Reboot Recycling & Resurrect Repair Labs

The opportunity

Closing the loop on our resource use through recycling and re-use is an essential step towards a circular economy, and the good news is that these industries are jobs-rich and can be developed right here in WA.

Currently, WA lacks the recycling infrastructure to process many recyclable waste products including, plastics, glass and other common materials. This means our recycling rates remain low and what recycling does take place has to be shipped to other parts of the country or overseas. The carbon footprint of this transport is significant, and we cannot continue to rely on these markets when countries like China are restricting the importation of waste for recycling. By developing our local recycling industries, we can dramatically reduce carbon emissions and at the same time create jobs and business opportunities right here in WA.

Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste account for almost half of WA’s total waste stream but has the lowest recovery rate. From a climate perspective, steel and concrete production is a significant contributor to global emissions. Here in WA, quarrying of raw materials such as limestone, sand and rock are causing significant environmental damage; however recycled C&D waste can be substituted for virgin raw materials in many situations.

Outside the Perth metropolitan region, limited access to markets for recycled products and relatively cheap disposal costs continue to restrict opportunities to increase waste recovery. Improving landfill diversion rates and increasing re-use and recycling for this waste stream must be a high priority for the state government. 

Local Repair Labs

Local repair labs could be an important part of our communities. Rather than household items being thrown away, they can be repaired or repurposed. A program of local repair labs across the state would reduce waste, create jobs, and connect people back in with their local communities.

The ‘local repair labs’ would charge a small fee for parts, and be located at accessible locations such as shopping centres or other high-visitation areas. The Repair Labs could be co-located with container deposit collection facilities, utilising existing buildings or constructed from materials diverted from landfill. Clean State proposes a trial of 30 labs located in metropolitan and regional hubs. 

Case Study: Precious Plastic Margaret River

Precious Plastic Margaret River’s mission is to address the global plastic pollution crisis through local, grass roots initiatives.

Precious Plastic Margaret River was founded in December 2018 by Narelle and Stijn Kuppers. The project is intended to operate as a social enterprise, meaning an organisation which applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in social and environmental well-being.

The PPMR project is based on the ideas of the Precious Plastic Community, a global community which operates under an open source licence, started by Dave Hakkens in 2013. 

The proposal

1. Recycle all our E-waste here in WA

63% of e-waste in Australia is ending up in landfill, losing valuable minerals like steel, plastic, non-ferrous metals and gold & silver.

Australians are amongst the highest users and disposers of technology in the world, generating 465,818, tonnes of e-waste in 2016. In 2016 every Australian generated almost 24kg of e-waste per person.

It’s estimated For every 10,000 tonnes of e-waste recycled locally, at least 50 direct jobs are created, compared to only 2.8 jobs per landfill, and almost
5 times as many jobs as other waste streams due to the complex and intricate nature of e-waste recycling.

WA generates about 73kg of e-waste per person, or roughly 198,000 tonnes per year. Recycling this volume of e-waste could create up to 1000 full time jobs, and a number of additional jobs in downstream industries to refine and utilise all of the materials. 

2. Recycled roads and infrastructure from construction and demolition waste

Construction and demolition (‘C&D’) waste is our largest single waste stream and accounts for over 4 million tonnes of waste every year. WA’s recovery rates in this area have improved over recent years and we now recover about 70% of this amount. This means about 1 million tonnes of materials are still sent to landfill – materials that can be used for roads, footpaths and cycle paths each year.

Using recycled materials for road base will also prevent the need for further limestone quarrying and mining expansions in our South West regions, such as Binningup and Myalup.

Concrete production is a significant contributor to global emissions and resource recovery from the C&D stream to replace the raw materials in concrete use is an important opportunity to reduce this source of pollution.

With the right policies in place, State Government agencies with responsibility for infrastructure development including Main Roads, Water Corporation and Development WA can create a huge market driver to support increased recycling of C&D waste.

3. Resurrect Local Repair Labs

A few decades ago, then State Energy Corporation (SEC) resourced ‘Safety Watch-it Vans” at metropolitan shopping centres where people could bring electrical appliances to be tested for safety and repaired.

More recently, some local governments and independent collectives have established Repair Labs, which are community initiatives to help people fix their belongings and prevent materials going to landfill. 

Clean State proposes a program of support to resurrect local repair labs in communities across the state, with a focus on diverting household electrical appliances from landfill, through a widely available, free or low-cost repair service.

The ‘local repair labs’ would charge a small fee for parts, and be located at accessible locations such as shopping centres or other high-visitation areas. The Repair Labs could be co-located with container deposit collection facilities, utilising existing buildings or constructed from materials diverted from landfill. Clean State proposes a trial of 30 labs located in metropolitan and regional hubs.

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