NWRIC meets: Shadow Assistant Minister for the Environment attends and waste export bans on the agenda

A virtual meeting of members of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) was held this week, with the Shadow Assistant Minister for the Environment, The Hon. Josh Wilson MP attending to discuss advancing the waste and resource recovery sector nationally.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read thanked the Shadow Assistant Minister for his participation in the meeting, which also included a national update from the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment’s Environment Protection Division regarding export bans, procurement, the review of the Used Packaging NEPM and the Oil Stewardship Scheme.

“It was great to have the shadow minister’s involvement in this week’s meeting, and to hear his views on the importance of government procurement and product stewardship in driving resource recovery as we transition to a circular economy,” Ms Read said.

“Issues associated with the implementation of the current plastics, tyre and paper and cardboard export bans were also discussed, with members raising concerns about rate of development of domestic markets for recycled materials, processing capacity and the urgent need for government determination on export specifications for paper and cardboard.

“The Australian Government has implemented export bans for waste glass, plastics, tyres and papers and cardboard by mid-2024, however an export ban for unprocessed scrap metal is not yet on the table.

“It is estimated that much of the unprocessed scrap metal exports are contaminated by up to 30% with non-metal wastes such as plastics, glass, rubber and textiles.

“This is of concern given that many of these countries do not have the appropriate environmental standards or employment conditions in place, which means human health and the environment being put at risk.

“At the same time, the sustainability and development of Australia’s domestic scrap metal recycling industry is being undermined.

“It’s critical the Federal Government commits to banning the export of unprocessed scrap metal if we are to stay true to Australia taking responsibility for our own waste, as well as shoring up the future potential of Australia’s scrap metal and steel industries, and unlocking the decarbonisation benefits of manufacturing our own green steel.

NWRIC affiliates from each State and Territory and AORA also provided updates on industry performance over the past 12 months and priority actions advance the sector in 2022.

“It is clear from our affiliates that one of the biggest challenges to achieving 80% resource recovery is the risk of organics and masonry materials being contaminated with PFAS chemicals and asbestos,” Ms Read said.

“It is important that the Australian Government ramp up their activities in partnership with jurisdictions and our sector to better manage these chemicals and materials of concern,” Ms Read said.


National Recovered Material Specifications – Project update webinar

On Monday 22 November, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) held a webinar to provide an update on the National Recovered Material Specifications Project for sorting and processing facilities.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the project was working toward creating an up to date set of national recycled materials specifications for glass, paper/cardboard, plastics, metals and organics collected from households.

“The project aims to assist recyclers in meeting demand for recovered materials, improve the quality of recovered materials as tradable commodities and improve market information and confidence in the quality of recovered materials,” Ms Read said.

As part of the project, 92 stakeholders (sorters, processors, end users, traders and industry bodies across the five material groups) were interviewed or surveyed on the adoption, relevance and challenges in meeting existing specifications and what can be done to improve the quality of resources recovered that meet end user requirements.

A snapshot of the feedback received, updated flow pathways, list of the 66 specifications and impact assessment criteria is available from the NWRIC website.

The NWRIC is currently finalising its report to the department which will include recommendations on minimum and best practice specifications for each material stream and necessary actions that will increase the value and volume of resources recovered.


Queensland waste levy review brought forward by six months

The Queensland Environment Minister, Meaghan Scanlon MP, has committed to bringing forward a decision on the official waste levy review by the end of the year, six months earlier than planned.

The waste levy, which NWRIC supports, was reintroduced in Queensland in mid-2019, to reduce the inflow of commercial waste from interstate and increase resource recovery.

However, the state government promised there would be no impact on Queenslanders, by an advance payment to 43 local councils in the waste levy zone to cover the costs associated with disposing household rubbish from kerbside collection into landfill. That rebate has been 105%.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read says the rebate to councils disincentivises householders to recycle and councils and industry to invest in recycling and resource recovery infrastructure, education and recycled product development.

“The use of rebate payments counteracts the intent of the waste levy and effectively creates an incentive to direct more waste to landfill,” Ms Read said.

“This is impacting how Queensland is performing when it comes to waste and recycling. According to the National Waste Report 2020, the Australian rate of resource recovery was 63%. In Queensland the rate was just 45%.

“The argument that there are not adequate markets or mature industries that can take the waste does not stand up to scrutiny.

“There are plenty of viable markets for recyclable materials currently still going to landfill, just look at the positive impacts the Container Refund Schemes (CRS) have had on increased recovery and reuse rates.

“The levy is there to discourage disposal to landfill and encourage positive behaviours and investment in resource recovery.

“The 105% rebate cannot continue, it is vital that local councils are weaned off this subsidy starting from 1 July 2022 and that the levy funds are instead invested into programs that educate and incentivise the community and businesses to recycle better, support the development of the secondary resources sector and help Councils create local markets for recycled materials through procurement of recovered glass, organics and products made from recycled content,” Ms Read concluded.

This announcement follows the release earlier this month of Untangling Queensland’s Waste Levy Conundrum, Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland’s (WRIQ) proposal to create equitable solutions for Queensland’s waste levy.

For more information on the report, please contact WRIQ CEO Mark Smith.


Australian Bioenergy Roadmap released

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has released its Australian Bioenergy Roadmap report, designed to inform future policy and investment decisions regarding the growth of Australia’s bioenergy sector.

To support the implementation of the Bioenergy Roadmap, the Government has also committed an additional $33.5 million to ARENA to further support Australia’s bioenergy sector through co-funding additional research, development and deployment of advanced sustainable aviation and marine biofuels.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read said the Roadmap, which presents a framework between today and 2030, looks at opportunities for collaboration and details steps for industry to take to build capabilities and develop projects and business models.

“The Roadmap identifies Australia’s bioenergy resource potential as significant, at over 2,600 PJ per year – or more than 40 percent of Australia’s main energy supply,” Ms Read said.

“It identifies three hard-to-abate priority opportunities, including renewable industrial heat generation, aviation and renewable gas grid injection.”

Bioenergy solutions are reported as capable of providing up to 244 PJ per annum of renewable industrial heat, or 33% of the total industrial heat market.

Organic wastes and residue are identified as the leading resource opportunity for industrial heat generation, representing 37%, with benefits like lower cost of production, fewer competing uses than primary resources and fewer social licence barriers.

The Roadmap notes initiatives in the United States, Germany, and Sweden which either ban organics to landfill or have targets to reduce the amount of organic waste sent to landfill in order to expand the pool of accessible bioenergy resources.

Between 2012-2020, ARENA committed $131 million in funding to bioenergy related projects. To date, this funding has gone to 38 bioenergy related projects with a total project value of $1.4 billion.

Projects included the $696 million Avertas Energy Waste to Energy Project at Kwinana in Western Australia, which received $23 million of ARENA funding and the $5.38 million MSM milling Biomass Fuel Switch Project at Manildra in NSW, receiving $2 million of ARENA funding.