Shaping the sector

Waste Management Review catches up with Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan to discuss his achievements in waste over the past decade as he moves on to Solar Victoria.

Stan Krpan has immersed himself in the waste sector for more than 10 years, mobilising organisations and stakeholders towards structural and environmental reform.

His work at statutory authority Sustainability Victoria (SV) has been instrumental to shaping the agency’s decade-long shift towards resource recovery.

Earlier this year, Stan announced he would leave his position as CEO of SV after being appointed inaugural CEO of Solar Victoria.

Waste Management Review caught up with Stan to discuss his future plans with Solar Victoria and past achievements at SV.

While he has held senior legal positions at WorkSafe Victoria, CEO of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce and the Chair of social enterprise Infoxchange, over time Stan discovered his true passion in sustainability.

“I was a lawyer by training and had a strong background in regulation, but I’d worked out towards the end of my time at WorkSafe that I really wanted to be a part of making the future in terms of sustainability and climate change,” he says.

Between 2009 and 2010, the EPA Victoria commissioned Stan, the former Director of Legal Services and Investigations at WorkSafe Victoria, to conduct an independent review into the EPA.

More than 119 recommendations were made, including a need for the EPA to make more transparent decisions to tackle human health and refocus its priorities on supporting duty holders with compliance.

“It was from that moment that I walked in the door I thought this is something that I want to be a part of,” Stan says.

From there, Stan ended up at SV in 2011 assuming the CEO’s chair a year later.

He says that it was a difficult decision to leave SV after just over eight years.

“The opportunity for me around Solar Homes is really on the renewable energy transition. Although SV set it up, I really wanted to be a part of that transition,” he says.

“We will reach three quarters of a million households in Victoria to bring the total of solar homes to well over a million. We’re now leading the country for the last couple of months in terms of installation.”

Solar Victoria is a new “portfolio” entity which will commence within the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning after being transferred from SV.

Tasked with delivering the Victorian Government’s 10-year $1.3 billion Solar Homes Package, Solar Victoria forms part of the government’s target of 50 per cent renewables by 2030.

The Victorian Government’s key election commitment in 2018 was to expand its Solar Homes package to 770,000 households from July 1.

Eligible households can claim a rebate of up to $2225 on the cost of a solar photovoltaic (PV) panel system or a $1000 rebate for replacing hot water systems.

The next step for Stan will be to ensure that regulation and policy keep pace with the 10-year rollout.

As he moves to Solar Victoria, his core focus will be helping Victorians with the transition to renewable energy.

Ultimately, all of Stan’s experiences have culminated in joining Solar Victoria, with a significant career background in health, safety, environment and climate change and renewable energy.

SV EVOLUTION

When he arrived at SV, the agency had been the subject of a critical report from the Victorian Auditor-General which found it had lost its way on waste and had not delivered on its statutory obligations in waste planning.

“We led a review for the then-minister around that focus on resource recovery. Essentially we’ve gone from that really being just a side project to actually being pretty much the core of the organisation and focused on delivering our statutory responsibility on statewide planning,” Stan says.

Stan says the review precipitated the country’s first ever waste infrastructure plan in 2015 – the Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan (SWRRIP).

Through a network of hubs and spokes, the model identified a move to increase transfer stations, reduce landfills, including in Melbourne’s south-east, and replace them with a network of resource recovery facilities.

The SWRRIP paved the way for developers and waste managers to work together on long-term planning. Its focus was on mobilising stakeholders in the waste sector and government and partnering with other state-based agencies across Australia.

Plans have since been generated in SA and committed in WA and NSW.

On his proudest achievements, Stan says that partnering with industry on better outcomes for the community along with market development and developing a waste education strategy are top of the list.

“One thing I particularly liked is the way we used the SWRRIP as a way of providing policy certainty to potential investors. We set up an investment facilitation service which essentially worked with proponents of new technologies and helped them enter the market,” Stan says.

Over the years, SV significantly expanded its role in resource recovery, including establishing a Market Development for Recovered Resources Strategy and programs.

The strategy supported the practical use of materials, including recycled glass on major projects such as Melbourne’s Tullamarine Freeway.

