Plotting a circular pathway
This year’s AWRE is providing a platform to connect industry stakeholders, issues and policy, as the waste and resource recovery sector gears up for an investment driven 2021.
At this year’s Australasian Waste and Recycling Expo (AWRE) online event, Kathy Giunta, NSW EPA Circular Economy Programs Director, is showcasing a range of circular economy initiatives, ranging from local community projects to whole of state programs, proudly supported by the NSW EPA.
The session will explore a number of projects, including Cross Connections’ Plastic Police. Supported by a NSW Circulate grant, the Hunter-based pilot will collect soft plastics from businesses to be processed and used to make benches, garden beds and fencing.
The session will also examine a North East Waste project to improve waste service delivery in regional rural areas, and a Dunlop Flooring initiative that has seen the company increase its foam waste material reprocessing capacity from 5000 to 10,000 tonnes a year.
“These innovative, successful and replicable projects demonstrate how EPA grants are helping organisations to adapt their processes and become a sustainable business, whilst improving productivity and moving towards a circular economy,” Giunta says.
“I think all Australians are looking toward the waste and recycling industry to drive positive change, and that’s exactly what the NSW EPA is doing as well.
“We’re becoming a world class regulator by driving positive change – through robust regulatory action and developing stronger relationships with stakeholders, including AWRE.”
Giunta explains that the NSW EPA is proud to continue its decade-long partnership with AWRE, as the important event brings together industry stakeholders to share ideas and encourage innovation for circular economy technologies.
“With the challenges of the past year, it’s more important than ever that the EPA is out there showing our commitment to supporting sustainable waste practices,” she says.
“We want to keep building a strong circular economy in NSW and we value the fact that AWRE shares that commitment.”
Similarly, Mike Ritchie, MRA Consulting Group Managing Director and this year’s host, says AWRE provides a great platform to connect industry stakeholders, issues and policy.
“As a waste and recycling consultant, I live for the opportunity to meet with the industry, government and stakeholders about the big policy issues of how to create a circular economy and how to put the Australian economy on a more sustainable footing. When AWRE approached me to host, I had no hesitation,” he says.
According to Ritchie, while Australia has a long way to go to achieve an 80 per cent diversion from landfill target by 2030, AWRE will help plot the pathway.
“With high profile speakers and industry experts, AWRE will deliver key learnings on policy, programs and successful initiatives in recycling, circular economy, landfill management, WtE and how to build an integrated waste management system,” he says.
In addition to his hosting role, Richie will open day two of the expo with a discussion of the Recycling Modernisation Fund with Environment Minister Sussan Ley and National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO Rose Read.
“This is $190 million of federal funding to be matched by the states and project proponents to drive the renaissance in secondary reprocessing of recyclables here in Australia,” Ritchie says.
Sponsored by Steinert Australia, the forum will see Ley provide an update on the fund, as well as the Federal Government’s wider recycling initiatives.
“We’ve done a lot in a short period of time, but we have a lot more to do. I think participants will be interested to hear what’s next on the government’s agenda,” Ley says.
“This is an exciting industry to be in right now. I see an industry that is really redefining its approach to waste, recycling and remanufacturing in Australia. Undoubtedly there are still structural barriers to overcome – it’s a complex sector – but I hear a lot of optimism when I speak to industry, especially with all governments investing in real change.”
According to Ley, the Recycling Modernisation Fund will work to create more than 10,000 jobs and divert over 10 million tonnes of waste from landfill for reuse into making products, packaging and infrastructure.
It is key, she adds, to support innovative investment in new infrastructure to sort, process and re-manufacture materials such as mixed plastic, paper, tyres and glass, with federal funding contingent on co-funding from industry, states and territories.
“I’m really excited to participate in this year’s AWRE event,” Ley says.
“Since the Prime Minister first announced the waste export ban in August last year, we’ve worked hard on putting the framework and investment in place to transform Australia’s waste and recycling industry.”
Ley adds that the Federal Government expects that the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act will pass the Senate with bipartisan support – “and this is world leading legislation in terms of our approach to banning the export of waste.”
“We’ve nominated recycling as one of our six national manufacturing priorities backed by unprecedented Commonwealth investment via the Recycling Modernisation Fund and the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund,” Ley says.
“And we’ve really engaged with the industry to think about solutions, like bringing together all parts of the plastics supply chain at the first National Plastics Summit to tackle issues around plastics waste.”
Furthermore, Ley says she is convinced Australia will soon start seeing better environmental outcomes by realising the value of its waste.
“This is what Australians, i.e. your consumers and our constituents, are demanding,” she says.