VWMA to host industry site tours

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) will be running three concurrent tours to showcase the waste and recycling industry on 25 October, as part of Waste Expo Australia.

Waste Expo Australia, one of the most comprehensive free-to-attend conferences for the waste management, resource recovery and wastewater sectors, returns to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre 23-24 October.

The event is set to explore the future of waste and resource recovery in Australia, with a diverse schedule of speakers from local and state governments, industry bodies and the private sector.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said given the event’s focus, it made sense for the VWMA to come on board as a strategic partner.

“What better time to highlight the great work of our industry than during Waste Expo Australia,” Mr Smith said.

“This year will be a first for the Waste Expo Australia event, with the VWMA working with industry partners Alex Fraser, Australian Packaging and Covenant Organisation (APCO) and Australian Organic Recycling Association (AORA) to run three tours that will bring into focus the steps business is making to support Victoria’s recycling agenda and demonstrate circular economy in action.”

The event includes a construction and demolition tour, an organics and composting tour and a packaging supply chain tour.

The construction and demolition tour, sponsored by Alex Fraser, will include site visits to Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility, a Level Crossing Removal Project site and the Western Ring Road construction site.

Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy said the tour will include an exclusive look at the workings of Alex Fraser’s new, awarding winning sustainable supply hub in Laverton, which was recently awarded the Sustainable Environment Award at the Victorian Transport Association’s 30th annual Australian Freight Industry Awards.

“The construction and demolition tour will take delegates along the journey that turns construction, demolition and kerbside waste into the high-quality, sustainable construction materials urgently needed to complete Victoria’s big build infrastructure projects,” Mr Murphy said.

AROA Victoria Admin Officer Doug Wilson said the Organics and Composting Tour will allow delegates to closely inspect significant infrastructure sites.

“At the very time when the state government is bringing the circular economy into focus, the organics tour will take delegates on an interactive experience with some of Melbourne’s most exciting and innovative organics recovery technology,” Mr Wilson said.

“Sites include South Melbourne Market’s dehydrator, Cleanaway’s depackaging facility, Sacyr’s new compost plant and Bio Gro’s comprehensive re-purposing operation.”

VWMA and APCO’s packaging tour is being delivered in partnership with Australian Food and Grocery Council and Australian Institute of Packaging.

“Industry is at a critical time where collaboration is essential to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets and to address challenges in the packaging supply chain,” Mr Smith.

“The tour that we’ve lined up takes delegates into the manufactures and re-manufactures working to make packaging more sustainable and driving demand for materials circualarity.”

For more information click here.

Additional activities taking place in and around Waste Expo include:

VTA / VWMA business forum on the new EPA

– Waste Expo Networking Drinks

VWMA CDS discussion dinner

– Keep Victoria Beautiful and Litter Enforcement Officer Network Meeting

Industry Tours

– All energy expo

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Researchers develop solar panel recycling solution

Researchers from Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials have found a way to extract silicon from discarded solar panels and repurpose it into nano-silicon for batteries, potentially eliminating the biggest barrier to photovoltaic cell recycling.

Material scientists Mokhlesur Rahman and Ying Chen, who lead the investigation, said silicon recovery is to key to repurposing discarded solar cells and will prevent the high-value waste from going to landfill.

“Although silicon semiconductors make up a relatively small part of solar panel cells, the material’s value is extremely high. Scientists have been looking for ways to repurpose the silicon for some time, and we believe this to be the missing piece of the puzzle,” Dr Rahman said.

According to the researchers, the average service life of a solar panel is between 15 to 25 years, with modelling suggesting that without silicon recycling there will be 1.5 million tonnes of solar panel waste in landfill by 2050.

“Silicon cells are the most important component of a solar panel, transferring the sun’s energy into electrons.  They’re also a high-value material being a chemical element and far too precious to end up as waste, which is why this finding is significant,” Prof Chen said.

“We can’t claim solar panels to be recyclable, in a circular economy sense, until scientists find a way to harvest and repurpose their most valuable components.”

