What Should Politicians Do About Recycling? ♻️ Podcast Ep. 26 Don’t Be A Waster



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Transcript: What Should Politicians Do About Recycling?


Hello and welcome to another edition of Recycle: Don’t be a Waster! As this is federal election week in Australia and, uh, if you’re anything like me, you are sick of seeing politicians and their different slogans and phrases, and promises – some of them which you know, of course, will be empty promises. But I think in today’s episode, we will put our money where our mouth is, and people often say it’s easy to, you know, be a critic on the on the sidelines, but if you can’t state what you would do, you know, I think it’s… you have to sometimes put yourself in in harm’s way and come up with some ideas also.


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So in today’s podcast, I think I put myself in the position of a politician and what would I do – what would we on this podcast – uh… what would we do, obviously focusing on the environment and the, you know, pollution and those sort of aspects, which is what this podcast focuses on. And I suppose lots of parties are looking at environmental things this year, you know, of course, the green party. We also have these, uh… is it climate 200, I think, or climate 100.


I can’t remember the teal independents who are running in many seats have a real focus on the environment, you know. But realistically, I think nearly every party nowadays has a specific, you know, environmental or, you know, pollution or emissions targets or whatever it is that forms a key part of their of their policy like I see here in our local constituency. Here which I think is either McKellar or Warring, depending where the line falls uh… in, in north Sydney we see, you know, climate improving.


The climate you know is on a lot of billboards so you know what would I do if I was running for federal election what would uh… what would Waster and Recycle don’t be a Waster – what’s our portfolio, what’s our platform, and I suppose… The first thing I’ll say is, I would, I would put more focus on like what I see, is the real environmental issue. I would almost call it a catastrophe and that is plastic I, like I might be a bit different to some of our listeners. I might be a bit different to some, certainly a lot of the politicians who are focused on emissions targets on net zero on greenhouse gases, you know on those sort of things.


Act 2: What should politicians do about recycling?


Carbon trading to me that that’s a secondary issue I personally feel the major issue facing us as a species as a planet as a country is the plastic issue which if you listen to some of our other podcasts and you know of course I’m open to everyone has different views on this my personal view the evidence I can see and reading greenhouse or global warming has somehow stalled it seems to have stalled over the last 15-20 years based on the latest information I’m seeing.


I personally you know – that’s good news. The plastic issue that’s really decimating our wildlife or our natural environment and also our hormones through endocrine disruption… It’s only getting started and realistically, I think that is something we need to address. So let’s put our money where our mouth is and let’s come up with some, you know, some solutions or some policies that might address this, so and of course, keeping in mind that we’re only human and, you know, we can’t, you know, create gold from brass or, you know, we can’t make gold out of water. So let’s focus on stuff that can be achieved – that is tangible and that is not airy fairy throw away, you know, building castles in the air sort of mentality.


So this is what I would suggest obviously I’ll miss things here but this forms the basis of it I suppose fundamentally I would aim to decrease the use of plastic significantly through different measures which we’ll go into I will aim to increase the amount of recycling of plastic and I will aim to you know get rid of plastic through incineration which I think will be of value.


I think we also, as a final step, we need to invest in some method of cleaning up the mess we’ve made which, I’ll be honest, we have not made a real start yet. So I think a real ,at least, putting in place to how we’re going to approach this how we’re going to start dealing with the great pacific garbage patch and everything believe beneath that and smaller and smaller versions of it which are growing globally how will we approach that so let’s start at the start how do we reduce the amount of plastic being used.


Act 3: What should politicians do about recycling?


I think we need to look at you know hydride bands, you know, on single-use plastic a lot of states are moving towards this I believe I think it’s from this week. New south Wales will be ending plastic bags and supermarkets which is a great idea but I think we need to you know we do need to step that up and it has to be almost we need a good reason whether it’s a licensing system I’m open to different views on this.


But I think single-use plastic in nearly all instances we should really put a just maybe put a ban on it or put a fee that has to be paid you know internalizing the damages the externality the cost of disposing of it I think that should be put on to whoever is making it or selling it, I think. This will impact very simple measures such as supermarkets who wrap cucumbers and plastic wrap you know bananas and plastic bags these sort of ideas that could easily be reduced almost to zero and I think that has to be a combination of licensing and a fee to be paid for the right to use plastic and if it’s not a valuable method I think it shouldn’t be used so that’s the first thing, I think.


Act 4: What should politicians do about recycling?


As a second step in that you really need to expand the extended producer responsibility concept that we discussed in previous episodes whereby the manufacturer and the seller (but predominantly the manufacturer) has to focus on, has to really take account of the costs of disposing of this product. And I’m thinking here plastic bottles plastic drinking bottles where we have a ready, I think – we’ve covered in plastic in previous episodes the health issues these cause through endocrine disruption.


And we’ve also covered the fact that these things don’t get recycled to the extent they should be and we have ready and easier to recycle alternatives such as, you know, glass bottles clearly or aluminium cans which, of course, are also much easier to recycle. They have a significant energy input into making… smelting that aluminium. But clearly, they’re much easier to recycle it’s a almost 100 recyclable product and I think also there’s aluminium in the environment create much less damage to the environment that we know of than plastic balls.


So I think more formalized more expanded ex extended producer responsibility (EPR) and I think focusing in on plastics covering fundamentally plastics which is where the real problem is. And at the end of the day, it makes sense to focus on you know go where the problem is go fishing with a fish are, and I think that is the main issue. Thirdly, I think we want to look at really turning our waste levies which we have in nearly all states, you know.