It also led to improved product specifications for recyclables in pavements, while accelerating product procurement in organics and partnering with product stewardship organisations for tyres, paint and PV systems.

“The figures are really compelling. Over the last three years we’ve invested $40 million on behalf of the government into resource recovery infrastructure, but we’ve leveraged over $100 million of private sector investment,” Stan says.

“Government procurement is obviously an area we still feel is unfinished business and we’re getting closer to finalising our first systematic assessment of state government procurement categories to understand where the opportunities might be.”

Stan points out that the Victorian Government last year adopted the Social Procurement framework.

As a result of SV’s advocacy, it includes a requirement that very large projects over $10 million consider recycled content.

“There is still more work to be done to understand the emissions profile of the sector, but one of the things I feel is unfinished business, particularly for local government procurement is that we could do more to encourage innovation and investment in low emissions transport or technologies.”

As government is the largest procurer of some materials, a common discussion by industry groups is whether mandatory procurement of recyclables is needed.

Stan points out that this is a topic also being discussed in other jurisdictions such as California and Scotland, while there are a number of targets already for specific applications such as roads.

On the subject, he says he is reluctant to make recommendations for a set target on mandatory recyclate due to the technical nature of the end use, with product safety essential.

“I am attracted to things like the EU target around green procurement which essentially says that you should incorporate criteria around recycled content even though it’s not quantified,” he says.

TAKING IT FORWARD

He says that now that SV is well established in infrastructure, the goal for the agency going forward will be to work upstream in manufacturing and new product, and materials and upcycling.

This year’s state budget included an additional $35 million for waste and recycling to build onshore processing and remanufacturing.

Stan says that Victoria’s 67 per cent recycling rate is a positive step, given the growth in population and economy, but more work is needed to raise the bar.

According to the Victorian Recycling Industry Annual Report 2016-17, solid waste diversion rose by 10 per cent to 67 per cent between 2007-08 to 2016-17. That’s despite a 1840-tonne increase in waste generation over the same period.

He says that SV has been an important part of adding an extra two million tonnes of extra capacity over the last 10 years supported by government grants and investment.

“I’ve been delighted to see the level of investment in organics processing grow in Victoria during my time since 2012 with very large companies investing in Victoria as a stable place.

“That’s very different to when I arrived at the EPA in 2010 where effectively the failure of the waste sector was attributed to the challenge of regulating and supporting the organics sector and developing new markets.”

Stan says the sector has come a long way over the past 10 years, but there is still more work to be done locally given the exposure to global commodity markets.

“To see SV grow its footprint in waste and resource recovery even though we know there’s so much more needed with the change in global commodity prices and dynamics, I’ve loved being a part of growing it,” he says.

Last year was another growth spurt for SV, increasing to over 200 staff.

One of the areas Stan says can be improved is thinking of resources in the context of the broader economy, including imports, extractive industries and eliminating waste at the design stage.

From a circular economy perspective, he says manufacturers need to partner with waste collectors and recyclers to reduce food waste, use recyclate for new packaging and eliminate unnecessary packaging from the supply chain.

Stan says that concepts such as extender producer responsibility can also be better understood and supported in Australia, as community sentiment is shifting.

SOLAR PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY

Extended producer responsibility lifespan will become ever increasingly important for solar PVs as many installed at the beginning of the millennium reach their end of life.

SV, on behalf of the state government, is leading a national investigation into extended producer responsibility options for solar PVs and batteries.

Stan is pleased with the level of engagement from peak bodies such as the Clean Energy Council and manufacturers and suppliers of solar PVs and household batteries, with consideration to a scheme to be given later this year through the meeting of environment ministers.

“Certainly something that I’m now well placed to explore in Solar Victoria is whether we can use that program to stimulate stewardship and recycling of solar panels.

“We know there are technologies in Germany and Singapore that are already doing this.”

Stan says that SV will also be looking towards the Federal Government’s review of the Product Stewardship Act once released to help accelerate the development phase.

While extensive efforts have gone into increasing SV’s involvement in waste, Stan is pleased with the input of stakeholders to make many of the agency’s achievements over the past decade a reality.

“The thing that I’ve been most proud of is the level of support and engagement that we’ve had from the waste and resource recovery sector. We couldn’t have done any of this without them.”

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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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