Australia to phase out waste exports, boost recycling

Australia has finally decided to convert its waste products into energy. (Shutterstock photo)
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Updated 27 August 2020

Australia to phase out waste exports, boost recycling

  • Australia had been shipping 645,000 metric tons of unprocessed rubbish that overseas each year

CANBERRA: The Australian government introduced legislation on Thursday that would phase out exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tires beginning January next year.

The legislation introduced to Parliament aims to end the export of 645,000 metric tons (711,000 US tons) of unprocessed rubbish that Australia ships overseas each year, usually to Asian ports. Waste glass exports would be banned from Jan. 1, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“It’s our waste. It’s our responsibility,” Morrison said. “We’ve got to deal with it and recycle it and repurpose it and reuse it here to both drive jobs in the recycling sector and also to improve the quality of our environment.” 

Morrison said waste plastic was a key issue that he had raised with Australia’s South Pacific neighbors and with the East Asian Summit and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“Waste plastic in oceans is destroying communities, it’s destroying their livelihoods, it’s destroying their health,” Morrison said.

FASTFACT

32 %

Australia plans to create 10,000 new jobs in the waste and recycling sector, a 32 percent increase on current staffing levels.

Waste disposal has become an increasingly pressing problem around the world since 2017 when China, previously its main destination, barred imports of almost all foreign waste.

The Australian legislation would establish a national industry framework for recycling and create a 190 million Australian dollar ($138 million) recycling modernization fund.

The government also plans to create 10,000 new jobs in the waste and recycling sector, a 32 percent increase on current staffing levels.

More incentives would be offered to companies to take greater environmental responsibility for the products they make and for what happens with those products and packaging at the end of their lives.

“This is about tackling a national environmental issue that has been buried in landfill or shipped offshore for far too long,” Environment Minister Sussan Ley said in a statement.

The legislation was welcomed by the Australian Council of Recycling and the Australian Food and Grocery Council.


‘The stock market, stupid’ — Trump’s claim is looking hollow 

Updated 29 October 2020

‘The stock market, stupid’ — Trump’s claim is looking hollow 

  • The timing of the Wall Street downturn is the worst possible for the incumbent, who has declared every new peak in the S&P as a personal victory throughout his presidency
  • The likes of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook are due to declare their earnings for the third quarter, and how those numbers are received could give the indices a boost

Before the US election of 1992, candidate Bill Clinton summed up what he saw as the reason he would become president: “It’s the economy, stupid.” He was proved right as voters disowned the economic policies of President George H.W. Bush in their droves to elect Clinton. 

Until the COVID-19 pandemic began to ravage the US economy in March, President Donald Trump would have been able to make the same claim. For the four years of his presidency, the US economy had continued the progress initiated by his predecessor to recover from the 2009 global financial crisis.

By most measures — growth, employment, inflation — the Trump years had been good, and those on the top of the pile had even more reason to be grateful thanks to the big tax cuts he had made a flagship policy.

The pandemic changed all that in the space of a few weeks as lockdown measures shocked the economy. Jobless claims soared to all-time records, bankruptcies and closures affected large swathes of American business, and gross domestic product collapsed. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the American economy will shrink by 4.3 percent this year.

But Trump could still claim instead that “it’s the stock market, stupid” as a reason he could be re-elected. Mainly because of the trillions of dollars injected into the economy in the form of fiscal stimulus, US share indices had swum against the economic tide.

The S&P 500 index hit an all-time high in September, allowing Trump to boast that under his administration, investors and the millions of people whose livelihoods depended on the financial industry had never had it so good.

Now, it looks as though even that final claim is looking more fragile. For the past couple of days, US and European stock markets have gone into reverse as investors took fright at the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the re-imposition of economic lockdowns in many countries.

Trump might argue, with a little justification, that Wall Street is worried about the prospect of Joe Biden being elected president by the end of next week. Certainly the contender, by definition, is something of an unknown quantity in terms of economic policy.

He is also known to favor some policies — such as tighter regulation on environmental sectors, more spending on health care, and higher taxes for federal services and projects — that have traditionally been regarded as contrary to the philosophy of “free market” America.

In particular, the energy industry is worried about possible restrictions on shale oil and gas production that Biden and his “green” team are believed to favor. However, it should be pointed out that the Democratic candidate has specifically said he will not ban shale fracking, as some environmentalists want.

In any interesting side-story, the state of Texas — one of the biggest in terms of electoral college votes — would seem to have more to lose than any other if the energy scare stories about Biden were true. Yet the contest there between Democrats and Republicans is the closest it has been for decades, according to opinion polls.

The timing of the Wall Street downturn is the worst possible for the incumbent, who has declared every new peak in the S&P as a personal victory throughout his presidency and a sign of his deal-doing prowess. If even this claim is denied to him in the final week of campaigning, it would make the uphill battle against the polls even more difficult.

There is a chance that Big Tech might offer some relief. The likes of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook are due to declare their earnings for the third quarter, and how those numbers are received could give the indices a boost, given that they were the ones largely responsible for the big market gains earlier in the year.

But for Trump, any such respite might be too little, too late. It looks as though Wall Street and Main Street are finally catching up in their gloom, and there is nothing the president can do about it.