Response – ABC’s Four Corners

In response to the ABC’s Four Corners program on August 7, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) today released its ‘Industry Roadmap’, a national plan for a circular economy offering regulatory solutions to improve Australia’s waste and recycling industry.

While the Council rejects comments by the ABC describing Australia’s waste and recycling industry as ‘dysfunctional’ – it encourages State and Commonwealth regulators to re-engage with the industry to solve contemporary challenges.

Interstate transport & stockpiles

Concerning the interstate transport of waste materials between Sydney and South East Queensland – the Council has been actively advocating for a solution. In July this year, the Council wrote to both NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton and Queensland Environment Minister Stephen Miles – asking for urgent government action to mitigate this problem. This correspondence was a continuation of industry advocacy on this issue going back several years.

Council members have ratified a national position opposing the unnecessary interstate transport of waste. Australia’s largest waste and recycling companies believe the inter-jurisdictional variation in landfill levies undermines new investment into resource recovery infrastructure, particularly in NSW. As a solution, the Council has called for all states to recognise the portability of landfill levy liabilities and put in place regulations to collect these wherever waste is landfilled.

Regarding stockpiles of recycled materials such a glass and plastic – the Council’s Roadmap calls for better planning to ensure commodities can be managed to accommodate market fluctuations, and safely stored. Further, the Roadmap calls on State Governments to effectively re-invest landfill levy revenue to create and simulate markets for recycled materials and built new recycling infrastructure.

Odour, dust and noise

A significant national effort has been made to consolidate Australia’s landfills and recycling facilities into larger, more centralised sites. This work has considerably reduced public nuisance from odour, dust and noise. Improvements in facilities management has further reduced these emissions.

However, the nature of waste processing means that some emissions are inevitable. Therefore, the industry is calling for State and Territory Government to undertake effective, ‘whole of government’ planning initiatives to create landfill and recycling sites segregated from sensitive residential and commercial development. The most effective tool for reducing public nuisance from waste management is good planning.  

Professional management

ABC’s Four Corners made several comments implying that Australia’s waste and recycling industry suffers from poor management, and that it is ‘dysfunctional’. The NWRIC rejects these claims.

Australia’s waste management industry performs well in terms of protection of public health, environmental protection and providing green collar jobs. Australia’s national resource recovery rate of over 50% puts us well ahead of many of our OECD counterparts, including the US and Canada. Despite some setbacks, Australia’s overall recycling rates continue to improve.

The waste and recycling industry employs close to 30,000 people, making it Australia’s largest green collar employer and one of the nation’s fastest growing manufacturing sectors. The NWRIC believes that with improved planning, regulatory harmony and effective re-investment of landfill levy revenue – the economic, social and environmental performance of the industry will continue to improve.