While the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) said it’s pleased with the government’s commitment of significant new funds to the industry, CEO Gayle Sloan said that several other elements had to be driven now, and “driven at high throttle too”.
“We genuinely appreciate the federal government’s continued focus on, and interest in, our waste and resource recovery industry. Ministers Sussan Ley and Trevor Evans have done a terrific job, along with their state counterparts, in keeping us squarely on the agenda and we are very grateful for that,” Sloan acknowledged.
However, she believes that the key to the success of the RMF will be states matching with new funds as well (not rebadged existing monies) as industry faces significant pressure, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All of these actions continue to encourage at best, a closed loop system. If we are serious about transitioning Australia to a circular economy, then emphasis must be given to the design of products in the first instance… Yet, to-date, no consideration has been given to mandatory extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes,” Ms Sloan said.
Packaging needs to be mandated
In her statement, Sloan highlighted that genuine product stewardship legislation that makes producers responsible for managing what they bring to market is required.
“We should not be allowing packaging, for example, to be downcycled when we have viable packaging remanufacturing operations in Australia. We need government to require producers to use this Australian material and not import from overseas – now is the time to be creating Australian jobs and this is a path towards that. Packaging is the one significant area primed for mandatory EPR,” she said.
In order to bring about these critical changes, Sloan added that it would be vital that government takes a flexible and robust approach towards co-investment, one that is focused on long-term outcomes and end goals.
“We will also need strategic projects fast-tracked, so that we can see the impact on the ground sooner rather than later. To help with this we also need markets developed now for this material.
“We must also turbo charge policy in this area – governments must urgently mandate the use of recycled material now in all government infrastructure projects, in order to drive market development of these products so that we can sustain a viable remanufacturing base,” she said.