Interview with Ali Clarke and David Bevan, ABC Adelaide

21 January 2021


DAVID BEVAN: The South Australian and Federal Governments have cut a deal in which $30 million of tax payers money will be injected into recycling here in South Australia. Now, I think it’s $15 million from the State Government and $15 million from the Federal Government. What’s that actually going to mean? Sussan Ley is the Federal Environment Minister; she joins us now. Good morning, Minister.

SUSSAN LEY: Good morning, David. Good to be on the program.

DAVID BEVAN: What’s this going to mean, $30 million?

SUSSAN LEY:  There’s going to be $45 million because industry will also have skin in this game. And with that, you ask, what will it buy? A whole lot of ideas, new technology, new streams of waste, and South Australia with its wonderful history of container deposit legislation. So that was originally pick up rubbish. This is, well, that rubbish has value. Let’s turn it into something that has value, close the loop when it comes to manufacturing, build sustainable industries, and importantly, build regional jobs.

So, this is pretty exciting, and we’re delighted after our waste export ban, the Prime Minister’s leadership – our waste, it’s our responsibility. We then had a $1 billion transformation in Australia’s treatment of waste and recycling, and this next stage is our partnerships with the states.

DAVID BEVAN: So how will this be organised? Will you advertise saying, okay, if you’re a private operator in this area, this money is available, you put up a proposal and if it meets our criteria for absorbing and then recycling waste, you get the money.

SUSSAN LEY: That’s right. So there is an expression of interest process; it opened yesterday; it closes towards the end of February. South Australia, ourselves as the Commonwealth and industry will jointly look at projects, and I know there are plenty lined up and plenty of industry interest because I’ve heard from them already. So, we will be looking at projects that support our waste export ban; so that is plastic, paper, glass and tyres – they are no longer going to be exported – that ban is being phased in over the next few years.

And what we want to see is not more landfill, much less landfill – that’s the first thing. But the second thing is let’s turn our waste industries into new industries, new technology, new jobs, and new processing. So you think of your plastic drink bottle; it’s PEP plastic – some of it’s recycled, some of it isn’t. Get the best technology that turns that into chips and makes more recycled containers. Technology that separates plastics, because you’ve got those hard, rigid plastics, like, for example, what’s around your computer printer. Quite hard to deal with. There is a technology that can turn that into green steel. It goes back into fuel, into effectively, a blast furnace. Look at some of your outdoor furniture, some of that that is incredibly long living – in other words, it doesn’t deteriorate in the weather – has soft plastic in it. That’s the real problem child in our plastics recycling stream. So just a quick shout out to everyone. Soft, fluffy, plastic, please don’t put it in your recycling bin, treat it differently – but it can be recycled.

DAVID BEVAN: But can we sometimes end up putting more energy into recycling a product than it would take to actually make a new plastic product? In other words, is this about reducing our emissions? And does the equation actually work out, or is this about getting things out of the litter stream?

SUSSAN LEY: It’s about doing it in a sustainable way. And you are absolutely right, we don’t want to consume more energy in a recycling process. And there are mechanical ways of recycling. So people often think of transforming plastic into new plastic as requiring a lot of energy. There’s actually a sort of cold mechanical shake the plastic really hard – if I can, you know, put it in simple terms – that uses a lot less energy. So people often say to me: well, we can turn our plastic into waste and we can have waste for energy. That’s not what we’re really looking at here. That’s the last stage where you actually turn plastic into energy. We want to see it turned back into plastic, and we want to do it in a way that absolutely is sustainable when it comes to energy use. Because if it’s not, it’s actually not going to make sense in a business proposal. So all of these things stack up. And when businesses come to me, they say: give me clean streams of waste, we’ll do the rest, we’ll make it pay in a sense, because we actually will have a product and the feedstock volumes will make it worthwhile. So, we’re sort of lifting our processing capability with this funding as well.

ALI CLARKE: Thanks for joining us, Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

SUSSAN LEY: It’s a pleasure.