Waste policy report card released

A detailed analysis of the Labor Party, the Coalition and the Greens election promises has been released.

Using criterion based analysis and independent scoring evaluations, the policy report card has determined all three parties are committed to upgrading innovative recycling infrastructure, establishing local markets for recycled content and dealing with plastic pollution.

According to the report card however, only minor commitments to establishing a circular economy and national regulatory arrangement have been made.

The report card was created by the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR), the Australian Industrial Ecology Network (AIEN), the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) and the National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC), with independent consultancy from Equilibrium.

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said the election run up shows an unprecedented, tri-partisan and substantive response to the pressures felt in municipal recycling.

“Labor and the Coalition have come out neck and neck with good grades of C. The Greens also have a C, but less opportunity to realistically implement their vision,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Taken as a whole these policies recognise the landfill diversion, greenhouse gas reduction and jobs creation benefits of our $20 billion and 50,000 job industry.”

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said her organisation was particularly pleased with Labor’s commitment to establishing a National Waste Commissioner.

“This role is key to driving the national waste policy, collaboration across all levels of government and more regulatory consistency between states,” Ms Read said.

“However, NWRIC is concerned with the lack of commitment by the major parties to the use of co-regulatory powers for the Product Stewardship Act for batteries and all electronics.”

AIEN Executive Director Veronica Dullens said tri-partisan support showed recognition for the potential of the waste sector to drive environmental and economic outcomes.

“What is lacking is more specific recognition of the principles of a circular economy and more specific actions to move away from the ‘take, make and throw’ paradigm,” Ms Dullens said.

AORA National Executive Officer Diana De Hulsters said it was time to get serious about policy implementation.

“Given that 60 per cent of a household rubbish bin is potentially compostable, we would like to see comprehensive recycling targets put in place in the National Waste Policy,” Ms Hulsters said.

“Not only those for packaging, which is a minority part of the overall waste stream.”

Official Ratings:

—  All parties have presented credible and coherent policies and achieve a pass mark.

—  The Labor Party scores highly for a balanced suite of programs to support industry growth, recycled content products and work with local and state governments. It loses marks through not specifically committing to wide-ranging community engagement programs – overall achievement is a C.

— The Coalition scores highly for a significant commitment to industry investment and a circular economy approach, however loses marks for lack of recent implementation – overall achievement is a C.

— The Greens score highly with a very strong group of programs, but were marked down due to their inability to implement the proposals – overall achievement is a C.

Click to access the full Report Card.

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Quantifying the Victorian contribution

A recent study by the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has quantified the economic contribution the sector makes to the Victorian economy.

The data follows the same modelling recently used by National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) state and territory affiliates Waste and Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) and Waste and Recycling Industry Northern Territory (WRINT).   

The VWMA commissioned economist Nick Behrens, Director of Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions, to complete a report that breaks down the economic and social contribution of the waste management and secondary resources industry to the Victorian economy. 

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the interconnected waste and resource recovery network seen nationwide comprises a fleet of vehicles, other machinery and infrastructure assets to consolidate, process, recovery, treat, dispose or export waste which all aspects of the economy produce.

“I think that’s something the broader economy doesn’t always recognise,” Mr Smith said.

The Victorian snapshot shows that more than 1100 businesses create 23,000 direct Victorian jobs. The overall industry, including the government and private sector, creates an annual turnover of $3.7 billion. 

This contribution makes up $2.3 billion of Victorian gross state product of the state’s roughly $399 billion of gross state product. 

Mr Smith said that the report shows the waste sector provides an essential service similar to that of water, electricity and roads/logistics.

“This report is the first time we’ve articulated our benefit with data back to the community or to key parts of government at a local, state or federal level,” Mr Smith said.

“Membership with state-based associations such as the VWMA empowers us to act on our members’ behalves and for the interests of the sector. It’s through our members’ support that we’ve been able to carry out this research.”

Mr Smith said that the valuable data and information provides the VWMA with evidence to shape and define the state’s waste management and resource recovery narrative.

“It provides us with authoritative information about the sector which should not be underestimated when we frame the valuable contribution we make to the economy [direct and in-direct], the environment and society.”

