WMRR’s new-look National Board met for the first time in August, and the impacts of COVID-19 were of course high on the agenda. Outside the pandemic response, issues facing our sector include Victoria’s Essential Services Commission undertaking a review of waste and recycling. So far in 2020, bushfires and the pandemic have provided powerful reminders that the community does indeed rely on the services we provide. But what are the implications of being regulated as an “essential service”?
The Board discussed current ‘essential services’ frameworks across different Australian jurisdictions, and the various ways waste is considered (or not) within those frameworks. There is a clear opportunity to consider national harmonisation to avoid the current patchwork of gaps created by each jurisdiction doing its own thing, but there are also risks of over-regulation and an overlap of functions and resources. Would being “essential” lead to more strategic planning around infrastructure, or would it just add cost and complexity to an environment where it’s already hard to get things done? Would it lead to better data collection that our sector can access and use to improve services, or would it just add another layer of bureaucracy, cost, and unnecessary interference?
There is significant potential for this initiative to have far reaching impacts on our sector. WMRR will seek to engage strongly with the Victorian review process, in order to help members and industry better understand the various options and implications being considered, as well as assist decision makers maximise positive outcomes through whatever steps they decide to take.
Another key discussion area for WMRR’s August meeting was the proposed training and accreditation program. While this element has remained a high priority for WMRR, the unprecedented level of action and attention across our sector over the last few years has made it difficult to progress “important but not urgent” activities. The Board reaffirmed its commitment to expedite the development of this program, and WMRR will seek to recruit a specialist to drive the next stage of this activity. The CIWM model from the UK continues to provide inspiration for what an Australian accreditation program could look like.
COVID-19 has impacted us all and changed the way we interact with each other. On the upside, the transition to virtual events and video meetings has increased the opportunity to engage with members in regional areas, or who otherwise found it hard to attend physical WMRR meetings in the past. On very short notice, the much-loved Waste 2020 Conference was able to pivot from its spiritual home of Coffs Harbour to an online format. The various webinars managed to reach as many, if not more people than the number who would usually attend the event in-person.
Now that WMRR has invested in the technology needed to run online events, we will continue to help members stay connected with each other and run a range of other webinar series covering myriad topics and presenters our members have indicated an interest in, commencing with landfill topics.
Like many organisations and individuals across the community, the pandemic has resulted in a significant loss of revenue for WMRR from conferences and member events. But, thanks to the ongoing support of members, WMRR is weathering the COVID-19 storm and managing to reduce expenditure to keep the budget in balance.
It is a challenging time for many in our community, and we encourage everyone to look after themselves as well as keeping an eye on their family, friends, and colleagues. Stay safe!