While councils across the country come to grips with China’s decision to stop importing recycled waste, South Australia has released a 30-year plan it says could make it a circular economy world leader at the same time as generating $660 million for the state economy and creating almost 5000 jobs.
The waste management, resource recovery and resource efficiency sector is already a billion-dollar industry for South Australia, employing about 4800 people directly and indirectly, with 87 per cent of resource-recovered waste processed locally.
This week, the government released a 30-year Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan designed to consolidate its leadership position and further it by creating an “internationally recognised and exportable integrated waste and resource recovery infrastructure system” supporting a circular economy.
“This plan provides a vision where waste is managed as a resource through re-use and recycling, energy recovery is limited to non-recyclable materials and landfill is virtually eliminated,” sustainability, environment and conservation minister Ian Hunter said.
“By turning waste into valuable raw materials and remanufactured products, recycling creates more jobs, builds more competitive manufacturing industries and adds significantly to South Australia’s economy.”
Under the plan, within 30 years 100 per cent of municipal solid waste, commercial and industrial waste, and construction and demolition waste could be diverted from landfill in metropolitan areas, while between 90-95 per cent of this waste could be diverted in regional areas. This represents a 796,000 tonne a year reduction in landfill compared to 2015-16 levels.
Under this “high diversion” 30-year scenario, there would be an additional $660.5 million in gross state product (GSP) and an additional 4969 full-time equivalent jobs.
Under a “moderate diversion” of waste scenario, spanning the next 10 years, the plan could add an additional $113.9 million in GSP to South Australia’s economy and more than 1000 jobs.
Mr Hunter said transitioning to a more circular economy would require innovation and investment.
For the high diversion scenario, it is estimated that $990 million will need to be invested in collection and resource recovery infrastructure and facilities for composting, energy-from-waste and construction and demolition processing, as well as waste soil and storage facilities, remediation facilities and emerging waste stream facilities.
“Soft infrastructure” such as training, market development and integrated waste data systems will also be needed.
Land-use planning is a key consideration for the plan, with the report recommending a variety of actions through the planning system, including:
- developing planning and design code policies that protect buffer distances and operational requirements for strategic infrastructure such as major ports, mining operations, waste water treatment and waste management facilities
- delivering long-term planning for waste and resource recovery infrastructure to identify locations that can meet future demand and support a resource efficient economy
“The transition to a more sustainable circular economy requires innovation along with investment and development of new infrastructure and technology to enhance resource efficiency and create business opportunities both locally and overseas,” Mr Hunter said.
“I encourage the public and private sectors to continue to lead the way to a more sustainable future for our state through continued investment in this important sector of our economy.”