High Temperature Incineration: Ace Waste

Waste Management Review talks to Metro North Hospital’s Waste Manager Gregg Butler about clinical waste regulations and the benefits of high temperature incineration.

Becoming one of the healthiest communities in the world by 2026 is the official vision of the Queensland Health Department.

To achieve this outcome, the department is committed to ensuring available resources are used efficiently for future generations, according to the department’s 2018-20 Waste Reduction and Recycling Plan.

To attain desired sustainability, the department has repurposed the waste hierarchy to highlight the importance of waste reduction and recycling within hospitals.

Brisbane’s Metro North Hospital and Health Services Environment and Waste Manager Gregg Butler, who has worked in the health sector for over 40 years, is at the forefront of rethinking waste in the industry.

“Over the years, Metro North have worked to install all sorts of waste management initiatives throughout our facilities,” Gregg says.

Metro North initiatives include the “Know Which Bin To Throw It In” campaign, which educates staff on correct waste segregation and the tube terminator, a machine that destroys lightbulbs to reduce the impact of mercury in landfill.

“The money we save through recycling and waste reduction initiatives allows us to buy new equipment such as hospital beds, which is beneficial for the community,” Gregg says.

While the waste hierarchy privileges avoidance and reduction, hospitals by their very nature generate a significant amount of waste that cannot be recycled.

“Recycling what we can is important, but a lot of hospital waste is hazardous and needs to be disposed of responsibly, namely clinical waste,” Gregg says.

Clinical waste is an unavoidable waste stream with limited diversion and processing methods. It is generally defined as any waste with the potential to cause disease, including discarded sharps, human tissue and laboratory waste.

Standard Australian destruction practices fall largely into two camps, autoclave and incineration.

“I don’t like treating clinical waste though autoclave because as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get rid of the pathogens and some of the needle and blood products,” Gregg says.

“Ace Waste are the only ones with incinerators in Queensland, and in my personal opinion, incineration is the way to go.”

To process its clinical waste, Metro North work closely with family owned medical waste disposal company Ace Waste.

Ace Waste was founded in 1987 in response to the need for a professional clinical waste collection and disposal service. The company provides hospitals, healthcare facilities and other businesses with safe waste collection, storage and disposal services.

Additionally, Ace Waste offers secure transportation and high temperature incineration at their Brisbane treatment facility, located at Willawong.

“Metro North have had a relationship with Ace Waste since they were established in the late 80s,” Gregg says.

“We choose to work with Ace Waste specifically because they incinerate, which I consider the most appropriate disposal method for clinical and related toxic waste.”

According to Gregg, when medical waste regulations came into effect in 1994, Ace Waste were already compliant.

As per the Queensland Government’s clinical and related waste policy, hospital waste must be handled, stored, and transported appropriately to minimise the potential for contact. Additionally, prior to disposal at landfill, all clinical waste must be treated.

While incineration renders the waste unrecognisable, the bi- product in the form of residual ash still requires disposal at a regulated waste disposal facility, which Ace Waste facilitates.

“They can handle anything clinically related as far as regulations go, blood products, cytotoxic waste, chemical waste,” Gregg says.

“They take roughly 80 to 90,000 kilograms from Metro North every month, which is substantial, and they have the know how and capacity to dispose of it safely and efficiently.”

The Ace Waste incineration process involves loading waste into a primary chamber and incinerating it at temperatures between 1000 °C and 1150 °C. The exhaust gas from the secondary chamber is then cooled, before being passed through the air pollution control plant.

The process guarantees the complete destruction of infectious waste materials and ensures pathogens and toxic disease are unable to be released into the ground or atmosphere.

“At those temperatures there is no residue what so ever, which means contaminants won’t turn up in landfill,” Gregg says.

“Additionally, high temperature Incineration converts plastic into energy and is a great substitute for fossil fuels.”

According to Gregg, thermal degradation is a gasification process in essence.

“Not only are volatile plastics used as alternate fuel, the resultant heat destroys pathogens and pharmaceuticals and converts it into carbon dioxide and water,” he says.

Queensland regulations also require clinical waste to be effectively segregated into categories such as chemical waste, human tissue waste and pharmaceutical waste.

“Ace Waste provide appropriate storage bins, which lets staff easily sort waste at the point of disposal,” Gregg says.

“The service has always been A plus with Ace Waste, hence the contracts being renewed over and over again.”

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SA single-use plastic initiative begins

Single-use plastics will be removed from multiple South Australian businesses, following the state government’s plastic free precincts announcement.

