In the face of supply chain disruptions, Waste Management Review explores how onshore processing and local manufacturing will play an increasing role in building a resilient waste sector.
“This isn’t about being insular or shutting ourselves off to the rest of the world. This is about embracing the incredible quality of Australian-made products – products that nations around the world associate with being top-notch,” Karen Andrews, Federal Industry Minister says.
During the COVID-19 pandemic businesses around the globe faced massive disruption to their supply chains.
For companies dependent on products coming in from overseas, the halt of imports and exports sent a domino of delays through various industries across the nation.
Now, Australian businesses understand the complexities of the Island’s oceanic location more than ever.
The need to diversify supply chains is shaking up Australia’s manufacturing sector as more companies explore onshore processing and leveraging the benefits of local manufacturing.
On June 1 this year, a multi-media campaign was launched by Australian Made Campaign Limited to promote local manufacturers and brands to capitalise on a renewed interest in their products.
So, where does the waste management sector sit in Australia’s manufacturing capacity?
According to Andrews, Australia has historic strengths in mining and resources, which has boosted development in a number of other industries.
In her address to the National Press Club on May 20, Andrews said that includes plastic and waste recycling.
She is encouraging sector decision makers to have comparative and competitive strengths.
“The focus is to grow the Australian manufacturing sector, and by doing that, they will need to focus on the value concept rather than the cost focus themselves,” she says.
One of the big trends in Australian manufacturing over the last decade has been the sheer difficulty of competing with China on cost.
However, when China and other neighbouring Asian nations stopped the import of contaminated recycling, industry and governments across the world had to look within their borders to find solutions for ever growing waste management needs.
Federal and state governments have offered incentives to encourage high quality recycling, including the Federal Government’s $4.9 million export hub grants scheme, which will advance manufacturing and capitalise on new onshore capabilities by establishing a stronger market beyond the nation’s border.
“In my time as a minister, I’ve never had as many people contact me as I have in recent weeks supporting our government’s push to grow Australian manufacturing,” Andrews says.
She believes it’s important to shift the mindset so that Australia is not trying to compete on cost.
Andrews says Australia’s niche is its capability to transform quickly and make manufacturing agile and nimble.
“So, for us to be competitive, we have to start looking at manufacturing on value, not on cost. Price is a part of the value equation, but it is not the only part of it,” she says.
Waste manufacturers are critical for driving markets and designing products that maximise recycling opportunities, which can be translated to export success.
From February this year, all Cleanaway Daniels’ reusable sharps collectors and related spare parts are now 100 per cent Australian-made.
The complete onshoring of manufacturing capabilities represents the single largest investment made by Cleanaway Daniels last year, and is an example of re-shaping operations onshore to enable rapid production, more flexibility to meet changes in customer demand and supporting and driving the local economy.
Larger commercial businesses like Cleanaway have the advantage of already beginning onshore investments, but the opportunity is present for small and medium sized manufacturing businesses too.
Trends indicate that local manufacturing can also improve recovery rates and reduce contamination through single-stream recycling.
By choosing products that contain Australian recycled materials, individual consumers can also generate bigger markets for recycled goods.
Refashioning waste manufacturing post COVID-19 calls for recognising and protecting value drivers, prioritising breakthroughs, collaborating on shared problems, mitigating risk through co-funding programs and building resiliency through local supply chains.
And while COVID-19 has created new optics through which the community needs to view both risk and opportunity, there has arguably not been a more compelling time to build a resilient waste sector, with a new, attractive and outward local manufacturing future.