According to Dr Rahman, repurposed silicon can be used to make high-energy anodes, the transporters that move electrons around inside a battery.

“Surprisingly, the recovered silicon seems to work the same way as commercial silicon does,” Dr Rahman said.

“Our preliminary investigation validates the concept of disassembling silicon-based photovoltaic panels, and repurposing the existing silicon into nano-silicon for the battery industry, creating huge potential as an alternative source for the sector.”

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APCO hosts inaugural single-use plastic packaging workshop

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has hosted Australia’s first national workshop dedicated to phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging.

The workshop, held in Adelaide, was coordinated by APCO as part of its work to deliver the 2025 National Packaging Targets, which include phasing out all problematic and unnecessary single use plastic packaging in Australia by 2025.

According to APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly, the workshop focused on understanding national policy approaches and the role of organisations within their supply chain, in an attempt to provide greater confidence that industry actions are aligned and compatible with government priorities.

“The session also assisted APCO in defining its program of work in this space for 2020,” Ms Donnelly said.

Heysen Member and Natural Resources Committee of Parliament Chair Josh Teague delivered the keynote address on behalf of South Australian Environment Minister David Speirs.

“It was fantastic to welcome Mr Teague to speak on behalf of Minister Speirs, a great advocate and champion for addressing problematic and unnecessary single use plastic packaging in Australia,” Ms Donnelly said. 

“It’s an honour to be part of this great collaborative effort here in the leading circular city of Adelaide, as we define a pathway forward for how we translate the current national policy work into tangible outcomes for our local communities.”

Workshop representatives included:

Industry: Coles Group, Woolworths Group, ALDI, IKEA, Qantas, Coca-Cola Amatil, McDonald’s, MARS Food, Biopak, Keep Cup and Carlton & United Breweries.  

Industry Associations: National Retail Association, South Australian Independent Retailers, Australian Food and Grocery Council and the Australian Organics Recycling Association.  

Government: Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy, Green Industries South Australia, Australian Local Government Association, Local Government Association of the Northern Territory, WA Local Government Association, WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, QLD Department of Environment and Science, East Waste, Local Government Association of the South Australia, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Community / Academia: University of Tasmania, Queensland University of Technology School of Design, Loop Circular Economy Platform, Keep South Australia Beautiful and the Loop Circular Economy Platform.

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Pelletising polypropylene: Applied Machinery

Daniel Fisher, Applied Machinery Project Manager, wants to revive domestic plastic recycling through sustainable Polystar pellets. 

The recycling conversation is becoming more layered and complex by the day, with notoriously problematic plastic often taking centre stage. While the problem of plastic waste is widely understood, manufacturing processes still heavily rely on the material.

Daniel Fisher, Applied Machinery Project Manager, says responsibly processing plastic while keeping up with demand requires straightforward remanufacturing options. He adds that one such option is recycled plastic pellet production.

Daniel says to implement a wider uptake of recycled pellets in the manufacturing industry, resource recovery operators need simple-to-use equipment.

“When dealing with a difficult waste stream such as plastic, it’s common for operators to think that a more complex system will perform better,” Daniel says.

“But as the exclusive Australian distributor of Polystar Machinery, Applied Machinery is committed to supplying customers with straight forward and cost-effective solutions.”

Applied Machinery has worked with the Taiwan-based recycling equipment manufacturer for four years.

Polystar manufactures a range of one-step machines designed to reprocess multiple waste streams, notably polyethylene and polypropylene flexible packaging material.

Polystar technology is designed to be simple to operate and easy to maintain.

“The recycled output result is high-quality plastic pellets that can be repurposed back into manufacturing straight away,” Daniel explains.

“The pellets save waste disposal costs by producing a saleable product, while also offering an alternative to raw material extraction.”

Applied Machinery can offer customers the full suite of Polystar products, including the Polystar HNT and the Polystar Repro-Flex.

