Tuesday, August 20, 2019

How recycling is a massive con job and an environmental disaster in the making - and why everyday Australians are wasting their time sorting rubbish

Australians think they are doing the right thing when they throw their empty milk bottles, beer cans, and junk mail into their yellow bin.

They roll the bin out to the kerb every week and assume they have helped the environment by having their waste recycled with 90 per cent saying it's very important.

But millions of tonnes is instead shipped to Southeast Asian countries where much of it is burned, buried, or just dumped in landfill.

Millions more is piling up in huge storage facilities of Australian councils and their contractors - or sent to the tip - because they can't sell it.

Only 12 per cent of the 103kg of plastic waste generated per person in Australia each year is recycled, mostly overseas, according to research cited by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

He pointed out last week that there was an 'implied promise' that when people put their recycling out it would actually be turned into something else. 'People think [plastic] is going to be recycled but only about 12 per cent of it is,' he said.

Australia used to ship enormous amounts of waste to China, sell it for up to $150 a tonne, and then wash its hands of it. Much of it was recycled to fuel the country's boom, but the industry was largely unregulated and dozens of dodgy operators burned or dumped it. Then in January 2018 the Chinese Government decided enough was enough and banned the importing of 99 per cent of recycling.

Australia's worst waste was usually palmed off to China, much of it too contaminated or low quality to be worth anything.

Now only a 0.5 per cent contamination rate is tolerated and the vast majority of Australian sorting facilities just can't meet that.

India, Malaysia, and the Philippines followed suit over the past year so Australia turned to Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.

They each receive tens of thousands of tonnes of supposed recycling - Bangladesh alone took 51,400 in May, up 270 per cent from last year's average. Indonesia is about the same.

However, these countries don't have anything like the capacity China did, and aren't any more scrupulous about what they do with it.

Around Indonesia, the streets and rice fields of villages are now used to harvest piles of rubbish as they are laid out to dry in the sun by locals.

The waste is then sorted and sold to tofu factories where it is burned in their furnaces as a cheap alternative to wood.

Australian companies are slowly waking up to the reality that this state of affairs is not sustainable.

An Environment and Energy Department report painted a dire picture of Australia's predicament should more Asian countries close their doors.

'Australia would need to find substitute domestic or export markets for approximately 1.29 million tonnes (or $530 million) of waste a year, based on 2017-18 export amounts,' the report said.

So easy was it to palm off Australia's waste on the developing world that the domestic industry is now in full-blown crisis.

The situation was made even more dire when one of the biggest companies, SKM, collapsed last month and is now in liquidation.

Then on Monday, Phoenix Environmental Group was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency from accepting more waste as its stockpiles were already dangerously high.

Councils, particularly in Victoria where those two companies are based, are at a total loss as to what to do with tens of thousands of tonnes of recycling.

The City of Melbourne is dumping about 45 tonnes of recyclables into landfill every day, along with about 30 other councils.

Other councils are stockpiling recycling in storage units in desperate hope of finding a buyer - as the stock degrades in value and is attacked by scavenging vermin.

This can have disastrous consequences, such as when stockpiled recycling bales at an SKM facility caught fire.

Australian companies are also accused of rorting the system themselves - trucking building site waste to recycling facilities where it is picked up and dumped in landfill.

Numerous companies allegedly do this to tick the boxes required to avoid waste levies - as high as $138 a tonne in NSW and $66 in Victoria.

Such practices, and the overstocking crisis, is only going to get worse as China's new policy has obliterated the price of many recyclables.

Almost overnight, mixed paper scrap crashed from $124 a tonne to next to nothing, and low-grade plastic is also effectively worthless.

The costs of recycling the scrap plastic in particular are now so high that it is basically not worth it and in many places no longer considered recyclable.

The airport in Memphis, Tennessee, has abandoned recycling altogether and only keeps its recycling bins to keep the 'culture' of recycling going - everything in them goes straight to landfill.

Manufacturers are also giving up on buying recycled materials because it is now much cheaper to make its from virgin components.

The recycling industry, which claims to employ more than 50,000 Australians and generate up to $15 billion in value, has tried to downplay the crisis. It pointed to the government's National Waste Report 2018 claim that 37 million tonnes of Australia's 67 million tonnes of waste was recycled in 2018. The report found just 4 million tonnes was exported, half of it metal.

