As of Saturday 12 May 2018, we are now at three (3) states that have stepped in, in some way or another to assist industry with responding to China’s National Sword. Whilst industry is thankful that governments, to differing degrees, are listening to the challenges faced, I would submit that we are not seeing as yet the level of investment and support that is genuinely required to make the changes necessary to transition industry and Australia to genuinely capitalise on the opportunity that Australia has been presented with.
Absolutely WMAA welcomes the recent announcement of the Marshall Liberal Government of South Australia, joining NSW and Victoria, with a $12.4 million support package for the recycling industry. All these states are absolutely helping with addressing the short term challenges that we are facing. However we still have a number of states that have not responded in real terms, nor have we seen a clear agreed vision at a national level been achieved, which is necessary for the future transition.
The waste and resource recovery industry genuinely appreciates that Ministers have been listening and are proposing to pull some of the policy levers needed to assist with transitioning the management of waste and resource recovery in Australia towards a sustainable “circular economy” solution. It is extremely pleasing that the National Waste Strategy will be updated by the end of this year, and WMAA looks forward to actively participating in this. We also look forward to our industry remaining at the top of the MEM agenda.
The Ministers endorsement of a target of 100 percent of Australian packaging being recyclable or reusable by 2025 is heartening, and we look forward to working with Government to develop meaningful targets from at least 2020 to ensure that this actually achieved. However what we really need is mandated content of recycled packaging and mandated green public procurement for all levels of government - only then will we really see the market development that Australia needs to decouple ourselves from the ebbs and flows of the global financial market, as only this step will begin to deliver local demand for recycled materials and help Australia reduce the sovereign risks associated with over-dependence on off-shore markets.
It is correct that the recycling industry is under pressure and Australia needs to act now to ensure that the Circular Economy is real, which means consumers, industry, government and generators of waste starting to work together and think a bit differently to use recycled material in as many products as possible that we make here. Government can not only assist in setting the correct regulatory settings but also showing leadership in procurement- both in what it buys and how it does so - preference must be given to recycled over virgin where it exists!
Whilst there was no new funding for recycling in the Federal Minister’s announcement, WMAA will continue to advocate loudly that government at all levels, need to start to spend what money they do have differently! It is our view that Ministers must go much further than simply advocating for increased use of recycled materials in the goods that government and industry buy, they must show leadership and start requiring government to buy recycled products themselves. Government, as probably the largest procurer of goods and services in Australia must show genuine leadership and commitment to this. With over 90% of the community supporting recycling and the purchase of recycled products by government, government needs to hold itself to account and if it does not prioritise the use of recycled material, to report to the community why it does not, this should be the norm going forward, not the exception.
The community has an expectation that governments at all levels will manage their resources, waste, financial or otherwise, responsibly. We always must see waste managed in accordance with the waste hierarchy and as close as possible to where it was produced; this is a real opportunity to create local jobs and investment in this essential sector. Again, we recognize that there is absolutely a role for waste to energy in the hierarchy, however it is an alternative to landfill and not recycling, we must keep commodities at their highest and best use for as long as possible. That is why we must keep them circulating and no longer be liner in what we do.
Which leads us to ENVIRO’18 which is fast approaching! WMAA is hosting the ENVIRO’18 Convention from the 13-14 June 2018 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Fortuitously (!) WMAA had started thinking about the need for such an event at the end of 2016, arguably with the knowledge that a continued reliance on trading commodities globally as opposed to utilising and growing Australia’s recycled manufacturing industry was not going to be sustainable long term. Then along came National Sword, which really brought this issue to the forefront of all of our minds. Following the impact of the National Sword, Australia finds itself at a crossroad- keep doing what we were doing or build our own sustainable industries and go Circular like China, Europe and others. This is the opportune time for Australia to adapt its policies and thinking towards a Circular Economy.
ENVIRO’18 is an opportunity to bring together leaders from business, government and academia to learn from and discuss the experience of government and businesses overseas, to ensure that the transition to Circular is as seamless and well informed as possible. We all know that the current linear ‘make-take-waste’ approach is no longer viable and that we need to change the way we design, purchase, think, use, and produce the goods of today, in order that they can be the resources of tomorrow.
Hope to see you there to keep both the conversation and the action going! Please contact WMAA to register and get involved with the conversation in how Australia
goes Circular, fast! You can register and view the programme at www.wmaa.asn.au
Chief Executive Officer