Plastic Forests releases product made entirely from recycled plastic film

In an attempt to address the issue of plastic waste, Plastic Forests have developed the Mini Wheel Stop – Australia’s first recycled product for inside the home made entirely from mixed plastic film.

Plastic Forests Managing Director David Hodge said Australia generates an estimated 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, but currently only has the capacity to recycle 12 per cent.

According to Mr Hodge, the situation is worse for contaminated plastic film, with less than one per cent being recycled.

Mr Hodge said wide spread manufacturing of the Mini Wheel Stop could enable the diversion of 8.8 million kilograms of plastic film waste from landfill – 12 per cent of the total plastic waste exported to Malaysia last year.

For the past 20 years Australia has sent its plastic waste to cheap reprocessing operations in China, Vietnam, Malaysia and India.

“With thousands of poor backyard operations using basic technology, the unusable plastic was simply buried, burned or washed into rivers causing widespread environmental pollution,” Mr Hodge said.

“In January 2018 China effectively banned the importation of the world’s plastic waste, imposing strict contamination regulations. Now much of Australia’s plastic waste has nowhere to go other than landfill.”

Although there is some capacity in Australia for recycling PET, HDPE and cartons, there is little built capacity for recycling plastic film such as plastic bags and packaging.

The Mini Wheel Stop is designed as a parking marker for the garage floor, enabling car owners to stop guessing whether they are parking in the right spot, and preventing damage to the car, walls and belongings.

Each Mini Wheel Stop is made in Australia with the equivalent of 155 plastic bags, thereby locally recycling the mixed plastic film waste previously exported to China, Vietnam, Malaysia and India.

“It’s important that people realise recycling doesn’t end when we put out our recycling bin, it’s a complex issue, but at the end of the day, recycling only works when someone buys a recycled product,” Mr Hodge said.

“Our hope is that some big retailers will support us by stocking our new Mini Wheel Stop, it could even be made from their own plastic waste and branded – enabling us to divert more plastic from landfill and create a circular economy.”

Mr Hodge said while plastic is creating devastating effects for oceans and the environment, it also enables the 21st century lifestyle.

“As a society, we need to think smarter about how we use plastic through its whole life cycle, creating circular economies and reducing our plastic use wherever possible,” Mr Hodge said.

“In a world of limited resources plastic recycling is an important part of the story. We need individuals, corporates and government to buy Australian products made with recycled content.”

Plastic Forests have recently invested in a new site in Albury NSW, which Mr Hodge said will significantly ramp up the company’s reprocessing capabilities.

“Our new five acre industrial facility will allow us to further expand our recycling capabilities and manufacture additional products, keeping ‘plastic as plastic’ and out of landfill,” Mr Hodge said.

Plastic Forests was the recipient of a grant from the NSW EPA’s ‘Waste Less Recycle More’ $802 million initiative in 2016.

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Queensland to host Asia-Pacific Climate Week

The Queensland Government has announced it will host representatives from across Australia and Asia-Pacific at Queensland’s first Climate Week from 2-8 June.

At the Circular Economy: It’s Our Future forum this week, Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the state government was committed to driving conversations about tackling climate change and improving waste management.

“Climate Week Queensland is an opportunity for our state to showcase its credentials in the climate change policy space both domestically and internationally,” Ms Enoch said.

“The Queensland Government has committed to a target of zero net emissions by 2050, with an interim target of reducing emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030.”

Ms Enoch said the event would provide an example of what needs to be done across the globe.

“We know we need to move to a more circular way of thinking when it comes to waste management — where waste is considered a valuable resource instead of the current method where we ‘take, make and dispose,’ Ms Enoch said.

“Share knowledge, discuss how a circular economy can combat climate change, and examine ways to make this happen.”

Ms Enoch said the state government’s draft Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy will help put Queensland on the path towards a circular economy.

“This long-term strategy includes initiatives such as the container refund scheme and the ban on single-use plastic bags, and focuses on shifting attitudes to encourage more recycling and a re-use mindset,” Ms Enoch said.

“Our strategy, which is underpinned by a waste levy on landfill that will come into effect on 1 July, will grow the recycling and resource recovery sector, while reducing the amount of waste ending up in landfill.”

Ms Enoch said this shift towards a circular economy is key to combating climate change and aligns with state government plans for a more sustainable, low carbon economy.

“It was great to hear at the forum how entrepreneurs, start-ups and researchers have been contributing to the development of a circular economy in Queensland,” Ms Enoch said.