“HNT machines are typically suited for flexible, post-industrial film and have the added benefit of being able to produce quality pellets from even the most heavily printed packaging material.”

Daniel says the Polystar Repro-Flex is suited to multiple recycling applications including plastic bags, film scraps, bubble wrap, shrink film and laminated film.

“Repro-Flex machines also work well for post-industrial film waste, as the system can process washed flakes, scraps and pre-crushed rigid plastic waste from injection and extrusion,” he adds.   

Both the HNT and Repro-Flex feature an integrated cutter compactor, which removes the need for pre-cutting.

“The cutter compactor, which generates frictional heat during the compacting process, also helps remove moisture from the material.”

According to Daniel, eliminating moisture is a particularly significant feature when generating recycled plastic pellets, as even minimal water can render a whole batch unusable.

Daniel says the integrated Polystar system also eliminates the need for separate crushers and the common problem of inconsistent feeding.

“The integration of the cutter compactor and extruder ensures extremely fast and stable feeding, as the tangentially connected extruder is continuously filled with pre-compacted material.”

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Ejecting for efficiency: Wastech Engineering

After Citywide developed an operational efficiency plan to boost productivity and payloads, It engaged Wastech Engineering for a new fleet fleet of Clearline Waste Transfer Trailers.

When the City of Melbourne announced it would fast-track the delivery of its Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy in early August, it illustrated a commitment to growing the state’s resource recovery capacity.

Similarly, the Victorian Government allocated $35 million to waste and resource recovery via the state budget in May. Both initiatives highlight a pledge to develop more efficient waste processing capabilities across the state.

Increasing productivity via efficient processes is a motivation shared by Melbourne City Council subsidiary Citywide, which recently revised its operational efficiency plan.   

Travis Martin, Citywide Commercial Waste Division Manager, says while investment in resource recovery facilities is critical, so too is streamlining operations at less glamorous but equally important waste transfer stations.

Being entrusted with the waste management of Victoria’s capital city, and the second largest in the country, highlights the scope and scale of Citywide’s operations. It similarly underscores the importance of finding the right equipment supplier.

Travis says to manage this scale, Citywide and Wastech Engineering developed a symbiotic relationship.

“Citywide and Wastech have worked together in many capacities over the years, with Wastech providing ongoing equipment maintenance and support at our transfer station and working with us in waste and recycling process innovation,” Travis says.

“In the most recent instance, we informed Wastech that we needed new waste transfer trailers to boost operations, and were directed to its Clearline range.”

Travis, who has worked in the waste industry for more than 30 years, says the Citywide Transfer Station and Resource Recovery Centre is the largest of its kind in Victoria, and one of the five largest in Australia.

“Located in West Melbourne, the centre provides waste management services to various local government and commercial clients, meaning effective transport arrangements are key,” Travis says.

“We process multiple waste streams at the facility, largely consisting of municipal waste, residential, commercial and industrial waste and multiple recycling streams such as paper, cardboard, steel and organics.”

According to Sustainability Victoria, over 12.8 million tonnes of waste was managed by the state’s waste and resource recovery system in 2017. In the same year, City of Melbourne residents generated 40,000 tonnes.

To keep up with accelerating service demands, Travis says Citywide recently developed and implemented an operational efficiency plan in order to lift productivity and payloads.

“With ever-increasing volumes of waste generated in and around Melbourne’s CBD – that needs to be processed through the Citywide transfer station – we needed to boost efficiency and invest in new operational and transport equipment,” Travis says.

“One facet of the plan was engaging Wastech for a new range of Clearline Waste Transfer Trailers, with an operational model of owner drivers and a drop and go system for productivity.”

Citywide already owned a number of Clearline trailers, but wanted to upgrade to the newer model. Travis says his previous experiences with Wastech made him confident the new trailer model would meet expectations and application requirements.

The Clearline Waste Transfer Trailer’s rolled wall body design provides durability and integral strength, which Travis says is critical to withstanding the high piercing forces present during compaction of industrial and commercial waste.

