In 2017, five of Australia’s largest waste management companies joined forces to form the National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC).
By bringing together the major operators in waste management, recycling, and resource recovery, NWRIC acts as the industry’s national policy-setting body for a national advocacy agenda that promotes best practices, and harmonisation of legislation across Australia.
As a founding member of NWRIC, Cleanaway’s CEO and Managing Director, Vik Bansal emphasised the need for the waste management sector to lend a strong and coherent voice to discussions about the future of waste management.
“As the largest waste management company in Australia, our shareholders and stakeholders, including our employees and the board, expect us to behave like an industry leader. We need to bring together the businesses that own 85 percent of the market and tell the government what we believe the strategic issues to be and how we need its help.”
As part of its mandate to address industry-wide issues, the NWRIC recently called for urgent action to address market changes in response to China’s National Sword policy.
Under the policy, recycled materials exported to China are now subject to stringent contamination standards. From 1 January 2018, contamination rates for materials exported must not exceed 0.5%, compared to 5% to 10% previously.
These new guidelines have put pressure on the Australian recycling system, due to the large amounts of contaminated recyclables currently collected from kerbside bins. Kerbside collection audits have shown contamination levels of up to 10%, on average.
As a result, an unforeseen and sudden crash in the price of recycled materials has left a significant volume of material ‘stranded’, with no end market available.
“The NWRIC is urging all customers, including local government and commercial waste generators, to meet with their recycling supplier to plan for sudden and unforeseen changes,” said Mr Phil Richards, Chairman of the NWRIC.
NWRIC is calling each state to form a recycling task force to review current practices and develop new processes to protect and advance domestic recycling. The challenges to be addressed by the task force are suggested to include:
- Products accepted in household recycling bins
- Education to reduce contamination
- Recycling labelling
- An approach to glass collection
- Maximising value from container deposit programs
- A review of packaging design and reuse
- A review of how landfill levies effect recycling
- A review of contract conditions for recyclers
The Council has also called for a leading approach to container deposit programs that will support and protect material recovery facilities. NSW is the third Australian jurisdiction to adopt a CDS scheme, with Queensland and the ACT to follow in 2018. South Australia has the longest-running CDS in the country and sees a 76.5% return rate for their beverage containers. They also have a very high landfill diversion rate of 80% across the board.
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