Collaborating for change: the Resource Recovery Summit

AWRE 2023

The 2022 Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo will introduce the new Resource Recovery Summit. Suzanne Toumbourou, Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) Chief Executive Officer, hopes it will help spark better dialogue across industries.

The Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo (AWRE) returns to Sydney this month at the International Convention & Exhibition Centre (ICC).

One of the major annual events for the Australian waste and recycling sectors, the AWRE showcases the latest products, services, and technologies, while celebrating innovation and providing valuable networking opportunities.

The inaugural Resource Recovery Summit: Getting to 80% will kick the conference off on the morning of 24 August.

The National Waste Policy Action Plan’s target of an 80 per cent average resource recovery rate by 2030 is looming and the new half-day summit will explore how industry, governments, and waste generators can rise to the challenge.

Hosted by the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) and the Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA), the summit will address topics across three sessions: Municipal Solid Waste, Commercial and Industrial and Construction and Demolition. Each session will feature a panel of industry leaders discussing the challenges and opportunities in their respective fields.

Suzanne Toumbourou, ACOR CEO.
Suzanne Toumbourou, ACOR CEO.

Time for change

Suzanne Toumbourou, ACOR Chief Executive Officer, will deliver the introductory keynote for the summit’s Commercial and Industrial session. She says there is no better time for the new summit and its message of collaboration.

She says momentum has been building over recent years through increased attention to the need for better sustainability practices, and overseas scrutiny on the import of so-called waste materials.

That momentum has been catalysed by policy such as that introduced in the National Waste Policy Action Plan, which mandated export bans on some recyclable materials, prioritised on shore recycling, and delivered funding for local manufacturing.

“All of these issues have come together at a moment when the world is interested in action on climate, sustainability and pollution – and there’s a very genuine interest in circular outcomes and the circular economy,” Suzanne says.

“While the recycling sector is scaling up to meet all these interests and needs, now is the moment to think about a step change in how we operate and how we engage. For me, that means better collaboration across sectors.”

The NWRIC estimates the 2030 resource recovery target of 80 per cent will necessitate a 15 megatonne per annum increase on the current 43.5 megatonnes recovered – well beyond the current projected growth rate. This means something must change.

Climbing up the pipeline

“If you’re looking through a circular economy lens, starting at end-of-pipe is far too late,” Suzanne says.

“You need to start at the beginning – at the design and manufacture or production or building process. That means we need to have the conversations and build good relationships at that point.”

With experience in policy and stakeholder relations across government and industry, Suzanne is no stranger to such conversations.

“Those relationships are fundamental,” she says. “Some parts of these sectors are fairly new to these dialogues and relationships, and some are still peripheral to them – although gradually beginning to come on board and learn.”

Suzanne says it’s not just about encouraging industry to produce recyclable and recoverable materials, but also advocating for the use of that recycled material in their processes through policy as well as education.

The Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo
The new Resource Recovery Summit will open AWRE 2022 on 24 August.

Define and conquer

Suzanne says part of the challenge is in finding better ways to distinguish waste management from recycling, as well as comprehending what recycling comprises and what is the recycling value chain.

“Waste management at its core is about transporting unwanted materials and putting them where they need to go – and we have to do that to support a civilised society,” she says.

“Recycling is about making stuff out of the recovered materials. Often those sectors are integrated and sometimes they can be quite separate.”

She says ACOR’s members represent the whole spectrum – from what would typically be considered waste management organisations to large infrastructure and manufacturing organisations with no ostensible connection to waste at all.

“From both a regulatory and investment perspective, we need to better distinguish between those types of operation and support them all in the different ways they need to be supported,” she says.

Suzanne says the category of ‘recycling’ is so broad that it conceals the complex value chain of recycling activities. She points to how broadly the term ‘recycler’ is used as an example.

A ‘recycler’ can be those collecting Container Deposit Scheme material, those collecting scrap metal, those who engage in sorting processes, businesses who refine materials for remanufacture, businesses who turn that recycled material into products, and those who use those products.

“These are very different types of enterprise operating with very different levels of engagement to the resource recovery stream,” Suzanne says. “Even you and I are ‘recyclers’ because we put stuff in the yellow bin.”

She also stresses that none of those elements can be discounted, and they need to be recognised as the very different and specialised fields that they are.

“You can’t do one part of recycling without the other parts,” she says. “You can’t deliver good recycling outcomes for any material stream without it being collected, and collection is an extremely complicated, intensive, and expensive process.

“We need to differentiate more clearly what we understand as waste, resource recovery, reprocessing and remanufacturing; and support all those elements individually. That’s going to require better knowledge of the sector within itself, as well as a better knowledge of the value and supply chains coming in and out of that.”

AWRE 2022 runs from 24-25 August at the ICC Sydney. The Resource Recovery Summit will kick-start the conference at 8.30am on 24 August. Tickets are available for $300 plus GST.

For more information, or to book tickets, visit:


Related stories:

Resource Recovery Summit to open AWRE 2022

Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo back for 2022

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