Aussie manufacturers embrace sustainable practices with new policy

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The Australian Government has unveiled its inaugural national Environmentally Sustainable Procurement Policy to stimulate robust demand for recycled goods, curtail waste generation, and propel the nation’s manufacturing sector towards a circular economy model.

In a media release, the government said the policy rollout aligns closely with recommendations put forth by the Circular Economy Ministerial Advisory Group’s interim report.

The phased implementation of the policy is set to commence on 1 July 2024. Initially targeting government construction services projects exceeding $7.5 million, bidders will be required to demonstrate adherence to specified sustainability benchmarks.

These criteria may involve waste reduction strategies, repurposing initiatives, and the integration of recycled materials instead of single-use alternatives.

From 1 July 2025, the policy will expand to encompass tenders for textiles, ICT goods, and furniture, fittings, and equipment valued over $1 million.

“The Albanese Labor Government is leading a national transition to a circular economy and the new report clearly shows us the opportunities for Australia – including a boost to our domestic manufacturing capabilities,” stressed Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek.

She added, “This will deliver a future remade in Australia, creating opportunities and demand for goods to be recycled and remanufactured right here. It’s a win for business, and a win for the environment.”

Procurement requirements may extend directives for the recovery and recycling of worn-out uniforms, fostering the development of a circular economy ecosystem.

Project categories were selected based on their substantial environmental footprints and their potential to spur local recycling industry employment opportunities.

This pioneering policy also seeks to carve out a future where Australia pioneers in the remanufacture, remake, and recycling of goods.

By prioritising local circularity, the government said it aims to not only bolster job creation but also to safeguard the environment.

The formulation of this policy involved extensive consultation with construction services entities and industry stakeholders.

In its inaugural year, the policy is slated to cover two per cent of Australian Government construction services procurement contracts, while capturing 50 per cent of the total contract value.

Crucially, the policy introduces a robust measurement and reporting framework to monitor environmental outcomes.

Verifiable measures are instituted within project categories, leveraging existing sustainability data collection efforts by approximately 60 per cent of Australian Government suppliers.

In tandem with the policy rollout, the Circular Economy Ministerial Advisory Group’s interim report has been unveiled.

The report proposes a series of strategies to bolster local manufacturing capabilities through reuse, repair, and recycling initiatives.

Key recommendations include the initiation of a Productivity Commission Inquiry into resource efficiency’s role in fostering economic growth, the establishment of a National Circular Economy Framework, and the implementation of a national ‘recycled content first’ policy to drive recycled markets.

Led by Professor John Thwaites, the Advisory Group comprises esteemed experts committed to advancing sustainable development objectives.

Both the policy and interim report are available for public perusal on the Department of Climate Change, Energy, and Environment’s website.