The time is now: SUEZ calls for action at the upcoming Meeting for Environment Ministers
The waste industry is at a tipping point. The introduction of the China National Sword Policy in January last year placed significant and immediate pressure on the sector to find alternate markets for recyclables – amounting to more than one million tonnes each year in Australia alone. Since the initial shockwaves penetrated the industry and rippled into government, business and the community, the ensuing impact on the worldwide market for recyclable materials has been dramatic.
Yes, this is a colossal and complex challenge; but we believe that it also presents an unparalleled opportunity to radically rethink our national approach to waste. We need to look beyond scrabbling for quick fixes to the immediate issue, focusing instead on the creation of solutions that are sustainable – economically, environmentally and socially – long into the future. Beyond this, the inadequacy of the current state of play provides fresh impetus for innovation that brings new and valuable reuse opportunities to the fore.
In Australia, as elsewhere across the globe, community sentiment is undergoing a seismic shift.
Customer perceptions and expectations around waste have changed, with savvy consumers placing greater scrutiny on the supply chain while the urgency of the climate crisis echoes through every corner of our society.
is not just ideal, it’s absolutely critical. The waste industry must
evolve – and quickly – if we’re to achieve the optimal outcomes
essential to preserving our way of life for the generations that follow.
But this paradigm shift is not possible on the initiative and action of
industry alone; genuine change must be a responsibility shared by
industry, all levels of government, and waste generators – every
individual, community and business.
With our nation’s, Environment Ministers coming together this week in Adelaide, we at SUEZ are calling for decisive action.
The environment is ripe for a cohesive and comprehensive effort to
address the challenges we all face at a deeper level, driven by
visionary long-term strategic policy development and investment.
We believe that there are five key elements that must come together to
drive the industry and the nation forward in prosperity and
sustainability. We call on you, our leaders, to create robust and
considered paths forward that address each of these profoundly symbiotic
We call for greater product stewardship through every stage of the process, from the manufacturer of a product to the businesses and communities who purchase it.
A federal waste strategy that supports the role of waste in the value chain and its contribution to a circular economy, through inclusions such as strict, enforced, incentivised targets and requirements on the percentage of recycled content in production and construction, will enable a bold new model of production and consumption.
We call for the creation of end-markets for recycled products, both in Australia and overseas.
Building and sustaining a thriving domestic market for recycled materials in new product manufacturing will encourage greater diversion and fuel demand for investment in the necessary scalable infrastructure that, in turn, drives the industry forward. There is a genuine opportunity for governments to lead by example through the creation of exceptional procurement policies, and to influence the demand for recyclable products through developing appropriate specifications and mandating minimum percentages for inclusion.
We call for investment in recycling and Energy from Waste (EfW) infrastructure.
Overcoming our traditional reliance on offshore processing of recyclable materials – and driving domestic confidence in local product – requires investment in large-scale resource recovery infrastructure supported by a stable planning and regulatory environment, appropriate waste levy settings and balanced supply and demand. We consider EfW to be the missing link in our nation’s waste management hierarchy, and believe that investing in both EfW and recycling infrastructure should be integral elements in a suite of interconnected solutions able to move us towards a circular economy.
We call for a coordinated and concerted education effort.
Contaminated waste streams hamper the industry’s ability to recycle waste for new products, and increasing awareness of best practice recycling in our homes, business and public spaces is key to reducing contamination at the source. Education programs must be driven by industry, governments and councils working closely with the communities they serve if we are to create sustained and widespread change.
Lastly – and importantly – we call for the policy harmonisation across the states that must underscore all of these objectives if we are to realise the myriad of benefits the circular economy can offer.
Delivering a consistent and competitive landscape relies heavily on a unified national approach where levies, incentives and broader policy positions traverse state lines.
Real progress in the right direction is eminently possible, but it requires concerted gains in all these areas strengthened by true collaboration on all fronts. SUEZ is a ready, willing and able partner in the transformation, but we can’t do it alone.
To our government leaders as you prepare for talks this week, and to our Environment Ministers on the frontlines of tomorrow today, the future of Australia and the world beyond its borders is in your hands. We seek genuine leadership and deep, universal commitment to transitioning from the unsustainable status quo to a more circular model of growth.