Thought Leaders 2021: Simon Brown
What opportunities do you predict for the growth of your industry in 2021?
While the challenges of 2020 are well understood, it’s important in times of adversity that we also find the positives and use those as a platform to project us forward. For the waste and resource recovery sector that positivity has been borne out of stronger collaboration between government and the private sector — a willingness to work together to achieve better outcomes for our economy, our environment and our community.
While the circular economy was identified as an area of opportunity pre-COVID, the potential to be driven from a genuine focus on modernising Australia’s recycling infrastructure is now broadly accepted to be more important than ever.
Pleasingly the federal government, in particular, has demonstrated a commitment to work alongside industry in driving real action aimed at progressing Australia’s circular economy, which has the capacity to not only deliver thousands of jobs, but to also deliver sustainable economic and environmental outcomes. The waste management and resource recovery sector industry is already achieving an annual turnover of $15 billion and providing jobs for 50,000 full-time equivalent employees, reinforcing its status as far more than an essential service.
As we rapidly progress towards the staged introduction of the COAG bans on the export of waste tyres, glass, plastic and paper, there is real opportunity to be gained from advancing the capacity of the local resource recovery sector to step up to the plate.
Our sector is already showing real leadership in the production of world-class products from recycled materials and is actively seeking strategic growth opportunities to advance sustainable solutions to Australia’s waste challenges.
The opportunities to enact real change with wide-reaching benefits are much more likely to be achieved on the back of sensible policy, a serious commitment to government procurement at all levels and sustainable funding. We take great encouragement from the federal government’s more recent commitments to funding critical infrastructure projects through the $190 million Recycling Modernisation Fund and continued support for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), as well as the launch of the Australian Circular Economy (ACE) Centre. It provides companies like ours with the confidence to demonstrate innovation and continue to invest in projects that will ultimately boost Australia’s remanufacturing capabilities and set us up for a sustainable future.
What are the three biggest challenges or threats facing your industry in 2021?
As we overcome challenges around logistics disruptions, buyers abandoning sustainability measures and the new China SWORD policy, it only reaffirms the critical importance of building sustainable domestic end-use markets. Vital to achieving that is a national strategic approach to identifying and investing in infrastructure solutions to sort, process and remanufacture materials from waste.
While the federal government has taken the lead, working alongside industry to drive the transformation of Australia’s waste and recycling sector, we need all state governments to match their commitment and set bold targets for onshore recycling.
Waste must be recognised as a valuable resource and in order to keep that value in the Australian economy, we need sensible policy harmonisation to ensure a nationally consistent response, providing the certainty industry needs to back continued growth and investment.
We also need governments at all levels to show leadership in committing to bold procurement targets for the use of recycled material. In using their extensive purchasing power, governments can have a significant impact on creating a demand-driven transition to a circular economy.
What sustainability strategies will be at the forefront for your business in 2021?
Economic viability, environmental sustainability and social equality will be at the forefront of our business in 2021. As a responsible global leader in the recovery and remanufacturing of primary resources, we believe we have an obligation to leave the planet in a better shape than we found it.
We have ambitious plans to grow the ResourceCo business and to continue to invest and innovate, making sure the planet’s limited resources are safeguarded for future generations. We are committed to expanding our focus on providing a safer and better environment for communities, by partnering with them to build a sustainable future.
As a natural extension of our core environmental and recycling platforms, we have a strong presence in the delivery of carbon abatement solutions for end use by Australian businesses and we continue to work with our key partners and customers to find opportunities to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The health and welfare of not only our 700-strong workforce, but also those people who interact within our supply chain globally, remains a core focus of our business, which is committed to supporting partners and suppliers who can demonstrate ethical business practices.
As Australia progresses in its transition to a circular economy, we all have a role to play in championing positive society-wide benefits.
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