ALGA calls for Fed Govt leadership on National Waste Policy

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has called for continued national leadership from the Federal Government to ensure waste management and resource recovery policies are consistent across all levels of government.

It follows the endorsement of the new National Waste Policy at the eighth Meeting of Environment Ministers in Canberra last week.

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After the Federal Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy issued a statement indicating a consensus was reached on a national action plan for the National Waste Policy, Environment Minister Melissa Price issued a statement last week claiming state and territory ministers “walked away from solid targets on Australia’s recycling and waste”.

“The Federal Government expected to formalise the targets, after months of negotiations and consultation and endorsement at state and federal official level,” Ms Price said in the statement.

“Instead the state and territory governments refused to endorse aspects of our National Waste Policy.

“This is an incredibly disappointing outcome for the nation that simply deprives Australia of a policy that would ensure we have a responsible and environmentally sensible approach to managing waste in the future.”

The minister went on to say that the Federal Government will continue to press forward with an action plan on reducing waste and increasing recycling.

ALGA President, Mayor David O’Loughlin attended the meeting and said there is more work to be done on the issue.

“The new policy may be full of good intentions and strong principles, but has as much backbone as you’ll find in the average plastic shopping bag,” Cr O’Loughlin said.

“Urgent action is needed as ministers themselves have acknowledged. Industry and communities need to see real on-ground action and there is a critical need for national leadership to maintain a unified approach.

“Dedicated and nationally-coordinated action on recycling will give industry the signal it needs to increase investment in sustainable resource recovery and support the nation’s move towards a circular economy,” he said.

Cr O’Loughlin said it is essential that all levels of government increase their procurement of goods and infrastructure that incorporate recycled materials, such as those used in road bases, to help reduce items entering the waste stream. He adds that state and territory governments need to take the necessary steps to help the recyclate industry sector go further.

“89 per cent of Australians have indicated that they want recycled content included in government procurement,” he said.

“There is more than $1 billion sitting in state waste levy funds that could be invested in industry innovation, pilot projects and financially supporting transitions from virgin product feedstock to recycled feedstock.

“There’s another $1 billion to be collected next year, but the meeting achieved no strong policy commitment, no agreement on concrete targets or timeframes, miniscule investment and little progress,” Cr O’Loughlin said.

Trial funded to turn sawmill waste into diesel and bitumen

Sawmill scraps and sawdust could soon be turned into renewable diesel and bitumen as a result of a $1.2 million feasibility study, funded by the Federal Government and Boral Limited.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has agreed to grant Boral with $500,000 towards the study, with Boral providing the remainder.

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The study will trial a mechanical catalytic conversion technology, developed by Spanish-based Global Ecofuel Solutions SL, along with initial design works for the full-scale plant, exploration of the regulatory challenges and development of the business case.

Boral will explore the technical and financial viability of establishing a biorefinery using this technology near its Herons Creek hardwood sawmill, near Port Macquarie, NSW.

If successful, the proposed biorefinery would cost around $50 million and could convert up to 50,000 tonnes of waste sawmill residue produces each year into transport grade diesel and renewable bitumen.

Sawmill residue, which includes sawdust, remnant woodchips, shavings and offcuts, is currently used for lower value uses such as landscaping and boiler fuel.

Boral consumes a large amount of diesel and bitumen, using around 100 million litres of diesel a year to operate its business in Australia. The company estimates the volume of timber residues should create around 16 million litres of diesel and 8000 tonnes of bitumen.

Boral Building Products Executive General Manager Wayne Manners said if the study was successful, the diesel and bitumen produced at the potential new biorefinery could eventually account for up to 15 per cent of Boral’s annual needs.

“The application of this technology has the potential to transform the way we use low value hardwood sawmill residues into a resource that could be highly valuable, not just to Boral, but to the industry more generally,” he said.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project further shows that big businesses are increasingly moving towards renewable energy solutions.

“If this ground-breaking technology is successful, we hope to see a transition to similar biorefineries by other companies which have a waste stream in forestry or agriculture,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“The transport sector is a significant user of energy in Australia, with liquid fuels a key long-term energy source for heavy-vehicle road and air transport since they cannot readily be electrified.

“Bioenergy comprises a growing proportion of Australia’s energy mix, and this new technology could see residue from the production process be used to reduce Boral’s reliance on diesel and bitumen derived from fossil fuels,” he said.

City of Mitcham uses waste tyres in asphalt trial

Around 850 used tyres have been recycled to pave a 335 metre stretch of road as part of a crumbed rubber asphalt trial in the City of Mitcham, South Australia.

The asphalt trial is funded by Tyre Stewardship Australia to support research and development into ways of improving local markets for tyre-derived products.

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A specific warm mix of dense-graded crumb rubber modified asphalt was used on the trial, which has been laboratory tested and found to be suitable for use in challenging underlying soil conditions, such as reactive clay.

The test will focus on a range of performance factors including cracking, rutting, moisture retention and general durability. The results of the test are expected to increase the specification of such roads across Australia.

If successful, the trail aims to contribute to doubling the use of recycled tyre rubber in Australia’s roads, leading to an increase in the percentage of annual used tyres consumed from around five per cent to 10 per cent.

