The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO Rose Read highlights the association’s priorities in 2019 and its long-term plan for resource recovery in Australia.
Every leader brings their own perspective and a fresh pair of eyes to an organisation. When Rose Read was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) in August 2018, she brought 20 years of environmental and product stewardship management experience, including executive roles at MobileMuster and Clean Up Australia. Her experience leading the product stewardship arm of e-waste recyclers MRI E-cycle Solutions brought a well-developed understanding of external stakeholder relationships and a consultative approach.
“In some respects, coming from outside the waste industry can be an advantage in being able to bring an alternative view to how the industry can develop and move forward,” Rose explains.
“It also reveals new opportunities for how the industry can work with its customers by building productive relationships with the manufacturers and brands who make goods that are being handled by the industry.”
Rose joined the organisation in mid 2018 following former CEO Max Spedding’s retirement. Together with the NWRIC’s Policy Officer Alex Serpo, her ability to engage with stakeholders is of great value to an organisation founded and chaired by the leaders of Australia’s waste management sector.
The NWRIC was established in late 2016 by national waste management companies Cleanaway, JJ Richards and Sons, REMONDIS, SUEZ and Veolia with the key purpose of developing a cohesive national approach to industry development and innovation. Its goal is to achieve consistent policy and legislative settings at a federal, state and local government levels that will transform waste into valuable resources for local and global markets.
Current membership of the NWRIC includes the five founding members, plus Solo Resource Recovery, Alex Fraser, Sims Metals and ResourceCo. It also comprises state and territory affiliates the Waste and Recycling Industry Queensland, the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW, the Victorian Waste Management Association, the Waste Recycling Industry of South Australia, the Waste Recycling Industry of Western Australia and the Waste Recycling Industry Northern Territory. Collectively, the NWRIC represents the interests of Australia’s 500-plus small, medium and large waste management enterprises.
To facilitate greater cohesion across the industry, the NWRIC also works closely with the Australian Organics Recycling Association, the Australian Landfill Owners Association, the Australian Council of Recyclers and the Australian Industrial Ecology Network as well as the Waste Management Association of Australia.
Since its formation, the NWRIC has developed its roadmap to move the sector up the waste hierarchy, building Australia’s competitiveness while also ensuring high levels of environmental performance and public support.
The roadmap reflects the members principles and positions on policies relating to resource recovery and recycling, safety, fair markets, regulation, emissions, landfill levies, planning, product stewardship and the circular economy.
PROGRESSING THE ROADMAP
The first roadmap set the pace for reform with the NWRIC’s policy statement to harmonise levies across Australia or make levy liability portable across state borders. The council also affirmed its policy for extended producer responsibility schemes to be applied uniformly across jurisdictions and be regulated, enforceable and enforced in order to operate effectively.
Lifting the bar on resource recovery operations was also on its agenda, calling for regulatory and licensing regimes that actively discourage the long-term stockpiling of wastes, including mass balance reporting and upfront levy liabilities.
Now, the NWRIC is looking to update its policy roadmap in 2019. Rose says that the NWRIC’s broader priorities have been, and will continue to be, to advocate for better infrastructure planning, fairer markets, harmonisation and smarter investment of waste levies, intelligent regulations and effective policing of standards.
The council’s members have all been affected by the recent upheaval experienced by the industry with China shutting its doors, escalating insurance costs due to fires at facilities and NSW stopping the land application of mixed waste organics.
“Some sectors of the industry are stalling due to market failures and regulatory changes. Stockpiles of paper, plastics and glass are growing, while organics and masonry are being lost to landfill rather than being recovered,” Rose says.
“With such a complex industry and a long agenda, now more than ever the industry must work together with the state and federal governments to address the market challenges and regulatory barriers that are impeding greater resource recovery, industry innovation and adaptability to the global markets we live in.
“The time has come for governments and industry to transform Australia’s waste and resource recovery industry into a key sector of innovation and economic growth.”
