Waste Management Review speaks to various stakeholders involved in the consultation process of the upcoming relaunch of the National Waste Policy.
At the beginning of the year, the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) changed its name to the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR).
In a statement, WMRR said the name, chosen and adopted by its members, reflects the needs of its diverse and growing membership and acknowledges the ever-increasing participation by materials recovery facilities, reprocessors and remanufacturers.
WMRR said the evolution of its brand is reflective of the focus of an essential industry, acknowledging the need for, and value of, collaboration with all stakeholders in the supply chain in order to continue its transition to a circular economy successfully.
In addition to a rebranding exercise, WMRR will soon launch a new working group in each state – the Resource Recovery and Market Development working group – to bring all elements of the supply chain to the table. An energy from waste working group will also be created, operating in place of what was formerly the RER working group.
WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said the working groups and branch committees form the backbone of the association and in 2019, WMRR will continue to collaborate through a variety of forums such as networking events and meetings, as well as influence policy settings through a raft of important measures, from policy submissions to position papers.
“Another initiative to look forward to is the development of an accreditation program to develop the industry’s professional skills and recruitment of a Training and Development Manager will soon commence,” Ms Sloan added.
Work is also progressing on a number of highly anticipated conferences and events, including the 2019 Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Conference in March, the 2019 Energy from Waste Conference in August, and the various state-based Women of Waste breakfast events.
The statement said that beyond WMRR, 2019 is a year to watch, with two major elections coming our way – federal and NSW and the untapped opportunities for growth in our domestic remanufacturing sector.
“WMRR is determined to make 2019 a year of action and will continue to pressure the Federal Government to get on with the job and act on the key positions that WMRR has consistently been advocating for in order to to drive investment, economic and job growth as well as protect the community and environment,” the statement said.
“But WMRR can only do all of this with the support and contribution of our members. As we embark on a new year, we hope you will continue to join in the conversation, take advantage of the services WMRR has to offer, and support the association’s important work.”
The WA Government has revamped its waste strategy, with shared responsibilities across government, the business sector and community.
The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) has written to Federal Government Environment Minister Melissa Price ahead of the December 7 Meeting of Environment Ministers (MEM) meeting calling for five policy priorities for the government to drive.
In its letter, WMAA called for a national proximity principle as well as a level playing field, including a common approach to levies and market development, and strengthening product stewardship and extended producer responsibility schemes. WMAA also called for government leadership in sustainable procurement and market development and a whole-of-government approach.
Commenting on the upcoming MEM, Ms Sloan said it was time for the Federal Government to take ownership of its important role in driving industry forward and start using the tools and levers that only it has to turn Australia’s circular economy aspirations into reality.
“The one thing we all know about waste is, it just keeps coming. The role of ministers at this meeting must be to start pulling the right levers for Australia, to leverage demand for these resources to meet this ongoing supply,” WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan said.
“Take the GST as an example. This is not payable on second hand products so why couldn’t the same exemption be applied to recyclate? There are other levers such as research and development incentives, import bans, tax disincentives… All of which can go a long way in incentivising the use of recycled material in Australia.”
Ms Sloan noted that next year, Germany will have a new packaging law requiring all manufacturers, importers, distributors and online retailers to meet strict material generation targets or face hefty fines.
“Packaging producers must also licence their packaging and all businesses will have to register with a central packaging registry to ensure compliance and maintain market access. Australia can draw lessons from Germany because it is time for our Federal Government to take our extended producer responsibility laws and frameworks seriously if Australia is genuine about creating jobs and investment,” Ms Sloan said.
WMAA noted that of course, each state and territory must focus on particular policies, but there is value in developing some commonality across key regulation and policies or further exacerbate what is now a highly uneven playing field and continue to create confusion and uncertainty among businesses that operate nationally.
Waste industry experts and stakeholders have come together in Tasmania to discuss current waste management issues at the Tasmanian Waste and Resource Recovery Forum.
The forum aims to give the waste and recycling industry a chance to discuss issues around waste policy following China’s implementation of the National Sword policy.
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Discussions at the forum focus around waste and resource recovery settings for Tasmania, waste avoidance and reduction, innovations in waste management and bringing a circular economy to Tasmania.
Held by the Waste Management Association of Australia, the forum follows consultation by the Tasmanian Government on its new waste strategy – the Tasmanian Waste Action Plan.
The state government has outlined several commitments and targets to reduce packaging waste, boost consumer awareness through industry, increase recycling capacity and boost demand though market development.
Other targets include making Tasmania the tidiest state with the lowest incidence of litter in Australia by 2023 by increasing penalties for illegal dumping, expanding the reporting of litter offences through an illegal rubbish app, providing additional support for Keep Australia Beautiful Tasmania and using Community Service Orders for rubbish removals from public areas.