Ten to 15 per cent of kerbside recycling cannot be recycled because it is contaminated with nappies, soft plastics, garden hoses, bricks and batteries.

'We encourage householders to continue to separate and sort their recycling correctly to reduce contamination and realise the environmental and economic benefits of recycling,' National Waste and Recycling Industry Council chief executive Rose Read said.

The Federal Government has belatedly decided to try propping up the Australian recycling industry with $20 million worth of grants to domestic operators.

'We are committed to protecting our nation's environment while also building our capacity to turn recycling into products that people want and need,' Mr Morrison said on Tuesday.

'By engaging industry and researchers we can make sure we're seeing these changes introduced in a way that cuts costs for businesses and ultimately even creates jobs.'

Mr Morrison said the funding was an effort to get the local industry into a position where shipping recycling overseas could be banned.

'This stuff won't change until we set a date where you can't put this stuff on a boat any longer,' he said.

The industry wants a labelling scheme, similar to the country of origin stamps, that shows how much of a product and its packaging came from recycled materials.

Analysts and recycling industry figures also said there needed to be incentives or quotas for businesses to use recycled material, and councils and government needed to lead the way.

'Recycling only works when people, corporates and government buy products made with recycled content,' Plastic Forests boss David Hodge said.

'As we know, the options to send our waste or a misallocated resource overseas will come to an end.'

The Australian Council of Recycling recycling advocacy group Boomerang Alliance proposed five priority actions for the federal government.

They included a Plastic Pollution Reduction Strategy and a $150 million investment in a national industry development fund.

'With Asian markets for recyclable materials from Australia closing down and local governments confronted with potentially sending their kerbside recycling to landfill, it's time to recognise that the system Australians value is greatly under threat,' the ACOR said.

'The National Waste Policy, recently agreed upon with all states, tries to set out an agenda for the future, but its aims cannot be achieved without investment and policy support.'

Boomerang Alliance director Jeff Angel added: 'Without concerted and effective action, Australia is set to go back 50 years to the days when waste was dumped or burned and the only things recycled were the bottles collected for a refund.


ScoMo takes inspiration from Donald Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp”

Scott Morrison today launched his own version of Donald Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp”, with a sharp offensive against public servants and lobbyists.

It was the prime minister’s bid to deflate the Canberra “bubble”, which he claims contains priorities alien to the concerns of most voters.

Just as the US president portrayed government insiders as part of a powerful, unaccountable elitist “swamp” that had to be emptied, Mr Morrison today accused public servants of ignoring middle Australia from the comforts of a bubble.

“The best teams are the ones where everyone knows what their job is and they do it well,” Mr Morrison said. And of course, he had a three-word slogan: “Respect and expect.”

Whether or not his attacks improve public service performance, they have four potential political benefits for Mr Morrison.

The speech today to the Institute of Public Administration was an obvious attempt to again appeal to what he calls the ‘Quiet Australians’, who he argues don’t get the attention or acclaim they deserve. It also was a deft ploy of blame-shifting, which exonerates his government. Blame those cocooned bureaucratic tribes instead.

And it cost nothing, a vital factor as the Morrison government puts all its actions through the wringer of delivering a $7 billion Budget surplus.

It’s important for the government to appear to be doing something as long as it adds to the Budget.

Plus, it might look prescient. The government expects the review of the public service by businessman David Thodey to be with the PM soon.

It too might contain an unfriendly assessment of the public service.

A bit of public service bashing isn’t an original idea, even for Donald Trump. But the federal government has been able to force its agenda through the bureaucracy or changing bureaucrats.

When John Howard took the Coalition into government in 1996, he introduced himself to the public service by sacking six department secretaries.

In 1999, the Federal Court upheld the government’s powers of hire and fire, following the dismissal of Defence Secretary Pail Barratt. The court found a prime minister did not require cause to sack a department chief.

Scott Morrison didn’t question the priorities of public servants alone. He took aim at lobbyists by saying those ordinary Australians didn’t stay in Canberra’s Hyatt hotel, or dine at the highly regarded Ottoman restaurant or relax in the Chairman’s Lounge at Canberra airport.

“There are many highly organised and well-resourced interests in our democracy,” he said in a section of his speech that read like a warning of an encroaching menace rather than just the usual circus which forms when parliament sits.