The waste and resource recovery sector also supports the growing balance of the Sustainability Fund (sourced through landfill levies). 

“It’s really important to recognise the critical support role the sector plays in supporting the state government’s collection of landfill levies which we understand to be about $215 million a year. The Sustainability Fund is critical in funding the EPA, Sustainability Victoria and other agencies working to make Victoria safe, prosperous and sustainable.”

“The data sets highlight a compelling story about what the private sector’s stake in waste and resource recovery currently looks like. Our data indicates that state government contributions are minuscule when compared to the investments and contribution of the private sector.”

Mr Smith said that the report also highlights industry’s commitment to ensuring a sustainable and efficient waste and resource recovery network.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO Rose Read said that the report is an important step for the sector in telling its story about the benefits it delivers to the community, councils, the environment and businesses.

“I’m optimistic that other states will follow Victoria, Queensland and Northern Territory’s footsteps and adopt the same methodology developed by Queensland Economy Advocacy Solutions.”

Fast Facts

How the VWMA will use the data:

  • It will help contextualise and frame the broader contribution to Victoria
  • It will work with other associations to help inform the national contribution
  • It will use the data to engage with government, the media and politicians about the important role the sector plays.

How the waste sector can use the data:

  • When talking about their business, contribution and local benefits
  • Combine with other applications or documents that communicate the sector’s broader benefits.

How government can use the data:

  • In government reports or documents
  • To prevent duplications of existing work carried out by the private sector
  • To work with associations to better engage with businesses wanting to drive outcomes for the sector.

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NWRIC welcomes Coalition waste policy

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has issued a statement of support for the Coalition’s proposed waste and recycling policy.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the Coalition’s recent policy announcement would help facilitate a cleaner environment for all Australians.

“The announcement reveals a federal election which has seen the biggest tri-partisan commitment to waste and recycling in Australian history,” Ms Read said.

“The Coalition’s promises follow equally welcome commitments by the Labor Party and the Greens.”

Ms Read highlighted the Coalition’s $100 million Australian Recycling Investment Fund, Product Stewardship Investment Fund, $20 million investment in new and innovative solutions to plastic recycling and commitment to continue working with state, territory and local governments on opportunities to get more recycled content into road construction.

Ms Read said while party commitments vary in focus and values, the lead up to the election has seen a recognition of the waste and recycling challenges facing Australia.

“This is welcome news for all Australians because irrespective of who they vote for, they all put their bins out,” Ms Read said.

“Furthermore industry’s priorities are clear, more jobs, better services and less pollution – there is really nothing to disagree with about delivering this essential community service.”

NWRIC is concerned however about the lack of targets for government procurement of recycled goods, incentives to producers to increase recycled content in their products and packaging or willingness to drive state harmonisation of waste regulations and levies.

“Having six states and two territories enforcing different laws, levies and standards limits industry investment in innovative waste management and resource recovery infrastructure and services essential to building a circular economy,” Ms Read said.

“Good policy combined with funding is the key to effective outcomes and greater certainty for industry investment.”

Ms Read said for the proposed Product Stewardship investment to achieve meaningful outcomes, it must be underpinned by smart, simple regulations that create a level playing field and ensure full producer engagement.

“The National Waste Recycling Industry Council is calling for the appointment of a National Waste Commissioner to drive these necessary reforms and a tri-partisan approach to harmonising the regulations framing our industry,” Ms Read said.

“This process has been a clear success for work health and safety and heavy vehicle laws.”

Ms Read said every household and business in Australia purchases waste services and most purchase recycling services.

“The Commonwealth can cut costs for all Australians and stimulate industry investment by driving collaboration between states, industry and producers and essential regulatory reforms,” Ms Read said.

“It is critical that whichever party wins the upcoming federal election that they work proactively with industry to create jobs, serve communities, protect workers and reduce pollution.”

Earlier in the election cycle NWRIC similarly praised Labor’s policy commitments, specifically noting the development of a national container deposit scheme, National Waste Commissioner and the $60 million investment in a National Recycling Fund.

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NWRIC releases statement in support of Labor waste policy

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has released a statement in support of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s proposed waste and recycling policy.

