Although COVID-19 restrictions dashed WMRR’s original plans for the Board to meet in person at WMRR’s 2021 WARRQ in sunny Bundaberg, directors came together online on 19 October 2021 for its fifth Board meeting this year.
One of the more significant discussions centred on the NSW EPA’s proposal to cease permitting recovered fines from mixed waste and skip bins being applied to land, a decision that comes on the heels of other investment-deterring moves by the EPA, including the recently released NSW EfW infrastructure plan that limits the development of facilities to four (4) selected regions, and after the sudden revocation of the Mixed Waste Organics Outputs (MWOO) order and exemption in 2018.
There are undoubtedly, significant concerns, given the revocation will result in approximately 1.2 million tonnes of material being sent to landfill that would result in increased costs for the construction industry alongside environmental impacts, abolish a key part of the C&D recycling sector, eliminate some 500 jobs from Western Sydney, and continues a concerning precedent by the government of wiping out millions of dollars of investment by industry with a stroke of a pen. WMRR is continuing to work with its impacted members from the NSW C&D working group and WCRA to develop a comprehensive submission and communications strategy and will continue to engage with the EPA as it embarks on a much-needed review of its order and exemption regulatory framework.
Container deposit schemes were also on the agenda as development of the split model schemes in Tasmania and Victoria move forward and South Australia having recently released a discussion paper as part of a review of the state’s CDS. WMRR participates in each state’s CDS advisory group, and it is pleasing to see jurisdictions discussing SA’s review in a bid to drive a national dialogue on a nationally harmonised CDS.
COVID-19 remained a talking point at this meeting, with good reason, and it was noted that our essential WARR industry, for which there are varying vaccination mandates or expectations across states, has a high vaccination compliance rate. While restrictions are starting to ease, particularly on the east coast where most of the lockdowns have occurred, WMRR has had to make the difficult decision to move the 2021 Energy from Waste conference to 16-17 March 2022. Members will now have three (3) conferences to look forward to next year – EfW, ENVIRO (WMRR’s circular economy conference), and the biennial WARR SA. This is on top of a calendar of other state-based events, including the well-loved Women of WARR leadership breakfast, as well as the ongoing #takebacktuesdays webinar series that has grown in popularity with members indicating they are keen for more learning opportunities.
Finally, in preparing WMRR’s budget for consideration by the Audit and Risk Committee and the Board in December, directors discussed the growing value of WMRR’s membership benefits, evidenced in the continued increase in the number of webinars in 2020-21 as well as knowledge-sharing and communications amongst and to members, which has led to a sustained growth in membership, event registrations, and working group and branch committee membership and participation. To reflect WMRR’s increasing value, and in line with CPI, the Board approved a small 3% increase in WMRR membership fees across all categories, with the exception of Peak members, in 2022.
The Board will meet for the final time this year in December, where we’ll reflect on our efforts over the year against WMRR’s advocacy principles and areas of focus, which can be found in our business plan, and consider how we can drive greater improvement and success for the betterment of our essential industry. This work will be done in preparation for a WMRR strategic planning day in Q1 of 2022 that will inform the development of WMRR’s 2022-2026 business plan.