The trailer also incorporates the use of high-tensile steel plate in the body to reduce tare weight and increase payloads.

Citywide uses the Clearline trailers to transport waste from its central transfer station in West Melbourne to various landfill sites across the city.

“The Clearline’s smooth internal design, and hydraulic eject blade, safely and efficiently push the waste load out of the body at landfill,” Travis says.

“The full eject feature reduces each load by 20 minutes, equating to one extra load per shift.”

According to Travis, the Clearline trailers are fitted with Elphinstone weighing systems that provide 99 per cent weight accuracy. He adds that as the trailers are mass managed, the weighing systems can be used to full effect.

“The trailers have also reduced volumes at the transfer station, which makes the customer onsite experience quick and easy,” he says.

Wastech’s transfer trailers feature full cab controls to facilitate operator friendly conditions and heightened safety, as operators aren’t required to exit the vehicle when unloading.

“The previous Clearline Waste Transfer Trailer design was great, and worked well under harsh conditions, but the rear doors and hydraulic ejection of the new model really lifts ease of operations,” Travis says.

“As the last piece of Citywide’s operational efficiency plan, the delivery of Wastech’s trailers significantly increased our transfer station operations.”

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Dutch and Australian foundations sign circular economy MOU

The Holland Circular Hotspot Foundation and the National Circular Economy Hub, an initiative of Planet Ark, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a new online tool that encourages recycling.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in the presence of Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans and Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp.

Planet Ark CEO Paul Klymenko said that under the agreement, the Holland Circular Hotspot will provide experience and knowledge to Planet Ark, with the aim of accelerating bilateral cooperation in the circular economy space.

“Planet Ark will promote dialogue and collaboration between Australian universities, businesses and governments to move Australia towards a circular economy,” Mr Klymenko said.

According to Mr Evans, the partnership will form the basis of future cooperation and knowledge sharing between Australia and the Netherlands on how to achieve a commercially-led circular economy transition.

The Circular Economy Hub will create an online marketplace to match buyers and sellers of waste resources.

“Having healthy markets for recycled goods and commodities avoids stockpiles of materials just growing and growing, which could then become a problem in itself,” Mr Evans said.

“With government, industry and communities working together to boost recycling, there is a tremendous opportunity to create a more sustainable future for Australia.”

Holland Circular Hotspot Foundation Director Freek van Eijk said the foundation hopes to accelerate the circular economy movement in Australia.

“European and Australian authorities agree that a new and circular model is needed, where resources are kept in use for as long as possible, have the maximum value extracted from them whilst in use, and are recovered and regenerated into new products at their end-of-life,” Mr van Eijk said.

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Moving the Needle targets textile waste

The Moving the Needle campaign has set up a reverse retail kiosk in Sydney, in an attempt to address the amount of clothing sent to landfill over the holiday period.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley joined Salvo Stores General Manager Customer and Strategy Edwina Morgan, Australian Red Cross Head of Retail Richard Wood and Vinnies NSW Executive Officer Retail Transformation Susan Goldie at a reverse pop-up store at Chatswood Chase, where shoppers deposit, rather than purchase clothes.

Moving the Needle aims to reduce textile waste by 20 per cent by 2022.

According to Ms Ley, the average Australian buys 27 kilograms of new textiles and sends 23 kilograms of textile waste to landfill each year.

“Moving the needle is about re-purposing the not so old clothes that you no longer wear and donating them to a local charity,” Ms Ley said.

“For every new outfit, donate an older one that might hiding in the back of the closet to help raise funds for those in need.”

National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations Chief Exectutive Omer Soker said Moving the Needle encourages customers to extend the life of their clothing by donating to one of 3000 charitable donation points across the country.

“Charitable donations can extend the life of pre-loved, usable products by keeping them out of landfill,” Mr Soker said.

“Giving your clothes a second life for even nine months could reduce carbon, water and waste emissions by up to 30 per cent, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your donations make a huge social impact.”

