Sustainability Victoria’s statewide Waste Education Strategy was developed in partnership with communities, local and state government, and the waste industry. The strategy focuses on increasing understanding of the need, and value of, waste and resource recovery activities, and identifies six major planks.
INCREASE VICTORIAN COMMUNITY AND BUSINESS PERCEPTION OF WASTE AS AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE
Waste collection and management is a utility much like water, gas and electricity. Most people have limited exposure to the waste industry beyond separating recyclables and putting bins out for collection. While there is a broad expectation for waste and resource recovery services, community understanding of the need and support for waste-related infrastructure is variable. This can be a barrier to investment and effective ongoing operations.
The strategy talks about a ‘social licence to operate’. The report says this concept evolved from broader corporate social responsibility. It is based on the idea that a business needs not only appropriate government or regulatory approval, such as a licence to operate, but also a ‘social licence’, which is the acceptance that is continually granted to a business by the local community or other stakeholders to operate.
Businesses involved in waste and resource recovery need to secure broad community support and acceptance in order to obtain or protect their social licence to operate. The waste industry and government can obtain this by engaging with local communities, gaining their trust and acceptance of operations, and involving them in infrastructure planning.
INCREASE COMMUNITY AWARENESS OF WASTE AND SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGE WASTE AVOIDANCE
The strategy lists two major actions here – food waste avoidance, and waste avoidance and minimisation for business.
Sustainability Victoria research shows the state’s residents estimate that they waste around $40 a week on unused food and drink, equivalent to $2000 a year. Across Victoria, this adds up to about $4 billion a year. Associated disposal costs to local government run to around $21 million per year.
For business, Sustainability Victoria saw the results of a range of business programs for small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that demonstrated average savings of more than $140,000 – an average payback of less than two years for manufacturers investing in process optimisation, reuse of waste product in-house and/or product redesign.
IMPROVE RESOURCE RECOVERY AND REDUCE CONTAMINATION
Improving the quality of material streams is an important component for better resource recovery.
The strategy identifies three points of focus:
- adopt an evidence-based approach to intervention, prioritising Victoria’s major contaminants and the behaviours associated with them
- work with our partners to identify existing interventions that are working, and
- work with and support local governments to identify innovative solutions to these complicated problems that are aligned with the behaviour change process, supporting and scaling up what works.
REDUCE LITTER AND ILLEGAL DUMPING
Better local planning is needed for litter prevention and to reduce illegal dumping. The strategy found that people who litter and dump waste vary as to their specific actions and motivations. Actions to prevent littering and dumping must be specific to the nature, scale and motives of the offence.
Communities, businesses and government pay significant costs to clean up litter and illegally dumped materials. Litter programs have traditionally been delivered using a partnership model and are funded by different levels of government and industry.
SUPPORT WASTE AND RESOURCE RECOVERY EDUCATION FOR SCHOOLS
The strategy has identified ResourceSmart Schools, a Sustainability Victoria and government-led initiative, as a key way to instil optimum behaviours in children and teenagers.
“Research shows that early intervention and education can have long-term positive effects on behaviour and is more effective than intervention or education activities in later life,” the report states.
“The focus of this strategic direction is to support ongoing waste and resource recovery education for schools for the benefit of students, teachers and the broader school community.”
STRENGTHEN VICTORIA’S WASTE AND RESOURCE RECOVERY EDUCATION CAPABILITIES
Supporting local government is a major action here. The report notes that Victoria has 79 local governments, each with differing waste and resource recovery education priorities, as well as a diverse range of knowledge, skill levels, experience and resourcing allocated to waste and resource recovery education roles.
At the same time, the strategy needs to embrace and support other delivery partners who play a part in providing waste and resource recovery education to early childhood centres, schools, the broader community and businesses.
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