The State of the Waste and Resource Recovery Industry in Australia

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) is the national peak body for the waste and resource recovery Sector in Australia. The waste management sector provides an essential service for Australians. The industry itself is made up of 50,000 people who work hard every day and are passionate about recycling and recovering resources.

"Unfortunately, there are some operators who do not meet the high standards which the majority of the industry follows. That's why good regulation is needed to continue to develop a waste and recycling industry which is fair, safe and sustainable for all," said WMAA CEO, Gayle Sloan.

The issue of interstate transportation and landfill levies is not new. Industry and WMAA have been highlighting the problem of landfill price disparity for years. The solution is a harmonised approach to landfill levies across Australia, which need to be set at a high enough level to reflect the true cost of landfilling, and to encourage alternative recycling approaches.

"NSW has the highest levies, and it's also investing the most back into the resource recovery sector, with over $800 million being returned from the levy. Meanwhile Queensland has one of the worst recycling rates in Australia, and its current policies are undermining legitimate businesses in NSW," said Ms Sloan.

Stockpiling is a standard management practice for recyclers. The fact that Australia doesn't make enough new glass to soak up all the recycled glass has already been reported, and what we need to be talking about are new sustainable markets for recycled products.

"We need Governments to stop paying lip-service to 'sustainable procurement' and actually commit to buying recycled products when they can do the same or better job than virgin products. We have all the technology we need to solve these issues and make products that perform just as well or better than their virgin counterparts, and we know that the community absolutely wants the products they set out for recycling to go back into the productive economy." said Ms Sloan. "The challenge is making sure that recycling is commercially viable, and for that to happen we need people to put their money where their mouths are, and actually buy products that are made with recycled materials."

"There are no free lunches. If the need demands a high quality product free of contamination and as a community we desire a reduction in the use of virgin materials, then as a community we need to be prepared (in some way) to pay for the additional cost of re-processing such that we can actually utilise almost all of the recycled product. Therein lies a challenge"

Like any complex service, there are always going to be opportunities to do things better, and if you compare the industry now to 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, it's clear that things have come a long, long way. WMAA wants to keep working with industry to lift the bar and do things better, this involves an integrated approach including harmonised state waste policies.

"There has to be a shared responsibility for tackling challenges like the ones we've seen on 4 Corners; first up we need the community to care about waste and to support those thousands of people who are working hard every day to provide these essential community services; we also need our regulators to set and enforce minimum standards, and to stamp out the rogue elements and activities that give the whole sector a bad name; there are thousands of smart, innovative, people who are employed across our industry and who want to provide better and better services; when it has a level playing field the industry can and will show that it can continue providing services in a safer, more professional and more efficient manner", said Ms Sloan.