NWRIC Series: Harmonisation of Regulations across the states – waste data

A focus on the standardisation of national waste data is the first topic in our series on the importance of regulation harmonisation in the waste and resource recovery sector.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read said there were currently significant inconsistencies in data collection, reporting and even definitions across Australia’s states and territories which needed addressing.

“NWRIC is supportive of a national standard for data and reporting in the waste and resource recovery sector. At present there are different definitions, classifications, scopes, procedures, and timeframes operating which creates complexities and uncertainty in collating key information on waste, such as the National Waste Report.

“These inconsistencies also impact businesses working across jurisdictions, increasing costs and time needed to align with individual state and territory data requirements,” said Ms Read.

The National Waste Policy Action plan includes items that focus on achieving a better, more nationally harmonised approach to waste data, and specifically a commitment to

‘Implement agreed national data and reporting improvements, harmonised data classifications and definitions for reporting, and sharing arrangements across jurisdictions, by 2022.’

Ms Read said that accurate waste data is critical in guiding investment to grow the sector as well as benchmarking progress towards the National Waste Policy Action Plan targets, including the 80% average recovery rate from all waste streams by 2030.

“The Action Plan is in place, however with the current inconsistencies in data collection and reporting we don’t have an accurate measure of success.

“One of the main issues we face is the different language and definitions being used in reporting. Confusion over the terms ‘resource recovery’ versus ‘recycling rates’ is just one example of potential misinterpretation and why we need to implement a national standard for waste data sooner rather than later.

“Consistency in measurements being taken at key points along the landfill, incineration, energy recovery and material recovery processes is critical, as is ensuring transparent, easily accessible and timely reporting.”

Ms Read said compliance by states and territories with any new national standard should not be voluntary, and that state and territories need to stick to the 2022 National Waste Policy Action Plan deadline.

“When a standard is introduced, leaving it as voluntary will not ensure we achieve national consistency in data collection and reporting, and the $25 million being invested by the federal government’s data visualisation project will be wasted due to poor quality data.

“The introduction of a national waste data standard represents a critical first step in addressing the many issues across the waste and resource recovery sector (landfill levies and management, end of waste protocols for example) where national harmonisation will enable the sector to operate more fairly and efficiently,” Ms Read said.