Delivering net zero through the circular economy – WMRR’s federal action plan

11 April 2022

Australia’s waste and resource recovery (WARR) sector has moved forward in leaps and bounds since 2018, when China’s National Sword policy put our industry in the national limelight. The concerted efforts and leadership of, as well as investment by, the current federal government has placed and kept our essential industry on the national agenda.

While the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) recognises these efforts, it also believes there is much more to be done to capitalise on this foundation, accelerate towards net zero, and ensure that Australia does not become the dumping ground for products that will no longer be accepted in other nations. 

“We need to continue to challenge the status quo,” WMRR CEO, Ms Gayle Sloan, said, adding: “Having seen first-hand the consequences of natural disasters in recent years, we need to rethink our relationship with the planet and climate. Australia, having consistently come in fourth globally to reach its Earth Overshoot Day, as well as being the second highest generator of waste in the world, has a responsibility and a significant challenge to shift the paradigm on material creation, consumption and management.”

Ahead of the 21 May 2022 federal election, WMRR is calling on major political parties to commit to five (5) policy priorities in order to transition Australia to a circular economy and in doing so, ensure we move to a net zero future. These actions must be underpinned by a commitment to recurrent funding in the federal budget.

Moving to a circular economy is key to successfully transitioning to a net zero future, and the WARR sector is both fundamental to this transition and is currently punching well above its weight,” Ms Sloan said.

“There is no argument that Australia, and the rest of the world, needs to be more resource efficient and an important step is to recognise that WARR is a shared responsibility that requires a multi-pronged approach across the supply chain to create recognition of the value of materials that are consumed, given the finite amount of materials the planet produces.

“The missing piece in Australia’s material management story is that of product design. We continue to talk about the importance of a circular economy, which is one that eliminates waste and pollution at first instance, enables efficient processing and recycling of materials, as well as management at end-of-life, including meeting the costs associated with these. For us to get there, the federal government needs to take a long overdue stance on mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), particularly for problematic and difficult to recycle materials, including or perhaps especially, packaging.

“Australia cannot afford to continue to fall behind our European and North American counterparts who have sustainable policies in place and are embarking on green deals to deliver them. If we do not make similar moves, we will risk being the dumping ground for poorly designed and hazardous materials.

“However, all is not lost. WMRR advocates that Australia can transition to a circular economy and a net zero future and we are asking parties to commit to our five (5) proposed election priorities – maximise carbon abatement through the WARR sector, mandatory EPR, sustainable design, sustainable procurement, and a concerted, whole-of-government approach to creating a circular economy – and to consider our proposed recommendations to ensure these policies are a success. We are also seeking continued allocation of $200 million over the next five (5) years to accelerate the investment in onshore remanufacturing facilities, which will be paid for in the long run through the creation of a genuine circular economy that will grow national GDP and boost job creation.

“WMRR recognises and appreciates the ongoing commitment to, and focus on, WARR over the last five (5) years. It is now time to step up our action to move to a genuine circular economy so that we may future-proof our environment for generations to come, while building local industries and jobs for all Australians,” Ms Sloan concluded.

WMRR’s five (5)-point federal action plan can be downloaded here.