The draft of the Tasmanian Waste Action Plan is expected to be released for public consultation in early 2019.
The NSW EPA is stopping the restricted use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land and is ceasing use on plantation forests and mining rehabilitation land until further controls can be considered.
In a statement, NSW EPA said the decision followed comprehensive independent studies, but the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) is calling for greater involvement in consultations in what it describes a “surprise announcement”.
Mixed waste organic material is predominantly made from organics in general household waste. Application on agricultural land ceased from Friday 26 October and use on plantation forests and mining rehabilitation land will be suspended until further controls can be considered.
NSW EPA Acting Chair and CEO Anissa Levy said there was a robust scientific basis for the EPA’s decision to stop the use of the material.
“The restricted use of the mixed waste organic material had been permitted on the basis that it provided beneficial reuse of waste. Extensive independent research commissioned by the EPA found that it no longer passed that test,” Ms Levy said.
“The research found there were limited agricultural benefits from the application of mixed waste organic material at the regulated maximum levels of application, but there were potential risks to the environment from the presence of some contaminants, such as small pieces of plastic and glass, as well as concerns about soil quality degradation.
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Ms Levy said that as a result, the NSW EPA is revoking the Resource Recovery Exemption and Order – the regulatory instruments that permitted the material to be applied to specific land uses.
“As part of the EPA’s regulatory role, we commissioned an independent assessment of possible health risks related to the use of this product on agricultural land. The assessment used very cautious assumptions to estimate how much exposure a person might have to chemicals present in the material.
“Based on a review of the findings of this health risk assessment the use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land is unlikely to present any health risk to the general public.”
The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health have reviewed the initial findings of the health risk assessment and expert scientific advice, and further work is being done, overseen by an independent panel formed by the Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer. This is expected to be completed in the coming months.
The EPA is contacting all councils affected by the change to their waste management services and all landholders who have previously used the material to let them know, and to support them as they manage these changes.
WMAA in a statement argued that the waste and resource recovery industry was informed some six weeks ago that the EPA had completed research into the impacts of mixed waste organics and the expectation was that the regulator would then release its findings for wider consultation.
“Industry has after all had a long history of transparent and constructive consultation on the issue, dating back to 2008 when Hyder Consulting (now Arcadis) completed an extensive project into the chemical contaminants of alternative waste treatment (AWT) organics – the “AWT DORF” project – that was sponsored by industry, WMAA, and numerous state governments and departments, including the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.”
WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan said that it is imperative that industry is given a chance to review the findings particularly as the EPA has confirmed in today’s statement that the use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land is unlikely to present any health risk to the general public.
She said this is consistent with research and assessments conducted by industry.
“We are calling on government to openly and collaboratively work with industry to ensure that NSW’s resource recovery industry’s future is not undermined and that industry and local government are not adversely impacted by this decision,” said Ms Sloan.
“Industry and local councils have invested significantly in AWT in NSW over many years with the support of the EPA. The EPA itself, in its review of waste and resource recovery infrastructure, noted in 2017 there was in fact a one million tonne shortage of AWT processing capacity across the state.”
WMAA acknowledges that there must be continued leadership by the EPA to drive positive resource recovery outcomes based on robust consultation and said it is looking forward to working with government on the future of recovery in NSW.
“We await the release of the technical report but in the interim, we need to ensure that collections do not cease because of this decision and that we do not lose the community’s confidence in resource recovery in NSW. It is also important that industry does not suffer losses because of this decision,” Ms Sloan said.
“It is vital that we maintain public confidence in our industry particularly given the challenges of late. Industry and government have a shared responsibility to work together to find long-term sustainable solutions. We appreciate government is willing to look into financial relief packages for industry and local government that may be severely impacted by the revocation of this exemption and order.”
By learning from the policies of the European Union, the Federal Government could shift Australia to a circular economy with its next National Waste Policy, writes Gayle Sloan, Chief Executive Officer of the Waste Management Association of Australia.
The NSW Government has revealed its draft of its Circular Economy Policy as part of the state government’s plan to improve its resource recovery methods.
The policy draft defines the state government’s role in implementing circular economy principles across NSW and how it can commit to achieving long term objectives.
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Minimising the consumption of finite resources by replacing raw materials with recovered and recycled products is one of the main principles of the policy.
Additionally, the policy aims to decouple economic growth from resource consumption by maximising the value of resources through keeping materials in use for as long as possible.
Product design will also play a role to implement a circular economy with an aim of creating long lasting products that are able to be easily re-used, remanufactured and repaired.
The draft aims to extend the life of existing landfills to reduce the demand for new landfills along with a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Local market for high quality post-consumer recycled materials will be developed to keep them materials use for longer to reduce dependency on international markets. It also aims to improve the quality of collected materials through better sorting.
