Compost Revolution

Food waste accounts for nearly half of average household waste and keeping this out of landfill can significantly reduce costs.

It is for these reasons that Compost Revolution has spent the past five years engaging more than 18,000 households across Australia to help scale organics recovery for councils. During this time, they say they’ve also managed to divert more than 4000 tonnes of food waste from landfill while saving councils more than $1 million in landfill costs. Designed with councils for councils, the Compost Revolution is an all-in-one education, infrastructure logistics and marketing program to scale home composting and worm farming in local government areas across Australia, helping councils achieve their waste and emissions targets while cutting costs.

Compost Revolution works with local government to tailor-make a program suited to their area. The organisation provides councils with real-time quantitative data, resident behavioural information and integrated social media platforms, allowing them to increase public education around composting. Real-time quantitative data uses industry-tested methodology to calculate the total kilograms of waste from landfills, carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions avoided, waste collection cost savings and the total number of households engaged.

The organisation’s online educational platform and home deliver service allows councils to run their own Compost Revolution. Residents can complete a quick online tutorial and quiz to learn about composting, worm farming or bokashi bins, then order and pay for their kit through an integrated e-commerce platform.

www.compostrevolution.com.au

Tyre recycling on a growth trajectory

Australia’s largest and oldest recycler of tyres continues to expand its operations across Australia off the back of strong support from retailers, Tyrecycle says.

The company, which began in 1992, has doubled its recycling operation since partnering with Tasmanian horticulture firm Barwicks seven months ago.

Jim Fairweather, Tyrecycle CEO, says since the partnership launched last year, the percentage of tyres being recycled has grown from 30 per cent to 60 per cent.

“This equates to around 24,000 tyres per month or around 288,000 per year,” Jim says.

“In the last few months we’ve had another nine retailers come on board, taking our total in Tasmania to 25, which represents a significant win for the environment.”

Tyres previously going to landfill or stockpiled are now being processed through a purpose-built plant near Hobart.

From there, the tyres are transported to Tyrecycle’s state-of-the art recycling plant in Melbourne, where they are re-purposed for such uses as replacing fossil fuels as an alternate source of energy.

“The majority of used passenger and truck tyres are converted into tyre-derived fuel (TDF), with around 145,000 tonnes exported out of Australia every year.

“The extremely high calorific value of TDF makes it an attractive alternative fuel on an international scale.”

A recent report by the Australian Tyre Recyclers Association (ATRA) identified that end-of-life tyre by-product produces significantly lower volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) than coal. The report stated that replacing one tonne of black coal with one tonne of TDF can save emissions of up to 1.05 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

To read more, see page 42 of Issue 12.

Trident Plastics’ four-wheel bins

Trident Plastics, the largest custom moulder in South Australia, has launched a new range of Australian made four-wheel bins for commercial and multi-unit dwelling use. The new 660 and 1100-litre bins are made of injection moulded high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is UV stabilised to provide “excellent strength and durability”, as Trident explains, adding: “With our four- wheel bin range, we aim for excellent value for money in the same way that our two-wheel bins have become so popular in Australia and New Zealand in recent years.”

Featuring flat sides to enable pockets to be installed, as well as high quality wheels, two with locks, and noise reducing tyres, the new four-wheel range comes fully equipped and will be available in a whole range of colours for both body and lid.

Trident Plastics commenced manufacturing two- wheel bins in 2012 and has since increased its range each year. Now supplying 80, 100, 120, 140, 240 and 360-litre two-wheel bin sizes, the young company says the new four-wheel options further complete its portfolio.

All two and four-wheel bins are made under strict quality and environmental standards, such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

www.tridentaustralia.com

Work to be done

Mike Ritchie, MRA Consulting

Mike Ritchie from Sydney-based consulting firm MRA reflects on the importance of solid groundwork in the political realm to facilitate real change in waste management. 

Our waste problems are urgent. Waste is pouring out of the economy at a compound average growth rate of 6.3 per cent, and waste volumes double every 12 years. To tackle the issue, most Australian States and Territories have set ambitious recycling targets for 2020/21.

For Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), the diversion target is generally 65 to 70 per cent, except in the ACT where it’s 85 per cent. For commercial & industrial (C&I) waste, the target is higher still – typically ranging from 70 to 80 per cent. Except, again, for the ACT, where it’s 85 per cent. The highest targets, meanwhile,
are reserved for construction and demolition (C&D) waste, with most state targets ranging from 75 to 85 per cent.

These are big numbers, and it’s still a long way to go until we reach them – particularly for MSW, where new data shows that diversion rates need to increase by about 50 per cent to stay on track. But there is no alternative: The work we need to do is important and structural, even though it can be unexciting. It’s work that is unlikely to capture the public’s imagination in the same way as single use battery, coffee cups, CDs or light bulbs might be able to.

 Some say that the scheme’s that get people’s attention, that win environment awards, are worth every cent because they attract media attention and money, as well as political capital. They connect people to waste problems.
But the problem is that money and political capital are not unlimited. Connecting people to waste problems is fine, but it doesn’t build infrastructure or set realistic market prices. What you spend on one project is not available to another. So, can we really afford ‘puff projects’?

