Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Bill 2021

It gives me a great deal of pleasure this evening to rise to speak on the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Bill 2021. This afternoon when I was thinking about talking on this bill I had to smile, because my eight-year-old son said something quite profound this morning which reminded me that our youngest people, the youngest generations, are really thinking about our environment and how we need to do things better. Every morning we listen to Radio National. They were flicking through the headlines, and Matt Canavan came on and was talking about coal-fired generators and that they had a future in this country. My eight-year-old, Leo, was sitting there I think drinking the milk from the bowl—he was having Weeties. He said to me, ‘Mum, that man’s wrong. Coal’s done. The environment is precious, and we need to do better’. It is pretty ironic that Leo said that this morning, because that is exactly what this bill is about. It is about facilitating the future—the future of Victoria’s, the future of Leo’s—recycling system and making it the absolute best it can possibly be.

We know that the practices we have employed in the past when it comes to waste management cannot stay that way forever. We need to move forward. In the past couple of years we have seen lots of new challenges emerge. We saw that with SKM in particular, and that highlighted just how susceptible our waste management was to changes in global trends. This affected 33 councils across Victoria, and it left them without kerbside recycling services, meaning that materials that could have otherwise been recycled and re-used ended up in landfill. That is a really big deal in growth corridors like mine.

In fact I remember when we were having the issues with SKM I thought I would go down to Werribee and I would check out our landfill site, or the local tip. I remember as a kid jumping in the back of our—I think it was—Ford Falcon when mum would load it up with all the sorts of things she wanted to throw out, and we would go down to the local tip. It was quite a fun day out for us kids. So I arranged to do a tour of the Werribee landfill site. It was probably a tour that was long overdue. It was a tour that most certainly will stay with me. It was a tour that I came home from and reorganised the way in which we recycle. It was incredibly confronting. If anyone needs to think about why we need to do things better, why recycling is so important and the impact the four-bin process that we are going to roll out will have on communities, all you need to do is go down and do a tour of your local tip.

What got me in Werribee was that just over yonder was a brand new estate being built, and they had these huge chain fences—massive. I remember I said to the guy taking me around in the ute, ‘What is all this for?’, and he said, ‘It’s to keep the plastic here inside the tip’. What struck me was that the amount of plastic was unbelievable, and it was not just local wildlife and birds and things that were getting involved in picking through the rubbish and the plastic. I guess at our tips in the past I have seen birds like the ibis picking through garbage, but what was really upsetting was that a childhood bird—my having grown up by the ocean—was also there picking through plastic and plastic bags looking for something to have a feed on, and that was a pelican. That was very, very shocking.

Over the past 2½, almost three, years since being elected as the member for Tarneit, this is certainly a tour that will stay with me and I have greatly benefited from. It has changed the way in which I recycle and the importance I place upon it in my household. It also makes me feel very passionate about these kinds of bills that we are putting through and the importance of the circular economy and what it will mean for not just me and my family but generations to come and the difference that this will make to the way in which we recycle, what landfill looks like and the types of gases being emitted from these landfills, which doing the tour at the Werribee tip, were pretty intense and really made me think twice about what we were burying—the household waste that we were burying. It is pretty clear we need to come up with new and efficient ways of recycling, and what that looks like for the circular economy and the future of our waste management is that it brings with it opportunities for Victorians.

This bill is going to go ahead and facilitate 3900 new jobs being delivered on climate change targets, and it is also going to create a stronger recycling system for Victorians. I know that so many councils—including Wyndham City Council, I think—are a bit nervous about this four-bin recycling system and how this will work. I remember when it was rolled out in my local area, when the four bins arrived, the coloured bins, I thought: how is this going to work? Where am I going to put them? We do not live in a big house. We are in a townhouse; you know, you can see them from the street. And most importantly, there was a little bin. That was the biggest change. A little bin was put on our benchtop for the food waste and the food scraps, and if you have ever done any investigation into what happens to food waste and food scraps when you bury them in a landfill site, you will very quickly understand why having a waste or a food scraps recycling bin is so, so important. One of the benefits of having this extra food scraps bin was that we were able to have it on our bench and we were able to measure actually how much food waste we had at the end of each day. As a family that started by having to empty this little bin multiple times a day, I can see that it has changed our behaviour and thinking about the type of food that we throw out and what we are buying in our groceries each and every single week and needlessly throwing away. The good thing, I think, for my household is that we have stopped having to empty that bin multiple times a day. We are down to just two times a day now. This is the sort of stuff that has a huge impact on our environment, because it changes the behaviour of people inside the household. It makes you think twice about what you are consuming; what you are buying; how, most importantly, you dispose of it; and where that goes, because at the end of the day it does not just disappear.

The member for Eltham talked about the food incinerators that we used to have in our sinks. I had one of them as a kid. I remember the noise of it clearly because we would all want to press the button at the end of the meal to watch it go down the gurgler and be chewed up. We never thought twice about where that went. To this day I probably still do not know where all that food went. It has been a long time since I have seen those sorts of food incinerators in households.

InSinkErator—that is it, InSinkErator. But I am sure that house that we had when I was a child in Kingscliff—probably—still has that in its sink.

One of the great things I have also been able to do as the member for Tarneit is go out to the industrial sites in Laverton North and Truganina. There are a lot of companies—they are Victorian companies—that are getting involved in this circular economy and waste reduction and recycling. I went down a couple of years ago to Alex Fraser, who were doing something quite incredible. Their facility is in Laverton North, and they had developed technology to crush recyclable materials into road base, aggregates and asphalt to use on our major roads. This is really important out my way because we have just spent $1.8 billion on roads in Melbourne’s western suburbs, the majority of that spend inside my electorate. So it is wonderful to know for the thousands and thousands of commuters in Melbourne’s outer west that they are actually driving along roads that have been built from recycled materials. I can see in my notes that 400 000 tonnes of high-grade recycled materials were used to help build those roads that we are now able to drive down. This is something for me to think about next time I am driving down Dohertys Road or Leakes Road.

This is a wonderful bill. There have been great contributions in the house about the importance of this bill, what it does and what it is intended to do. The most important thing for people to know is that it is about taking us forward. It is about taking us into a new future when it comes to a circular economy and waste management.