The Adelaide Central Market, The Parade (Norwood) and The Jetty Road Brighton Traders are the first three locations, with a fourth precinct encapsulating all 21 Surf Life Saving South Australia clubs across the state.

Environment Minister David Speirs said the Boomerang Alliance, who have run similar trials in Noosa in Queensland and Bassendean in Western Australia, will be working closely with traders, cafés, restaurants and retailers in these locations.

“It’s so exciting to see how some of our destination shopping precincts and the iconic Adelaide Central Markets commit to going ‘plastic free,” Mr Speirs said.

“I’m especially pleased that Surf Life Saving South Australia has put their hand up to be part of the trial. They are among the most motivated of volunteers, as our surf life savers are confronted every day with the impact of single use plastics on our coasts and beaches.”

Surf Life Saving South Australia Chief Executive Officer Damien Marangon said his organisation was thrilled to be one of the first single-use plastic-free precincts.

“As custodians of South Australia’s coastline, our organisation sees first hand the impact single-use plastics can have on our beaches and waterways,” Mr Marangon said.

“When the state government called for applications to become a plastic-free precinct, we jumped at the opportunity.”

Earlier this year, the state government called for expressions of interest to become a plastic-free precinct, as well as join the stakeholder taskforce.

Mr Speirs said the stakeholder taskforce would provide input and advice to assist in making the precinct trail as successful as possible.

“The taskforce will make sure the views and opinions of all South Australians are heard when it comes to the next steps for banning single-use plastics in our state,” Mr Speirs said.

“We’ve invited 13 representatives from across South Australia including local government, businesses, the hospitality sector and disability advocates to form the first stakeholder taskforce.”

Mr Speirs said the the government expected more plastic free precincts would follow, given the high quality of applications across the state.

“Our government is seeking a wide range of input on what any future phase out or replacement for single use plastic might look like, and the stakeholder taskforce will play an important role in our decision making,” Mr Speirs said.

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Is your bin healthy?

The City of Swans latest waste education initiative, which involves auditing the contamination levels of household bins, has led to a 53 per cent decrease in recycling bin contamination.

From kerbside collection to education and training, the City of Swan in Western Australia manages all its own waste services.

The city covers a large and diverse area across Perth’s eastern metropolitan region and has a population of 149,195.

Colin Pumphrey, Fleet and Waste Manager, says while some areas of the city are historically efficient in recycling, others with high density populations need further assistance.

Since April, the City of Swan has been conducting ‘health checks’ on residential kerbside bins to help the community improve recycling habits and reduce waste contamination.

“We need to understand what areas of the city needed our attention in terms of recycling education, and what areas are already doing well,” Colin says.

“We have worked closely with the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA), which had already developed a successful process for bin tagging.”

According to WALGA, similar programs in South Australia have reduced waste contamination by up to 60 per cent and increased the amount of recycling by 25 per cent.

Colin says bin auditing involves city staff visually checking the contents of general waste and recycling bins in randomly selected areas.

The checks are then followed by constructive individual feedback on how each household can waste less and recycle more.

“Feedback is first provided in the form of a tag on bin handles, which highlights if there are any contaminated items in the recycling bin or items in the general waste bin that could be recycled,” Colin explains.

As a result of the program, Colin says contamination rates in some areas have reduced by 53 per cent.

“In some areas the contamination levels were very high, so it’s a good outcome so far,” he says.

According to Colin, the auditing program is consistent with the city’s wider approach to waste and recycling education.

“As we don’t contract any of our waste collections, we can interact closely with the community to ensure the bins are healthy and uncontaminated,” Colin says.

“It’s not only beneficial in the wider environmental sense, but also helps the city streamline our education processes.”

Colin says while in some areas the issue of waste separation and contamination is well understood, the real challenge is keeping residents up to date with ongoing changes to the waste and recycling industry.

“It’s important for residents to understand the city isn’t just imposing random changes for no good reason, we want them to understand specifically what changes have been made and why?” Colin says.

“As Swan has a fairly transient and changing population, we have to keep the education process going – it’s not something you can do once and forget about.”

Changes to the city’s collection services include future food and organics collection trials, a pre-booked year-round bulk and green waste collection and stricter enforcement of contamination regulations.

Colin says changes are in line with the state’s requirements to increase domestic processing and end markets. So far, the City of Swan has audited 2000 properties.

“We had a couple of households that resisted quite strongly, but the public response has been really positive,” Colin says.

“After people understand the logic behind the program, they don’t seem to have a problem.”

Colin says city officials tag bins based on their level of contamination: good, intermediate or bad.

“If a bin is tagged negatively, residents are given two weeks to remove the contamination, then if needed, another two weeks to improve,” Colin says.

