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Interview – Channel 7 Sunrise

13 August 2019

David Koch

Subject: Plastic recycling industry, Cooperative Research Centres Projects


Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews was interviewed by David Koch on Channel 7 Sunrise.

David Koch: $20 million is set to be spent improving our recycling industry. The Government will announce the funding today after state and territory leaders agreed to banning the export of waste at last week’s COAG meeting. Would you believe we generate 103 kilograms of plastic waste per person, per year? Only 12 per cent of that is actually recycled but most of that’s overseas. In the last financial year, close to 4.5 million tonnes of waste was exported at a cost of around $2.8 billion.

Karen Andrews is the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, she joins us now from a recycling centre in Sydney. Minister, thanks for your time.

Karen Andrews: Good morning.

David Koch: This $20 million in funding, it seems just a drop in the ocean here. What’s it going to be used for?

Karen Andrews: Well it’s very targeted funding. So it is $20 million that will go to small and medium enterprises to look at ways that we can increase our plastic recycling.  So we'll be looking at how we can reuse our plastics, whether that’s the soft plastics or the hard plastics. And we would be looking at new ways for us to develop an industry in Australia which is the waste recycling industry.

So it’s got a number of advantages to this announcement. Firstly, it is going to be dealing with the environmental impact of plastics. But secondly it’s going to be growing a new industry in Australia which is waste recycling.

David Koch: Alright. So fair enough. It’s sort of like setting up an incubator of new ideas and funding that. But what can we learn from overseas? Something like 120 countries already ban the export of waste. What are they doing that we can learn from?

Karen Andrews: Well I’m keen to look at what we're already doing in Australia.

David Koch: Not much.

Karen Andrews: Well we need to do more clearly but we are at the cutting-edge of plastic recycling in particular. So at the site that I’m at now a lot of plastic waste, so plastic bags, go into roads. So for a kilometre of road, two lanes, about 500,000 plastic bags can go into that alongside recycled glass and recycled hard plastics. So that’s really amazing work that we're doing here.

David Koch: Yes. But the average Australian would be shocked that only 12 per cent of what we put in our recyclable bins is actually recycled – 88 per cent goes into landfills.

Karen Andrews: Yeah. It’s an appalling statistic. The fact that Australians use 10 million plastic bags per day, so these aren’t just your shopping bags but it’s things that your frozen peas are in. So 10 million plastic bags a day is an extraordinary amount. And we have to stop using that much and we have to recycle what we do use.

David Koch: Okay. We’ve got to wrap it all up. Thank you Minister, appreciate your time.