WMAA is well aware that the recycling industry has been under significant strain for a number of years, due to many factors including lack of sustainable secondary markets in Australia, increasing regulation, unrealistic customer expectation, volatility of global commodity markets and increasingly confusing packaging and limited public education.
We have to act now and solve this issue once and for all, taking all necessary actions Australia wide, to structurally move from a linear approach for managing waste (take, make and dispose) to a circular approach to resource management.
Recycling is not optional it’s a vital part of our continued existence on a planet with an exploding population that has finite resources. This is not up for debate. We must recycle to keep the virgin material extracted at their highest and best use for as long as possible.
Everyone along the resource chain of responsibility from designer to producer to retailer to consumer to government to householder to recycler to remanufacturer, all have something to contribute and a role to play. It is no one person failing or fault.
The real question is how do we take full responsibility for recycling the resources we use in Australia?
WMAA has developed a list of priority actions that we believe are required to address this issue in the longer term to achieve the structural changes required to decouple the Australian recycling industry from global markets and achieve the jobs and investment required to make this industry sustainable into the future.
At all times we must ensure that we maintain confidence in Australia’s waste and resource recovery sector, and comply with the principles of the waste management hierarchy to which WMAA is committed.
- Policy actions required to remove all barriers to waste products being used as a recyclate (eg additional reporting requirements given it is a “waste” product and not virgin.
- Government action and leadership in developing the Circular Economy in Australia, by developing and mandating Green Public Procurement (like the EU), for example use of recycled plastic play equipment and benches in parks, recycled paper in offices, etc.
- Mandate sustainable packaging requirements for all products sold in Australia, requiring recycled content in all packaging (it is not enough that it is recyclable, must be made from recycled content, how else will we ever have enough demand for recyclate in Australia.
- Strengthen Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation to ensure no longer voluntary systems, requiring producers to both design to reduce waste and place emphasis on reuse and repair. The cost of end of life to also be met by producers.
- Funding provided by all Governments for increased research and development for identifying and building markets for recovered material in Australia, and new resource recovery technology. Consideration to be given to each state establishing a formalised and funded partnership between EPAs, manufacturers and the tertiary sector to invest in research to make all packaging circular and identify market uses.
WMAA is calling for immediate action to address these issues and for steps toward these solutions be set as urgent actions.
WMAA is very determined to work with government, the waste and resource recovery sector, manufacturers and the public to deliver the above actions, and create the Circular Economy, jobs and investment that we need in Australia.
Chief Executive Officer
Waste Management Association of Australia