From the CEO's desk

How quickly in 2023 going by?  I can’t believe we are almost a quarter of the way through the year already and it now feels extremely odd saying ‘Happy New Year’. It is thus, a good time to take stock of the quarter through our first Wrap Up for 2023. 

I trust that you were able to get some rest and recharge over the New Year though if the number of submissions that WMRR has prepared with our members in February is anything to go by, we have embarked on a crazy year in our essential sector. The Federal Government certainly did not take a break over Christmas, given all the activity on carbon including Safeguard Mechanism consultations and the release of the Chubb Review.

2023 must be a pivotal year for us - we are only seven (7) years away from the 2030 targets of 80% recovery and 10% reduction by capita. Meanwhile, the National Waste Data Report released in December 2022 indicated an abysmal 1.8% improvement in resource recovery over the last four (4) years, which leaves us 17% below where we need to be. We are also short of over 10 million tonnes of processing infrastructure (when we exclude ash) so, if we don’t accelerate this pace now (both in policy and planning), we are not going to get to where we need to be by 2030.  There is a real opportunity with the review of the National Waste Action Plan underway in 2023 to start focusing on material streams that will make the most difference nationally. 

For example, the National Waste Report 2022 tells us that the area of significant focus is commercial and industrial (C+I), with another 8.2 million tonnes needing to be diverted in the next seven (7) years to achieve the target, with Victoria and NSW requiring the greatest attention. We need more than three (3) million tonnes of organics infrastructure and 1.7 million tonnes of plastics infrastructure to come online.  To do this, we need to rapidly look beyond just household (MSW) policies, such as food organics and garden organics (FOGO), and single use plastic, and recognise the totality of these material streams and how they enter the market in order to identify the interventions and infrastructure required strategically.

As a sector, our data may not be perfect, but we have a number of longitudinal reports available to us such as the National Waste Data. It is also fantastic that the Federal Department has been compiling this type of information centrally for us, we just need to get on and use it! 

We also need to start an urgent national conversation about what we consume and why we need to preference the products made from secondary raw materials that our sector produces, to drive demand away from virgin materials.  If we can’t achieve this, our chances of creating market demand for the outputs of our facilities will always struggle, making it impossible to develop sustainable business cases for resource recovery facilities. If the energy and carbon savings are not enough to incentivise that shift, surely the creating of Australian jobs and growing Australia’s resilience must be.

We have lots to do this year, including driving:

# genuine extended producer responsibility to address challenges such as PFAS, batteries, e-waste, solar panels, textiles, plastics, and packaging;

# market demand for secondary materials;

# consistent resource recovery frameworks nationally;

# a systems-based approach to material management and eliminating distortion of the hierarchy to preference disposal;

# strategic infrastructure planning and delivery; and

# disaster waste management planning nationally.

You can rest assured that WMRR is at the table advocating for government to pursue an evidence-based strategic approach to decisions that impact our essential industry.