WARR needs to be on a new accelerated path

16 December 2022

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) today welcomes the release of the biennial 2022 National Waste Report by the Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek, MP.

“Whilst there are some positives in this report, with 45.5 million tonnes of material being re-used, recovered and recycled nationally through our essential industry, the sad reality is that there is still way too much valuable material being sent to landfill, too much virgin material being consumed, and we are missing out on creating Australian jobs.” said Ms. Gayle Sloan, CEO of WMRR. 

“This report shows that the total volume of material to landfill has increased, which must serve as the wakeup call that Australia needs.  We are four (4) years into the National Waste Action Plan, and regrettably the data released today shows that the current approach is just not going to get us to where we must be by 2030. Our linear (take make dispose, and hope someone else solves) thinking is simply not working.” said Ms. Sloan. “It really is time for real action including, regulation, mandated green procurement and targeted investment”.

These are valuable materials that need to be conserved, and where possible reduced, refused and re-used, we need to shift that mindset urgently. And once at the end of life our sector must have sustainable business models to ensure recovery, recycling and re-manufacture.

“To get to where we must go, we need to bring on two (2) million additional tonnes of demand for recycled products and material every year from now until 2030, that means another 14 million tonnes of recovery infrastructure alone.  That’s not to mention the design, behaviour and regulatory change that we need to support this.  It’s a mammoth but necessary task”.  

Regrettably the actions taken to date are not achieving the targets we need to hit.  The Report highlights at Table 22 for example that the funding provided under the Recycling Modernisation Fund has yielded only 1.2 million tonnes over the last two (2) years - we need almost triple this to hit the necessary targets.  

Not only do we need infrastructure, but we also need real demand. The reality is, if you insist on using material in the market, you need to fund its lifecycle and ensure it goes back into the productive economy, ideally to the highest and best use. We saw a recent example in the halting of Redcycle the ongoing challenges of finding markets for these materials.  In 2023 this can no longer be acceptable, and funding must be far more than simply a collection system.

“In strengthening the National Waste Action Plan as agreed by Ministers in October, we must capture the missing part of the supply chain that has a role in designing out waste and pollution, keeping materials in use, and fostering markets to achieve a circular economy by 2030,” said Ms. Sloan.

WMRR supports the new Circular Economy Ministerial Advisory Group, however it must have the data and evidence to steer Australia to both the 2030 resource recovery and carbon targets.  We call on the Federal government to undertake an independent review of what actions and funding are required across the entire supply chain, to meet these targets which really are not optional.