Commonwealth WARR reforms – genuine market development and product stewardship vital

27 August 2020

Today’s introduction of the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 in Parliament is further proof that for the first time in our essential industry’s history, waste management and resource recovery is and remains firmly on the Commonwealth government’s agenda.

“We commend the federal government for stepping up to the task of addressing Australia’s end-of-life materials. The government’s efforts in creating legislation to drive positive momentum and backing this up with an unprecedented level funding is recognised and appreciated by industry,” Ms Gayle Sloan, CEO of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), said.

“WMRR has been actively engaging with the Commonwealth and state governments on the range of reforms proposed, including the COAG waste export bans, and thanks both Minister Sussan Ley and Minister Trevor Evans for their sustained efforts. We look forward to continuing to work closely with them as these changes progress.”

Today’s reading by the Minister supports what WMRR continues to point out -  there are economic opportunities to be had in our sector and that end-of-life materials are in fact resources; our industry drives jobs – some 50,000 in fact, and creates significant annual investment in the economy, and we continue to invest and work towards building a true circular economy.

“It is vital that our industry is viewed as material managers and not simply the end-of-pipe that manages unwanted materials. The waste and resource recovery industry absolutely wants to remanufacture and recycle domestically and not export, as we continue to strive for the highest form of reuse for these valuable resources,” Ms Sloan said.

“We are absolutely encouraged by the ongoing momentum and WMRR hopes that the Bill will address the need for onshore demand and assist in creating genuine markets that we so desperately need in Australia. It is however, disappointing that given the Bill’s tabling today, we heard that the most we can hope for from the Commonwealth is the consideration of using recycled materials when purchasing. 

“The Bill cannot rely on a punitive approach alone to the export of materials (not waste) that may have export markets for remanufacturing that at present are limited in Australia. Australia needs markets now for these materials that we can no longer export.”

Australia needs leadership to create this demand and we need a genuine financial commitment now to buying virgin alternatives by government at all levels for current government-funded projects, to ensure we have the chance of using the glass, mixed plastics and tyres that will be subject to the ban in 2021.”

As part of managing material resources in Australia, we also need an equivalent emphasis on product stewardship and design; the review of the Act has taken a long time and would appear not to go far enough - Europe has already moved to legislating for sustainable design for example.

This is particularly true for packaging given the bulk of exported material comes from packaging. It is time for product manufacturers to be made truly responsible for designing products that can stay at their highest and best value for as long as possible.

“Australia is at a crossroads. The ‘waste’ that we produce could be valuable resources if designed well and we can create a value proposition by shifting the paradigm that would lead to domestic remanufacturing with viable markets for products, driving jobs, and economic growth,” Ms Sloan said.