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.”

ALGA and NWRIC strategise to protect kerbside

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) and the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) are working on a strategy to protect kerbside recycling in response to National Sword.

At the May 15 NWRIC meeting in Sydney, ALGA President David O’Loughlin met with industry leaders to discuss a solution to National Sword.

Industry leaders agreed to work closely with local government to quickly respond to this crisis and maintain all scheduled collection services for households.

“Households across Australia want to continue recycling,” said NWRIC Chairman Phil Richards. “As such, we are working with the ALGA on a strategy to protect this valued service.”

In the short term, the NWRIC said in a statement that new state government initiatives that reduce contamination are needed to improve product quality and to prevent further stockpiling.

“All communities must help respond to this recycling crisis by not putting non-recyclable materials and food waste in their household recycling bin. Only clean metals, glass, paper and hard plastics can be recycled. Our message to communities is: ‘When in doubt – throw it out’,” the statement read.

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Mr O’Loughlin said that to resolve this crisis, all states, territories and the Commonwealth need to work with us to provide certainty that recovered resources can be profitably used within Australia. He said that this is the only way we can ensure the long term success of Australian recycling.

Mr O’Loughlin said that in some jurisdictions, food waste can be placed in the green bin, leading to greater levels of organic recovery, and increased sales volumes to farmers and wine makers. He said these programs are a leading example of how to the close the gaps for a circular economy.

“Once relief funding is in place from state governments, many of which are sitting on millions in unspent landfill levies, we can commence putting in place new initiatives to create much cleaner materials from household recycling bins,” he said.

The NWRIC statement said that Queensland was the first state to engage with all stakeholders to review its kerbside recycling services at a Bundaberg forum, more on that here.

Both the NWRIC and the ALGA have urged all other states to undertake a similar recycling forum to develop collaborative solutions.

 

NWRIC calls for new international trade agreements

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called on the Federal Government to secure trade agreements with international recycling partners.

This follows the implementation of China’s National Sword Policy, which has placed heavy restrictions on the level contamination in recycling exports.

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In a statement, the NWRIC said recycling has become a globalised industry, with exporting nations such as China needing to play their part to address the reuse of valuable resources. It also noted it strongly supports the re-establishment of domestic remanufacture in Australia.

“Secure international trade agreements will be necessary for the long-term prosperity of Australian recycling,” said the NWRIC.

“The establishment of improved recycling infrastructure requires long term investment and the installation of new technology. This new infrastructure cannot be financed without secure long-term markets for both the input materials and the end products.

“As a result, the NWRIC calls on the Commonwealth though its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to facilitate new negotiations to establish long term and stable trade agreements for the Australian recycling industry,” the NWRIC said.

The NWRIC lists paper, all metals, plastics and manufactured fuels as materials these trade agreements should cover, and notes that an existing China-Australia Free Trade Agreement could possibly be extended to cover clean recycled materials.

NWRIC Chair Phil Richards said Australian industry has the capacity to build new and improved recycling infrastructure that can produce high quality material ready to feed local manufacturing and exports.

“Strengthening our international trade agreements to export recycled products will secure an early recovery of comprehensive recycling services across Australia,” Mr Richards said.

NWRIC calls for mandatory product stewardship scheme

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has welcomed last week’s Meeting of Environments announcements, calling for a mandatory product stewardship across all priority products.

E-waste, batteries, tyres, used machine lubricating oils, paint and chemical drums were highlighted by the NWRIC as products that could fall under a proposed scheme.

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“Only mandatory product stewardship will give investors the confidence to build the capital-intensive infrastructure necessary to process and recover these complex and hazardous products,” the NWRIC said in a statement.

The NWRIC has released action plans to address the issue of the National Sword issue, with short term solutions focused on local governments renegotiating recycling contracts to ensure services continue, despite the drop in commodity prices. It highlighted that long-term actions are needed to reduce contamination in bins and infrastructure to improve the quality of export materials.

The NWRIC said that the review of the National Waste Policy could provide new opportunities to harmonise waste and recycling regulation, pointing to the jurisdictional differences in landfill levies that incentivise interstate transport of waste.

“Other regulatory disparities between states and territories create a cost to business without any economic, social or environmental dividend. Through COAG and the Heads of EPAs (HEPA) group, these anomalies can be resolved,” it said.
It follows the announcement of six action points from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting of Environment ministers.
The six points are:

·      Ensuring all Australian packaging is suitable for recycling by 2025

·      Working with states to find a market for material that would have once been sent to China

·      Advocating for government procurement of recycled materials

·      Improved product stewardship

·      Advancing the review of Australia’s National Waste Policy

·      Prioritising energy recovery projects through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation

The NWRIC also highlighted the manufacture of fuel from unrecyclable materials is a useful step forward.

“This technology is used and recognised globally by countries with more sophisticated recycling systems than Australia. The council welcomes investment by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation into fuel recovery.”

NWRIC Chairman Phil Richards said kerbside recycling is an important service that all Australians value.

“We welcome the state government assistance offered to protect this critical service, and we are ready to work proactively with all levels of government to maintain and enhance this service into the future,” he said.

The NWRIC also supports the rollout of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation’s Australasian Recycling Label. They noted this label provides clear guidance on which materials should be directed to materials recovery facilities.

NWRIC warns recycling contracts could face default

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) have warned that without urgent action to address market changes, Australian recycling contracts could face default.

It follows the controversial move by the Chinese government to reduce the imports of 24 categories of solid waste.

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The Chinese National Sword initiative, a continuation of its Green Fence program, has also tightened standards on import contamination by limiting which businesses can obtain scrap import licenses. The NWRC explained this means lower contamination levels and fewer import licenses issued.

Following their latest meeting, the NWRIC believe that without significant changes to the current market, kerbside and commercial recycling contracts could be cancelled.

Re-negotiating contracts between local governments and recycling providers, increasing stockpiling allowances where environmentally safe, and assistance from the Federal Government were identified as strategies to help the current market.

The best long-term solution to the problem is reinvigorating local re-manufacturing capacity, according to NWRIC.

Recycling market shortfalls can lead to large stockpiles of papers and plastics, which could lead to a fire hazard.

“The NWRIC is urging all customers, including local government and commercial waste generators, to meet with their recycling supplier to plan for these sudden and unforeseen changes,” said Chairman of the NWRIC, Phil Richards.

Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW Executive Director, Tony Khoury said that thoroughly checking firefighting and emergency equipment is vitally important.

“In relation to unprocessed stockpiles or bales of stored sorted material, please ensure that you comply with your Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and development approval requirements,” Mr Khoury said.

“If you are approaching your authorised, lawful stock pile limits, please consider your options (negotiate with EPA, find alternate drop-off facilities, talk to your council or commercial clients).”

According to Mr Khoury, there is at least one fire per week at NSW waste facilities which account for up to 10 per cent of firefighter’s work time.