“They come to Canberra often. They are on the airwaves and the news channels. They meet regularly with politicians, advisers and departments to advance policy ideas and causes on behalf of those they represent.

“Some will be corporate interests. Some will be advocating for more welfare spending or bigger social programs. Many will be looking for a bigger slice of government resources.”

He wanted to identify a cohort of public service and private enterprise players who ignored the comfort of middle Australia while looking after their own.

It could be middle Australia doesn’t get into those plush venues Mr Morrison listed because they are packed out with MPs on travel allowances.

But Mr Morrison didn’t want to touch on that issue. In fact, he seemed to free politicians such as himself as innocents in the bubble.

“There is strong evidence that the ‘trust deficit’ that has afflicted many Western democracies over recent years stems in part from a perception that politics is very responsive to those at the top and those at the bottom, but not so much to those in the middle,” Mr Morrison said.



Australia's most radical abortion law will allow late terminations and to abort unwanted girls - and most bizarrely makes no mention of women, writes MARK LATHAM

This week the controversial New South Wales abortion bill goes to an upper house vote. With the Berejiklian Government ripping itself in two over attempts to rush the legislation through parliament, people are starting to see some of the more bizarre aspects of the bill.

In line with today's PC madness, it makes no mention of women. It constantly refers to 'a person' having an abortion, but never a woman. This echoes Greens MP Jenny Leong's wacky declaration in parliament two weeks ago that: 'There are people who have uteruses who are not women'.

Think of that the next time you are watching the footy or walking past a building construction site.

The Greens are always saying we need to 'respect the science' when it comes to  climate change but when it comes to biological science, they have invented the fantasy of men having babies.

In the common law, abortions in NSW have been permissible since an important court ruling in 1971. [The Heatherbrae case]

Those pushing the proposal now before parliament – a cross-party cabal of Greens, Independent, Labor and Left-wing National and Liberal MPs – want to remove abortion from the NSW Crimes Act.

This would have been a straightforward task if they had been open about it, engaged in public consultation and started with a moderate, commonsense bill.

Instead, they have tried to ram through Australia's most radically extreme abortion laws without adequate safeguards for late-term abortions, gender selection abortions (parents who only want boys) and medical mistake abortions (where the baby is born alive). The religious freedom of doctors and nurses not to participate in the process has also been wiped.

I'll be moving an amendment this week to ensure that no medico is made to do anything they regard as morally wrong.

Whenever governments coerce people to act against their religious and moral code, we move one step towards a police state.

The people of NSW, conservatives in particular, have every right to feel betrayed by Gladys Berejiklian.

She has allowed a bill to be rushed through parliament that has the Greens and Labor Left cheering on its extremism.

She knew the bill was coming, telling the media, she 'kicked it down the road because I didn't want to deal with it before the (March) election.'

She kept the voters and some of her own MPs in the dark. No wonder they are now calling her sneaky and counting the numbers to get rid of her.


‘Crazy lunatic bill’: Mundine lashes NSW Liberals on abortion

Former Liberal candidate Warren Mundine has blasted the recent push for abortion decriminalisation in NSW as a “crazy lunatic” bill, accusing the Berejiklian government of doing a “grubby little deal with the Greens” that betrayed the Liberal party room and its membership.

Speaking on 2GB radio this morning, the former Labor Party president turned Liberal member said the Berejiklian government had “got arrogant” and “ahead of themselves”, and urged them to hold a debate with the public and within the Liberal party room.

“This is what I can’t understand about the leadership of the Liberal party in regards to NSW,” he told host Ray Hadley.

“Here they are, never mentioned in the election, never mentioned it to anyone, did some grubby deal with the Greens.

“And how embarrassing it is for the Premier and the Deputy Premier to be sitting with the Greens on one side of the parliament while two thirds of the Liberal party are sitting on the other side.

“They should have had the public debate, had the debate within their party room … rather than doing a grubby little deal with the Greens,” he said.

Mr Mundine described abortion decriminalisation as a “very contentions and emotional issue”, and said he was concerned at discussion about aborting foetuses past the 22 week mark.

“This crazy lunatic argument … This is not about having abortions or not having abortions.

“When you start getting into 20 and 22 weeks. I had a cousin who was born premature. You cannot tell me that that is not a living baby, a human being.

“I just find it amazing that they’re going against their party room, they’re going against their membership in regards to this issue. “They seem to try and think they get away with this all the time.

