In mid-June, Canberra held the annual National General Assembly. Attracting over 870 council representatives nationwide, the assembly is Australia’s largest and most influential local government conference.
This year’s theme, Future Focused, placed emphasis on a circular economy, discussing what can be done to prepare councils for the “challenges, opportunities and changes that lie ahead” regarding sustainability and resource recovery. A circular economy focuses on reducing landfill and reusing resources. It embodies the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ slogan that we, at Nationwide Waste Solutions, apply to the sustainable solutions that we offer to our clients.
Attending the conference were Australia’s most significant environment representatives. Here are some ideas and initiatives discussed by those representatives in this year’s assembly.
Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC)
Read highlighted the need to focus on creating a circular economy, encouraging stronger collaboration between governments to do so. “Industry and local councils can work together to put recycling back on a sustainable pathway,” she said.
Read also expressed concern about recycling contamination with a number of suggestions to reduce the contamination from 40% to less than 4%. This includes upgrading facilities to produce higher quality outputs, after recyclables are sorted and reprocessed; implementing recycling education programs; introducing smarter ways to separate waste at the source; and removing toxic items, like batteries and electronics, from bins.
Pete Shmigel, CEO of the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR)
Shmigel highlighted the Federal Government’s contribution to a sustainable Australian future after funding $2 million towards an ACOR app. The app uses photo recognition to help people find out where a particular item can be recycled in their area. Especially useful for e-waste and other recyclables that are commonly sent to landfill, the app aims to be an easily-accessible educational tool to reduce landfill and encourage resource recovery.
The app is currently being trialled in NSW and, according to Shmigel, should be available nationwide in the next 12 to 18 months. “It’s about having the consumer as part of a supply chain,” he said.
Romilly Madew, CEO of Infrastructure Australia
In her speech, Madew discussed “new and emerging infrastructure challenges” and “integrating new technologies” to deliver “efficient and sustainable waste services,” amongst many other infrastructure services.
She reasoned that community engagement should be ongoing to handle these challenges, as it is local governments who understand the needs of their communities best.
While placing more of an emphasis on waste management handled by councils, the discussions that took place in the conference significantly affect commercial waste management and the standards we work within. This is especially relevant when the industry sees new technology or sustainable initiatives to reduce landfill, segregate waste correctly, recover resources, and contribute to a circular economy, all of which help us get better results for our clients.
Following the significant discussions about a sustainable future at this year’s National General Assembly, we will be keeping a pulse on what happens next and the actions that Australian government representatives will take to reflect these discussions.
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