Board communique

December 2019

The WMRR Board meeting was held ahead of the Victorian Branch end-of-year event, a great evening to come together and celebrate the year that was. It is also the night where one of our sector’s premier awards is announced – the Women in the Environment award. A big congratulations to this year’s winner, Narelle Anderson of Envirobank, who has contributed a huge amount to highlighting the positive opportunities within our sector.

We’re rolling into 2020 with a busy agenda and facing another year of disruptive change for our sector. The role of WMRR has never been more important, representing the experience and market knowledge of members, to help inform some big decisions that are going to have wide ranging impacts throughout the new decade ahead.

The WMRR Board is pleased to announce we have retained our energetic CEO Gayle Sloan to represent the sector for another three (3) years. This will help to maintain the momentum we have gathered and ensure consistency of approach. Given the volume of requests to participate in workshops, consultations and meetings as various stakeholder groups seek to refine their thinking and approach around waste and recycling, it is important that there is a degree of consistency in the messages being delivered.

The COAG waste export bans, which remain an item of considerable uncertainty as we end this year, are emblematic of 2019 as a whole. It is fantastic that we have the attention of the Prime Minister, the heads of each Australian jurisdiction and the Environment Ministers, and everyone agrees that there are things our sector needs to do differently. However, it is also terrifying to consider the potential impact of some actions now being pursued. We all support the concept of bolstering local remanufacturing, but ambition needs to be tempered with reality, including realistic timeframes and real funding to support the transition.

WMRR's submission on the COAG waste export bans provides detail to help inform workable bans, in particular around paper and cardboard markets. There are existing international standards and specifications for tradable commodities, and WMRR's position is that the Australian government should not be blocking the ability to trade quality products into established global markets. Ban the export of low-grade materials with significant potential for environmental harm in receiving countries by all means, but we live in a global market and blocking the export of good products for which there is real demand would be a serious 'own goal' resulting in domestic stockpiling and disposal of materials that can be legitimately used in the global circular economy.

WMRR's submission, policy positions and priority advocacy areas are now more accessible than ever, via the new-look website. This website is designed to enable members, as well as people from outside of our sector, to find useful information about the industry.

One of the other 'internal' priorities of WMRR, which didn't progress as much as hoped in 2019 due to the external focus, is progressing a training, development and accreditation system. This remains a key priority for WMRR and is high on the agenda for 2020; WMRR has now engaged external expertise to help move the project along faster.

Head office is also on the move, relocating closer to Sydney city (and the airport). The new offices in Glebe will increase accessibility of the WMRR office to the membership, and has the space to host meetings - the team will be back on deck, in the new premise, in January... One of the key tasks for January is membership renewals, and we look forward to the continued support of members to enable the association to represent you. WMRR remains in a healthy financial position, thanks to the support of members.

The end of the year is traditionally a very busy period for parts of our sector, and unfortunately this time of year is also a particularly high-risk time for workplace accidents. Many of us are exhausted from the year that's been, and the holiday season can also be a tough time for some people on the personal front. Please be extra vigilant on keeping an eye on your colleagues and friends, and help to keep everyone safe over the period.

We hope you have an opportunity to unwind and reflect on 2019 - it's been a massive year for our sector - and we look forward to working together to make more progress in 2020!