The Waste industry is undergoing an exciting evolution towards a circular economy with sustainable waste management practices being adopted across Australia. State and Federal government policy are driving this sustainable change which will benefit our environment, communities and production of renewable energy for the future.

We spoke to Julian Howard, SMEC’s National Manager for Waste and Resource Recovery on projects that have shaped his career, the opportunities working at SMEC has provided, advice he would give to individuals interested in pursuing a career in waste, what he thinks the future holds for the waste industry in Australia and how waste is evolving to incorporate more sustainable practices.

Q: Can you describe a project you have worked on that has shaped your career?

Julian Howard: Great Southern Waste Technologies (GSWT) Waste to Energy Facility has been a key project for me, initially I worked as the Project Manager leading the delivery of environmental approvals for the proposed facility, which includes a range of assessments relating to potential human health and environmental impacts and I am currently supporting the project’s concept design phase. The facility will be the first of its kind in Victoria and one of only a handful in Australia.  It has been great working with a broad range of internal teams, subconsultants and other stakeholder such as the Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA), community members, Council, the technology provider and client to once delivered power communities with base load renewable energy supply. The facility is another step towards Australia’s renewable energy future and implementation of a circular economy.


Q: How has the waste industry evolved over the years to adopt and incorporate more sustainable practices?

Julian Howard: There is significant change in the waste industry towards a more circular economy, with focuses on resource recovery and recycling.  Historically, waste management practices have been reliant on landfilling, however State and Federal government policy are driving the change towards more circular principles. This change is seeing sustainable waste management practices such as resource recovery, recycling, beneficial reuse of materials, energy recovery and other higher-order waste management techniques being adopted throughout Australia.

Sustainable waste management techniques adoption presents an exciting time for the waste industry and SMEC, where we are well positioned to provide strategic advice and a range of technical services to support the evolving industry.

Q: What do you think the future holds for the waste recovery industry in Australia and what would be the sector’s greatest challenge?

Julian Howard: Australia is currently behind some of the international leaders in waste management, it’s therefore easy to look overseas and see the exciting direction we are heading.  I believe we will continue to see a shift towards a circular economy, which promotes resource recovery and reuse of waste materials.  Landfills will no doubt have an ongoing role to play in Australia’s waste management landscape, however I expect we’ll see more private and government investment in other waste management infrastructure including recycling processing and manufacturing, organic processing and waste-to-energy facilities.

The Waste industry’s greatest challenge is creating policy settings that support investment in the industry but also address the needs of the community and the environment.  Inconsistent and changing policy by state governments results in limited private investment in the industry, particularly in waste-to-energy technology.  I believe governments should support investment in the industry through appropriate engagement, consistent policy setting and regulatory environment, and market development for recycled materials.


We are in an exciting time where the waste industry is transitioning towards a more circular economy with sustainable waste management practices such as resource recovery, recycling, energy and recovery being adopted across Australia.”
———— Julian Howard, SMEC National Manager – Waste & Resource Recovery

Q: What opportunities has working at SMEC provided you? And what is your advice to someone interested in pursuing a career in waste and resource recovery?

Julian Howard: Within SMEC’s Waste and Resource Recovery team we have diverse capabilities from engineering design through to compliance, strategy and environmental approvals. Additionally, with SMEC being a multi-disciplinary consulting firm, our team has access to a broad range of skills and experience to support the successful delivery of industry projects.

Working at SMEC has allowed me to be involved in a range of projects and to be at the forefront of the waste sector, I am continuously learning and being motivated by new and exciting opportunities.

There’s never been a better time to work in the waste sector, with a range of projects and change underway. Individuals from various professional backgrounds can all play a role in the waste industry’s transition to a more circular economy. My advice to someone pursuing a career in the industry is to gain exposure to a range of different projects, this allows you to broaden your skill set, whilst also figuring out what you are most passionate about. Additionally, involvement in industry associations is a great way to network, build contacts and learn about the industry.


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