The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) Queensland Branch Chair, Martin Towers, shares some thoughts on an action plan developed by the AORA committee for organic wastes regulation in QLD to generate discussion and stimulate further ideas that differ from the status quo.
Regulation of waste has different implications depending on your position in the value chain and, therefore, your attitude. The practical, financial and attitudinal drivers that form your perspective significantly influence your expectations from regulation.
As a waste producer – domestic, industrial or agricultural – the material in question is surplus to requirements and often represents a cost to your business. Your goal is to remove it as cost effectively and efficiently as possible.
For a waste manager, collection and receipt of surplus material from other entities are revenue streams; processing and storage are costs. Your goals are to maximise income and minimise costs.
As a recycler, this is not waste, it is raw material. However, it is often contaminated with materials that you consider waste, for which you have a producer mindset. You want to minimise production costs while converting the material into a product then achieve a profit.
As a user of recycled material, you look for products that represent reliability and are competitive on price. You want products that perform consistently (confidence is critical), are safe to use, and deliver a financial benefit by improving gross margins.
Finally, as a regulator, you want to sustain an efficient market in which
business can operate profitably, in a way that does not unreasonably trouble the general population in cost or lifestyle.
It must also avoid adversely impacting the environment, including a policy objective to optimise recycling and minimise disposal to landfill.
Agreeing a way forward
So how can we achieve a consensus?
Regulation should be designed to optimise the net benefits available to all parties. It will always be a compromise and, consequently, few groups will be entirely satisfied. Regulations should support activities that deliver outcomes that are supported by all stakeholders and discourage activities that prevent stakeholders from performing their function.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them,” said Albert Einstein.
Taking Einstein’s quote, here are some thoughts and questions to generate some discussion.
Turning around thinking about waste
We created this problem by thinking about the management of ‘waste’. What if we turned that around to become the provision of raw material to manufacture quality products to satisfy customer demand, with the waste management sector becoming a supplier not a service provider?
What if regulation encouraged end-users to use quality recycled products over existing choices? How could regulation practically stimulate and sustain demand for this change in practice? Could a tax benefit be made available for the use of recycled material?
A major cost associated with recycled organics is freight. How can regulation assist with mitigating or minimising that expenditure?
What if producers were encouraged to ‘supply’ surplus material in a form that benefited the recycler and discouraged them from supplying contaminated or mixed materials?
What if regulation assisted processors in their efforts to remanufacture products that are increasing demand? Should every local council be required to provide a suitable site or sites for organics recycling to occur?
After all, products that deliver a gross profit benefit to end-users will stimulate demand and the laws of economics will take over. Regulations that help to stimulate demand until demand and supply meet their point of equilibrium will help to shift the industry to a new perspective.
These are the areas AORA hopes the government will consider when reviewing policy affecting our members.
More details on AORA, its work and upcoming events is available on its website.