“During that time, city officials will speak with specific residents about how they can lower their contamination levels, and if changes aren’t made, we tape up their bin.”

Colin says 30 bins have been tapped up by the city so far.

“If people don’t comply after their bin has been tapped, the last resort is for council to take the bin away,” Colin explains.

“We have removed six bins in total, with one given back after discussions with the residents.”

Colin says he is currently writing the program’s final report, which he will then put to council.

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City of Mitcham installs recycled tyre pavement

Paving material made with recycled tyres has been installed by the City of Mitcham, as part of a field trial in sustainable urban drainage design.

The permeable paving, created by the University of Melbourne with funding from Tyre Stewardship Australia, has been laid at St Marys Park in Adelaide.

The material is made from 50 per cent used tyres and is designed to assist water drainage through surface resistance.

Tyre Stewardship Australia CEO Lina Goodman said the City of Mitcham is one of many councils interested in investigating the performance of waste tyre permeable pavement.

“This trial will utilise four tonnes of tyre-derived aggregates, the equivalent to diverting 500 passenger tyres from the waste stream,” Ms Goodman said.

“This project is envisaged to be the first of many, and has been undertaken to demonstrate the effectiveness of the product.”

Ms Goodman said wide spread implementation of the material could see 300,000 tyres used in local government infrastructure per year.

“The use of end-of-life tyres as an aggregate blend for permeable pavement has various applications such as pedestrian walks, bike paths, car parks and low volume roads,” Ms Goodman said.

“TSA is eager to see more trials take place to showcase the products full potential in the urban environment.”

City of Mitcham Mayor Heather Holmes-Ross said the trial is a first for Australia, and will involve testing the permeable pavement under various traffic loads.

“We are very excited to be involved in this innovative trial. This paving product provides many benefits to the environment, including harvesting water to help water nearby trees and gardens,” Dr Holmes-Ross said.

“Not only does it sustain urban vegetation, it can help to increase groundwater recharge, reduce surface runoff, decrease the risk of flash-flooding and help with the treatment of storm water.”

Dr Holmes-Ross said equipment had been installed below the surface of the parking bays to monitor the performance of the pavement, as well as record the surface temperature of the different pavement colours.

“The pavement design has obvious benefits for water sustainable urban design, which will be evaluated during the trial,” Dr Holmes-Ross said.

The trial will also monitor the quality of water passing through the pavement structure, and evaluate its efficiency in reducing contamination of resulting waterways.

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Finlay: separating the grime

Phoenix Environment Group is sorting problematic C&D waste from all over Melbourne into saleable streams, with the assistance of Finlay Screening, Crushing and Recycling Systems.

Mixed waste from construction and demolition sites is regularly left out in the rain or intense heat for long periods of time by some contractors and site managers. As a result, construction and demolition waste (C&D) often arrives at processing and recycling facilities as a wet, sticky mass, loaded with heavy and bulky debris.

Phoenix Environment Group, a recycling company based in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, receives waste from all over the city and deals primarily in C&D. Phoenix operates largely as a sorting facility, separating C&D into seven different streams before sending it to alternate facilities for remanufacturing.    

Company Director Ash Walker says given the nature of C&D, the material Phoenix receives is often quite contaminated, with multiple mixed materials needing to be screened and separated simultaneously.

To facilitate the cleaning of grimy material, Phoenix purchased a Terex TRS 500 from specialist equipment suppliers Finlay Screening, Crushing and Recycling Systems last year.

“We needed a recycling screen capable of separating heavy weight material from recyclable waste before we send it to separate picking stations for further separation,” Ash says.

“Our previous screen worked well. However, as the company grew and began to work with larger, more commercial clients, we required a new recycling screen to keep up with processing demands.”

The TRS 500 recycling screen is a versatile mobile screen that operates with a specialist screen box designed by German manufacturer Spaleck.

Ash says he spent a number of months researching recycling screens online before coming across the TRS 500.

After contacting Finlay about the machine, Ash was flown to Queensland to view the screen in operation.

“Once I had watched the TRS 500 in action at Finlay’s facility in Burpengary, I became confident in its ability to fulfil Phoenix’s business requirements,” Ash says.

“The Terex machine is much bigger than our previous screen, so we are able to put significantly more material through each hour – it ticked all the boxes for me.”

Phoenix has been using the TRS 500 for just under 12 months, and Ash says it hasn’t missed a beat.

“We use the screen to reclaim a lot of mixed soil and it works 100 per cent of the time,” Ash says.

“Every inch of soil is screened and cleaned effectively and quickly, which means we can remove all the contaminants at a cheap price.”