“Important initiatives that change how we think about, better use, and manage materials, resources and waste are critical to a future that supports new industries and creates more jobs.”

Climate week activities will include a public program of arts, music, and panel discussions, a First Nations summit and climate leadership training with Al Gore.

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Cairns material recovery facility receives $6.9 million for upgrades

Cairns’ material recovery facility will soon have double the processing capacity after a $6.9 million award for upgrade works.

The facility will receive $3 million from round four of the Queensland Government’s $295 million Building our Regions (BoR) program, and $3 million from Cairns Regional Council.

Member for Cairns Michael Healy said the facility improvements would lead to better recovery and recycling results for Cairns, and support more than 22 jobs during upgrade works.

“The upgraded infrastructure will allow the facility to double its processing capacity to 30,000 tonnes of recycling,” Mr Healy said.

“This will see a significant jump in waste diversion from landfill, which will increase to a whopping 90 per cent – up 40 per cent from current figures.”

Mr Healy said work would soon begin to extend the receival hall, with a new glass sorting and processing plant to follow.

“Reducing landfill waste aligns with the state governments objectives, as well as our new resource recovery and waste strategy, and Queensland’s Container Deposit Scheme,” Mr Healy said.

State Development Minister Cameron Dick said local recycling opportunities created by the upgraded facility would be significant.

“We’ll see more items collected locally, diverted from landfill and, where viable, recycled – all here in Cairns,” Mr Dick said.

“This is a smart, circular approach that will raise the quality of recycling in our state and give us better access to relevant global export markets.”

Mr Dick said the scaled-up facility will help lessen the region’s environmental footprint and lower the cost of recycling for the far north.

“It will also potentially allow the city to participate in recycling collection services from other local governments and commercial premises,” Mr Dick said.

Cairns Regional Council Mayor Bob Manning said the new infrastructure would increase the facility’s viability, and create an economic opportunity to decrease waste while improving recycling rates.

“We know our community takes its environmental responsibilities seriously given where we live. This much needed upgrade to the material recovery facility will provide fantastic benefits to Cairns and the region,” Mr Manning said.

“It will not only allow us to significantly increase the recovery rate of recyclables, but also as a consequence significantly reduce the amount of waste needing to go to landfill.”

Round 4 of BoR will see the state government partner with 37 councils on 49 projects, work Mr Manning said would create an estimated 657 jobs.

Under previous rounds, the program has allocated $225 million to 174 critical infrastructure projects across the state generating 1762 jobs and attracting additional investment of $353.5 million from councils and other organisations.

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ACT proposes single-use plastic ban

The ACT Government has released a discussion paper asking for contributions from the community on phasing out single-use plastics.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said the state could no longer ignore responsibility for plastics that litter the environment.

“Single-use plastic is commonly used for food packaging and includes items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away,” Mr Steel said.

“Single-use plastic litters our waterways, city parks and bush landscapes and goes into landfill where it may take hundreds or even thousands of years to break down.”

Mr Steel said the paper asks the community which problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics government should focus on including plastic straws and cutlery, disposable plates, cups and coffee lids, polystyrene plastic food containers and beverage cups and other non-recyclable plastics.

Proposed items that will be excluded from government action at this time include sanitary items, nappies and incontinence products, reusable plastic bags roughly 35 microns in thickness, health related sterile items, plastic beverage containers and microbeads — which are already being phased out by the territory.

“We are taking real action to become Australia’s most sustainable city,” Mr Steel said.

The European Parliament last year voted to ban single-use plastics in the EU by 2021.

Similarly, South Australia and the City of Hobart are also looking at phasing out single-use plastics.

“It is time that the ACT takes responsible action to reduce single-use plastics and build a circular economy where we reduce our reliance on these products and move to better alternatives,” Mr Steel said.

According to Mr Steel, while the ACT has already acted to reduce single-use plastic bags, through the introduction of the plastic shopping bag ban in 2011, it has the opportunity to do more to reduce the territory’s plastic footprint.

“It is still common place to see takeaway shops continuing to use plastic-foam takeaway containers like it is still the 1980s. Supermarkets also continue to sell plastic plates, cups and cutlery – when it seems like there are clear alternatives already being sold on their own shelves,” Mr Steel said.

“We want to hear from the community about how we can reduce the use of certain single-use plastics where there are clear alternatives that are good for the environment and practical for business, industry and consumers.”

Mr Steel said any decisions to phase-out single use plastics will likely have impacts on business, institutions and ACT residents, including people with a disability, and invites these groups to contribute to the discussion.

