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City of Ballarat Response: VAGO Report Response ‘Recovering and Reprocessing Resources from Waste’

City of Ballarat’s ongoing frustrations in securing government funding for key waste and recycling initiatives – most particularly support for an All Waste Interchange Facility (AWIF) – are in part explained in a report tabled last week in the Victorian Parliament by the Auditor General – a report that is critical of the key agencies responsible for managing the state’s waste sector.

The Report, ‘Recovering and Reprocessing Resources from Waste’, says the three agencies – the Department of Environment, Water and Planning (DELWP), Sustainability Victoria (SV) and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) – “failed to respond strategically to waste and resource recovery issues”.

City of Ballarat Sustainability Portfolio Councillors Ben Taylor and Grant Tillett say Council and the community have been disappointed that efforts to manage Ballarat’s waste in a progressive, productive and responsible way have not met with government support.

“Currently, 30,000 tonnes of waste are deposited in landfill in Ballarat each year, with waste disposal costing Council more than $18 million per year”, Cr Taylor said.

“City of Ballarat has lobbied repeatedly for funds to be released from the State Government’s Sustainability Fund. Council argued that release of funds would allow Council to build a regional processing plant for recyclables which would serve the broader region”.

City of Ballarat continues to pursue its ambition to be the national leader in the circular economy, with plans for an improved, value-add approach to recycling. Council has long been pro-active in the waste management and energy security space – lobbying state and federal governments to secure support for an all waste interchange facility (AWIF) ($15 million).

Cr Tillett says development of an AWIF will revolutionise the way Ballarat and region deal with waste, turning it from a liability into a valuable resource

“Council is committed to treating waste as a resource and has committed $5 million for an AWIF at the Ballarat West Employment Zone (BWEZ)”, Cr Tillett said.

“Unfortunately, despite repeated approaches, Council has been unable to secure federal or state funding, or any other form of support, for this project. The need for an AWIF has become even more critical with the Chinese government’s decision to substantially limit its importation of recyclables”.

This has led to a significant decline in Australian waste exports. This has increased costs for councils that were previously able to sell their recyclables, but now must pay to have them removed. (P9 Recovering and Reprocessing Resoures from Waste, Victorian Auditor-General’s Report, June 2019. Tabled 6 June 2019)

“City of Ballarat believes that a $15 million investment from the Sustainability Fund in a local AWIF would be money well spent, bringing significant regional benefits”, Cr Tillett said.

“The Regional Waste Management Group has already undertaken a regional feasibility study for such a facility and identified that a location in the east of our waste region – Ballarat – is the most strategic and logical location to accommodate an all waste interchange facility and associated processing plant”.

“Council has already committed $5 million to undertake the servicing of a site to accommodate a recycling and processing facility as part of an AWIF, but cannot proceed further without government investment”, Cr Tillett said.

“An AWIF will deliver dramatic environmental and economic benefits around the region, facilitating greatly reduced waste management costs and carbon emissions. The facility will sort and process a wide range of solid waste streams from the Ballarat municipality, Grampians West Regional Waste Group partners and other local government and industry groups, creating a positive commercial opportunity”.

“The recycling challenges we are facing will not change in the short term. Ballarat is ready to respond to the challenge and will continue to lobby governments to convince them of the urgency of investing in Regional Victoria, allowing cities like ours to move toward genuine solutions to process recycling and develop markets for the resultant product. To date this support has not been forthcoming, there is a dearth of public policy to support these initiatives”, Cr Taylor said.

“The AWIF will provide a regional hub for a wide range of waste collection, sorting, reuse, reprocessed and recycling activities and, in doing so, will help cater for the future waste management needs of Ballarat’s rapid population growth.

“Once the AWIF is operational the existing, ageing transfer station will be closed, a massive plus for the environment leading to reduced carbon emissions and the adverse environmental impacts associated with landfills”.

“Council has also sought a government commitment to a zero EPA landfill levy for waste to energy facilities to ensure a positive investment environment for the private sector however this has not eventuated which is a negative as it pursues investment in a Waste to Energy facility”, Cr Taylor said.

Victorian Auditor General’s Office report Recovering and Reprocessing Resources from Waste: