WMAA's Response to Impact of China's National Sword

15 March 2018

On Wednesday, WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan spoke to a NSW Senate inquiry into the waste and recycling industry..

During this inquiry and in subsequent correspondence provided to all Ministers and Shadow Minsters around the country, WMAA has made it clear that it is calling for government at all levels to work with industry in finding immediate and sustainable solutions to respond to China’s National Sword initiative. Australia needs to act now to ensure that the circular economy is realised, which means product manufacturers, consumers, industry, government and generators of waste must start to work together and think differently to use recycled material in all products that we make in Australia.

WMAA strongly believes that the waste and resource recovery industry is an essential industry for the community, the economy and the environment, however it would be fair to say that it has been failing to receive the recognition and support that it should from the Federal government in recent times.

Too often of late we have heard that waste “is a matter for the states”, however whilst they have a key and important role, the Federal government also has a role to play, and cannot continue to avoid this. The Federal Government is responsible for national legislation, strategies and policy frameworks for waste to give effect to obligations under international agreements.

The role of the Commonwealth must be to provide clear and consistent vision in accord with these international obligations and national interests, whist the States and territory governments are then responsible for implementing and regulating these policies, manage waste, and influence behaviours in accordance with legislation, policies and programs.

Australia has had a National Waste Policy which was adopted in November 2009, which we are afraid has had very little attention from the Commonwealth of late, resulting in a lack of both clear vision and cooperation between Commonwealth and State. Coupled with the diverse state policies that apply to this sector, it means that opportunities to create jobs and investment in the waste and resource recovery sector, as well as provide additional renewable capacity to contribute to energy production, for example is being severely hampered by government.

The recent policy changes in China has only served to highlight the problems the sector faces, with the lack of a common approach to industry and lack of national unity and leadership adding to industries challenges at this time. If for example the National Waste Strategy had genuinely and significantly progressed even two of the sixteen Priority Strategies, being sustainable procurement and improved packaging management in the last eight years Australia may have been well progressed in creating secondary markets and a Circular Economy in Australia, like the EU and like China, and not have the continued reliance on global trading markets such as China for Australian commodities.

WMAA submits that Australia is being left behind the rest of the developed world, in transitioning to the circular economy, and utilizing waste commodities as a resource. With the effective closure of China as a market for Australia’s waste commodities, it is vital that the Australian government work with industry to create a circular economy in Australia, developing onshore local markets.

WMAA seeks national action by the Federal Government to support the circular economy transition, by

  • Supporting the local management of waste as close as possible to its generation, by urgently acting to harmonise state regulation to create a level playing field for industry and address the unnecessary movement of waste between states for the sole purpose of avoiding landfill levies;
  • Implementing the National Waste Policy: Less waste, more resources, key strategies, prioritising the sustainable procurement of recycled content in all levels government supply chain and government procurement; and
  • Requiring producers of new products (including packaging) to have met recyclability and recoverability requirements that have a clear commercial pathway for movement of materials back into the economy.

To see a copy of the correspondence sent to Ministers please click here