“We know from the plastic straw ban in other parts of the world that we need to consider the social equity impact on people with a disability, and I welcome their contribution on how we can responsibly manage our environment while taking these issues into account,” Mr Steel said.

“I encourage all interested or affected Canberrans to join the conversation and tell us their ideas about what they would like us to consider in phasing-out unnecessary and problematic single-use plastics.”

The ACT discussion paper follows a similar announcement in Western Australia last week, with Minister for the Environment Stephen Dawson asking the public to contribute to the Let’s Not Draw the Short Straw – Reduce Single-Use Plastics paper.

Last year the Western Australian government banned lightweight plastic bags and instructed government agencies to stop buying avoidable single-use plastic items.

Mr Dawson also announced a funding partnership between the state government and the Plastic Free Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation committed to the reduction of plastic use in every day life.

The Plastic Free Foundation has been awarded $326,725 in state government funding, with an extra $484,126 coming from Lotterywest, to engage individuals and communities in in the state to reduce plastic waste.

“Waste problems are a shared legacy. The state government wants to hear your practical ideas on how to avoid and reduce single-use plastics so we can protect our environment for future generations,” Mr Dawson said.

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BINGO unveils West Melbourne Resource Recovery Centre

BINGO Industries has unveiled its upgraded resource recovery centre in West Melbourne, including a new plant, weighbridge, safety and structural improvements.

The upgraded recycling centre is set to become an important asset within Victoria’s network of recycling infrastructure with BINGO targeting a resource recovery rate of over 75 per cent.

BINGO entered the Victorian market in 2017 through several strategic acquisitions. In the last 12 months, the company has invested in excess of $50 million in acquisitions and committed an additional $50 million for upgrades of local waste management businesses and poorly managed post-collections assets.

BINGO has invested over AUD$20 million in the redevelopment of the West Melbourne site. Upgrades to the facility also include upgrades to the electrical and fire protection systems, including thermal cameras.

BINGO Managing Director and CEO Daniel Tartak said that despite being a relatively new entrant into the market, the company is confident that it has the ability and know-how to be stewards for change and lead the Victorian recycling market to achieve enhanced sustainability outcomes.

“The upgraded facility is a great example of what BINGO is able to achieve in transforming previously poorly-managed post collections assets. Large-scale infrastructure projects like this one will help reduce Victoria’s dependence on landfills, create new jobs and drive further investment in recycling facilities,” Mr Tartak said.

Victoria’s population and economic growth is fuelling increases in waste volumes. The state is expected to be producing 21 million tonnes of waste per year by 2044, with metropolitan Melbourne accounting for 80 per cent of the state’s waste generation.

BINGO now operates five recycling facilities in Victoria, located at Braeside, Dandenong, Campbellfield, Clayton South and West Melbourne, as well as the TORO Waste Equipment manufacturing facility at Braeside.

BINGO’s Victorian footprint continues to grow, with the company now operating a fleet of 100 trucks and employing over 130 staff. A significant pipeline of both building and demolition and commercial and industrial revenue has been identified in Victoria, and this market remains a key area of focus for BINGO in realising its vision for a waste-free Australia.

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Coca-Cola announce major increase in recycled plastic

Coca-Cola Australia and Coca-Cola Amatil have announced that by the end of 2019, 70 per cent of the companies’ plastic bottles will be made entirely from recycled plastic.

The announcement forms part of the Coca-Cola group’s global commitment to helping the world’s packaging problem.

The world’s largest beverage company said the change will involve products 600 millilitre and under from brands such as Coca-Cola, Fanta, Fuze Tea as well as 750 millilitre Pump.

Coca-Cola Australia president Vamsi Mohan Thati said the company has a responsibility to help solve the plastic waste crisis.

“This is a big commitment to recycled plastic – the largest of its kind by a beverage company in Australia – and will significantly reduce the impact of our business on the environment.”

Mr Thati said Coca-Cola have a long history of supporting environmental partners in Australia, and over the past two years have invested more than $1 million towards cleaning up marine debris, improving access to recycling in public places, and developing innovative solutions to recycle plastic waste.

The company also has a 40-year history operating South Australia’s container deposit scheme, which pays 10 cents for all eligible beverage containers returned for recycling.

Coca-Cola also operates the container scheme in the Northern Territory, and is involved in the programs in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Coca-Cola Amatil Managing Director of Australian Beverages Peter West said the increase in the use of recycled plastic means the company will avoid using 16,000 tonnes of virgin plastic each year.

“We’ve heard the community message loud and clear – that unnecessary packaging is unacceptable and we need to do our part to reduce it nationwide,” Mr West said.

