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Parliamentary Committee hears from NWRIC and Veolia

The House Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources’ inquiry into innovative solutions in Australia’s waste management and recycling industries resumed last week. Appearances were made by National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Reid and Veolia Australia & New Zealand CEO & managing director Danny Conlon.

The last sitting by the committee was on March 4 and the next is scheduled for tomorrow, June 17 when Narromine Shire Council, Camden Council and Campbelltown City Council and City of Port Adelaide Enfield and the City of Charles Sturt will appear.

They have a broad term of reference to inquire into and report on innovative solutions in Australia’s waste management and recycling industries, including:

  • Industrial, commercial and domestic waste;
  • Waste in waterways and oceans;
  • Landfill reduction; and
  • Other related matters.

The Committee’s focus is on opportunities presented by waste materials, including energy production, innovative recycling approaches and export opportunities, and the consideration to current impediments to innovation.

Reid told Inside Waste that the Committee had asked some excellent questions about the challenges faced by the industry and how the government could assist through supporting innovation, infrastructure and technology development.

The NWRIC along with other industry bodies including the Waste Management and Resources Recovery Association (WMRR) made submissions earlier this year.

“The NWRIC welcomes this inquiry as it indicates that the Commonwealth government acknowledges waste as a resource that has the potential to contribute significantly to the national economy, society and the environment.

“It reflects Commonwealth government recognition that waste, and recycling goes beyond being an essential service to protect community hygiene and environmental health and that the government has an important role to play in developing this resource industry nationally.  Like it has done for other resource sectors such as mineral resources, energy, water and agriculture,” Reid said.

She added that the NWRIC, reinforced the need for systemic change that covering:

  • Markets – grow local and overseas markets for quality recovered materials; by enabling greater substitution of virgin materials with recovered material in construction, packaging, products and agriculture; establishing nationally agreed recovered material specifications
  • Energy Recovery – support the development of fuel production and energy recovery from non-recyclable waste such as organics, textiles and plastics
  • Best Practice – foster greater consistency in planning for and regulation of waste and recycling facilities nationally to provide certainty and improve quality of material recovery and waste management
  • Cleaner inputs – encourage greater separation of wastes at source to reduce contamination and pollution and to increase resource recovery and design out hazardous, non-recyclable and non-compostable materials and substances from products, packaging and construction materials.

The NWRIC considers that the major impediments to innovation are

  • limited markets for recovered materials locally and overseas,
  • lack of vision nationally on infrastructure needs to recover more resources, produce energy from waste and the safe disposal of non-recyclable waste to landfill
  • inconsistent energy recovery policies and commitment by state governments to waste as a suitable energy source
  • inconsistent collection methods across local and state governments
  • inconsistent regulations on waste and recycling activities between states and territories

Veolia’s Danny Conlon told the Committee that the right technologies exist, but that Australia needs a better framework for the industry. He said regulation should be consistent, and there should be subsidies, levies, taxes on things that aren’t recycled, and a ban on items going to landfill in some circumstances.

Conlon also told the committee that three jobs are created for every 10,000 tonnes of waste put into landfill, compared to nine jobs for the same amount recycled.

Inside Waste will give a comprehensive report on the submissions to the Committee in the August/September magazine.