Environment and Sustainable Development 5 Minute Fix 42: circular economy, mining, sustainability and marine dredging

20 Sep 2023


International: Binding instrument on plastic pollution: draft text released

On 4 September, the United Nations released the Zero draft text of the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. The Zero Draft was developed following the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, which has been tasked with developing a legally binding instrument, for discussion at its next meeting in Kenya in November.

Some of the key parts of the Zero Draft include:

  • Part II of the Zero Draft engages with the life cycle of plastic products with the goal of reducing plastic pollution. Making up the largest section of the Zero Draft, there are 13 elements in Part II, a major focus being Part II.2 (chemicals and polymers of concern).

    There are three different options for action proposed in Part II.2, including:

    Option 1 – imposes strict controls such as binding nations to now allow and to eliminate certain chemicals and polymers of concern for plastic production;

    Option 2 – which is less strict, mandates minimal usage of chemicals and polymers of concern; and,

    Option 3 – the least binding, leaves it up to each nation's action plan for regulating the presence and use of chemicals and polymers of concern.

    The effectiveness of these options will turn on how "chemicals and polymers of concern" are defined.

  • Part III addresses financing, capacity-building, and technology transfer considerations for developing country parties.
  • Part IV requires nations to develop a national plan to fulfil its obligations under the instrument.

It is understood that the work of the Committee is to be completed by the end of 2024.

ACT: Consolidating and expanding circular economy provisions

The ACT Government introduced the Circular Economy Bill 2023 to Parliament on 30 August 2023. The Bill is aimed at taking steps toward a circular economy, and in particular to reduce waste and have a more circular approach to resources, by (amongst other things):

  • phasing out single-use plastics; and
  • requiring businesses to have a separate collection for co-mingled recycling and organic waste collection and a food waste reduction plan from 2023.

The Bill proposes to repeal and remake provisions from the Plastic Reduction Act 2021 and its subordinate legislation to consolidate powers under the one Act and to expand the power to prohibit products beyond only single-use plastic products to also include other problematic products in future. The ban on currently prohibited products will continue in effect.

The introduction of the Bill occurs alongside the release of the ACT Circular Economy Strategy and Action Plan 2023-2030 which sets out the government's vision and strategies for building a circular economy in ACT.

The Bill is currently before the Legislative Assembly.

VIC: New circular economy regulations made

On 3 August 2023, the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) (Container Deposit Scheme) Amendment Regulations 2023 (Vic) was made to amend the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) (Container Deposit Scheme) Regulations 2022 (Vic) to prescribe the framework under Part 6 (Container deposit scheme) of the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Act 2021 No. 55 (Vic), providing for:

  • refund marking; and
  • notification of intent to supply eligible containers.

The amendments commenced on 8 August 2023.


NT: Proposed environment laws to regulate mining activities, including legacy mining remediation

In August, the NT Government released the Environment Protection Legislation Amendment (Mining) Bill 2023 for public consultation. Submissions closed on 18 September 2023.

The fundamental change proposed by the draft Mining Bill is that it will repeal of the Mining Management Act 2011 and transfer of responsibility for the environmental regulation of mining to the Environment Protection Act 2019 which is administered by the Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security.

The key aspects of the proposed model of managing mining activities under the Environment Protection Act 2019 include:

  • a new, three tier, licensing system to manage mining activities, underpinned by general environmental duties; and
  • extension of existing compliance and enforcement powers to ensure these apply to mining activities.

The proposed model for managing mining activities is described in the Regulation of mining activities reform summary.

The draft Mining Bill also proposes consequential amendments to the Mineral Titles Act 2010 to improve the "fit and proper" person test under that Act and to introduce a "notice to commence or continue activities" following payment of the mining security.

The Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security has released a number of factsheets which can be found here.

Only days after the release of the draft Mining Bill, the NT Government released the draft Legacy Mines Remediation Bill 2023 for consultation which will introduce new legislation to contemporise the way legacy mines and legacy mine features are managed in the Territory. Submissions on the draft Legacy Remediation Bill also closed on 18 September 2023.

It is proposed that the management and remediation of legacy mines will continue to be the responsibility of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, with the key objectives of the draft Legacy Mines Remediation Bill including:

  • to support a contemporary framework to enable flexible and effective options for the remediation of legacy mines and legacy mine features; and
  • to maximise the effectiveness of the MRF through encouraging research, collaboration and expanding opportunities for remediation of legacy mines and legacy mine features across the Northern Territory.

The Department has released a number of factsheets which can be found here.

Submissions on both draft bills are currently under review and evaluation. There is no further information on next steps or when we can anticipate the bills being finalised for introduction to the NT Parliament.

Sustainable development

TAS: Developing a sustainability vision and strategy: have your say

The Tasmanian Government is looking to develop a sustainability vision and strategy for the State and has released the following for consultation:

The release of the Discussion Paper is part of Stage Two for developing Tasmania's Sustainability Strategy and submissions can be made until 6 October 2023. This stage follows research that was undertaken as part of Stage One to help identify existing capabilities, challenges and opportunities to be targeted within the Strategy. It is understood that as part of Stage Two, targeted consultation will also be undertaken.

Once Stage Two has been completed the following stages will be progressed:

Stage 3 – Development of the draft Tasmanian Sustainability Strategy: this draft will consolidate key targets derived from existing policies and identify which targets need amendment. It is understood that this will involve further public consultation in 2024 which will help to inform the development of targets, actions, and indicators for the final strategy.

Stage 4 – Release of final Tasmanian Sustainability Strategy: this stage will involve the release of the final Strategy later in 2023 and the commencement of implementation.

It is understood from the material released, that the Strategy will:

  • seek to ensure that goals are in place for the livelihood of future generations, including a healthy environment, economic benefits and social equity; and
  • look to adopt sustainable practices and policy, such as switching the electric vehicles, new waste & recycling plans and renewable energy policy.

Environmental protection

NT: Updated guidelines for marine dredging activities: have your say

The Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority has released Draft guidance for marine dredging for consultation. Once made in final, these guidelines with replace the current 2013 Guidelines for the Environmental Assessment of Marine Dredging in the Northern Territory.

The draft guidelines are heavily reduced in pages compared to the 2013 version with the removal of content setting out the former environmental impact assessment process under the Environmental Assessment Act and Environmental Assessment Administrative Procedures which has now been replaced by the process under the Environment Protection Act 2019. Separate guidance is provided on the environmental impact assessment and approval processes here.

The new draft guidance focuses on the main statutory authorisation processes associated with marine dredging activities in Territory waters and sets out the leading practice technical guidance for marine dredging, which is the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority Technical Guidance – Environmental impact assessment of marine dredging proposals. This includes undertaking dredging activities in accordance with a dredging management plan that generally meets the requirements set out in the WA EPA Technical Guidance and the guidance document.

Submissions on the draft guidance can be made until 20 October 2023.

Special thanks to Nicole Besgrove (Brisbane) for co-ordinating the ESD 5 Minute Fix and to Tom Flower (Melbourne), Joseph McDonald (Melbourne), and Phoebe Hinton (Sydney) for their contribution to this edition.
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.