CEO Report: Inside Waste December 2020 - January 2021 Issue

From the CEO’s desk

If you haven’t already trawled the web for 2020 memes, I would recommend you do it, if only for a much-needed laugh after what has been a truly peculiar year. We know it has not been an easy run for many, as together, we progressed the clean-up of bushfire impacted areas, dealt with the threat and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on business and communities, and now, face the long road to economic recovery.

WMRR is extremely proud of our waste and resource recovery industry, who through it all, pushed on with providing essential services and advising governments on many diverse issues - from waste export bans to clinical waste - while pivoting to meet ever evolving needs and requirements in an uncertain time. Even in the midst of a pandemic, our sector continues to innovate, invest, build, and navigate forthcoming changes to policies and regulations nationally and across jurisdictions.

2020 was also an extraordinary year for the sector, if we think about the ongoing focus and commitment by governments, including our federal leaders, to bolster and grow recycling, resource recovery, and remanufacturing. History was made this year with recycling and clean energy being named one of six (6) priority areas of the federal government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy; increasingly so, we are being seen as the material managers and the vehicle for economic growth that we know we are.

2021 looks set to be a year of action by all stakeholders as the first of the COAG waste export bans (glass) is rolled out from 1 January, the roadmap for recycling and clean energy under the federal manufacturing strategy is developed, jurisdictions ramp up their processing and recycling infrastructure, new state programs, as well as regulatory and policy frameworks are implemented (CDS and the EP Act in Victoria, landfill levy in Tasmania, fingers crossed the progression of NSW’s 20-year strategy, WARR Act reforms in WA, food waste in SA, plastics ban in Queensland… Just to name a few). WMRR has been deeply engaged and widely consulting on all of these (and more) reforms, advocating on behalf of our essential industry to ensure we remain front and centre of our governments’ agendas and that these initiatives have a positive long-term impact on our industry’s growth and sustainability.

In a nutshell, WMRR has your back while also leading from the front! 2020 may have resulted in many of us holed up in our bedrooms – and how lovely it’s been to get a glimpse of these homes (we’ve seen libraries, paintings, plants, posters, dogs, adorable children, you name it!) – and through it all, the Association has maintained and even boosted its activities. Today, WMRR is at the table in many government discussions, we’ve bolstered our partnerships with Ministers and regulators, ramped up our sector’s profile in the media, and consulted widely on many policies and strategies. As a result, we have cemented our status as the national peak body for the sector, the first port of call for government when seeking industry input.

On the knowledge and education front, WMRR has not been able to progress a number of in-person events and conferences but that has not stopped us from connecting with our peers. This year, WMRR put on a record number of seminars and forums  - both high level and technical, albeit in cyberspace, and this has led to increased engagement with our regional members as well as an increase in the new members that filtered into greater participation levels in working groups and Branch committees. The SA Conference and inaugural SA Buy Recycled Expo was also held in October and both were a raving success, with a program and line-up of exhibitors that broadened horizons and taught us all many new things. We’ll reveal the numbers in our year-end newsletter but here’s a snapshot:

  • 21 events, one (1) in-person Conference and one (1) exhibition;
  • 42 policy and regulatory submissions;
  • 30 media releases and more than 50 media interviews and appearances;
  • Weekly resource bulletins and nine (9) COVID-19 newsletters; and
  • Six (6) state branches, 28 state working groups and five (5) national divisions.

As we step into 2021, WMRR will continue to be at the forefront advocating for extended producer responsibility, the establishment of secondary and end markets for recycled products including sustainable procurement, best practice across all areas of the waste hierarchy, and improvement of data and state regulatory frameworks. We are also planning to roll out a bigger range services to support our members ahead of the many exciting changes ahead. Online forums and webinars will continue, focusing on myriad material streams, policy issues, as well as technical and operational subjects, alongside the return of face-to-face events such as our Women of Waste and Minister’s breakfasts. And in 2021, our beloved Australasian Landfill and Transfer Stations Conference, as well as the very timely Energy from Waste Conference will be back, better than ever. We will also continue to champion the success of our industry’s professionals with development of WMRR’s training and accreditation program to progress in the new year; we expect trials to commence in the second half of 2021. 

WMRR could not and cannot do all of this without our members who have contributed their time and support, propelling us to even greater heights. To all our members, our Board, as well as Branch committee, national division and working group leaders, thank you for all your hard work and contributions in 2020.

WMRR has now opened its 2021 membership renewal and notifications will arrive in your inbox with instructions on how to renew or sign up for membership; or, if you’d like to get on the front foot before your membership ends on 31 December 2020, please give the national office a ring on 02 8746 5000 or email info@wmrr.asn.au. 2021 membership fees and categories can be found on www.wmrr.asn.au.

We are excited about what 2021 will bring but now, it’s time for a break and WMRR wishes you a very merry (and restful) Christmas. Stay safe and see you next year!