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ARRB awarded Sustainability Victoria grant

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) has been awarded a $200,000 Sustainability Victoria grant to trial recycled crushed glass asphalt on local roads.

The grant was issued to ARRB in collaboration with Vic Roads and Brimbank City Council in Melbourne’s west.

According to ARRB project lead Doctor James Grenfell, over 250,000 tonnes of glass is recovered in Victoria every year.

“Using finely crushed glass in road pavement materials has the potential to create viable markets for the vast amounts of glass collected in Victoria, especially that which is low-value and not easily recycled back into other glass products,” Dr Grenfell said.

“ARRB has done significant research in this space – much of which was showcased at its recent Smart Pavements Now masterclass event in Melbourne.”

Dr Grenfell said the trial will specifically look at repurposing low-value glass that is not easily recycled back into other glass products.

“The potential for use of recycled glass in asphalt offers great opportunities for councils, especially in helping deal with Australia’s current recycling issue,” Dr Grenfell said.

“The other exciting aspect is the engagement with a local city council, and to have the ability to monitor a field trial for an extended period of time.”

The ARRB grant is one of nine issued under Sustainability Victoria’s research, development and demonstration grants program.

Sustainability Victoria interim CEO Carl Muller said the grants are designed to support Victoria’s growing circular economy.

“We need proven recycled content products and markets for those products to make recycling viable,” Mr Muller said.

“This will build confidence and market demand.”

The grant proposal was developed by Dr Grenfell and ARRB colleagues Melissa Lyons and Lydia Thomas.

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Waste projects win at the Premier’s Sustainability Awards

This year’s Premier’s Sustainability Awards showcased projects across a diverse range of categories, from e-waste recycling to food waste and repurposed asphalt material.

Hosted by actor Stephen Curry and presented by Victorian Government Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, the awards recognise individuals, organisations and businesses working to create a more sustainable Victoria.

Ms D’Ambrosio said the nominees illustrated how industry and government could work together to position Victoria as a state of the future.

“These projects and initiatives are brought together by very important frameworks — frameworks that really set the direction and demonstrate what we want to be as Victorians, where we want to go and how we want to get there,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“We should all rejoice in making our state sustainable and much of that is brought about by the people in this room — tonight you should celebrate and acknowledge this achievement,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

In a video message, Premier Daniel Andrews congratulated and thanked all the finalises for their hard work helping achieve sustainability across diverse sectors.

Melbourne company Enable Social Enterprises won the top honour of the night, the Premier’s Recognition Award, for their work employing disadvantaged people in a successful e-waste business.

Enable works to break unemployment cycles by helping jobseekers connect with community and environment via commercial ventures including Enable IT Recycling, an online shop, fulfilment and storage services.

In 2018, Enable’s IT Recycling business created 10 employment pathways, while diverting 133,046 kilograms of e-waste from landfill.

Enable Founder and Managing Director Julie Mackay said the award was an incredible acknowledgment for a small enterprise out of Broadmeadows, and congratulated the Victorian Government on their recent e-waste to landfill ban.

“Hats off to the Victorian Government for banning e-waste from landfill, it has had a significant and immediate impact on our enterprise — to say we’re getting pummelled is an understatement,” Ms Mackay said.

“We’re all here as a growing sector and tonight is an example of that — let’s not underestimate the massive potential and leadership that we can all play in supporting jobs for the future. From everyone at Enable, I promise you that we will lead that fight and hope you will join us.”

Enable also took out the Innovative Products and Services award.

In the Health Category, Melbourne Health was recognised for its Reducing Hunger and Food Waste in Our Community program.

Melbourne Health, through a partnership with OzHarvest, collect surplus patients meals for processing and redistribution.

Since February 2018, over 4000 meals have been redistributed each month, removing nine tonnes of food from landfill and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 tonnes.

In the Large Business category, Downer was awarded for its recycled asphalt product Reconophalt, which incorporates non-traditional repurposed materials such as soft plastics, glass, toner and reclaimed road.

