2022 has well and truly kicked off and the Board held its first meeting of the year on 8 February 2022. With the year-end festivities but a distant memory, directors dove right into WMRR’s priority activities and engagement over the first two (2) months of the year, noting that COVID-19 remained high on the agenda given rising case numbers due to the Omicron strain. Notably, WMRR has successfully advocated on behalf of our essential industry to be included on the list of essential industries where asymptomatic workers are exempt from mandatory quarantine and isolation requirements. The national plan was reviewed at a national cabinet meeting on 13 January 2022 and updated to include WARR, and these exemptions have now cascaded down to most jurisdictions.
Our national Biohazardous Waste Industry division continues to play a significant role in the ongoing pandemic, providing invaluable advice on how clinical waste should be appropriately classified and safely handled to mitigate the growing volumes of suspected clinical COVID-19-infected waste due to incorrect classification. WMRR has, and continues to engage with state health departments and EPAs to drive a nationally consistent clinical waste classification and interpretation across all jurisdictions.
With numerous elections looming this year, starting with the SA elections on 18 March, followed by the federal elections on or before 21 May, and Victorians heading to the polls on 26 November, industry and WMRR have its work cut out for it to ensure that we remain on governments’ agendas, given the essential role we play in both the community and the economy. To this end, WMRR has commenced work to articulate our industry’s key election priorities. Some of the commitments we are seeking include stronger extended producer responsibility models, a commitment by all jurisdictions to reinvest 50% of landfill levy monies in industry, government-led mandated sustainable procurement including reporting on this spend, and how our sector can maximise carbon abatement outcomes. We will also continue to push for levy portability (proximity principle) to stop the unnecessary interstate waste transportation to avoid levy payments. WMRR is working with the National Carbon Division and state branch committees to ensure we have captured our essential industry’s main election priorities.
But it’s not just governments that will be undergoing a renewal this year. There will also be a change of guards at WMRR, with Board elections occurring in the coming months. At present, the WMRR Board comprises 13 directors – five (5) peaks, three (3) elected (including the president and vice president), and five (5) nominated (skilled). This year, seven (7) two (2)-year director terms will come to an end, specifically one (1) elected director, the VP, and five (5) nominated positions. WMRR’s nominations committee has met to determine the skills matrix for directors and a call for nominations will be made at the end of March, so do look out for our communications. We look forward to receiving nominations from you as together, we build on the strengths and value of our association and continue to advocate for the betterment of our essential industry.
At the end of 2021, WMRR distributed its annual members survey; to all who participated and provided feedback, thank you. A total of 80 responses were received and the general consensus was that members were very satisfied with the offering – from advocacy to communications, to events and conferences – in 2021. Proposed areas of improvement included more presentations, greater knowledge-sharing, and better communications of the activities driven by WMRR’s various working groups, and these comments, alongside our members’ feedback on the association’s top priorities for 2022, will help shape the association’s activities and engagement over the next 12 months.
The Board also discussed and agreed to split WMRR’s 2022 planning day into two (2) online sessions, given the ongoing challenges with Omicron cases and border openings. Directors, as well as branch committee presidents, will now meet in mid-March and at the end of April to review the WMRR Strategic Business Plan and set the next four (4) to five (5)-year strategy/KPIs.
2022 looks set to be another big year, with the second tranche of the federal waste plastic export ban coming to the fore in July, infrastructure to support the export bans coming online, state/territory policies and regulations, including EfW, organics, single-use plastics bans, etc. being rolled out, and more. In addition to holding a strong position at the government table, and WMRR’s continued focus on knowledge and information sharing through its communications and working groups, the association also has a full program of webinars, events, and conferences that are not to be missed. We are also planning to develop and roll out on-the-ground training to help our members with their day-to-day operations. It will be an exciting year for our industry and association, and we look forward to working with you throughout the year.
Our first conference for the year – the 2022 Energy from Waste conference – is on in Melbourne in a few weeks, the 15th to the 17th of March to be exact, and I hope to see you there!