“It’s the single largest increase in recycled plastic use in our history, and our strongest step forward in reducing packaging waste and the environmental impact of our operations.”

Mr West said Amatil’s increased use of recycled plastic follows initiatives such as the elimination of plastic straws, support for cost-effective well-run container deposit schemes and the company’s support for the 2025 national packaging targets.

“Our landmark transition to use 100 per cent recycled plastic in bottles began with Mount Franklin Still Pure Australian Spring Water in 2018. Following extensive research and development, this will now roll out across other brands in bottles 600 millilitre and under, across Coca-Cola’s soft drink, water and juice products,” Mr West said.

Coca-Cola Australia and Coca-Cola Amatil support a number of grassroots initiatives to help collect and recycle beverage containers including CitizenBlue, Keep Australia Beautiful, and Eco Barge Clean Seas.

Both companies also support The Coca-Cola Company’s 2020 global goal of reducing waste by collecting and recycling as many cans and bottles as it sells each year.

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Industry associations respond to 60 Minutes recycling report

Waste management industry associations have released a statement contesting claims made in the 60 Minutes Sunday night program, Plastic not so fantastic.

Liam Bartlett’s 60 Minutes report claims much of Australian plastic waste is not being reused or recycled, but rather dumped, buried or burned in illegal processing locations in South-East Asia.

The program refers to Australia’s recycling industry as a ‘con,’ which according to industry associations doesn’t paint a full picture of the Australian recycling industry or its capacity, and includes a false claim that much of Australia’s plastic waste is being disposed of incorrectly.

Recycling groups including the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR), Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), the Australian Organics Recycling Association, Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW and National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) contributed to the statement — urging greater investment, regulatory reform and policy support from governments.

According to the 2018 National Waste Report, Australia generated 67 million tonnes of waste last year, 37 million tonnes of which was recycled.

The report also shows 33 million tonnes of that recycling was undertaken within Australia, with plastic exports decreasing by 25 per cent.

It is estimated in the report that between 10 and 15 per cent of kerbside recycling cannot be recycled because it is contaminated with nappies, soft plastics, garden hoses, bricks and batteries.

ACOR CEO Peter Shmigel said the program should not discourage the vast majority of Australians who regularly recycle.

“Australian recycling is highly successful despite some ill-conceived claims in the broadcast, in fact up to 90 per cent of material collected for recycling is made into new products,” Mr Shmigel said.

Plastic not so fantastic claims 71,000 tonnes of Australian recyclable plastic has been exported to Malaysia.

In response, Mr Shmigel said 71,000 tonnes represents less than two per cent of the 4 million tonnes that is actually exported and less than 0.2 per cent of the 37 million collected for recycling.

“If the claim that all these materials are not being properly processed is accurate, this is very concerning, as there are also legitimate processors in Malaysia,” Mr Shmigel said.

According to the statement, in response to the impacts of restrictions across Asia, the local recycling industry which employs more than 50,000 Australians and generates up to $15 billion in value, is currently making some of the most advanced recycling investments in the world.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said the industry is investing in high-tech infrastructure to improve sorting and processing in order to produce high quality materials from recovered waste.

Ms Sloan is also advocating for a stronger domestic recycling system through a new labelling scheme to build community confidence.

“We need a Made with Australian Recycled Content label which will do two key things – empower the community to take action and ownership of the materials they consume, and incentivise manufacturers and brand owners to include recycled content in their packaging and products,” Ms Sloan said.

“This will create new markets for recycled materials and ensure a sustainable future for kerbside recycling, local resource recovery, and remanufacturing.”

Ms Sloan said the local industry is investing heavily and working collaboratively to upgrade local processing capacities which in the past were, to some extent, built to meet China’s previous specifications.

A recent Reachtel survey commissioned by ACOR found that almost 93 per cent of people said reducing waste and recycling products into new products was important to them and 87 per cent supported increasing recycling and reducing landfill by processing food and garden material from rubbish bins into useful products.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the community continuously votes in favour of recycling through its strong participation.

“We encourage householders to continue to separate and sort their recycling correctly to reduce contamination and realise the environmental and economic benefits of recycling,” Ms Read said.

Prime Creative Media has contacted 60 Minutes for comment.

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VWMA to promote composting awareness

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) will be running a series of events as part of International Composting Awareness Week, including site tours and an industry breakfast, from 6 to 12 May in Melbourne.

The week is designed to generate awareness about the importance of composting and promote its wider use.

