Board communiqué

The Board met on Monday, 29 August 2022, ahead of WMRR’s ENVIRO Conference – Australia’s first circular economy conference that was launched in 2018 and back after a four (4)-year hiatus.

Of particular interest at the meeting was the progress of WMRR’s three (3)-year strategic plan, which is now in its final stages following two (2) highly engaged and considered online planning sessions held in March and July. The Board agreed that the process undertaken had been both fruitful and productive, with invaluable input provided by directors and Branch Committee presidents, as well as committee members in separate branch meetings.

WMRR’s strategy will soon be released to members and more will be unveiled on the journey we’ve undertaken. Notably, this iteration articulates tangible state-based and national actions and projects to be progressed over the three (3)-year term. Directors and branch presidents also delved into WMRR’s current advocacy principles, discussing potential changes that would future-proof the association and inform its work.

Directors also heard about WMRR’s ongoing engagement with working groups, such as the Victorian, Queensland, and NSW landfill groups, which has culminated in significant progress in its advocacy and project work, as well as membership growth. While we are well into the second half of the year, WMRR continues to welcome new and returning members, which is a testament to its strong engagement and value to the sector.

Across Australia, activity in the WARR industry remains high, with NSW recently clarifying what can be accepted in NSW FOGO bins, making it clear that the only item other that food and green waste that will be accepted is the compostable bag/liner that is used to transport the material from within the home to the bin. This comes after a years-long engagement process by WMRR with the NSW EPA, and we believe a similar stance has also been adopted by Queensland.

PFAS remains a hot topic and issues related to hazardous materials remain front and centre of WMRR’s advocacy work, as also evidenced in the strategic plan. Industry is waiting with bated breath for the consultation on the PFAS NEPM 3 to commence, which WMRR will be at the table for. Early sightings of the NEPM indicate that there will be greater clarity on what materials will need to be tested, which bodes well for our discussions on material inputs.

There is a level of optimism in the sector that moves are afoot to improve and grow the industry, with the new federal government taking clear action to address climate change and carbon impacts mitigation. The WMRR CEO has been meeting with Ministerial offices on changes and opportunities to increase carbon emissions mitigation through WARR. There is now also review on the ACCUs led by former chief scientist, Professor Ian Chubb as well as ongoing consultation on the Safeguard Mechanism, both of which WMRR will participate in.

As we inch closer to the fourth and final waste export ban on paper and cardboard, directors were informed that consultation has commenced and while the first meeting largely focused on the ban’s terms of reference, the government has provided a much longer framework to develop this ban than has occurred previously, with a clear understanding that Australia is a significant importer of cardboard, given the global market that we operate within. It may be early days in this conversation but a positive is that specifications are a focus. There is much work to be done to ensure that Australia has the infrastructure capacity to process all these materials and the commensurate market demand.

It is an opportune time for our sector as ministers – both federal and state – remain attuned to our value, challenges, and opportunities, and with the carbon impacts conversation continuing to ramp up. There is no doubt that WMRR will remain at the forefront of these discussions.