Waste Expo: the next generation

Waste Expo Australia is set to explore the future of waste and resource recovery in the country, with presentations from the Australian Council of Recycling and South Australian EPA.

Waste Expo Australia’s 2018 event saw record attendance numbers, with more than 4500 trade visitors – a growth of over 28 per cent from the previous year.

While national in focus, the expo’s Victorian location is sure to inspire enthusiastic conversations about current industry challenges and the role of government in addressing them.

As one of the most comprehensive free-to-attend conferences for the waste management, resource recovery and wastewater sectors, Waste Expo is returning to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre 23-24 October.

The conference will feature two individual programs, the Oceania Clean Energy Solutions Waste Summit Conference and the EnviroConcepts Wastewater Summit.

The waste summit will cover six targeted streams from resource recovery, waste-to-energy, collections, landfill and transfer stations, construction and demolition waste and commercial and industrial waste.

Organisers have curated a diverse schedule of speakers from local and state governments, industry bodies and the private sector.

Attendees will hear from Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, EPA Victoria Chief Executive Officer Cathy Wilkinson and Sustainability Victoria Director Resource Recovery Matt Genever. Campaspe Shire Council, City of Holdfast Bay, Yarra City Council and Albury City Council will also present case studies.

Ahead of the 2019 expo, Waste Management Review spoke with two presenters, Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) CEO Pete Shmigel and South Australian EPA Regulatory Reform Projects Manager Steven Sergi, about their perspectives on the future of waste and resource recovery in Australia.

Building domestic markets

While discussions of recycling generally centre on social and environmental benefits, a strong and sustainable sector is essential for national economic growth.

According to Pete, economic drivers for recycling are dependent on competitive material prices and healthy end markets, both of which have been challenged recently.

Pete explains that the future sustainability of domestic recycling systems relies squarely on greater demand for recycled material – which will be the focus of his Waste Expo presentation.

“Recycling is three arrows: collection, sorting and remanufacturing, it’s the third arrow we have to incentivise better,” he says.

Pete says the waste and recycling sector has been nimble in response to China’s National Sword Policy.

“Australia actually increased exports to other parts of the world last year, but that can’t last forever,” he says.

According to the 2018 National Waste Report, Australian waste exports increased to Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Malaysia and Thailand in 2017.

Indonesia, India and Malaysia have since started reviewing their waste import policies, however, highlighting the need to establish substitute domestic markets.

Pete says dealing with the structural shake up of export markets requires investment in better infrastructure to drive recyclate material demand.

“With Asia changing the rules of the game, we need to build more recycling resilience and sovereignty in Australia,” he explains.

“It’s great to see proactivity by states who have formerly been accused of dragging their feet on recycling, but what’s desperately, and frankly, ridiculously, missing, is national coordination.”

Regulatory reform

As the waste and resource recovery industry calls for greater regulatory certainty on a national level, multiple state governments are implementing new policy.

In 2017, South Australia passed the Environment Protection (Waste Reform) Amendment Bill. The amendment gave the EPA greater powers to tackle illegal dumping and stockpiling, which, according to Steven, will assist resource recovery growth by penalising illegal operators.

Steven’s Waste Expo presentation, regulatory reform with the South Australian waste and recycling sector: Where to next, will explore these changes.

“The South Australian Government is seeking to help realise the economic potential from innovation in waste and resource recovery technologies, while at the same time protecting the environment,” Steven says.

“South Australia has introduced many waste management reforms over the past decade that have successfully promoted resource recovery in our state and established our reputation as a leader in this field.”

South Australia has one of the highest recovery rates in the country, 83 per cent – 87 per cent of which is reprocessed locally.

Steven says heightening EPA powers shows a commitment to establishing a robust regulatory environment, which supports sustainable waste and resource recovery operations.

“Key amendments through this act include explicit powers to enable regulation of material flow and stockpiling, expansion of the circumstances when financial assurances can be used and improved and proportionate powers for tackling breaches of licence conditions,” he says.

Steven’s presentation will also address the EPA’s commitment to establishing a robust regulatory environment.

“To support the sustainable operation of the waste and resource recovery industry, the EPA will support the best use of secondary materials in accordance with the waste management hierarchy, to provide certainty and fairness to lawful operators,” he says.

Cory McCarrick, Waste Expo Director, says no other waste event in Australia gives access to such thought-provoking content for free.

“Waste Expo Australia is about pushing boundaries and challenging operations and businesses to innovate, not just through technology but through workforce practices and policy reform,” Cory says.

“We have seen a large increase in speakers and suppliers taking part in this event and we are excited to address the major issues facing the industry this year.”

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