Australia generates 74 million tonnes of waste each year and recycles only 60 per cent; it’s an issue that the Federal Government is addressing head on with its world-leading Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020.
Over the next three years the legislation will completely change the way that our waste materials are managed. The waste export ban is a once in a generation opportunity to transform our waste management and recycling sector to collect, recycle, reuse, and convert waste into a resource.
From 1 January 2021, any business that wants to export waste glass must apply for a licence from the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE).
It’s a significant shakeup for the almost 260 Australian businesses thatexport around 6,700 export consignments of waste each year. This reform required DAWE to create a modern digital platform to streamline the application process for both exporters and Department personnel, while keeping data secure and private.
Working with Microsoft partner Veritec, DAWE rapidly developed a Microsoft Dynamics 365 based solution – with the initial prototype rolled out in just three months.
The velocity is particularly remarkable as the policy details and legislation were still being developed in parallel with the digital platform being developed. All this, just as the global COVID-19 pandemic reared its head.
In spite of the challenges the platform went live in time for the first waste glass export licences to be granted at the start of the year – on time and in line with the timeframe agreed by all levels of government.
Besides streamlining the application for and granting of export licences, and declarations, the system will provide detailed national-level data on exports of waste in near real time, improving Australia’s understanding of the evolving circular economy, and providing an evidence base for future policies.
Dennis Foden, acting Assistant Secretary of the Architecture and Engagement Branch, acknowledges the tight timelines of the project. We had 91 working days to build and test our portal system for the multiple stakeholders involved in this including DAWE, the Australian Border Force (ABF), and waste exporters.
“We mapped out likely demand using historical data about waste exports to ensure the system had the capacity, and also remained mindful of the need for a staged introduction – first for waste glass export, then plastic, tyres and eventually paper and cardboard. And don’t forget, this was brand new legislation, a recently formed Government department – and we also had to navigate COVID.”
Rachel Burgess, acting Assistant Secretary of the Waste Regulation and Stewardship Branch, had a very broad but clear idea of what the system needed to do and look like. The system needed to manage a licence and declaration scheme to ensure waste exporters were compliant with the new laws. It needed to be clean, crisp, intuitive and professional looking. It also needed to provide a way for the ABF to be able to check on the exporters’ DAWE declaration by integrating with its cargo system and then to provide completed export data back to DAWE to square the circle.
Working with Veritec, DAWE mapped out how a Dynamics 365 CRM would provide a user-friendly mobile-accessible portal for exporters to register, to create an application detailing their business, waste processing and intended market. The application needed to be submitted along with any evidence attached. The system would then provide the exporter with the necessary licence or rejection advice. At the back end, the system also manages the workflow associated with the licence application as it is assessed.
DAWE uses Dynamics 365 and SharePoint to create a secure library that authorised users can access to track past activity and licences.
Maggie Tattersall, acting Director for the CRM Delivery team at DAWE, said that the Department of Agriculture had deployed Dynamics 365 prior to becoming part of DAWE, which smoothed the way for the latest program of work.
Mindful of the need to stay nimble given the fact that the system was being developed at the same time as the legislation, DAWE and Veritec worked together adopting Agile processes and leveraging the Digital Transformation Agency’s Digital Service Standard which has been designed to promote the development of simple clear and fast services.
The agile approach was critical as emerging policy decisions needed to be swiftly reflected in the system, and the approach also allowed the development team to raise policy questions or gaps and bring them to the attention of legislators as they drafted the new laws.
Tattersall adds; “We wanted to make sure we could keep it as generic or as out of the box as possible, so we could build on the solution,” working with Veritec and a small DAWE team of around five people to develop the system and manage user acceptance testing.
Greg Mace, CEO, Veritec says; “We worked closely together as a team to use Dynamics 365’s out of the box capabilities to develop a plan and a minimal viable product.”
Erik van Wijk, acting Director of the Waste Exports team, worked closely with the waste and recycling industry throughout development to make sure the system ‘hit the mark.’ “Sharing screenshots with industry and walking them through the system as it was being built meant that industry knew what to expect, what would be required of them and were able to provide suggestions to improve the system.”
Industry have told Lyn Turner, Assistant Director of the Waste Exports team, that “The WELD Portal is easy-to-use and intuitive.”
The team of Architecture and Engagement, Waste Regulation and Stewardship and Veritec are now working together to ensure that the system is ready to manage the export licensing of plastic, tyres, paper and packaging for recycling.
Tattersall says; “Veritec did really take on the lead, they drove the project. We had some really good discovery sessions where we were able to deep dive into the requirements from the business and make sure that they were understood by everyone and developers primarily.
Then they were able to work together closely with the business to build up those user stories, and those test plans. They did provide us with a lot of support to the business when it came to the testing, just to make sure that it was a smooth transition throughout the project.”
The system’s scope will also be expanded to provide licences for the other waste materials which will, over the next couple of years, also need to comply with the new legislation as Australia’s circular economy strengthens.
“Beyond this Waste Export project, Microsoft and Veritec continue to work closely together on multiple initiatives across the Department. What we are starting to see now is a consistent best practise Agile approach to how Dynamics 365 can shape and streamline internal business operations and drive better engagement with the millions of Australians that engage with the platforms we are building together,” concluded Greg Mace.