According to Ash, the machine was specifically designed for difficult applications, with the combination of a three-way split system and Spaleck 3D Combi screen box allowing operators to process material previously classed as problematic.

Phoenix uses the TRS 500 to process a minimum of 2000 tonnes of C&D waste at its Coolaroo recycling centre each month.

“Most of our material comes from Campbellfield Bins, Ben’s Bins Hire, Cleanaway and a handful of smaller waste removal companies,” Ash says.

Spaleck screen boxes are designed for efficient screening of wet inhomogeneous material, with separation cuts between 0.2 and 50 millimetres.

The TRS 500 incorporates the Spaleck screen box into a standard Terex platform and frame, with features including a steel apron feeder for feeding heavy bulk material, a 3D top deck screening panel and an aggressive flip-flow bottom deck.

The base frame is agitated by a shaft and unbalanced motor drive, with the vibration passed to the frame via thrust rubbers.

Ash says the tracked heavy duty screen can be operated in a wide range of primary and secondary screening applications.

“The 3D flip flow bottom deck mats can handle high-moisture material, even when screening as small as two millimetres without blinding,” Ash says.

“This ability is critical given the nature of the material we’re processing, as it reduces downtime and maximises our production capabilities.”

Additionally, Ash says the TRS’s 3D screening segments facilitate correct grain size and eliminate long and extraneous material for the tension shaft screen on the lower deck.

“The screwless mounted screening mats create less contamination than regular mats and the high acceleration has a self-cleaning effect,” he says.

Ash says Finlay has a services and parts division in Melbourne, meaning it is just around the corner when the machine needs servicing.

“They respond straight away when I make a booking and are always on call. I’ve been really happy with the service,” Ash says.

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SUEZ renews Sydney Trains’ contract

SUEZ has renewed its contract as Sydney Trains’ waste management provider, continuing a seven-year partnership with the rail operator.

SUEZ will continue to service Sydney Trains’ network of infrastructure throughout the greater Sydney area and across New South Wales, including train stations and maintenance facilities operations centres.

SUEZ NSW State General Manager Tony Grebenshikoff said the renewal follows a competitive tender process, and reflects SUEZ’s record of successful service expansion across the Sydney Trains network.

“A new feature of the contract includes the introduction of advanced technologies, such as weight-based billing and enhanced reporting capabilities, as well as additional training modules that can be easily accessed by all employees through a range of devices,” Mr Grebenshikoff said.

“These and other initiatives will enable SUEZ to work closely with Sydney Trains to provide a seamless and streamlined experience under the renewed, up to 5 year, contract.”

Mr Grebenshikoff said SUEZ had worked closely with Sydney Trains on the rollout of multiple initiatives to achieve waste reduction targets.

“We are proud to have maintained an average on time service success rate of 98 per cent,” Mr Grebenshikoff said.

“SUEZ looks forward to continuing to work with Sydney Trains to provide safe, reliable and efficient collection services across all sites, and supporting this essential public transport network in Australia’s largest city.”

Sydney Trains Chief Executive Howard Collins said the contract renewal enables SUEZ to continue an already well established partnership between the two parties.

“We have been satisfied with the service provided by SUEZ over the past seven years, and we look forward to seeing what new initiatives SUEZ has that will provide further efficiencies in waste management.”

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Sustainability Victoria announces $4.7M RRIF grants

Sustainability Victoria have announced the recipients of 13 new grants, administered via the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund (RRIF).

A total of $4.7 million has been awarded to projects that will increase Victoria’s capacity to recycle locally generated waste materials into high value commodities.

Sustainability Victoria Interim CEO Carl Muller said RRIF funding supports the recovery of recycled materials, the expansion of recycling facilities for kerbside, construction and demolition, commercial and industrial waste and improvement in the quality of collected and sorted materials suitable for commercial use.

“We cannot deny the importance of the waste and recycling industry. These grants will boost the resource recovery industry, creating jobs and driving investment in the sector,” Mr Muller said.

“The Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund facilitates change to support industry growth and development, in tandem with Victoria’s growing population.”

Mr Muller said investment in recycling infrastructure is vital to increasing the recovery valuable materials, for use in other manufacturing sectors.

“These exciting and innovative projects will drive a strong circular economy that maximises the reuse and recycling of materials and reduces waste,” Mr Muller said.

“Collective action from industry, government and the community can ensure Victoria remains a great place to live and operate in.”

Recipients include: 

Alex Fraser Group: $336,500 to install an additive bin at its Clarinda facility, which will divert low-value recovered glass that is unfit for reuse from landfill.

