Board Communiqué

The WMRR Board met in Brisbane on the sidelines of the hugely successful Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations (ALTS) conference, where more than 300 delegates converged. Away from the conference presentations, the Board met to discuss a range of issues, including policy priorities ahead of the upcoming federal election.

With the impact of China’s National Sword and an unprecedented level of public and media interest, 2018 was the year the alarm went off and woke people up to some of the challenges facing our sector. Our objective is to ensure 2019 is the year we stop hitting the snooze button and actually take tangible steps to grab the opportunities facing us, including strengthening domestic remanufacturing.

Details of WMRR’s five-point plan for the federal election will soon be available on our website, and our policy priorities include:

  • Leadership in sustainable procurement and market development, including the creation of a strong remanufacturing sector.
  • Strengthening product stewardship and extended producer responsibility schemes.
  • A national proximity principle, to enable certainty and investment in infrastructure.
  • A common approach to levies and industry development (with a minimum 50% reinvestment).
  • A whole-of-government approach to circular economy, including considering tax reform and import restrictions to support the sector.

While ‘Jobs and Growth’ might not be the official tag line of the 2019 election, this is still a strong summary of what our sector can offer the economy… So long as we have the right policy settings and regulations in place.  

WMRR is a pragmatic organisation, and while we are committed to leading the transition to a circular economy as quickly as we can, we also recognise that well-run landfills will continue to play an important role. The ALTS conference is a shining example of how WMRR brings people together to learn from each other and continue lifting the bar on how we manage the community’s waste. Landfill might not be ‘sexy’, but it remains critical, and presentations such as Matt McCarthy’s review of the recent Townsville floods remind us of the need to maintain airspace for emergency situations.

WMRR is currently recruiting an Accreditation and Professional Development manager who will be charged with leading development of a professional accreditation system for our sector. The intention is to link this approach to events, like the ALTS conference, to help recognise the benefits that members achieve by getting involved in events, networking, and learning from other experts.  

The new Resource Recovery and Market Development (RRMD) working groups have now launched in most jurisdictions and are being coordinated at a national level by Mark Rawson. The state chairs and vice chairs appointed so far are:

  • SA - Marina Wagner and Amanda Lewis
  • VIC - Kelvin Davies and Bettina Zimmerman
  • QLD - Steve Robertson
  • NSW/ACT - Richard Collins and Vanessa Seaton
  • TAS – John Chrispijn
  • WA – Anthony Papalia and Brendan Doherty

As expected, the new focus on connecting the dots between suppliers and users of recovered materials has attracted an influx of new WMRR members, as well as upwards of 60 people signing up to the RRMD working groups, many of whom were not previously active in our working groups. It’s exciting to have this ‘new blood’ contributing to the conversation, and equally important is ensuring that those who have contributed over many years stay engaged and help provide context around past efforts and current realities. Priority focus areas emerging for the RRMD working groups include:

  • Glass
  • Organics
  • Plastics

WMRR’s financial position remains sound, buoyed by strong membership renewals and the support of members attending WMRR events. As we did last year, WMRR is aiming to have at least one free event in each state to help deliver increased value to members.

The next meeting will be ahead of the AGM in Sydney on 8 May. At the AGM, we will plan to adopt the updated constitution (which has been revised and was on display for member comments in March). We might also be closer to knowing what the federal election may bring, and whether the federal government will heed our calls for it to play a stronger role in setting a strategic direction and supporting our sector’s ability to continue delivering better services and better value for our communities.