Shifting the cost of waste upfront and embracing EPAs


Can we solve the packaging crisis by simply 'Paying As You Buy?'

Veolia’s Richard Kirkman spoke with The Fifth Estate about the concept of paying for waste disposal upfront

A brief excerpt of the article is below:

Veolia Australia's CEO, Richard Kirkman says that he's observed that Australian's have a strong sense of 'fair go', and that he's been considering how fairness can be better applied to managing our waste impacts. 

“I think people relate well to fairness in Australia. Today, if you buy a coffee, you pay for the coffee itself, the shipping, the hot water, the labour, the packaging, the lighting in the shop, basically everything. That is — except the disposal or the potential recycling of that cup. Those processes are paid for by general taxation and averaged across society; ultimately, we all end up paying for everyone else’s consumption.” 

“I think it would be fairer and, in fact, less expensive overall, and facilitate more recycling if we had a ‘Pay As You Buy’ system. Under such an approach, if you choose to buy something, you pay for the end-of-life costs at the point of purchase as part of the product price. “

It’s a unique and interesting take on an age-old debate in Australia. Namely, stakeholders, industry and policy makers here have for years debated how to fund waste minimisation and resource recovery activity.

"Pay As You Buy is a concept to put in place a fair, lowest cost system to enable recycling or recovery of all materials and avoid landfill.  It’s the best way to allow people the freedoms to consume, as safely as possible, acknowledging the environmental impacts and dealing with them," Richard said.

“A true ‘Pay As You Buy’ system would be no extra overall cost than what we pay today, but just distributed more equitably to the people who choose to buy something.  What we do have to make clear is that the consumer wont’ pay more. We are simply shifting the cost to pay for the disposal upfront and at the point of purchase.”

“At the same time, paying for the waste we create also isn’t just the responsibility of the consumer; manufacturers who put the product on the market also need to take account. That can be done by having higher costs in place for items that are non-recyclable. That will drive innovation, cost reductions, and a level playing field for firms that want to be sustainable. Manufacturers are renowned for creating efficiencies (it’s what they do!) and if they were incentivised to make their products recyclable, they would do it, and do it well, which would shift the packaging crisis we have today, ensuring more of the products placed on the market are able to be recycled and used again.”


Richard also spoke about the need for industry to embrace the EPA

Highlighting that environmental services providers need to help inform good public policy, Richard said it's time for the industry to embrace regulators. 

"I want to highlight what an ally EPAs are, and the people there are the secret to waste management or resource management success. The EPAs are the people setting tighter targets, increasing controls, allowing the environmental sector to exist, and driving up standards.  They need to be well funded, and well supported by our industry. Our industry needs the EPAs, and I welcome working with the EPAs to achieve what we call ecological transformation, which is to allow humans to continue thriving whilst minimising the impact on our resources and preventing climate change."

Read the full article in The Fifth Estate:


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