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 calls for national register of waste providers

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called for two major reforms following its October 12 meeting.

The industry advocacy group, which represents some of Australia’s largest waste management companies, called for a national database of waste and recycling service providers.

It also argued that a national standard and audit of combustible waste stockpiles is needed. The council members comprise national waste companies and all mainland state waste and recycling associations, including Alex Fraser Group, Cleanaway, J. J. Richards and Sons, Solo Resource Recovery, Suez, Toxfree, Remondis, ResourceCo and Veolia.

In regards to the call for a national database, NWRIC Chairman Phil Richards said effective waste management and recycling requires high standards which protect workers, the public and the environment.

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He said governments should therefore register all facilities and transporters undertaking waste processing, recycling or waste transport to assist their compliance activities.

“The NWRIC was setup to protect and raise standards in landfill, recycling, processing and waste transport. An enhanced registration program will give state Environmental Protection Authorities the power to protect standards.” At a previous meeting, the NWRIC suggested that landfill levy revenue could be used to improve compliance activities .

In addition to a program to register all waste transporters, the council called for state government action to ensure that all waste processing facilities hold an Environmental Protection Licence.

The council argued licensing of all facilities is urgently needed to maintain equal standards, and to ensure that compliance activities cover all facilities, regardless of size.

Key standards the industry are concerned about include; the stockpiling of combustible material, landfill levy avoidance, poorly managed small landfills, illegal dumping for commercial gain and fraudulent activity involved in cash for scrap.

“In some instances, the fines for operating an illegal or a substandard facility are lower than the cost of going through the licensing and compliance measures,” said Max Spedding, NWRIC CEO.

“Regulators must ensure that compliance costs apply to all facilities, and that fines and regulatory action protect those operators that put in place standards at or above compliance requirements.”

At its October 12 meeting, the NWRIC also called for the development of national fire management standards for waste and recycling facilities. The council believes this standard is needed to protect public safety and restore trust. These fire control standards should apply to all waste and recycling facilities.

“Following a series of major fires, we’re calling on regulators in every state and territory to conduct audits of stockpiles of combustible material to ensure future fires do not harm public safety and further tarnish the reputation of our industry,” Mr Richards said.

“We note the recent regulatory action by the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority, and urge other states and territories to follow their example.”

To enhance the program, industry leaders also called for a national register of waste transporters, along with a new program by regulators to licence all waste processing facilities and landfills, regardless of size.

Related to the stockpiling of combustible material is new concerns of an export slowdown, particularly for China, in regards to plastics. Additional government support to enhance markets for paper and plastics is urgently needed to reduce the commercial pressure for operators to stockpile.

Programs which will stimulate recycling markets are available in the NWRIC Policy Roadmap for a Circular Economy.

Used tyres stockpiles also represent a critical fire hazard. The council believes that a mandatory product stewardship scheme, under the Commonwealth Product Stewardship Act 2011 , should be introduced without further delay. Tyre stockpiles exist in all Australian jurisdictions.