2009 National Waste Policy Update

  • WMAA welcomes the update to the 2009 National Waste Policy
  • Commonwealth is missing leadership opportunity
  • Commonwealth should drive national dialogue
  • Lessons to be learnt from the EU and UK

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) congratulates the Federal Department of Environment and Energy for developing the Updating the 2009 National Waste Policy Discussion Paper within a short time-frame and acknowledges the Department’s willingness to accept feedback and input from the working group. However, the Discussion Paper unveils several untapped opportunities, including the Commonwealth leading the national dialogue and importantly, driving economic outcomes.

WMAA acknowledges that the Discussion Paper goes some way in reflecting circular economy principles and includes a range of targets. However, these targets should be steered towards key national goals.

“WMAA recognises that there is a lot of work to be done to carefully update the National Waste Policy. However, the targets set out in the Discussion Paper must focus on growing jobs and the economy, and ensure that the industry can stand on its own two feet. Setting strong interim targets and providing clarity around how these targets will be enforced are a good start,” WMAA CEO, Gayle Sloan, said.

“The Commonwealth has a number of tools that it can but is not utliising, including policy and legislative levers that can effectively drive change,” Ms Sloan added.

For instance, the Federal Government can exert its import powers to ensure everything that comes to market adheres to extended producer responsibility best practice. It can also grant tax incentives to organisations that actively work towards the targets set in the Paper.”

WMAA is also urging the Federal Government to think outside of the environment box, taking on a whole-of-government approach to drive the circular economy and follow in the footsteps of our European counterparts to develop a far more sophisticated system. The hurdle at present is the lack of robust data across the entire supply chain.

But therein lies the opportunity, given the Federal Government is in a position to fill that gap by bringing all stakeholders to the table, including national organisations such as national retailers, and ensuring that both accurate data is received and compiled, and all players, including manufacturers, distributors, and reprocessors remain engaged every step of the way.

“In the Paper, the Department discusses opportunities to apply circular economy principles to the whole management system, across each stage of the cycle, which includes design, product remanufacturing, distribution, consumption, use, reuse and repair, as well as collection and recycling. However, there is a real knowledge gap, particularly in the first four stages of this cycle and the Federal Government is in a position to collate this data through the Policy and national engagement,” Ms Sloan said.

“There is value in looking to the EU as they have shown how this can be done by effectively producing 54 clearly defined measures, all with responsibilities allocated. Further, the Commonwealth needs to set up a third party organisation, similar to WRAP UK, which sits uniquely in the space between government, business, and community to collate data and aid in the forging of partnerships to drive a sustainable economy.”

WRAP UK CEO, Dr Marcus Gover, pointed to the success the organisation has had in the last decade.”

“We know that what gets measured, gets managed and this is as true for waste as it is for anything else,” said Dr Gover.

“Over the past 10 years, WRAP has proven that measuring and reporting on waste in whole supply chains helps us to identify the hotspots and take action on them. It is only when you take this whole supply chain view that you can address these systemic problems instead of simply pushing the waste somewhere else.”

A good example is WRAP UK’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign launched in 2007 and designed in response to WRAP’s research on the scale and types of food waste by UK homes. Since it commenced, avoidable household food waste in the UK has been cut by a 21%, in large part due to WRAP’s ability to draw on its data and evidence base to design effective initiatives and collaborate with the nation’s largest food retailers.

“This goes to show that it is all well and good to set targets and milestones but if we do not have accurate data and the ability to track progress, we cannot possibly succeed,” said Ms Sloan, concluding “For the update to the 2009 National Waste Policy to truly matter, we need everyone to adhere to the policy and move forward as one, that is why it is so important that the Federal Government shows leadership in this regard.

WMAA will be publishing a paper this week drilling down on how the Commonwealth can effectively support industry, boost jobs, and drive economic growth through the National Waste Policy, and will reflect on learning's from the UK and EU.