Back and forth

Plastic bags for recycling

According to not-for-profit organisation Planet Ark, eight out of 10 Australian councils report plastic bags as their biggest recycling problem. Are we any closer to implementing a comprehensive national ban?  

The debate around the banning of single-use plastic bags is all but new, yet continues to spark controversy on a global level. While Australia is still in the process of putting a national policy on the issue in place – South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have established plastic bag bans, while NSW, Queensland and Victoria have all committed to investigating the introduction of a ban – the US is currently experiencing a concerning turnaround on the topic: Last month, Michigan became the fourth US state to place a ban on banning plastic bags, following the example of Idaho, Arizona and Missouri.

To put the development into perspective and explain just why back-pedaling is not an option, Peter McLean, Executive Officer at the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA), summarises the state of play in Australia.

“AORA has held a long-term national policy on banning single-use plastic bags since 2015. We want to ensure that only Australian Standards (AI) certified compostable bags are exempt under any plastic bag legislation because they will break down under the parameters of a commercial composting facility.

Ensuring this very strict standard means that all other degradable, oxo- degradable and biodegradable plastic bags will also be banned, as there are no guarantees that these types of bags will break down under specific timeframes and not produce any residuals like micro-plastics.

The only fail-safe method with so much confusion about product claims in the marketplace is to use AS4736 for commercial composting and AS5810 for home composting. Even biodegradable bags need to be left aside, as biodegradable doesn’t always mean compostable. This is due to them not always meeting the Australian Standards in regards to time to decompose and complete biodegradation, which means they would have to leave zero residues other than some water, carbon dioxide and biomass.

This will also reduce the many deceptive statements currently in the marketplace, which allow manufacturers to use statements like ‘this product is degradable and breaks down when exposed to the environment’.

To read more, see page 52 of Issue 10. 

Making sustainability child’s play

A Melbourne-based company is combining puppet-making and trash to share the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ message. 

When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.”

While Jim Henson’s famous saying may reflect a common-enough sentiment, but the incremental betterment of the world and humanity doesn’t usually cause puppets to spring to mind. For one Melbourne-based company, however, that is exactly what is entailed within its efforts to make the world a better place.

Jhess Knight worked within the local puppetry industry for the past five years before realising the joys of using recycled or reused materials. Alongside her good friend, Lucy Hedt, she has since developed the Trash Puppets initiative, which combines entertainment with education in the sustainability space.

“During my Master’s at the London School of Puppetry, we were encouraged to create mock-ups of our puppets. Quick and rough, a process that enabled us to see the design of our puppet and what the challenges might be,” explains Jhess. “Usually thrown together with basic materials such as newspaper or cardboard, I often found myself falling in love. Their simplicity was incredibly charming and made them even more magical when they came to life.”

The process of making Trash Puppets thus came about organically, and Jhess found the process to be therapeutic in its own right. “I knew this was something I wanted to share,” she says.

After having the idea suggested by a friend who works as a schoolteacher, Jhess and Lucy have gone on to create a profitable business in teaching kids to make puppets from rubbish – but it also has applications beyond the classroom.

To read more, see page 36 of Issue 10. 

Tying up loose ends

A New South Wales initiative is looking at how to recycle thousands of tonnes of textile waste – potentially creating a whole new business model along the way. 

The key to creating sustainable solutions to environmental problems is to build strong business cases around them. That is the approach Tom Davies and his team at Edge Environment took when they were tasked with finding an industrial solution to divert waste from landfill through the New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Circulate program.

By engaging 1,000 medium-to-large enterprises, Circulate aims to divert some 160,000 tonnes of waste to landfill between 2014 and 2017 and generate $21 million in additional income or savings for those involved. The program is part of the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, which uses funds from the waste levy to drive behaviour change, infrastructure investment and innovation in new resource recovery solutions.

As a starting point for the project, Davies and his team analysed a range of NSW commercial and industrial waste audits to determine the most significant material streams coming out of the State. “We’ve been working with a lot of large corporates as part of the process and a common issue proved to be workwear,” he says – adding that large companies go through hundreds of tonnes of workwear every year. “So we started investigating textiles as a waste.”

Textile as a waste

As part of his initial research, Davies found that NSW generates about 153,000 tonnes of textile waste per year – the whole of Australia produces about 375,000 tonnes – and most of that is going directly to landfill. Of that textile waste, a massive 64 per cent is corporate workwear, a ratio too big to ignore, as Davies points out: “You need to find a starting point.

“To us, it quickly became clear that point had to be corporate workwear – it’s a huge volume of manmade bres that could be turned into new products.”

Davies points to the iconic Australia Post organisation as an example for smart bre-recycling: “Australia Post had 200 tonnes of textiles as redundant stock that it had accumulated over two years, as it’s constantly evolving its uniforms. To address the problem, they teamed up with Dunlop and turned the waste into carpet underlay.”

While highly effective, the solution was a one-off only, Davies says: “What we were looking for was a long-term, self-sustaining solution. We roughly knew the breakdown of those materials, so it was obvious it was all valuable stuff that was ending up in landfill,” he explains.

Read the full story on page 26 of Issue 10.