The WMRR Board met in Canberra on the sidelines of the very successful Energy from Waste conference, which attracted some 200 delegates with the theme ‘powering change’. As luck would have it, this theme and the location within the nation’s capital also captures the focus of Board discussions, as WMRR seeks to support the Australian Government and various jurisdictions to deliver practical changes that have positive impacts on our sector. While it’s great to see that the conversations of the last 18 months have helped our political leaders gear up to act, it’s now critical that the actions taken are based on a deep understanding of how our sector actually works, and what reforms will really help our essential industry work better in the future.
We certainly live in interesting times, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison himself making various statements on recycling, and COAG agreeing to steps toward banning the export of recyclable materials. WMRR has long advocated for increased effort to build Australia’s domestic reprocessing capacity. Export bans could help focus many minds on making this a reality, although a critical question is how quickly local capacity can be increased, before we jump into cutting off other options. There’s little benefit to closing opportunities in the global circular economy if it only sends more material to local stockpiles or disposal points…
The WMRR Board resolved to allocate some funds to help develop an evidence base for decision makers, pulling together an assessment of the key materials being exported, matched with practical considerations around increasing local reprocessing capacity for these materials.
We will seek to ensure the paper is available for all ministers before MEM (the Meeting of Environment Ministers) in November. Our expectation is that this work will assist our political leaders to formulate considered and realistic timeframes, with clear actions required to ensure positive outcomes from the proposed export bans.
WMRR is also proactively pulling together details to support other policy initiatives, including considering challenges and opportunities around the harmonisation of landfill levies. The Association is investing in further building our internal capacity, with a new part-time research officer joining the WMRR HQ team in mid-September. Also high on the ‘to-do list’ is developing a position on key factors for successful regulatory regimes, in particular ‘end of waste’ criteria to help ensure stable and predictable markets for bona fide resource recovery. We also continue to identify and promote best practice examples from around the world, including, for example, pointing to WRAP UK as an interesting model for Australia to consider for an independent national agency charged with delivering change.
Members will be pleased to know that WMRR remains in a stable financial situation. Efforts to increase the value proposition for members are being well received, with record attendance at various free and paid events across different jurisdictions. The ongoing support of members, including those attending WMRR events, provides the resources to enable investment in the various activities the Association is busily undertaking. Thank you to all who are contributing, financially as well as via the critical input of skills and time to our various working groups and committees.
One of the groups busy contributing brainpower this month is Arup, which is developing a roadmap for EfW in Australia, based on feedback from an interactive session on day two of the Conference. Key discussions from that event centred on how EfW needs to be integrated within the broader waste and resource recovery system, and the critical importance of developing a social license to operate.