Board communiqué

The WMRR Board met on 17 August 2021, with new WMRR National President, Geoff Webster, taking the helm since being elected mid-year. The August meeting also saw former WMRR president Garth Lamb attend for the first time as a Peak Director.

The Audit and Risk Committee, which met prior to the Board meeting, provided a report on discussions around revised terms of engagement for all WMRR groups. These terms were developed to assist with managing potential risks that may occur when members have frank and open industry discussions at WMRR meetings, while continuing to ensure that members have a positive and productive forum to share insights and information for the betterment of our essential industry. These new terms have now been adopted and will be adhered to at all WMRR meetings.

High on the agenda was the federal waste plastic export ban which commenced on 1 July 2021. WMRR continues to engage closely with operators, traders, and the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) on progressing license approvals and pleasingly, 23 licences have been approved to-date. The next ban – tyres – will commence on 1 December 2021 and initial work on licensing rules as well as appropriate assistance for traders has commenced.

State-based COVID-19 responses were also a point of discussion, with restrictions continuing to evolve, particularly on the eastern seaboard. On the WMRR front, a number of events, including the Women of WARR series and 2021 Energy from Waste Conference, have been rescheduled. However, WMRR has developed a strong program of national webinars to ensure that knowledge-sharing and learning opportunities continue to be provided to the industry. The upside to this is the ability to continue engaging members from far and wide, providing forums for industry to interact with each other, albeit online.  WMRR has also been actively advocating for frontline workers in the WARR sector be clearly identified as critical/authorised workers, to enable a continuation of essential WARR services (which we are pleased to say has been the outcome).

COVID-19 has impacted one and all and while the pandemic has not left WMRR unscathed, the Board was pleased to see that through successfully pivoting to myriad online events, increased engagement across all WMRR groups, growth in the quantity and quality of WMRR communications, and strong advocacy on behalf of industry have all resulted in a continued increase in memberships; notably, 2021 marks the highest membership income year for WMRR and this growth is also evidenced in the breadth and depth of member organisations, including the welcome addition of WMRR’s fifth and final Peak Industry member – Re.Group.

Our operating environment is a challenging one with the WMRR team adapting well to make the most of a challenging situation. The Board recognised the fine work being done by CEO Gayle Sloan and the team in trying circumstances – covering both current needs as well as looking at how best to meet future needs. Business planning for the coming years is also high on our agenda with strategic planning sessions being identified for the first quarter of 2022 to help guide the future direction of WMRR.

Finally, the Board undertook a deep dive into the plastic packaging materials landscape in Australia, discussing whether further action (and what this might look like) is required to address problematic materials placed in kerbside bins. Further work will be undertaken to uncover the actions needed to drive productive outcomes.

The Board will meet again in October at WARRQ in Bundaberg, hopefully in person this time! It is no doubt a challenging time for many in our industry and community as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. On behalf of the Board, stay safe and look out for one another.