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Category Archives: Downstream assurance

New Federal Inquiry: Rethinking Waste in Australia

Waste management and recycling continues to be a focus at the highest level of Government in Australia with an industry inquiry now underway. The focus is a positive one looking at solutions, economic opportunities, jobs and regional development. Responsible prosperity seems to be an implicit theme.

The need to examine improved performance and optimal resource recovery within a circular economy context is also likely to feature. Importantly, this is an industry inquiry, not an environmental one. It is a broad-based national investigation and one which can shine a light on how the industry can operate better, more efficiently and be more innovative.

The House Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources launched an inquiry into Australia’s Waste Management and Recycling Industries. On Wednesday 23 October 2019 the Committee adopted an inquiry referred by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, asking the Committee to inquire into and report on innovative solutions in Australia’s waste management and recycling industries.

Information about the inquiry can be found here.

The Chair of the Committee, Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, said ‘the inquiry will examine different processes within Australia, and between Australia and best practice in the world. The Committee will investigate innovative ways to reduce the millions of tonnes of waste discarded in landfill and waterways in Australia each year.’

‘Improving waste management and recycling in Australia not only provides for a cleaner and more sustainable environment, but it also presents a range of economic opportunities. New jobs and industries will be created – particularly in our regions – along with new products and services’, Mr Joyce said.

The Committee will consider opportunities to better manage industrial, commercial and domestic waste, as well as any current impediments to innovation in these sectors. Strategies to reduce waste in waterways and oceans will also be examined.

In some ways the Committee may revisit elements of the Productivity Commission’s 2006 inquiry which examined the way Australia manages its waste and products over their life-cycle.

In 2006 the Productivity Commission found that a lack of evidence-based policy development from States and the self-interest of the industry itself was problematic for efficiently achieving good industry and environmental outcomes. The PC’s overarching theme remains valid – that the issues and barriers are not always best managed by environmental policy and that the underlying opportunities are really business / commercial / industrial ones.

What has changed over the last 13 years?

Increasingly the question of how to best manage waste in Australia is transcending conventional environmental policy and programs with a distinct move towards great business and commercial innovation.

Given that this inquiry has been referred by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology highlights the need to bring a stronger commercial and applied industry lens to how we identify opportunities and successfully transform them into sustainable innovations, products and services.

Terms of Reference

The Committee will inquire into and report on innovative solutions in Australia’s waste management and recycling industries, including:

> Industrial, commercial and domestic waste;

> Waste in waterways and oceans;

> Landfill reduction; and

> Other related matters.

The Committee is to focus on opportunities presented by waste materials, including energy production, innovative recycling approaches and export opportunities, and to also consider current impediments to innovation.

Equilibrium will be assisting its clients in the preparation of submissions to this important inquiry. It provides an unmatched opportunity to place greater emphasis on solutions and environmentally oriented innovations in waste management that are truly forward thinking.

If you have any questions about the inquiry and how your organisation can benefit from making a submission, please contact the team at Equilibrium:

Nick Harford on 0419 993 234 or nick@equil.com.au
Damien Wigley on 0404 899 961 or damien@equil.com.au
John Gertsakis on 0409 422 089 or john@equil.com.au

The deadline for submissions to the inquiry is Friday 31 January 2020

China National Sword and its impact in Australia

The noise around China’s National Sword Policy has been significant and a trigger for diverse responses, some of which are measurable and forward-thinking, while others are more symbolic and reactive.

A key question is whether or not Australia has adjusted its recycling habits?

The China National Sword Policy formulated in September 2017, and announced by the Chinese Government to the world in January 2018, was centered on enforcing a new policy by banning 24 types of wastes and recyclables from entering the country.

Designed to improve its own environmental performance, the decision has changed globally how countries manage and process their recyclables. Twelve months along what has that decision meant to Australia and what really has changed in how we are processing and managing our recyclables?

Over a year on, Rick Ralph unbundles the facts around this complex policy decision with Nick Harford, managing director of Equilibrium and one of Australia’s leading experts on the subject.

Listen to the podcast of this conversation for an informed suite of insights and observations.

Download or listen here

 

Waste of a Word

There is much more to the word we know as ‘waste’ and that means viewing resource recovery through a lens that creates value.

At a recent conference I was speaking on how to track whether recyclables are really recycled when I got a great question: “When is something a waste, and when is it recycling?”

It is just a word, but that word waste is inextricably but unfortunately linked to recycling. Waste management is presented as almost interchangeable with government recycling policy and regulation, and to the pursuit of the grand aspirations of reduced disposal to landfill and a more circular economy.

But what is commonly called ‘waste’ is not waste, it is a ‘product’.

Effective and sustainable resource recovery and recycling is fundamentally about value generation. If it is cheaper to throw something away than it is to recover and recycle it, then by definition our economy and therefore community is saying it does not value that material.

Changing that value equation is not easy. In 1991 the Industry Commission upon reference from then Treasurer the Hon PJ Keating pointed out what many may say is obvious when it stated that “…recycling is an alternative to waste disposal…” i.e. recycling is not waste.

The Commission also made the finding that ‘’Governments cannot be expected to determine efficiently how much recycling of each product should occur now or in the future. But, by changing arrangements in some areas, governments can contribute to more efficient recycling”.

So, it was recognised 27 years ago that generating greater value through resource recovery should not be through a narrow lens of “waste” or simplistic targets.

What does this mean when talking about how to track recyclables? Only that having proper processes in place to track where materials collected for recycling actually go is an economic and risk management tool.

Firstly, tracking and reporting downstream activities means the purchaser knows whether they are getting the service they paid for. It is incumbent on the purchaser of recycling to demand such information, and the recycling service provider to furnish it.

And secondly, downstream assessment and knowing where recyclables go and what happens to them informs the market, and an informed market is an efficient market.

Knowing the fate of recyclables is at times a complex activity and needs a close eye on confidentiality and privacy issues, but ultimately is part of generating more value through recycling.

Download a copy of the presentation here. It was delivered at the WA Waste and Recycle Conference 2018 in Perth, WA on 6 September 2018.

This article was authored by Nicholas Harford, Managing Director of Equilibrium consultants.

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