Labor’s proposal sets out a number of priorities to enhance waste and recycling services, six of which have been highlighted by NWRIC.

NWRIC praised Labor’s commitment to a national container deposit scheme, which includes inviting, but not mandating Victoria and Tasmania become part of an integrated national scheme.

Victoria and Tasmania are currently the only states without a state run container despot scheme in place.

The announcement of a National Waste Commissioner, funded with $15 million over six years, and the expansion of product stewardship schemes to include more e-waste, batteries and white goods were similarly praised.

The council also highlighted the proposed $60 million investment in a National Recycling Fund, and the setting of targets for government purchasing of recycled goods.

NWRIC also cited Labor’s commitment to provide an additional $10 billion in capital for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation over five years.

NWRIC’s statement said the proposal follows Labor’s national policy platform commitment to capture the economic opportunities of a harmonised and strategic national waste reduction and recycling policy, including appropriate energy recovery technologies.

Labor’s policy also commits to establishing a federal EPA and a new Australian Environment Act to replace the current Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Mr Shorten said the new act will aim to tackle inefficiencies, delays and hurdles in the current law, giving business more certainty while protecting the environment.

Presently there are eight different sets of laws and regulations governing waste management and recycling across Australia’s states and territories.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said every household and business in Australia purchases waste services, and most purchase recycling services.

“The Commonwealth can cut costs for all Australians by creating national, high quality regulations covering waste and recycling,” Ms Read said

“NWRIC is calling for a bi-partisan approach to harmonising the regulations protecting our industry.”

Despite welcoming the policy, Ms Read said NWRIC is concerned about Labor’s proposed roll back of the Emissions Reduction Fund.

“Through the Emissions Reduction Fund, a number of leading recycling initiatives have been funded, including returning composting to soils and harvesting renewable energy from biogas,” Ms Read said.

“Waste and recycling services are essential to all Australians. Therefore, it is critical that whichever party wins the upcoming Federal election – they work proactively with industry to create jobs, serve communities, protect workers and reduce pollution.”

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The NWRIC’s visionary policy

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO Rose Read highlights the association’s priorities in 2019 and its long-term plan for resource recovery in Australia. 

Read more

Europe reaches 44 per cent battery recycling collection rate

Around 44 per cent of batteries sold in Europe were collected for recycling, with Belgium reaching 70.7 per cent, according to new data from the European Union’s statistical office, Eurostat.

In total, the data found around 214,000 tonnes of portable batteries and accumulators were put on the market in 2016, with around 93,000 tonnes collected for recycling, meaning more than twice the amount of batteries that had been put on the market than were collected.

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Luxembourg reached 63.4 per cent collection rate, with Hungary and Lithuania reaching around 53 per cent. Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom achieved collection rates of around 45 per cent.

The EU target for collection rates of portable batteries was set at 45 per cent in 2016, meaning 13 EU member states did not reach the target.

Australia has a comparatively low recycling rate of batteries, with the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative finding only three per cent of batteries are recycled and 70 per cent are sent to landfill.

To improve Australia’s battery recycling rates, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called for a regulated product stewardship program for batteries by 2020.

The NWRIC said such a low recycling rate means regulator intervention is the only option.

“With a combination of sensible regulation, targeted investment and consumer education, almost all of Australia’s used batteries can be safely recycled. This would reduce the risk of fires at recycling facilities and minimise the contamination of compost,” the organisation said in a release.

NWRIC calls for National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on the federal, state and territory environment ministers to appoint a National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner to ensure the National Waste Policy will be successful.

In a statement, NWRIC CEO Rose Read said Australia can no longer ignore the waste, resource recovery and recycling challenges it faces. It comes ahead of Friday’s Meeting of Environment Ministers as part of the biannual Council of Australian Governments meeting, where the rebooted National Waste Policy will be discussed.

“We are still one of the highest generators of waste per capita in the developed world,” Ms Read said.

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Ms Read said that inconsistent state waste regulations, limited infrastructure planning, reliance on overseas markets for recyclates, unfair local markets, increasing contamination of and lack of regulated product stewardship schemes are all major barriers to Australia realising the true economic, environmental and social value of its waste as a resource.