To move away from the “take, make and dispose” status quo, the policy recommends innovating technologies that increase resource recovery efficiency and referencing higher value re-use opportunities.
Creating new jobs in manufacturing, service and resource recovery sectors is listed as a main principle behind the delivery of a circular economy.
The draft sets out certain focus areas to guide future government action which involve supporting innovation, encouraging sustainable procurement practices for businesses and government, improving recycling systems and making the most of organic resources through food donation or composting.
Mainstream product stewardship will also aim to provide incentives for producers to take responsibility for the management of products at the end of their lives.
To establish this framework, the NSW Government aims to incorporate circular economy principles in the revision of the NSW Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy in 2019. A Circular Economy Implementation Plan to be developed by 2020 will also aim to provide timing and direction for the implementation of circular economy principles.
Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the policy draft is the beginning of a better way for NSW to manage its waste and resources.
“Achieving a circular economy will minimise our waste, reduce our impact on the environment and is an opportunity to boost the NSW economy,” Ms Upton said.
“It’s an antidote to the current “linear economy”, where we make things, use them and then throw them away. Instead, we can use items for as long as possible, through repair, re-use and recycling, rather than being thrown away.
“At the same time NSW is working with the Federal Government on the development of national circular economy principles,” she said.
The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) has welcomed the release of the draft, however it says there is more work to be done on the policy.
The association has urged the NSW Government to set up an organisation similar to Sustainability Victoria or Green Industries South Australia to implement in the final policy.
WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan said that all states are preparing or implementing similar strategies, so it is vital that they align and work together.
“WMAA supports the paper’s proposal that the NSW Government will investigate opportunities to incorporate circular economy principles into the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy as part of the five-yearly review process,” Ms Sloan said.
“WMAA commends the government for its support for broadening and strengthening stewardship schemes. This has been discussed time and again and it is pleasing to see that industry’s feedback has been heard,” she said.
“We are also calling on government to consider how the waste levy should look like in a circular economy environment, including how collected monies are re-invested in industry to further boost processing and jobs.
Queensland’s waste levy is one step closer as the legislation has been introduced into parliament.
It aims to stop trucks from New South Wales dumping waste in Queensland and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill while also encouraging more recycling jobs.
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A levy existed in Queensland until 2012, when it was removed, making it the only mainland state without a levy.
The new levy will begin on 4 March 2019 at a rate of $70 per tonne for general waste.
In the 2018-2019 state budget, the Queensland Government committed $32 million in advance payments to councils to ensure residents would not have to pay more for their waste.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the Waste Reduction and Recycling (Waste Levy) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 will allow the government to invest in waste management and recycling.
“We are providing advance payments to councils that covers 105% of the cost of their municipal waste,” Ms Enoch said.
“This means councils are being paid more than the cost of what they actually send to landfill every year.
“Councils will have no reason to increase rates because of the waste levy – we are giving them more than enough funding to cover this. In fact, councils could choose to use the extra funds to increase their waste management services,” she said.
Ms Enoch said that for every 10,000 tonnes of waste that go to landfill, less than three jobs are supported, compared with nine if that amount was recycled.
Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) Chief Executive Officer Gayle Sloan said that WMAA sees this as a great opportunity to grow and develop the resource recovery sector in Queensland, creating jobs and investment in the state.
“This will bring Queensland back in line with the majority of Australian states, and it is a step towards creating a level playing field across the country that industry so desperately needs,” Ms Sloan said.
Waste Recycling Industry Queensland Chief Executive Officer Rick Ralph said industry and all levels of government have a critical role in delivering the objectives of Queensland’s new waste strategy.
“We are committed to realising council and the State Government’s future direction on waste, and to reshape Queensland to become Australia’s leading secondary resources and recycling state,” Mr Ralph said.
ABC’s current affairs program Q&A will feature waste management leaders as it discusses the current issues facing Australia’s waste and recycling industry.
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Joining them will be Craig Reucassel, host of the ABC’s War on Waste program and Tony Jones, the host of Q&A.
Ms Sloan will also appear in episode three of the second season of the War on Waste, which begins on Tuesday 24 July.
The panel will also include Ronni Kahn, an Australian entrepreneur who started the food rescue charity Oz Harvest. The charity partners with the United Nations Environment Programme to raise awareness on the issue of food waste and works with governments and key stakeholders with a goal to halve waste by 2030.
Nature’s Organics CEO Jo Taranto will also be part of the panel. She is also the director of social enterprise start up “Good for the Hood”, whose mission is to inspire communities around the country to reduce waste.
Rounding out the panel is the President of the Australian Local Government Association David O’Loughlin. He has held executive positions across the public and private sectors of the construction industry for more than 27 years and now represents local government, including at Ministerial Councils and the Council of Australian Governments.