Waste 2019: industry leaders tell it like it is in WMRR-led discussion

15 May 2019

All that talk needs to make way for action. That was the unanimous verdict by industry leaders who sat on this morning’s Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR)-led Industry Leaders Forum at Waste 2019 in Coffs Harbour.

Facilitated by WMRR CEO, Ms Gayle Sloan, panel members included Mr Garth Lamb, Re.Group’s National Business Development Manager, Mr David Clancey, NSW State Manager at Cleanaway, Ms Christine Hodgkiss, General Manager, Resource Recovery NSW at Veolia, Mr Tony Grebenshikoff, SUEZ’s NSW/ACT General Manager, and Mr Daniel Tartak, Bingo Industries’ CEO and Managing Director.

The panel discussion followed the NSW EPA’s presentation on the forthcoming 20-year strategy and while acknowledged as a positive move, there was frustration that 18 months since China rolled out its National Sword policy, Australia was still deep in discussions and nowhere close to making already known solutions to build a domestic remanufacturing sector a reality.

Industry leaders expressed a desire to continue investing in new technology and facilities and they were more than willing to collaborate with all stakeholders to drive waste and resource recovery forward. But the next important step came down to creating value and developing markets.

“What is the value of waste? The opportunities our industry represent include creating local jobs and producing high value materials. But we cannot keep doing things at the lowest possible cost. We need a different metric to measure the value of our services and find a different way to communicate our value,” Mr Lamb said.

Ms Sloan captured the sentiment, saying: “We need to start thinking about ourselves as resource managers. We are managing resources and maybe we should consider changing the waste management hierarchy to the resource management hierarchy.”

Another area that industry has been calling for is the establishment of national specifications that mandate recycled content, and development of procurement processes that mandate the use of locally-made recycled product, including the use of glass in road base, which would go a long way (and frankly, is the easy and obvious solution) in solving the numerous glass challenges Australia is facing.

With only three days till Australia votes, it was unsurprising that the Federal Election and with that, potentially a new Federal Environment Minister, was on the minds of one and all. When asked what was on their Federal wish list, everyone on the panel agreed that a national approach to waste and resource recovery and harmonisation of policies were key, particularly the harmonisation of the waste levy.

Summing up a fruitful 1.5-hour discussion, Ms Sloan said: “We know what we need – a local remanufacturing industry. To get there, we need recycling infrastructure, investment, a collaborative approach, and market development. We already know all of that so it’s time to for the Federal Government to get on with the job and acknowledge that you can’t regulate your way to success and clearly, business as usual is no longer acceptable.”