“Unless there is a significant shift in how our federal, state and territory governments work together to remove these barriers Australia’s waste will continue to grow and industry will not invest in technologies that would transform waste into valuable resources that meet local and global markets,” she said.

A National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner would be responsible for ensuring the policy is implemented, facilitating collaboration, regulatory reform and encouraging investment from all levels of government, producers, manufacturers, importers, retailers and recyclers.

The NWRIC believes that key actions that must be progressed as a matter of urgency are:

●  Harmonising state waste regulations specifically around waste definitions, licensing and transport.

●  A national waste and recycling infrastructure strategy that maps material and resource pathways for the next 30 years.

●  Regulating battery and tyre product stewardship schemes.

●  Mandating local, state and government procurement of recycled content in products and services.

●  Reviewing the National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) for packaging and including mandated targets for recycled content in packaging and that all packaging must be recyclable,        compostable or reusable.

●  Increasing investment in community and business education that encourages better consumption, increases reuse, improves source separation and reduces contamination.

 

NWRIC calls for regulatory battery product stewardship scheme

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called for a regulated product stewardship program for batteries by 2020.

It has called on the Federal Environment Minister to broaden the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) to include all types of handheld batteries up to five kilograms.

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Under the NTCRS, more than 1800 collection services are available to the public which could be used to include batteries, according to NWRIC.

Lithium ion batteries pose hazards in kerbside recycling bins, potentially leading to spontaneous combustion if pierced due to mechanical handling in waste collection trucks and recycling facilities.

Lithium, nickel, lead and cadmium are finite resource in waste batteries that can be highly recyclable if correctly separated.

According to the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative only three per cent of batteries are recycled, with 70 per cent being sent to landfill.

NWRIC said that such a low recycling rate means regulator intervention is the only option.

“With a combination of sensible regulation, targeted investment and consumer education, almost all of Australia’s used batteries can be safely recycled. This would reduce the risk of fires at recycling facilities and minimise the contamination of compost,” NWRIC said in a release.

New team, same plan: NWRIC

Improved planning, consistent standards and value for money landfill levies remain the core focuses of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council into 2019, writes the organisation’s new Chief Executive Officer, Rose Read.

While I hope to bring new leadership and insights to my role as Chief Executive Officer of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) – the core mission of the NWRIC remains the same.

After more than 30 years in the industry, Max Spedding has retired. He is well respected for his ‘steady hand’ management style. Following his lead, Alex Serpo, NWRIC’s Policy Officer, and I will continue to work for a cohesive national vision to advance Australia’s waste management and recycling industry.

The NWRIC was set up to bring together all of Australia’s waste management and recycling businesses and create a shared national vision for a fair, sustainable and prosperous industry. NWRIC’s membership and affiliates include representatives from every state industry body, including the majority of Australia’s nationwide waste management and recycling companies.

In addition to the immediate challenges presented by China’s National Sword and the forthcoming introduction of the landfill levy in Queensland, the NWRIC has identified three major national challenges facing the industry. These are creating and applying consistent standards, improving planning for waste and resource recovery facilities and getting the best value from landfill levies.

These priorities will form the basis of the NWRIC’s activity for 2018 and 2019. It’s worth addressing each in detail.

CONSISTENT STANDARDS

First: standards. The entire industry is premised on them, as their absence means waste generators could simply dump waste into the environment in an uncontrolled way and put the public and employees at risk. The consequences of this are visible in countries which have no standards, or who don’t enforce their standards.

Success in this arena means both creating robust national industry regulations and enforcing them equitably. Specifically, the NWRIC believes there is a need for a national landfill standard and harmonisation of levies to prevent levy avoidance. We also need more work on illegal dumping.

PLANNING IS ESSENTIAL

Next: planning. Landfills and resource recovery facilities are very difficult to move. As a side note, it is theorised that the largest man-made object on Earth is in fact a landfill.

It’s essential landfills and resource recovery facilities are put on the right site the first time. Good quality infrastructure planning can create enormous dividend for the public, industry and government. Since the need for new waste and resource recovery facilities is inevitable as population grows, forward planning is essential to meet community, environmental and economic requirements.

