The WMRR Board met for the first time this year on 28 February 2024 at the offices of Veolia in Sydney ahead of the mid-term review of the 2023-2026 WMRR Strategic Plan.  It has been a very busy start to the year for the waste and resource recovery (WARR) industry with lots of issues popping up ranging from asbestos to landfill through to the ongoing issues of battery disposal and PFAS. 

The Board spent quite a deal of time discussing the ongoing batteries safety issue and the current lack of collection and disposal options, with policymakers failing to work quickly to address this as well as address the gap between B-cycle scheme (which covers only loose batteries) and the proliferation of batteries - especially where they are embedded - into items such as vapes and toys. For example, one director pointed out the recent Taylor Swift concerts provided fans with wrist bands containing embedded batteries. Under current government policy, the 600,000 plus wrist bands have no easy recovery pathway and no safe disposal method. These will likely find their way into rubbish bins and then WARR trucks and facilities posing a fire risk to workers and infrastructure alike.  

It was also noted that some state governments and local councils are running effective education campaigns on battery safety with many using fires in trucks to highlight the issues. 

The Board wants to ensure that a future system accounts for the evolution of products and material, has accurate cost recovery, and holds the generators of products accountable. It would also like to see consistency across the states and territories in the way battery related fires are reported. Fire-related incidents in WARR facilities directly impact insurance premiums and the safety of essential workers. Workplace health and safety officers are increasingly recognising that our industry is simply responding to issues generated higher up the supply chain.  

There was an update on the asbestos discussions in NSW with the EPA and the Minister which have been constructive and productive. The Government has established a taskforce headed by NSW Asbestos Coordination Committee Chair, Carolyn Walsh. There is a recognition by government and the regulator that this is an entire supply chain issue and that our industry is committed to working with everyone to ensure only appropriate safe material is brought to recycling facilities and only fit for purpose material is made by our facilities. On other policy matters, the Board also heard that the Federal Government is yet to provide the updated drafted Paper Rules that commence midyear, however, we understand there is no real change to what has been advised to date. 

Membership renewals for 2024 have been very positive and are currently ahead of the last few years. This has underpinned WMRR’s healthy financial position.  

This year, the Board will undergo renewal, with a number of Directors reaching their maximum two (2), two (2) year terms.  As such, nominations are now open from WMRR financial members for both the nominated and two (2) elected Director positions, including for the role of WMRR Vice President and the members’ elected Director. A maximum of three (3) Director positions in total are available.   

Nominations close on Thursday 21 March 2024. Successful nominated and elected Directors will take office for a term of two (2) years, commencing at the WMRR AGM, which will be held on Tuesday 25 June 2024. 

The Board also undertook a review of the Strategic Plan. Overall it was agreed the document and actions remain appropriate, with WMRR’s continued focus on Regulation, Markets, Infrastructure and Engagement, however there is a real opportunity to improve and tighten some of the language, which the WMRR Team will do over coming weeks. The Board is also looking forward to seeing updated and refreshed State initiatives as some states embark on reviewing these in 2024, given a large number have been achieved! Well done to all involved and thanks for dedicating your time to continue to work with us to continue to make both WMRR and industry a success.