SPEAKING ON A REPORT | ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING COMMITTEE

Mr Melhem: Pursuant to standing order 23.29, I lay on the table the final report from the Environment and Planning Committee on the inquiry into recycling and waste management, including appendices, extracts of proceedings and a minority report. I further present transcripts of evidence, and I move: That the transcripts of evidence lie on the table and the report be published.

Motion agreed to.

Mr Melhem: I move: That the Council take note of the report. In doing so, I would like to say a few words. This has been a very complex and important inquiry. As can be seen from the more than 700 submissions, the issue of recycling and waste management is one that matters to Victorians. During the course of the inquiry the committee held 14 days of public hearings, hearing from 135 witnesses in addition to the submissions, and had input from the recycling and waste management industry, state and local government agencies and authorities, environmental groups and industry bodies as well as individual community members and community groups.

In this report the committee made 33 findings as well as 46 recommendations on a range of issues. The committee has provided an overview of the Victorian recycling and waste management system, including some description of the cause and effect of what has become known as the recycling crisis. In addition the committee has considered a number of issues, including the need to reduce waste, in particular the sending of waste to landfill, with all the environmental and public health and amenity problems landfill generates. The inquiry heard about a number of issues that impact on landfill, including the fact that Victoria’s waste levy is the lowest in Australia and that this provides no disincentive to sending material to landfill and sees material transported to Victorian landfills from states with a higher landfill levy. In New South Wales it costs $141, versus Victoria’s $64. Issues include the long-term as well as short-term costs of landfill, particularly for local government, and the impact of food organics and garden organics on landfill. Forty per cent of the waste in municipal landfill bins is organic waste, and it causes leachate in landfill and is a contributor to greenhouse gases, including methane.

The committee heard of a number of solutions that are available to reduce the amount of material going to landfill, including increasing the landfill levy, better separation of recycling materials, the establishment of energy-from-waste options and the need for investment in developing markets for recycled materials, including through government procurement policies. The issue of contamination of recycling material was a key issue, and it has affected not only the capacity to export recyclable materials but the capacity of the materials to be recycled in Australia. One of the key solutions for managing this contamination suggested during the inquiry is the establishment of glass-only recycling bins for all Victorian households and businesses.

There is clearly a need for education as to what is recyclable and how it needs to be sorted, and the committee has recommended that an education campaign is a priority. One thing that comes to mind to make sure that people are putting the waste in the right bins is to have a single, standard colour bin, for example, for recycling, whereas now different colour bins exist in different city councils. There was also a substantial discussion about a container deposit scheme both in the submissions and in public hearings, and the committee has recommended that the government consider the introduction of a CDS. The committee heard about solutions to reduce the amount of material also going to landfill, including the landfill levy increase, which I have covered, and the committee has recommended the use of energy-from-waste options in Victoria.

In considering its options, the government should be open to the need for strong public health and environmental regulations to be put in place. Also there is the issue about the committee recommending that the government seriously consider declaring waste as an essential service. I would like to conclude by thanking my fellow committee members, who come from a range of political parties and philosophical positions, for the professional and collegiate way they approached this inquiry from the outset. We had many disagreements, but I think a lot of time was put in to make sure that we could put together a quality report based on evidence. I want to thank my fellow committee members for the good work that they have done. But also, more importantly, I would like to thank the staff of the committee, in particular committee manager Michael Baker, inquiry officer Kieran Crowe and research assistant Alice Petrie.

These professional staff members have worked long hours and have assisted the committee by managing a significant amount of data and a large number of public hearings, and the inquiry and final report would not be of the high standard that it is without their skill and dedication. On behalf of the committee I sincerely thank them for their efforts. I would also like to thank the committee’s administrative staff—Justine Donohue and the rest of the committee secretariat—for the administrative work, which has been done to a high standard throughout the inquiry. Finally, I hope that the government will look at this report and its recommendations and expectations, and I hope sincerely that the government will accept the recommendations and the findings of this report. With these few words, I commend the report to the house.