John Phillips OAMJohn Phillips OAMExecutive Director

Report from the Executive Director

Believe it, or not! - Adelaide Oval circa 1968
Believe it, or not! - Adelaide Oval circa 1968

Change for Sustainability’s Sake!

KESAB has worked with communities across every corner of South Australia for over 52 years. Our collaborative outcomes to restore, improve and repair the environment and build community capacity while embracing environmental sustainability are recognised globally.

There has always been one constant – change.

The difference today compared to five decades ago is that we know much more about the urgent need for change, as we meet environmental sustainability challenges such as climate change head on. Lifestyle, consumerism, pollution and the ability of the community to build resilience due to rapid change are seriously impacting on finite resources.

Take recycling and resource recovery for instance. South Australia has always led the way with forthright targets and legislation to progress resource recovery.

There have always been pragmatists and those simply against any change at all, often based on misleading and false information. You know “Fake News”!

The fact is that in a relatively short period of time (40 years) we have moved from horse and cart and tractor and trailer pick up of galvanised rubbish bins, through plastic “Garbo Bag” collection, introduction of recycling in a plastic crate, a two bin system to the current three bin systems. Significantly modernising processing and waste management systems has created a strong and growing industry sector (5,000 jobs and $1billion economy).

However, as a total community, we still have much more to do.

Over time we have overcome the negative forces including the opposition to South Australia’s successful Container Deposit Legislation (1976). “CDL will force breweries to close and local recycling depots out of business” was the line taken by some at the time of implementing 10c beverage container recycling.

During the consultation leading to lightweight plastic shopping bag bans (2009) it was muted by the retail sector that by not providing consumers with shopping bags and using re-usable options, check out staff will not cope and shoppers will be unable to carry their goods and chattels.

Change always comes with challenges and we are entering the next phase of change.

I am sure South Australians will once again respond proactively and positively as the impacts of climate change and the need to litter less and improve recycling and resource recovery become more demanding.

South Australia’s latest recycling data shows an 86% diversion from landfill rate in all sectors; Main Stream Waste (MSW), Construction Demolition (C&D) and Commercial Industrial (C&I). In specific sectors there is room to improve. Non-deposit glass, food waste and plastics (especially single use and takeaway packaging) contribute to both litter and contaminated resource recovery, devaluing and despoiling environmental outcomes respectively.

The EPA and Green Industries SA are currently consulting on waste reform strategies with a number of industry and retail stakeholders, including KESAB and the community, to review Litter Control, Local Nuisance, Single Use Plastics, Container Deposit Legislation, Food Waste and Which Bin education, to better engage and improve waste management and resource recovery performance.

The next generation State Waste Strategy 2020 – 2025 will no doubt set new challenges and targets, ensuring that South Australians respond more urgently and with greater purpose as we all make headway in a complex and often misunderstood focus to achieve the aspirational target of zero waste.

One thing is for sure; we cannot keep producing and disposing waste at the current rate. As leaders we must press ahead with each of us contributing our fair share to solve mounting, but not insurmountable, challenges.

The message is clear, change is in the wind and government, business and the community (and KESAB) will have an ongoing role to play in achieving our respective sustainability goals in the future.