Repurpose It : $500,000 to install new infrastructure and improve the recovery and washing of glass fines sourced from materials recovery facilities.

Cleanaway: $500,000 to install optical sorting equipment for plastics from e-waste processing.

Pipeconnex: $500,000 for a new facility production line that will recycle up to 5246 tonnes of plastic each year.

Close the Loop: $500,000 for infrastructure that will recover 5,000 tonnes of soft plastics annually, for use in asphalt road base.

Boral: $500,000 to upgrade its asphalt plant to receive plastic, glass and crumbed rubber for asphalt production.

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NSW EPA: let’s chat compost

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has developed an engaging conversational learning program to support professional development in the organics sector.

Simulated conversational experiences, or chatbots, have been gaining traction across numerous industries.

Conversational learning is a unique concept that delivers knowledge in focused, micro-learning chunks, requiring only three to five minutes of a learner’s time. It aims to put learners in control, use conversation and story-telling to stimulate engagement, build knowledge and allow for active discovery and decision making.

With an increase in chatbot messenger apps offering instantaneous customer service, news and other relevant notifications, chatbot experiences are even making inroads in the waste sector.

To support the compost industry, e-learning provider IMC has been working with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) via its organics program. IMC and the EPA have developed four-five minute chatbot modules dubbed “Let’s Chat Compost” on the topics of assessing odour, pasteurisation, composting and managing contamination.

The learning sessions aim to simulate ordinary conversations, akin to those you’d have with a friend or colleague – personal, fun and to the point. They embed personality into the learning content and create a dynamic interaction like one-on-one teaching, making social and interactive e-learning “in dialogue” possible.

The Let’s Chat Compost modules allow users to continue or refresh their learning through the EPA’s existing Compost Facility Management eLearning program, released at the end of last year.

Presented in social media messenger style, the app uses conversation and memes to engage learners to expand on their composting knowledge.

The Compost Facility Management course comprises seven modules and has been designed for regulators and people in all roles working in organics facilities. It uses interactive content, animation and video to engage learners, with the aim of embedding high-level skills and knowledge for best practice facility management.   

IMC has leveraged its expertise from working with clients such as National Rugby League, the Department of Health and Human Services, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi to craft unique and conversational learning experiences.

Amanda Kane, Organics Manager at the NSW EPA, says Let’s Chat Compost aims to draw attention to the key processes most relevant to processors, regulators, local government, consultants and waste collection operators.

“Let’s Chat Compost will be a tool to reinforce learning and act as a reminder for what’s happening inside a compost pile that might be causing an odour, or why it’s important to manage contamination and the importance of pasteurisation,” Amanda says.

“IMC’s concept was developed in Germany and designed to look as much like a phone chat as possible. It was in recognition of the platforms we use in everyday life.”

She says that developing smartphone nuggets is an exercise in communicating the most important content in an engaging way.

“The main goal of the nuggets is to get people to take up the course, but also as a reminder for those that have completed the course,” Amanda says.

The app can send notifications to those who have completed the course, encouraging them to share the modules with their colleagues or revisit aspects of their learning.

Amanda adds that companies could adapt the program to suit their organisational tone and include additional relevant occupational health and safety and company information.

“The result is not only contributing to the production of a quality product, but upskilling the industry and minimising the environmental impact of one’s operations.

“It’s critical that processors are operating within the conditions of their license, and that if any issues do arise, they know how to respond and communicate with the EPA and advise us what’s happening.”

She says that the smartphone nuggets are aimed to be accessible on multiple devices and link back to course content.

The modules also include expert tips from industry leaders such as SOILCO and Australian Native Landscapes (ANL).

“We wanted to have industry voices to communicate those messages. All of the course content was filmed at sites around NSW using various technologies,” Amanda says.

“These include ANL’s open windrow or the in-tunnel systems that JR Richards & Sons have up at Grafton and then using team members at all levels to communicate the message, including EPA regulatory staff as well.

“We have had 300 people sign up, and the overall feedback is that people are finding it to be a rewarding learning experience.”

EVA Environmental Director Geraldine Busby, who also worked on the initial training course, oversaw the development of smartphone nuggets.

Carmen Locke, Instructional Designer, IMC AG, says conversational learning allows learners to make decisions while being actively immersed in a one-on-one learning scenario. This increases their ability to retain content, understand concepts and develop new skills and behaviours.

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Reviewing the PSA

Waste Management Review explores the Product Stewardship Act review and industry expectations for the final report. 

Since the Federal Government Product Stewardship Act (PSA) was introduced in 2011, the dynamics of the waste and recycling sector have changed dramatically locally and overseas.