VWMA will be running a series of events to raise the profile of composting and organic resource recovery, profile the waste hierarchy and support the people and businesses innovating in the sector.

VWMA is working in conjunction with organisations such as BioPak, Compost Revolution, Yume, Cleanaway, Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne Cricket Ground to promote business composting efficiency and positive environmental outcomes.

VWMA Chief Executive Officer Mark Smith said VWMA have organised behind the scenes access to a number of sites and facilities for its members and others interested in the industry.

“It’s so important that we build on national and international weeks of relevance to bring a positive profile to the great work happening in this space,” Mr Smith said.

“We believe these events will do that and I encourage anyone that has an interest in this space to come along. I hope tours showcasing the sector will become a standard activity for us in Victoria.”

Featured events:

Monday 6 May:

Breakfast and program showcase:
A working breakfast will take place at the St Kilda Town Hall. Hear from leaders in sustainable packaging, food rescue, FOGO and more. The breakfast will include prizes and competitions for the attendees as well an outline of the City of Port Phillip’s waste strategy. Attendees at this event will include waste industry, local government, state government, councillors and MPs.

Thursday 9 May

Site tours:

The VWMA has created a unique opportunity to showcase the technology and approaches adopted by different businesses, entertainment venues/sites and operators working to better manage organic waste. This tour will include pick up, travel and drop off with prices including catering for the day.

For more information please visit the VWMA website.

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New tracking system for Victorian waste sector

Chemical waste in Victoria will be electronically monitored from July this year under a state government crackdown on the illegal storage of hazardous material.

Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio announced the EPA would invest $5.5 million to switch to a fully GPS electronic tracking system to better record the production, movement and receipt of industrial waste.

The EPA currently uses a mix of electronic and paper waste transport certificates – with up to 100,000 paper certificates received each year.

Ms D’Ambrosio said the new system would enable the EPA to monitor the movement of waste more quickly and more accurately, compared to paper certificates which can be time consuming and difficult to process.

“Moving to a fully electronic GPS tracking system will mean we know when and where these chemicals are being moved and stored – so we can identify potentially illegal activity and catch these criminals in the act,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“This move will see the EPA phase out the paper certificates by 1 July 2019, ensuring all certificates are recorded electronically.”

EPA Chief Executive Officer Dr Cathy Wilkinson said the introduction of the electronic system would enable the EPA to better track the movement of waste, and help the regulatory body detect potential risks and intervene earlier.

“A new integrated waste tracking tool, with improved data analytics and reporting will also be developed over the next 12 months to deliver insights on sector activity, trends and highlight potential illegal activity,” Dr Wilkinson said.

The tracking system will be finalised by March 2020, giving the industry three months to transition before the new Environment Protection Act legislation comes into effect on 1 July 2020.

The new legislation will introduce modern surveillance devices, tougher penalties and a greater focus on industry responsibility to proactively manage risks to human health and the environment.

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Tellus Holdings secures approval for Sandy Ridge project

Infrastructure development company Tellus Holdings’ Sandy Ridge facility has received approval from the Western Australia Mid — West Wheatbelt Joint Development Assessment Panel (JDAP).

The project is a kaolin mining operation which will include a waste facility for the permanent storage of hazardous waste.

It will require the commissioning of the waste cell infrastructure, access roads, raw water supply and other key infrastructure for the waste facility.

Tellus Holdings General Manager for Health, Safety, Environment, Compliance and Quality Richard Phillips said the approval signifies government are confident Tellus Holdings has considered, and can manage the potential benefits and risks associated with operating a dual business model.

“It means the Sandy Ridge Facility, Australia’s first dual, near-surface kaolin clay mine and complementary storage business, has now achieved environmental and planning approval from the federal government, state government and local government,” Mr Phillips said.

The JDAP unanimously approved the Sandy Ridge Facility on 3 April, subject to nine conditions and five advice Notes.

The nine conditions include requirements for bushfire management, emergency response management and traffic management.

The conditions must also adhere to the Ministerial Statement Number 1078 granted under part IV of the Western Australian Environmental Protection Act 1986 in June 2018.

Tellus Holdings Managing Director Duncan van der Merwe said the company has undertaken extensive environmental and engineering studies involving local, national and international experts and key community stakeholders.

“Once again, this latest approval is a show of support for Tellus’ evidence-based and risk-based environmental assessment. It is an important next step in securing the remaining approvals required for the Sandy Ridge Facility,” Mr der Merwe said.

Tellus Holdings will continue to liaise closely with Western Australian agency to secure remaining approvals and licensing.

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