Downer General Manager Strategic Development Michael Jackson said Downer is on a journey to change the way society deals with waste.

“We have invested significantly in our research and development, and over a long period of time, we’ve been able to bring game changing and market leading products to light such as Reconophalt, which even after it has been laid on the road, is perpetually recyclable, providing a truly circular solution,” Mr Jackson said.

“It takes courage to make change, and we’re starting to see this courage across all levels of government, to this end, the Hume City Council needs to be called out and applauded for their first use of Reconophalt on their road network”

Sustainability Victoria interim Chief Executive Carl Muller said the awards showed that environmental management was a growing concern for all Victorians.

“Each year, the Premier’s Sustainability Awards continue to discover the best and most inspiring Victorian individuals, organisations and businesses who are developing and implementing new sustainable practices,” Mr Muller said.

“Congratulations to all of this year’s winners. Your contributions will have positive long-term benefits for all.”

The 2019 Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards winner are: 

Built Environment

Gillies Hall by Monash University: Monash University’s new Gillies Hall is a six level, 150-bed residential accommodation complex, the first large scale building in Australia to achieve Passive House certification.

Community

Hepburn Z-NET by Renew: Partnering with Renew, the Hepburn Shire has a bold plan to be the first zero-net energy shire in Australia and to reach zero-net emissions in 10 years.

Education

Sustainability across VCAL Curriculum by River Nile School: The River Nile School offers programs delivering the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning curriculum to re-engage refugee and asylum seeker school-aged women, embedding the topic of sustainability.

Environmental Justice

Working Beyond the Boundaries by AMES Australia and Parks Victoria: Migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia partners with Parks Victoria to regenerate an historic garden, providing work opportunities, social, physical and mental health benefits to refugee and other local communities.

Environmental Protection

Greening the West One Million Trees Project: Greening the West is a massive collaboration that aims to deliver positive health, social and liveability outcomes in Melbourne’s west by a project to plant one million trees.

Environmental Volunteering

Electrifying Industry by Electrifying Industry Volunteer Working Group: Electrifying Industry is a report by Beyond Zero Emissions’ expert volunteers – a world’s first that shows how to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing.

Government

Victorian Renewable Energy Target Reverse Auction by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning: Victoria’s first renewable energy auction is supporting the development of more than 900 megawatts of new clean energy and will ensure that 25 per cent of our electricity generation comes from renewable sources by 2020, 40 per cent by 2025 and 50 per cent by 2030.

Health

Reducing hunger and food waste in our community by Melbourne Health: Melbourne Health’s surplus patient meals are collected and delivered to community food hub, Northpoint Centre, helping people in need and mitigating food waste.

Innovative Products or Services

Enable IT Recycling by Enable Social Enterprises Limited: An innovative social enterprise integrates environmental, social and economic impact, creating employment opportunities and positive customer results through an e-waste recycling business.

Large Business

Reconophalt by Downer: This project has created an asphalt pavement material that incorporates non-traditional repurposed materials to reduce environmental impact without compromising product performance and is perpetually recyclable.

Small and Medium Enterprises

E.S.P. Wool Production by BP, SS, JP & N Finnigan Kia Ora: E.S.P. or Ethical, Sustainable, Profitable wool production is now a feature of this family farm and features practices such as reducing chemical use, changing the genetic selection of sheep and sowing permanent pastures.

Premier’s Regional Recognition Award:  E.S.P. Wool Production by BP, SS, JP & N Finnigan Kia Ora

Premier’s Recognition Award: Enable IT Recycling by Enable Social Enterprises Limited

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Levy reform urgently needed

A national approach to levy pricing, adoption of the levy portability principle by all jurisdictions, and more transparent management of levy funds are urgently required, writes Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council. 

Waste or landfill levies are a key regulatory tool used to improve recycling and fund environmental liabilities from waste generation. They have a significant effect on both the commercial environment of nearly every waste and recycling business and community behaviour. They also generate significant amounts of funds for each jurisdiction. Therefore, carefully considered levy regulations nationwide are essential to advancing Australia towards a circular economy.