Waste management and resource recovery businesses have been forced to adapt and so has legislation and state and territory policy.

Product stewardship is a waste management strategy designed to ensure shared responsibility for the health and environmental impacts of a product through all stages of its lifecycle.

The PSA outlines three levels of regulation: mandatory, co-regulatory – joint industry and government delivery and voluntary.

There are currently no mandatory schemes under the PSA and just one co-regulatory scheme, the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS).

When the act commenced, two voluntary schemes were accredited, MobileMuster and Flurocycle. MobileMuster has recently renewed its accreditation for a further five years.

Outside of the act there are a number of industry-run national product stewardship schemes with Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approval including Paintback, Tyre Stewardship Australia and DrumMUSTER.

The act was required to be reviewed by the Department of the Environment and Energy five years after commencement and in 2017 that time came. Waste Management Review talks to industry stakeholders about gaps in the present scheme and the potential for improvement.

THE REVIEW

Following submissions from interested parties, the Department of Environment and Energy’s official consultation paper, released in March 2018, outlined five areas of reference.

First, the review would attempt to assess the extent to which the PSA’s objectives were being met and whether they remained relevant. Second, it would address the effectiveness of voluntary scheme accreditation and the minister’s annual product list, followed by an evaluation of the operation and scope of the NTCRS.

Additionally, the paper highlights an assessment of how the PSA interacts with other federal, state and territory policies and how international and domestic experiences of product stewardship could inform more effective legislation.

“If the review finds legislative changes are warranted, work to implement the changes, including refinement of options, regulatory impact analysis and development of regulatory amendments would be undertaken in 2018-19, subject to the minister’s agreement,” the paper reads.

According to National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read, problems stem not from the legislation, but from a lack of federal and departmental leadership.

“The lack of leadership in implementing the act has resulted in five, and soon to be seven, different container deposit schemes rather than a single national policy – plus inconsistent state bans on plastic shopping bags,” Rose says.

“The failure to address these two product groups at a national level under the PSA has increased implementation and compliance costs for all involved governments, producers, retailers and service providers.”

Additionally, Rose says government has provided little encouragement to companies seeking accreditation or promotion of existing schemes.

“The continued belief by the previous Federal Government that schemes should be voluntary reflects a lack of commitment or understanding of what is required to deliver an effective product stewardship scheme,” Rose says.

“Very few industries can implement these schemes without some basic regulation to ensure a level playing field for these companies.”

Rose says following the review, the NWRIC would like to see amendments to voluntary clauses, to enable a clearer pathway to accreditation. She adds the NWRIC would also like to see more government support and promotion for participating organisations. Rose hopes the Federal Government’s $20 million Product Stewardship Investment Fund will be adequately resourced to put appropriate regulatory frameworks in place.

TELEVISION AND COMPUTERS

The NTCRS was established alongside the PSA in 2011, with the aim of granting households and small businesses access to free industry-funded collection and recycling services.

According to Rose, over 94 per cent of importers contribute to the program, which covers more than 140 companies. She adds the collection rate for televisions and computers has jumped from 18 per cent in 2011 to over 62 per cent in 2018 as a result of the scheme.

“The companies involved in the program are investing an estimated $25 million a year to provide this service,” Rose says.

“On average, around 35 million products within the scope of the scheme are imported each year. That translates to an estimated average cost of $0.70 per unit imported.”

In 2017, the government engaged the Australian Continuous Improvement Group to undertake an evaluation of the NTCRS. It was designed to inform the official statutory review, and at the time of print, is the only published outcome.

The evaluation deemed the scheme largely efficient, but raised concerns over industry pricing and scaling factors.

“NTCRS was designed to allow multiple co-regulatory arrangements, so liable parties and recyclers are able to shop around for the best commercial deal,” the evaluation reads.

“In the opinion of stakeholders, prices have dropped, at least partially, as a result – raising concerns that services and standards are being compromised, particularly when it comes to downstream services.”

Ewaste Watch director and co-founder John Gertsakis says the NTCRS, which has recycled approximately 230,000 tonnes of electronic waste since it began, is one of the more successful elements of the PSA.

John says while the scheme is successful, there is still significant scope for improvement in the areas of community awareness and education, improved access in regional areas, and better collaboration between the co-regulatory arrangements.

According to John, several stakeholders have asked for the NTCRS to be expanded to include batteries and a range of additional electronic products.

“The community is absolutely ready for effective regulation where there are no industry funded schemes,” he says.

“The solution for batteries, in my opinion, is a regulated scheme under the PSA.”

Rose and the NWRIC agree and have called for a regulated scheme for batteries by 2020.