Effective road access and buffers will reduce or eliminate the public disturbance of these sites. Without reliable planning, industry can’t confidently invest in new infrastructure. Historically, bad planning decisions have set the industry and the ability to recover materials back many times.

HYPOTHECATE LEVIES

Finally: levies. From 2019, it is expected the states will collect close to $1.2 billion per year in landfill levies. As their name implies, landfill levies are ‘levies’ and not taxes, and therefore technically should be hypothecated back into the waste and recycling sectors.

Today, less than one quarter of levies collected are invested back into waste management and resource recovery. With levies on the increase across Australia, governments can now invest more into planning, infrastructure, education, standards and enforcement of regulations.

The mechanism of levy re-investment is important, and by far the largest cost is large infrastructure development. In the April 2018 edition of Waste Management Review, the NWRIC suggested the establishment of a ‘recycling bank’ to distribute a proportion of the levy funds via loans. This ensures levy funds are spent effectively, leveraging private investment so that the funds collected from businesses and households go further. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation shows the success of this model.

Beyond these large scale structural challenges, we are also working on two acute problems. The first is the new landfill levy for Queensland, which is expected to raise close to $200 million per year. The details will be important, and many unresolved questions remain. For example, will the levy apply to bagged asbestos? (Hint: it shouldn’t.) Will enforcement be effective enough to ensure legitimate businesses aren’t undercut by levy avoidance?

The second challenge is the continued impact of the Chinese National Sword policy, which has resulted in a collapse in prices for commodities recovered from kerbside recycling. In the wake of this market shakeup, materials recovery facilities are still in trouble. Kerbside collection services, which have received decades of investment, should not be allowed to collapse.

As the NWRIC has previously advocated, the first step is to clean up what is going into kerbside recycling bins through strong public education programs. In worst cases, kerbside recycling bin contamination is running as high as 40 per cent. Meanwhile, we believe the national average is 15-25 per cent. This figure needs to be reduced down to 10 per cent contamination at the most.

To kick this off, the NWRIC in partnership with the Australian Council of Recycling and the Australian Local Government Association has launched the Recycle Right program. A simple and clear recycling message to be applied nationally on what does and more importantly does not go in the yellow bin.

While the challenges facing industry are significant, they all have well understood solutions. We have the funding and expertise to advance the industry. The NWRIC will be stepping up to promote these solutions.

ABOUT:

Rose is a seasoned CEO with experience leading both commercial and not-for-profit organisations, including AMTA’s MobileMuster and Clean Up Australia. In her more than 20-year career, Rose has focused on a strong collaborative approach to implementing product stewardship and natural resource management initiatives through multi-stakeholder engagement.

NWRIC appoint new CEO

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has announced the appointment of a new CEO, effective 1 August.

Rose Read will take up the position with 20 years of experience in the waste, recycling and environmental sectors. She has lead commercial and not-for-profit organisations like the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association’s MobileMuster and Clean Up Australia.

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She is currently the CEO of the product stewardship arm of MRI E-cycle Solutions and will transition out of the role are MRI to take the position of CEO of NWRIC.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with Council members and State affiliates in addressing key national issues facing the industry,” Ms Read said.

“As a key enabler of the circular economy the recycling industry has much to contribute to Australia economically, environmentally and socially. I look forward to being part of NWRIC and collaborating with members and key stakeholders to create a more vibrant and sustainable waste and recycling industry,” she said.

MRI E-cycle Solutions Managing Director Will LeMessurier said Ms Read has played an important role in setting up MRI’s product stewardship arm over the past two years.

“She will continue to be involved in MRI on a part time basis over the next six months or so as we transition to our new structure. We wish her well in her new role and the continued positive influence she has over our industry,” he said.

The news follows the announcement of outgoing CEO Max Spedding’s retirement after 30 years of experience in the waste and recycling sector.

“Setting up the Council over the past two years has been a challenge but now we have all of the key national companies and state associations on board we are starting to see real and positive outcomes,” said Mr Spedding.

“With our current recycling problems and the urgent need for better infrastructure planning across Australia, Rose and her team have a busy time ahead. I wish them every success.”