“Well I’m going to call it out. They’ve got to stop doing these grubby deals. “They’ve actually got to start talking to their own party room and talking to the membership.” he said.

Legislation to decriminalise abortion passed the NSW lower house last week by 59 votes to 31 after an amendment to the original bill passed.

It allows terminations up to 22 weeks, as well as later abortions if two doctors considering all the circumstances agree the termination should occur.

The bill must still pass the NSW upper house later this month, and will be assessed by a social issues committee this week.

NSW is the only state where abortion remains a criminal offence.

Queensland decriminalised abortion in December, where the procedure is available up to 22 week. After that, two doctors must be consulted.

In Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, abortion is available through a doctor up to 24 weeks, 23 weeks and 16 weeks respectively, and can be performed later with the consent of two doctors.

In Western Australia, a woman can seek an abortion up to 20 weeks, however there are restrictions for those under 16 and beyond the 20 week mark.

Northern Territory law allows abortion up to 14 weeks with one doctor’s approval. A second doctor is required to sign off if an abortion is sought between 14-23 weeks into the pregnancy.

The practice is also legal in the ACT.


Shore School headmaster: 'The boys are privileged, and it's not their fault'

Timothy Wright, the head of Shore School, also defended his students against those who judged them because of their privilege. "I don't think it's right, as some people do, to say that because you come from Cremorne, you must be somehow a morally bad person," he said.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Herald ahead of his departure from the North Sydney school, Dr Wright spoke of the benefits of single-sex education for boys.

Dr Wright will step down at the end of 2019 after 17 years at the helm of Shore, and 34 years in education.

Shore, an Anglican school, is now in such demand that parents wanting to send their sons there must either be old boys, or lodge their son's waiting list application on the day of his birth. One family has sent their sons there since the 1890s.

Despite fears among some of his high socio-economic parent body that anything but a university degree amounted to failure, Dr Wright said the notion that everyone should get a degree was a "complete fallacy".

He has often encouraged his students to think about an apprenticeship as an option, as they head into an increasingly uncertain job market. "We would not get as many boys going into trades as I would like to see," he said. "I'm pretty confident [artificial intelligence] won't replace plumbers."

Shore costs up to $33,000 a year, and 83 per cent of the school's students are from the top quartile of advantage. But Dr Wright said parental wealth did not inoculate his students against difficulty, and was irritated by the assumption by some that their wealth was a character flaw.

"That sort of attitude that sometimes crops up really annoys me on behalf of these boys," he said.

"I know them. I love them. I do not understand how people can possibly take that attitude towards them. The boys are privileged, and it's not their fault. It's what you do with your opportunities in life that I think you are responsible for. [Wealth] will give you certain advantages, yes, but it does not protect you. Some of my boys have some pretty wicked problems."

Having taught in both single-sex and co-ed schools, Dr Wright said a boys' only environment gives the students a freedom they might not feel if girls were around. "One of the things you'll notice is boys in boys' schools sing," he said.

"They don't, by and large, in co-ed schools. You'll find senior boys out there still playing handball." Girls often master language more quickly than boys, so "there are some real advantages for boys in an English curriculum that meets their needs."

Despite being a chemistry teacher, Dr Wright is passionate about reading. "The more we can get kids reading, the less work you have to do in educating them," he said. "A lot of well-read people are fundamentally self-taught."

He worries about the quality of some modern young adult and children's books. "To some extent I believe in the canon - I realise that's almost an heretical position," he said. "The notion that you are just reading words on a page, and a Campbell's Soup ad is just as worthy a form of text as Joseph Conrad, I'm struggling with that. I do agree that some [young adult fiction] is just churned out.

"I think the same thing with a number of children's books. There seems to be a flood of books [about] bottoms, farts and all the rest of it. I'm not sure that once you have read one or two of those, there's a whole lot more to explore."

Unlike many other private school principals, Dr Wright has resisted the temptation to expand Shore's numbers. He cannot speak for his successor, but believes there is a "sweet spot" at around 220 students per year.

"It's not like Coca Cola - you can't scale the experience of a school," he said. "It's like many complex human organisations, just to double its size doesn't mean you get twice as much of the quality."

About 26 per cent of its students are sons of old boys, but in the next decade the school may also open to the sons of old girls, as girls have been able to attend the K-2 campus in Northbridge for more than 15 years.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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