“The NWRIC would like to see the scope of the NTCRS broadened to include all products with a cord or battery, consistent with the recent Victorian e-waste ban and a separate regulation for batteries,” Rose says.

John suggests the NTCRS could be also be useful mechanism for sustainable solar photovoltaic panel (PV) management.

In 2016 PV systems were added to the PSA’s priority list, meaning they were being considered for scheme design. Sustainability Victoria is conducting research into the viability of a system of shared responsibility.

Sustainability Victoria’s Director of Resource Recovery Matt Genever says work on assessing stewardship options for PV systems is well underway.

“We’ve consulted broadly across industry and government and there is genuine support for a stewardship approach that will build a sustainable PV recycling market in Australia,” Matt says.

Matt says that the delays in reviewing the PSA by the Federal Government have caused some issues.

“This is an area of waste policy that absolutely needs strong leadership from the Commonwealth, as it can’t just work on a state-by-state basis. Product stewardship is one of the few areas that has national legislation and it’s clear that in its current state, the act isn’t delivering to its full potential.”

BATTERIES

Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) CEO Libby Chaplin highlights independent research that shows a voluntary scheme with light regulation to address free riders would be the most effective and viable option for batteries.

According to Libby, a proposed battery stewardship scheme is currently out for public consultation. She adds that in December 2018 all state, territory and federal ministers agreed all batteries must be included in the proposed scheme.

“We are keen to see a rapid improvement of this unacceptably low battery collection rate and have proposed a different approach to other schemes,” Libby says.

Libby says BSC’s proposal would run on an importer levy of four cents per equivalent battery (24 grams) and leverage existing collection channels.

“We are working on a rebate model, whereby members commit to a number of quality, environmental and safety requirements and then eligible for scheme funded rebates,” she says.

“This approach will now be the focus of consultation beyond BSC members, with an application for Australian Competition and Consumer Commission authorisation scheduled later this year.”

Libby says that establishing a battery stewardship scheme is essential, whether voluntary or regulated.

PRIORITY PRODUCTS

One of the PSA’s key devices is the annual product list, which outlines goods that might come up for scheme consideration the following year.

According to the PSA review consultation paper, publishing the list serves two purposes. First, it provides certainty to community and the business sector about what is being considered for coverage. Second, the act requires a 12-month notification for a class of products to be considered for accreditation or regulation.

Despite this, the list provides no promise of action and while the PSA requires an explanation of why a product has been added, it does not require an explanation for why a product has been removed.

Soft Landing Mattress Product Stewardship General Manager Janelle Wallace says the accreditation process is a good concept. However, she doesn’t believe it has been well marketed.

Janelle says the act doesn’t acknowledge the costs to local government of managing more complex and often hazardous waste streams, including mattresses, at landfill.

Soft Landing’s submission to the review made multiple recommendations, including a greater focus on durability during product design and wider consideration for the extended supply chain, from raw materials to consumers.

According to Janelle, Soft Landing would also like to see more consideration of bulky and inconvenient waste.

As a voluntary scheme, Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) has committed $4 million towards market development initiatives. It performs an accreditation and compliance program which focuses on the verification of the scheme across its 1700 participants. However TSA CEO Lina Goodman believes there needs to be more intervention from government.

“Whilst TSA has made significant in-roads within its verification, accreditation and market development programs, the heavy lifting associated with waste tyres remains in the hands of eight tyre importers,” Lina says.

She says the scheme can go only so far without government support or intervention, encouraging government to consider addressing the issue of free riders.

“The time is now for regulatory intervention that will address free riders. Some tyre importers are enjoying the benefits of the scheme without taking responsibility for the product they distribute to market.”

She says that this will have a positive impact and assist in switching the focus on local innovation that will drive greater consumption of material for domestically engineered products.

When speaking with Waste Management Review, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia CEO Gayle Sloan called the current PSA a “toothless tiger”.

“There are not enough schemes in operation and developing models for products such as batteries takes far too long,” Gayle says.

“The Federal Government needs to step up, lean in and drive change – there is a lot of opportunity to improve.”

Gayle says an issue with the current PSA is a lack of extended producer responsibility. She adds the system places problematic waste accountability squarely on the resource recovery industry.

“When a product enters the market, it needs to be recyclable, repairable or reusable,” Gayle says.

“Anything that doesn’t fall within those definitions via readily available structures needs its own source separation system, which needs to be funded by those who brought it to market.”

Additionally, Gayle says there needs to be a complete paradigm shift on voluntary schemes.

“The industry needs to be really honest with itself about what is working and what isn’t. Structural change will not occur by funding individual organisations.”