Act 5: What should politicians do about recycling?


We’re charging 150 a ton or whatever it is on disposing of wasted landfill and that’s all well and good it’s designed supposedly to incentivize recycling by making recycling relatively cheaper, and that makes perfect sense. My big complaint will be that only about a third between a quarter and a third of the money collected which runs into the billions per annum is actually used to create recycling or build recycling facilities so my platform would be every single dollar collected in waste levies will go into building recycling facilities and recycling collections.


We would cover clearly some of the more low-hanging fruit to use business jargon we would look at nappy recycling rolling out those systems that are available in other states or sorry other countries overseas and enable nappy diaper recycling in Australia. And, like at the end of the day, as a politician, I think you know was the American revolution was called the Boston tea party kicked off over the no taxation without representation concept and I when we talk about waste levies, which are theoretically attacks you’re taxing people you know cafes and restaurants but you’re not really providing them with any opportunity to recycle it.


We don’t have those recycling options available and I think it’s only fair to tax people if you are providing if that taxation is being used to provide that alternative so I think we’d go down the list and we would be looking at enhanced recycling facilities investing in state-of-the-art stuff from e-waste you know from e-waste to food waste uh… to uh… to as, we discussed, as to plastics and into nappies, which are, you know, versions of uh… manufactured plastic products, so that if we’re talking about that, that means we’re moving from a third of money collected to 100 per cent.


Act 6: What should politicians do about recycling?


Let’s hope that triples you know the back of an envelope it will triple the amount of money going into it which clearly should make a an impact on the number of recycling facilities that we have that’s that one and then I think we really want to look at an honest I suppose that’s a grown-up honest discussion you know pros and cons of incineration my argument is that I was disgusted ad nauseum on this podcast that plastic is not that easy to recycle. In many instances, some of it is but a lot of it is not and it’s not infinitely recyclable.


It cannot be recycled over and over again into the same product so somewhere down the line the product the plastic will be junk it will be rubbish and it has to be used for something else and we’ve looked at issues such as plastic roads you know filler and insulation and these sort of things but that still creates the issues with micro in the environment. I’ll be honest, I personally feel modern incineration you know with modern technologies you know we’re clearly trying to move away from carbon fuels etc. reducing emissions and… but I think the war with Russia the Russia Ukraine war is highlighting that there still is a reliance in many countries on carbon fuels you know gas, oil etc. as a backload whilst we develop and roll out more sustainable, you know, green technologies like wind water etc.


Act 7: What should politicians do about recycling?


But fundamentally I think plastic is it is carbon it’s a carbon fuel and it burns readily and it emits a lot of energy so my personal view is that the issues with micro plastic are so large the plastic usage that we cannot you know reduce to zero we should utilize that that energy those calories and create electricity which will, you know, mean we don’t need to explore… exploit new carbon fuels. So it’s, we’re displacing that, that requirement. And secondly, we’re not dumping it in landfill, and thirdly, we’re not creating microplastics. Modern facilities are very effective at capturing the like the clearly negative environmental impacts of this of these products of burning these products, and I think we really need a grown-up discussion.


And looking at countries like Sweden and Japan who favour this sort of approach so I my also my view is that if at the moment we see a plastic bottle and we see a cost it’s a cost to dispose a cost or a cycle but realistically that could be seen as a piece of energy it could be seen as some fuel and that fuel could be seen as a way to heat create electricity and do… and do different things. So you know, I think we can change the argument around what these things are. We can rather pretend and keep our head in the sand and pretend that it’s all being recycled in a perfect world let’s state the obvious a vast or huge amount of this plastic junk is ending up in our waterways.


It’s ending up in our sea life and it’s creating unknown and untold impacts on many things many ecosystems so I like I personally believe that until we can reduce the use of this plastic down to very small numbers we should fundamentally use it for what it’s good for which is incineration and energy creation and electricity so open to a discussion on that one. But I think it’s a core… the core approach I think any final things I would add I think we’d also want to really invest more money into plastic alternatives and clearly there are traditional alternatives wood you know tin metal glass traditional non-toxic in nearly all aspects that we can use for packaging.


Final act: What should politicians do about recycling?


You know, cotton bags or material you know textile bags these sort of things sensible approaches but I think there’s clearly an opportunity for new plastic alternatives we’ve made a lot of progress in this regard you know using sugar cane using other versions of green supposedly green and plastics I think we’d also invest some of that money we raised through the levy and we’d really investigate you know what how these things work how these new materials interact pros and cons.


Let’s not make the mistakes we’ve made in the past let’s not rush things out to market you know that then later down the line we find contain BPA and you know this sort of let’s be honest 30 years ago nobody discussed BPA poisoning or BPA issues nobody discussed microplastics nobody discussed these problems so you know let’s research these things first before we start rolling out new materials let’s not just assume that they’re all healthy and safe let’s do some homework and check and verify.


So I think there’ll be a lot of money spent on researching those products researching those wrapping materials packaging materials and being pretty confident that when we roll them out to replace plastic that they are more sustainable in the long term so uh you know that’s my views and whether I get elected on that you know platform who knows but uh I think everyone you know we should all be considering the environment when going to the polls on Saturday and uh hopefully the best I hope that you know the future is better than the past okay on that have a great weekend and thanks again. Recycle: Don’t be a Waster!


Editor’s note: Leave a comment if you have any questions about what politicians should do about recycling.


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