which could then potentially be incorporated into the next iteration of the standard
- requiring that councils, when communicating with households, clearly distinguish between core services (i.e. those set out in the standard) and additional services, so that state-wide education can focus on the consistent core services.
Product stewardship schemes require producers to be responsible for the end of life disposal or recovery of a product. An example of this is a container deposit scheme where beverage companies cover costs associated with people obtaining refunds for recycling their beverage containers.
The Victorian Government continues to advocate for expanded and strengthened national product stewardship arrangements. However, there is a case for introducing a broad product stewardship power into the Act to:
- align with equivalent legislation in other jurisdictions (WA, QLD, NSW, SA);
- reinforce Recycling Victoria’s focus on the need for shared responsibility in a circular economy
- allow for state-based leadership on product stewardship in the absence of national initiatives.
The introduction of such a provision would require clear definitions of the type of schemes that could be introduced. Before any such scheme could be established, a clear need for the scheme would need to be demonstrated, and there would need to be no conflict with national schemes or effective voluntary schemes already in place.
It is proposed to shift provisions related to Victoria’s waste and resource recovery infrastructure planning framework from environment protection legislation to the new Act as it strongly aligns with the objectives and functions of the new waste authority.
This also presents an opportunity to reform and improve the framework. As noted in Recycling Victoria, the new infrastructure planning framework will:
- include hazardous waste infrastructure
- plan for waste to energy facilities
- improve state-wide risk and contingency planning for waste and resource recovery infrastructure
- ensure land use planning systems align with infrastructure planning.
Importantly, consolidation of the current state-wide infrastructure plan and seven regional implementation plans into a single plan – the Victorian Recycling Infrastructure Plan (VRIP) – is proposed. The new VRIP would consider both state-wide and regional priorities and include the detailed infrastructure schedules that are currently part of regional plans. These infrastructure schedules are an important mechanism for reducing reliance on landfills and – because landfills are responsible for 66 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from Victoria’s waste sector – reducing Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions. This supports Victoria’s transition to a net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy by 2050, in accordance with the Climate Change Act 2017.
Infrastructure plans guide a range of government interventions including investment facilitation, grants, land use planning and regulatory approvals. The benefits of one plan include increased system-wide oversight, better integration and reduced duplication of effort. However, consideration needs to be given to how regional issues are sufficiently emphasised and considered in a single plan. Feedback is sought on preferred legislative or other measures to ensure this.
More detailed information on the content and specific objectives of the new VRIP, the data required to inform it, and the process for developing it (including opportunities for stakeholder engagement) and implementing it will be included in subordinate legislation.
To ensure the effective transfer of these provisions to the new Act and to meet Recycling Victoria’s commitments, it is proposed to expand the current objectives of the planning framework to include:
- effective risk management, including integration of contingency planning with emergency contingency planning provisions under the Emergency Management Act 2013
- effective integration with other relevant government policy, planning, and approval and decision-making processes (e.g. environment protection and land use planning decisions)
- application of the waste hierarchy (with a possible cross reference to the new EP Act).
This will enable appropriate emphasis on risk management and contingency planning as well as clarify that the waste hierarchy will guide the plan’s development.
 Victoria’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report 2019: https://www.climatechange.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/443014/Victorian-Greenhouse-Gas-Emissions-Report-2019.pdf