Equilibrium conducted an analysis of the cost of mandatory product stewardship schemes on consumers for the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

The analysis made approximations based on standard product unit types and estimated that mandatory schemes would cost consumers up to $1.85 for e-waste, $16.50 for mattresses and $4.00 for tyres.

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel says the new data shows consumers can recycle products and items affordably.

“In all cases, the cost of recycling these items is likely to be lower than two per cent of their consumer price. Therefore, cost concerns should not be a key barrier to action by our policy-makers,” he says.

Brooke Donnelly, Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO, says the Product Stewardship Act review is an important and timely piece of work, and APCO supports the Federal Government’s efforts. Brooke says APCO believes all organisations must ultimately take responsibility for the products they create. However, there are a range of ways these systems can be delivered.

“To move forward, we need to take an agile approach that explores a range of alternative models that are best suited to fix specific material/product challenges and the external environment in which they operate,” Brooke says.

“We must look beyond the populist rhetoric and really test the value and impact various approaches can provide in a systemic and considered way. Fundamental to effective product stewardship is to ensure equality, accountability and transparency across the various approaches.”

THE MINISTER’S PERSPECTIVE

Drawing on his experience as President of the National Retail Association, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Trevor Evans says industry is best placed to understand the complexities of product stewardship.

When asked by Waste Management Review whether government was in a position to reveal whether it was looking into developing more mandatory schemes, Trevor said not yet.

“There is always a debate around the nature of the scheme, in terms of whether they are industry-led, voluntary or mandatory. It is very much a ‘horses for courses’ approach,” Trevor says.

“Mandatory schemes are one option, but they are not the only policy tool that government has in its arsenal.”

Trevor says the final report with recommendations is expected to be presented to the meeting of environment ministers towards the end of the year.

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Position Partners: maximising landfill airspace

Position Partners’ Elizabeth Latham talks to Waste Management Review about machine guidance and maximising landfill productivity

When looking to expand the efficiency and productivity of a landfill site, one option is maximising airspace.

Position Partners’ Elizabeth Latham says to maximise airspace, landfill operators need to expand the amount of soil used for daily cover, along with the introduction of an alternate daily cover system.

Additionally, in order to get the best value from each cubic metre of airspace, she says operators need to optimise the compaction of waste.

“With the capability to be installed on a wide range of landfill plants, and a demonstrated track record, Carlson LandfillGrade — distributed in Australia by Position Partners — is the ideal system to implement at your landfill site to monitor waste compaction rates,” Elizabeth says.

“The two main benefits of Carlson LandillGrade, as identified at a specific Victorian landfill site, are instant operator feedback and the devices ability to extract airspace utilisation reports.”

According to Elizabeth, the site previously relied on periodic aerial surveys to provide data on airspace utilisation, before working with Position Partners to implement the Carlson management tool.

“Relying on periodic surveys meant more manual data manipulation was required, and resulted in significant time lags between data points, meaning it was more difficult to implement corrective actions,” she says.

“The ability to get real time data on waste compaction and airspace utilisation was one of the main features that drew this landfill site manager’s attention to the Carlson system.”

Elizabeth says the landfill manager also wanted a system that provided instant feedback to the compactor operators, so they could both operate to design, and know when optimal waste compaction had been achieved.

“The manager of the landfill site noted that prior to implementing the Carlson Landfill Grade, they had relied on the operator doing a certain number of passes to ensure the waste was compacted optimally, which is not a truly reliable way of managing compaction,” she adds.

 The Carlson system, implemented by Position Partners, is currently installed on two landfill compactors at the site, with plans to install a third unit on the dozer used for daily cover application further down the track.

“The manager at this landfill site has found that the Carlson system has been a seamless addition to the machines at the landfill,” Elizabeth says.

“The software tools have been integrated with the landfill site’s other systems without any issues or problems.”

Elizabeth says implementing LandfillGrade allows site managers to have access to better data, and deliver instant feedback to operators.

“This has resulted in some landfill site managers reporting an improvement in airspace utilisation efficiency of up to 10 per cent,” she says.

“Another benefit provided by the Carlson machine technology is that operators are able to get continuous feedback on where they are operating compared to the lift design, which reduces the need for rework and re-profiling, especially of the cell batters.”

Elizabeth says service and support are integral to any technology solution, along with capability and price.

“Having access to the local team of product experts is important to many of Position Partners’ customers during the decision-making process,” she says.

“The team at Position Partners is able to discuss how the system would benefit you on your site and assist you in understanding all the features of the Carlson system compared to other products that are available.”

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