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has recently undertaken a review of the current status of waste and landfill levies across Australia (see www.nwric.com.au). It examines by jurisdiction, how much the levies are, what waste types are levied, where and when they apply, how they are administered, the amount of funds raised each year and how these funds are spent.

It also analysed the impacts and benefits of these levies on waste and recycling outcomes across Australia and identified a number of issues that need to be addressed urgently to ensure the levies achieve what they were set out to do and not drive waste down the hierarchy.

Waste/landfill levies were first introduced in 1971 by NSW at a $0.56 per tonne. Since then South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland have introduced levies. In 2018-19 rates ranged in price from $0 to $250 with an estimated $1.13 billion raised. In 2019-20 this is expected to increase to $1.54 billion with the introduction of the waste levy in Queensland. This will equate to approximately $58 per capita per year, up from $39 per capita per year in 2018-19.

Of the $1.13 billion funds raised in 2018-19, an estimated $282 million or 25 per cent nationally was reinvested into activities relating to waste and recycling, state EPA’s or climate change (in the case of Victoria). At a state level the reinvestment rate of the levy ranged from 10.9 per cent in NSW, 25 per cent in WA, 66 per cent in Victoria to 73 per cent in South Australia. Funds not reinvested were either retained in consolidated revenue (as in the case of NSW and WA) or retained in nominated funds such as Victoria’s Sustainability Fund, SA’s Green Industries Fund or SA’s Environment Protection Fund where some of the funds may be invested in various non-waste or recycling related environmental activities.

In 2019-20 it is estimated that of the $1.54 billion in funds raised, around $569 million or 37 per cent will be reinvested into waste and recycling activities. This increase can largely be attributed to the Queensland government’s commitment to reinvest over 70 per cent of the levy, with local councils receiving 105 per cent of their levy contribution

On the positive side, the levies have increased resource recovery over time and enabled the commercial development of local resource recovery businesses including material recovery facilities, processing facilities for plastics, paper, cardboard, glass, timber, organics, alternate waste treatment plants and waste-to-energy facilities for fuel manufacture, thermal and electricity generation.

The levies have also funded various waste and recycling initiatives. These range from state EPA and local government environmental compliance activities, community and business waste and recycling education campaigns, research and development, data collection, construction of new infrastructure by local government and private enterprise, to cleaning up waste and pollution generated from illegal actions.

On the negative side however, differentials in levies across regions and between states has created a levy avoidance industry, both legal and illegal, resulting in potentially recyclable material ending up in landfill, and hazardous material being disposed of inappropriately. This has become big business particularly in NSW and WA due to the significant variability of levy rates for solid, hazardous and liquid wastes. It is estimated that between 1.5 million to three million tonnes of waste has been transported per annum either significant distances to landfills where levies do not apply, dumped into the environment, stockpiled or in the case of hazardous wastes hidden or mislabelled to reduce or avoid state levies.

Key learnings from this analysis are the vastly different approaches states and territories take to levies. This ranges from how much is charged between regions and states, what wastes are levied (e.g. solid, liquid, hazardous or prescribed) and how they are defined, where liability for the levy is charged, how the levy is administered and how levy funds are managed and reinvested into activities to improve waste and recycling practices and reported on.

Of major concern is the lack of transparency in most jurisdictions of how many funds are collected per year, how and where they are invested in waste and recycling activities and assessment of the effectiveness of the investment in achieving waste and recycling strategies and targets.

The NWRIC believes there is an urgent need to reform the current state levy structures, pricing, administration and investment management. It is critical this reform is done in a coordinated manner between all state and territories to remove interstate inconsistencies that are clearly driving poor waste disposal behaviours contrary to the objects of the levy to increase resource recovery and environmental protection.

This will be the only way to ensure the best return on investment of levy funds in delivering better waste management and resource outcomes expected by the community.

This article appeared in the October edition of Waste Management Review, some figures have been changed. 

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