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NWRIC CEO Week in Review- 27 August

NWRIC meets: Concern over PFAS & state affiliate updates

A virtual meeting of members of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) was held this week, with discussion including impacts of PFAS on resource recovery and updates from state affiliates including state government priorities for the next 12- 24 months.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said it was a productive meeting with discussion of several government strategies, policies, regulatory reforms and funding programs, as well as NWRIC’s current project on recovered material specifications.

“Issues around the impacts of PFAS regulations on operations and future resource recovery activities and concern over a lack of coordination by state and territory EPAs in implementing the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (NEMP) were also raised,” said Ms Read.

PFAS are manufactured chemicals which have been used for a long time in Australia in a range of consumer products such as carpets, clothes, and paper as well as industrial applications, including certain firefighting foams.

“There is a real lack of consistency in the management of PFAS across the states and territories. EPAs interpretation and application of the NEMP for PFAS seems to be inconsistent, resulting in policies and regulations that are impractical and unrealistic,” Ms Read said.

NWRIC considers phasing out of PFAS use in line with the existing US and Europe PFAS bans as an important step to prevent future contamination in the long term.

“However, in the short term, it is critical that governments agree to a set of national prescribed minimum limits of PFAS, relative to use and risk profile as a matter of urgency.

“The risk of PFAS on environment and human health is not understood well by stakeholders, and more work also needs to be done in educating government and industry on where the real risks are and to not mislead the community especially where risks are minimal or non-existent.

State affiliates also provided an update at the meeting on government strategies, priorities, and funding programs. WRISA and the VWMA indicated there were several regulation changes being implemented in SA and Victoria which were posing operational and financial challenges for the sector. WRIQ flagged that the Queensland Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulations are due to expire on 1 September 2022.

“Our state affiliates are working closely with the environment protection agencies in their jurisdictions to work through these challenges to ensure business and industry are positioned to continue to deliver for the waste and resource recovery sector,” said Ms Read.


Queensland Waste and Recycling Regulations up for review

In 12 months, Queensland’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulations are due to expire, highlighting the need for a collaborative approach from industry and government to ensure the regulatory environment is set to drive greater resource recovery.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read said the Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulations which relate to key aspects of the waste levy application and enforcement are due to expire in September 2022.

“Waste levies and their application are an issue for all states and territories. NWRIC has long been advocating for the harmonisation of waste levies and greater investment of these levies into activities that will improve the recovery of resources. We also support levy relief on recycling residuals for those licensed recyclers operating to best practice.

“As discussions commence in Queensland around recycling residue discounts, state waste levy rates and rebates for local government, it is important for industry to have good engagement with government to ensure the regulations are fair and work to drive better resource recovery,” said Ms Read.


New report: Advanced recycling technologies to address Australia’s plastic waste

Chemistry Australia has collaborated with CSIRO on a new report into advanced recycling technologies that can increase the recovery and recycling of Australia’s valuable plastic resources.

Released this week, CSIRO’s Advanced recycling technologies to address Australia’s plastic waste report looks at a range of advanced recycling technology pathways, which are increasingly being used overseas to convert plastic waste into high-value recycled plastics and other products.

The report builds awareness of the different technologies available, which are still relatively new to Australia and will serve as a valuable resource for industry, policy makers and communities looking for practical opportunities to strengthen Australia’s recycling capability and manage used plastics that can’t be processed through existing channels.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read welcomed the report, acknowledging the low plastics recycling rate in Australia and the need to address this to meet the National Waste Policy Action Plan target of 80% resource recovery by 2030.

“The National Waste Report 2020 shows that Australia produces 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, they also have the lowest recovery rate at just 15% and the recycled content of consumed plastics is estimated at just 4%.

“Australia is currently recovering around 355,000 tonnes of plastics, so to meet the 80% resource recovery rate by 2030 we need to recover at least an additional 1.67 million tonnes.

“Advancements in technology will play a major role in recovering and processing plastics and driving the circular economy. It will also assist in meeting other targets such as the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation’s target of 70% of plastic packaging to be recycled or composted by 2025,” said Ms Read.

NWRIC is currently undertaking a National Material Specifications for Sorting and Processing Facilities Project that will improve Australia’s resource recovery standards and procedures to help reduce the amount of material going to landfill, including plastics.

“These specifications will assist Australian recyclers meet market demands for recovered materials locally and overseas and improve the quality of recovered materials as tradeable commodities.

“Through the project we are also looking to stimulate domestic re-use of recovered materials by improving market information which leads to greater confidence in the quality of recovered materials,” Ms Read said.


Safeguard Mechanism – consultation on the landfill capture efficiency rate

Amendments are being proposed to the Safeguard Rule to set the prescribed gas capture efficiency rate into the Rule.

This is the value that can be used to set new Landfill Baselines under the Safeguard Mechanism for landfills that reach the coverage threshold of 100,000 tonnes of non-legacy scope 1 emissions, as per sections 52 to 55 of the Safeguard Rule.

Accompanying the exposure draft Amendment Rule is an Explanatory Document and a consultation draft Explanatory statement.

The closing date for submissions is 15th September 2021.