AUSTRALIAN leaders agreed to establish a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres at the recent Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Cairns.

In a communiqué from the 9 August meeting, leaders said Australia should build its capacity to generate high-value recycled commodities. They agreed that the strategy must reduce waste, especially plastics, decrease the amount of waste going to landfill and maximise the capacity to collect, recycle, reuse, convert and recover waste.

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A solid timeframe is yet to materialise. In a joint press conference after the meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said industry capability needed to be built.

“This stuff won’t change unless you say there’s going to be a point in time where we are not going to be able to put this stuff on a ship and send it off to someone else,” he said.

“So we’ve got to start thinking about what we’re going to do when that happens. Now, I would like that date to be as soon is practicable and I think that is a view shared amongst all leaders here today. But it’s got to be done in partnership, in consultation with industry […] We want this to be a seamless change, but it’s going to be a change.”

According to the Department of the Environment and Energy, Australia exported 4.42m tonnes of waste in 2017-18, mostly paper, metals and plastics.

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