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Review a threat to effective recycling

A government review of Australia’s recycling legislation risks burdening the publisher’s self-regulatory model with onerous red tape. TONY WILKINS, argues the case against intervention.

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Recycling of newspapers and magazines remains an Australian success story.

Newspaper and magazine publishers have a long history of being proactive and voluntarily supporting and advancing newspaper and magazine recycling. Since 1992 the publishers and Australia’s newsprint producer Norske Skog have joined to commit to our National Environmental Sustainability Agreement.

This voluntary agreement is managed by NewsMediaWorks and endorsed by all state and federal governments. Its success has seen Australia achieve one of the highest newspaper recycling rates in the world – starting at 28 per cent at the end of 1989, it has risen to 75 per cent in 2017.

Right now, the federal government is reviewing its Product Stewardship Act. The object of this Act aligns with the publishers’ goal of advancing recycling and ensuring that we reduce any environmental impacts of the products we manufacture. It’s about ensuring there is also a responsible path to re-use and recycling.

However, this review of Product Stewardship has seen the call at public forums for mandated solutions as the first option. The effectiveness of voluntary industry schemes deserves recognition and a failure to do so may limit future voluntary commitments by other industries.

The newspaper and magazine publishing industry partnership with Australia’s newsprint manufacturer provides strong evidence of the success that can be achieved voluntarily. The results here in Australia have resulted in higher recycling rates than all 13 mandated schemes in the USA and elsewhere. Our industry is committed to continuing to deliver with this voluntary approach, without the need for legislation.

Publishers support reinvigorating the scheme for accreditation of voluntary product stewardship arrangements but strongly support the current ability of pro-active industries with existing Product Stewardship Plans to remain outside the legislated voluntary framework.

When success is demonstrated it is considered more efficient to minimise red tape and directly address issues through consultation between government and industry.

* Dr Tony Wilkins is executive director – environment, NewsMediaWorks

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