An understanding of community expectations and concerns about the waste and resource recovery sector is important to underpin community collaboration and support on policy, programs, and waste management plans.
Sustainability Victoria worked with CSIRO on social research projects in 2016 and 2019 to map community perceptions and expectations of the waste and resource recovery sector. The research identified several factors that are important to building community trust and acceptance of the sector, otherwise known as a ‘social licence to operate’.
The 2019 CSIRO Victorian Attitudes to Waste Management survey measured community attitudes and perceptions about waste and the waste and resource recovery sector, comparing results to data from the 2016 research. In the 2019 survey attitudes and perceptions of waste to energy were also investigated.
The research findings provide an evidence base for matters that are important to communities with respect to waste, the waste and resource recovery sector, and waste to energy. This evidence base provides opportunities for government and industry to focus their initiatives on areas that can drive waste reducing behaviour, and increased trust and acceptance of the sector, its infrastructure, and activities.
The project is part of the Victorian Waste Education Strategy which is a key element in delivering Victoria’s 30-year Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan (SWRRIP).
The research project had four objectives:
- Understand and measure community attitudes and perceptions.
- Identify drivers of trust and acceptance: 'What's important'.
- Model important factors: trust and acceptance and 'how it works'.
- Identify opportunities for policy, programs, collaborative actions.
In March and April 2019, researchers surveyed 1,244 Victorians living in metropolitan and regional areas of Victoria as part of the 2019 CSIRO Victorian Attitudes to Waste Management survey. Half the participants lived within a two kilometre radius of waste and resource recovery infrastructure.
Respondents were asked about their views towards living near waste and resource recovery complexes and waste to energy plants, including issues such as possible impacts, benefits, trust, and governance in relation to living near such a site.
CSIRO also conducted a statewide survey on Victorian attitudes to waste management as part of the 2016 research and interviewed key ‘informants’ such as industry and government representatives. In addition, SV and CSIRO also engaged communities and other stakeholders at seven waste and resource recovery sites across Victoria.
The initiatives identified at the final stakeholder workshop support improvements in four key areas:
- Governance: build the confidence and understanding communities have on systems and controls in place to manage health and impacts to the environment and communities, including confidence in regulators and long-term strategy and urban planning, led by Environment Protection Authority Victoria.
- Engagement: improve the quality of the relationships between operators and affected communities, including responsiveness, depth of engagement, action taken and collaboration. SV is developing training for industry to build skills in community engagement that builds trust and resilient relationships over time.
- Benefits: increase community understanding of the local and societal benefits of the sector in partnership with industry.
- Knowledge: increase understanding of the integrated waste and resource recovery systems that service every Victorian, transport, process and sort waste, recover some materials and dispose of other materials to landfill through community education programs.
SV will undertake further work to determine how these will be addressed.