The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has investments in major landfills, transfer stations, resource recovery facilities (including advanced manufacturing), firming power facilities, collection services and secondary reprocessing operations. Council members directly employ more than 15,000 Australians across more than 650 specialty industry prized assets. Over the past two years, as we all lived the COVID-19 experience, we have seen the challenges of how a federation of governments should work, witnessing how states have interpreted regulations and then changing these. COVID was not unique in terms of these federation arrangements, but for the first time it became clear to all, how mature conversations and genuine collaboration between governments agreed one thing, then states did something different.
Regrettably, the same situation presents itself in terms of our industry’s environmental regulatory environment. In terms of waste and recycling policy formation and its waste diversion targets, the talk across government and community is constant. The conversation in terms of state and federal targets being set, and policies articulating the benefits of having a ‘circular economy’, genuinely admirable. However, not a word in any of these conversations is any form of acknowledgement about how fragmented the industry’s regulatory system is. The disconnect between federal and state regulation is wider today that it ever has been in my 42-year career in terms of how the system is being managed, regulations implemented, or how this environment is policed.
The lack of co-ordination between federal and state regulators, the setting of individual state rules without any evidence of science behind these, and the fact federal regulations are introduced but then fall over in their delivery is now fundamentally threatening legitimate business owners’ current investments and its confidence.