Rose says that one of the NWRIC’s key responses to addressing market challenges and regulatory barriers will be the timely implementation of the National Waste Policy signed off by state and territory environment ministers last December.
She says this will involve finalising the action plan, targets and committing adequate resources at a national and state level within the next six months to ensure effective and efficient ongoing implementation.
However, she says that without strong government leadership and state government collaboration, the policy will ultimately fail. Rose says that as a result, the industry will not invest in new resource recovery capacity or innovative technologies at the rate needed to help move Australia towards a circular economy.
NATIONAL WASTE POLICY IMPLEMENTATION
The NWRIC will continue to call for the Federal Government to establish and resource a National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner. The aim of the commissioner would be to bring together all stakeholders and ensure they are delivering their responsibilities under the policy.
Rose says that the NWRIC is eager to work closely with the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy to achieve a sustainable future for Australia that extracts maximum value from products and materials across the supply chain.
The NWRIC believes that the overall lack of harmonisation has led to inconsistencies around waste definitions, licensing, transport and landfill levies that cause confusion, unnecessary complexity and do not encourage resource recovery or best practice.
Rose says that one example is Queensland’s proposed resource recovery residual exemptions and discounts for its upcoming waste levy.
“While conceptually the proposal has merit in developing a resource recovery industry in Queensland, the methodology underpinning it is lacking and completely out of sync with other states’ approach to applying a levy to residuals,” she says.
“Another example is the Victorian and NSW governments responses to develop fire guidelines for stockpiling and waste facilities. This is a clear example of where states are failing to liaise and come up with appropriate guidelines that can be applied consistently across the industry and states.
“One potential solution would be a national fire safety accreditation program developed in consultation with relevant fire authorities, insurance companies, government and industry.”
THE VALUE OF FORESIGHT
The need for market development and upgrading facilities is also prompting the NWRIC to call for a greater proportion of landfill levies to be invested back into waste management, resource recovery and recycling facilities, including research, market development, training, policing and education.
A key priority of the NWRIC’s next roadmap will be to advocate for waste and recycling infrastructure strategies and plans in NSW, QLD and WA as these plans already exist in Victoria and SA. Rose says that with NSW, QLD and WA flagging their own potential plans, the NWRIC wants a commitment to make them happen. The NWRIC also believes a national infrastructure strategy would provide additional insights into the bigger picture in the context of global markets,” she says.
“These plans are key to providing direction for investment and certainty for industry, government and the community.”
Rose says the plans need to forecast future material flows, map preferred resource pathways and ensure planning regulations allow for the timely construction and upgrading of processing facilities, including waste-to-energy facilities and servicing regional areas.
The NWRIC has been calling for recycled content to be mandated in state, local and government procurement of products. Five million tonnes of food waste was generated in 2016-17 and 76 per cent of this went to landfill – a key figure which Rose says could be halved and recovered for use in landscaping, forestry, mine rehabilitation and agricultural application. The same applies to the use of crushed glass in road construction and drainage works, she adds.
Another prime issue for the NWRIC is regulating batteries and tyre product stewardship schemes to reduce fire hazards, increase resource recovery and minimise environmental pollution. Rose says that the need to significantly increase recycling rates in these waste streams is overdue and will serve to improve Australia’s stewardship performance.
“The NWRIC is very concerned with the contamination of recycling streams and the fire risk created by disposable batteries. When crushed or pierced, lithium-ion batteries can spontaneously combust,” Rose says.
She says regulated schemes are desperately required with clear recovery and reuse targets to stop illegal dumping and speed up the development of innovative reuse applications.
As an essential service to the community, environment protection and Australian economy, the NWRIC will continue to lead the policy direction of the nation’s waste management sector into 2019. Rose notes that a thriving waste and resource recovery industry will serve many goals. “Australia can become a global leader with the right policy settings, smart regulations, long-term infrastructure planning and adequate investment,” she says.
“China’s National Sword has been a catalyst for change and reform, and now we must activate the required adjustments in a planned and collaborative manner.”