Industry News

Waste 2019 conference panellists say government needs to enforce national recycling mandates now

During a waste industry forum, at Waste 2019 in Coffs Harbour, the verdict of the panel was unanimous – all that talk needs to make way for action now.

Facilitated by Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO ,Gayle Sloan, panel members included Re.Group’s national business development manager Garth Lamb, Cleanaway’s NSW state manager David Clancey, Veolia’s NSW resource recovery general manager Christine Hodgkiss, SUEZ’s NSW/ACT general manager Tony Grebenshikoff, and BINGO Industries’ CEO and managing director Daniel Tartak.

Following the NSW EPA’s presentation on the forthcoming 20-year strategy, the panel discussion members acknowledged the strategy as a positive move, though showed frustration in the fact that 18 months since China rolled out its National Sword Policy, Australia was still deep in discussions and nowhere close to making already known solutions to build a domestic remanufacturing sector a reality.

An area the panellists called for more action on was the establishment of national specifications that mandate recycled content, and the development of procurement processes that mandate the use of locally-made recycled product.

This would go some way in alleviating the pressure from the enforcement of the China National Sword Policy, and the panellists recognised these and many more suggestions as requiring immediate action rather than sitting on the back burner.

Enforcing the use of glass in road bases, for example is one solution that Lamb indicated would go a long way in solving the challenges the glass sector is facing today.

Lamb questioned whether the value of waste is being recognised. “The opportunities our industry represents include creating local jobs and producing high-value materials. But we cannot keep doing things at the lowest possible cost. We need a different metric to measure the value of our services and find a different way to communicate our value,” he said.

When asked what their Federal wish-list entailed, all panellists agreed that a national approach to waste and resource recovery and harmonisation of policies are key – particularly the harmonisation of a waste levy.

Hodgkiss said the opportunity is there for all levels of the industry to work together.

“The onus is on us collectively. We have been living in a global market. Now is the opportunity for us to take back that control and see what we can to in our own backyard,” she said.

All panellists expressed a desire to continue investing in new technology and facilities. They were also more than willing to collaborate with all stakeholders to drive waste and resource recovery forward. But they agreed that the next important step comes down to creating value and developing markets.

Sloan said industry leaders need to start thinking about themselves as resource managers. “We are managing resources and maybe we should consider changing the waste management hierarchy to the resource management hierarchy,” she said.

“We know what we need – a local remanufacturing industry. To get there, we need recycling infrastructure, investment, a collaborative approach, and market development. We already know all of that, so it’s time for the Federal government to get on with the job and acknowledge that you can’t regulate your way to success and clearly, business as usual us no longer acceptable,” Sloan said.

The panel discussion was held on May 15 as part of the Waste 2019 conference.