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National Government waste reduction and purchasing guidelines

Department of the Environment and Heritage


1.0 Introduction

These national guidelines are an important component of the ANZECC waste reduction strategy for Australia. In November 1995, ANZECC directed member agencies to:

The National Government Waste Reduction and Purchasing Guidelines will make an important contribution to the achievement of ANZECCs adopted target of a 50% reduction of waste going to landfill by the year 2000 based on 1990 per capita levels. The guidelines will also ensure that government workplaces are more environmentally responsible and provide significant financial cost savings.

Such action is important both because government is a large generator of waste in its own right, and because the credibility of government waste reduction policy depends in part on the waste reduction achieved by governments and their agencies.

Government purchases make up a sizeable proportion of expenditure in the Australian economy. It follows that governments can have a significant impact on the market for environmentally responsible products.

This paper includes guidelines which will act as a starting point and reference for ANZECC members as they develop their own government policies, including purchasing policies, to encourage the reduction of material waste. The paper sets out objectives and principles which governments may adopt, and actions which can be considered. The guidelines cannot be prescriptive for two reasons. Firstly different governments will have different circumstances and priorities. Secondly, each ANZECC member will need to seek whole of government agreement to implement the guidelines within their own jurisdiction.

1.1 Scope

The National Government Waste Reduction and Purchasing Guidelines covers Australian Government, State and Territory agencies, including departments, corporations and other statutory bodies. It does not apply to Local Government, for which best practice guidelines are being developed separately. It is aimed at reducing material waste and does not include other forms of waste such as energy and water.

2.0 Objectives and Principles

2.1 Objectives

The objectives of the National Government Waste Reduction and Purchasing Guidelines are the conservation of resources and the reduction in amount of waste generated by government organisations. This will be achieved by applying the following waste reduction goals and principles to government operations and purchasing.

In order to help meet the national waste reduction goal of reducing waste going to landfill by 50 per cent by the year 2000 based on 1990 per capita levels, governments and their agencies will endeavour to achieve the following goals by the year 2000;

2.2 Principles

In order to achieve these goals, governments and their agencies will adopt the following principles:

3.0 Issues

In developing and implementing these guidelines a number of issues need to be addressed and managed.

3.1 Interagency variations

There are wide variations in the nature of government agencies, their operations and the wastes that they generate. Wastes generated by agencies range from the highly differentiated waste streams of large Australian Government agencies such as the Department of Defence and Telstra, to the less differentiated waste streams of the smaller Australian Government and State/Territory agencies. While common waste management principles apply to all government agencies, substantial variations can be expected in waste management plans of different agencies. Options for waste minimisation may also vary according to geographic location.

3.2 Implications of contracting out

An increasing proportion of the services managed by government agencies are contracted to external suppliers. Contracts for these suppliers should reflect the waste reduction principles and practices of the National Government Waste Reduction and Purchasing Guidelines and the contracting agencies.

3.3 Balancing benefits and costs

Governments and their agencies face strong pressures to cut costs. This can lead to a predisposition against outlays or purchasing practices which encourage waste reduction unless there are clear financial benefits. It is important that governments and their agencies do not overlook the economic benefits which often arise from waste reduction initiatives. For example, changing from paper to electronic mail can lead to savings of both human and material resources.

3.4 Waste reduction priorities

There are limited statistics available on waste composition or the total waste generated by government agencies in Australia. However, the most significant waste streams overall are considered to be paper products, office equipment, green waste and construction and demolition waste. Therefore the priorities for government waste reduction are likely to correspond to these areas.

Waste reduction priorities need to be determined taking into account the availability of substitute products and the feasibility of introducing them. With that perspective, the major priorities for the government's waste reduction and purchasing strategies are:

While it is recognised that the collection and recycling of organic wastes can be more problematic than for other wastes, it is nevertheless important that governments strive to participate in meeting the objectives of the Green and Organic Waste Management Strategy to reduce green and organic waste by 50% of 1990 levels by 2000.

4.0 Key Elements of the Government Waste Reduction and Purchasing Guidelines

The National Government Waste Reduction and Purchasing Guidelines has three critical elements:

  1. Common broadly based waste reduction and purchasing policies adopted by the whole of government.
  2. Waste reduction and purchasing plans tailored to the nature and activities of each agency. These directions and guidelines will be developed by agencies themselves. For example, agencies with a relatively large capital stock and expenditures, such as the Department of Defence, would require a many faceted policy approach. Waste management plans for agencies which have mainly policy functions, and relatively low capital expenditures, are likely to focus on minimising the waste of paper and information processing equipment. Different agencies will be able to contribute to waste reduction in different ways and in varying degrees.
  3. Effective monitoring and reporting systems to track the implementation of policies and plans.

Agencies will require resources and staff will require training in order to discharge these responsibilities.

5.0 Action to Encourage Government Waste Reduction

There are a range of actions which can be taken to enable governments and their agencies to maximise their contribution to the achievement of the national waste reduction target. These include collaborative actions by ANZECC members, and actions which ANZECC members can pursue within their jurisdictions. All of these actions will encourage waste reduction by government agencies and some will also give more general encouragement to waste reduction.

Collaborative national actions

Some actions to encourage waste reduction by government agencies are equally relevant to all jurisdictions. There are efficiencies to be gained in pursuing these actions on a collaborative basis across jurisdictions. These actions are:

Actions which ANZECC members will pursue within their jurisdictions

Within their jurisdictions ANZECC members can promote waste reduction by government agencies through action to provide a supportive policy framework, and encouragement of best waste reduction practice by government agencies.

Policy framework

ANZECC members will seek the adoption by their governments of a policy framework which will encourage waste reduction by government agencies. A supportive policy framework will include adoption of the objectives and principles set out in Section 2 of these guidelines. It will also include:

Best practice for government agencies

Members will encourage the adoption of the following waste reduction practices by government agencies:

6.2 Implementation

Appendix A contains a report on the progress of ANZECC members in implementing the above waste reduction and purchasing guidelines.

ANZECC members will provide a further report to ANZECC in December 1997 on progress in their jurisdiction in developing and implementing the objectives, principles and actions in these guidelines, including quantitative indicators of waste reduction.