Together, we marched on

By Gayle Sloan, WMRR CEO

I thought 2020 was challenging, coming off the back of a severe bushfire season into the uncertainty of a novel virus that was slowly sweeping across the world. Then, there was 2021, and while this year proved to be no less challenging than the year before, together, our essential waste and resource recovery sector powered on, and with our members’ support, so did WMRR.

It was a year of progress on the policy and regulatory front – impressive in some areas and slow in others, but progress, nonetheless. Perhaps the most significant event nationally was the commencement of the waste export bans that kicked off on 1 January with glass, followed by mixed plastics, and to wrap up the year, tyres on 1 December. 

The federal government’s Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) co-investment initiative, launched last year to scale up recycling capabilities across the states and territories, has now stimulated investments of more than $1 billion across Australia. It is evident that the federal government has not lost sight of the importance of our WARR sector, with industry once again featured in the federal budget for a second year running, with $80 million committed to WARR in 2021.

National consistency continued to be a focus for WMRR this year, as we encouraged jurisdictions to develop clear, consistent, robust, and common-sense policies and regulations in areas such as responding to COVID-19, energy from waste, and yellow bin recycling, to name a few. It is encouraging to see that jurisdictions are also contemplating how to improve their regulatory frameworks to enable a smoother transition from waste to resource; WMRR is pressing on with its call for all states to adopt a General Environmental Duty model, which is already in place in SA and Victoria.

COVID-19 was never far from our thoughts of course, and the WMRR team pushed on with finding a multitude of ways to keep WMRR members up-to-date and were at the table wherever possible in assisting with state responses to COVID-19 restrictions, supported by the invaluable work of our national Biohazardous Waste Industry Division.

WARR remained firmly on state and federal policy agendas in 2021, as the contributions of our essential industry to the economy, community, and environment are increasingly recognised. However, there is still much to be done to draw all stakeholders in the supply chain to the table to find productive ways to share (and not simply transfer) costs, shift product design, and drive greater reuse, repair, recycling, and remanufacturing of Australian products; doing so will ensure that we continue to move up the hierarchy consistently across the nation and grow market demand for Australian recycled products. What is exciting to see is the community and governments’ continued acknowledgement of, and interest in, our WARR sector and our role in supporting action in areas such as climate change.

As we head into an election year for SA, Victoria, and the federal government in 2022, WMRR will continue to lead the conversation on the multiple benefits of an integrated WARR system and the importance of a circular economy, including reducing emissions, extended producer responsibility, energy savings and reduced reliance on virgin materials, as well as the development of new domestic remanufacturing and industrial design industries that would boost local economies and provide jobs to the community.

In 2022, backed by our national Board and growing membership, WMRR will continue to engage with state and federal governments and inform vital policy conversations. WMRR will also continue to grow its pathways for learning, development, and knowledge-sharing in 2022, with webinars remaining a permanent fixture in our events calendar, coupled with two (2) national conferences and multiple state-based events.

2021 has been a big year for WARR and our members’ support and participation have been imperative to the work that we do. We look forward to working with you in 2022. Till then, on behalf of the Board and the WMRR team, have a joyous Christmas and New Year.