20/08/2020 - 14:58

WA fails on waste

20/08/2020 - 14:58

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A new report has found Western Australia is likely to fall well short of its 2020 waste recovery targets, continuing a long pattern of failure.

WA fails on waste
Avertas Energy is building a $700 million waste treatment plant in Kwinana. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

A new report has found Western Australia is likely to fall well short of its 2020 waste recovery targets, continuing a long pattern of failure.

Auditor general Caroline Spencer found that local, regional and statewide waste planning in WA was inadequate.

“The Waste Authority flagged state infrastructure planning as essential back in 2012, but little progress has been made,” Ms Spencer said.

Her report noted that the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) and the Waste Authority had substantially improved their support to local government entities in the past five years.

However, the proportion of waste recycled in WA had not changed, and the state’s performance sat below the national average, the report found.

“High rates of contamination in recycling bins, inconsistent and irregular waste education, limited local recycling infrastructure and markets for recycled commodities, are issues that prevent wider adoption of better practice waste management techniques,” Ms Spencer concluded.

“As a result, few local government entities are on track to meet the 2020 targets.”

The report said the amount of waste households generated decreased by a reported 26 kilograms per person between 2014-15 and 2017-18, to about 600kg.

The amount sent to landfill fell by a similar amount.

“However, the proportion of waste recovered had not changed,” the report found.

“The state’s total waste recycling rate of 53 per cent in 2016-17 for all waste streams was still below the national average of 58 per cent.”

The state government has a target to divert 65 per cent of household waste from landfill in the metro area and 50 per cent in major regional centres.

“Latest available data from 2017-18 shows that the waste recovery rate was 41 per cent for the Perth and Peel region and 28 per cent for the regional centres, well below the 2020 targets,” the report said.

Ms Spencer said kerbside waste collection in WA at the local government level was largely effective and a valued community service.

“However, inadequate local, regional and statewide waste planning, including for waste infrastructure, and a lack of tailored support for local government entities that manage household waste has limited the state’s ability to meet its Waste Strategy targets,” she said.

She noted there were many examples of better practice waste management from local government authorities but only a handful were consistently using them.

The report said the absence of a state waste infrastructure plan meant there was limited guidance on the location and type of waste infrastructure.

“This is evident with the approval of two proposed waste-to-energy facilities located within five kilometres of one another in the south of Perth.

“The two operating material recovery facilities are also in the south metropolitan area.

“This imbalance in the location of waste infrastructure further increases the risk that waste facilities may not meet the long-term needs of their communities and the state.

The two waste-to-energy projects referred to in the report, which are both private sector initiatives, are under construction.

The $700 million Avertas Energy project in Kwinana is 40 per cent complete while early works have started on New Energy Corporation’s $511 million East Rockingham Waste-to-Energy project.

Collectively, they have signed agreements with local councils to process 700,000 tonnes of waste, nearly half the total amount of waste produced by households in WA.

Ms Spencer said international developments made it more important for WA to make better progress.

“Given recent international export bans on recyclable materials, the planning and development of local recycling facilities in the state is becoming increasingly urgent to help provide certainty to stakeholders, create opportunities for local recycling industries, and protect our local environments and public health,” she said.

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