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.
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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 2016.157 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
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.160 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.
Markets for recycled C&D products need further support to develop. The McGowan Government’s Roads to Reuse pilot program commits to using
25,000 tonnes of recycled C&D waste as road base and also includes a target of 30% recycled material
in road base. Better handling at tip sites to ensure asbestos is not mixed is vital.
There is the potential to drive even greater recycled content if this program were extended to include soft plastics and glass which cannot be recycled into other higher value products.
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. The Wembley Repair Lab, supported by the Town of Cambridge, is a free family friendly community event where skilled volunteers help with repairs to clothing, bikes, furniture, jewellery and battery-run electronics. Some regional local government Authorities have partnered with local community groups to develop ‘tip shops’ (Such as the highly successful Denmark Tip Shop) where discarded items are salvaged and sold or recycled. These 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.