Australia generates around 56 million end-of-life tyres each year, however only around 10 per cent of that volume is recycled domestically in all uses. Crumbed rubber asphalt and rubberised road surface spray seals can provide a potentially benefit of increasing recycling rates and improving roads.

City of Mitcham Mayor Heather Holmes-Ross said there was not only a sustainability dividend, as the asphalt will also have the potential to directly lower maintenance costs as it is less prone to cracking and rutting.

“We are trialling the crumb rubber asphalt because of the significant environmental benefits as well as the opportunity to improve the quality and life of road pavements, particularly in areas of reactive clay soils,” Ms Holmes-Ross said.

Acting CEO of Tyre Stewardship Australia Steve Clifford congratulated the council for conducting the test.

“The work done in South Australia will play an important role in creating valuable domestic recycling outcomes for end-of-life tyres. Outcomes that can also deliver new green jobs,” Mr Clifford said.

Ongoing testing is scheduled to run for two years, with results monitored on a regular basis to assess the key performance parameters.

AORA announces NSW industry award winners

The organics recycling industry has celebrated its industry achievements over the past year in NSW.

The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) event was held at the Novotel Parramatta and attended by more than 70 representatives from organic processors, to industry suppliers, state and local governments.

The event was hosted by MC Tony Emery (Soilco) who announced the winners with the assistance of David Bonser (Amiterre Ag and AORA NSW Chair), Christopher Malan (Komptech), Jessica Hurst (Hitachi Construction Machinery Australia), Rob Niccol (ANL) and Peter Wadewitz (Peats Soil and AORA Chair). NSW Government member of the legislative council Paul Green was also invited to share his views on the growing industry.

Peter Wadewitz, Chair of the Australian Organics Recycling Association said it was wonderful to see such great companies performing so well and leading the way at a time when food waste around Australia is such a hot topic.

The 2018 AORA NSW Award for “Outstanding local government initiative in organics collection or processing or marketing” went to Bega Valley Shire Council.

The council was nominated by Sean Hayes from C-Wise, who also accepted on behalf of the council, and the AORA judges agreed that the team at Bega Valley Shire Council should be congratulated on their community centric approach to composting and their recent introduction of a FOGO collection and processing service.

The 2018 AORA NSW Award for “Outstanding Contribution to industry development” was awarded to Duncan Le Good.

Mr Le Good was nominated by Angus Johnston and the judges agreed unanimously that he had made a large contribution to the industry and the association over many years, and particularly over the last two years. He sits on the AORA Board representing NSW and is the deputy chair of the NSW Branch. Within SUEZ he is a strong voice for active participation in the association and industry cooperation more broadly. With Tony Emery stepping down from the NSW Chair and Paul Coffey’s departure from board and management of the association, Duncan has stepped up and influenced others to make big contributions to industry development too. .

The judges found there was no clear winner for the AORA NSW Award for “compost user demonstrating innovation and advocacy in agricultural markets” this year.

The 2018 AORA NSW Award for “compost user demonstrating innovation and advocacy in amenity markets” went to Penelope Smith.

Ms Smith was nominated by Duncan Le Good and the judges agreed that she had been a critical member of The Hills Bark Blower team working tirelessly to promote and raise standards specifically in the area of custom mixes for unique applications. As a horticulturist and marketing specialist, she has applied her knowledge and advocacy successfully to the development and promotion of mixes for roof top gardens, green walls and specialist erosion control (compost blankets). She has also been successful in receiving grants from both rounds of WLRM Organics Marketing Grants Scheme.

The 2018 AORA NSW Award for “Rising Star for outstanding operations or sales team member showing leadership and commitment to a processing members business” was awarded to Gunther Neumann.

Gunther was also nominated by Duncan Le Good and the judges agreed that Gunther oversaw the successful construction and commissioning of the REMONDIS Lake Macquarie Organics Resource Recovery Facility – a new state of the art composting facility at Awaba – which now offers residents and businesses a food and garden waste collection and recycling solution unique in the Hunter. A serial award winner – Gunther was also named Young Business Executive of the Year (Age 18-35) at the Lake Macquarie Business Excellence Awards earlier this year.

Following the official awards presentation, AORA NSW presented a Certificate of Appreciation for “Exemplary and Meritorious Service to the recycled organics industry in New South Wales” to Annie Kavanagh, Senior Projects Officer in the Organics Unit at EPA NSW on the eve of her retirement later this month.

Peter Wadewitz, National Chair of AORA closed the ceremony with the induction of Paul Coffey as the inaugural Life Member of the Association for outstanding service to the Organics Recycling Industry and the Association.

Pictured: Penelope Smith and Duncan Le Good. 

Fuel cell powered waste collection vehicle in development

Commercial vehicle manufacturer Scania has teamed up with Swedish waste company Renova to develop a fuel cell powered refuse truck with a fully electrified power train and compactor.

The two companies aim to reduce emissions and noise to make the electrified vehicles an attractive alternative when working in residential areas at early hours of the morning.

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Renova and other waste handling companies have previously carried out trials with electric refuse trucks, however this will be the first with fuel cells.

Scania Electric Powertrain Technology Project Manager Marita Nilsson says the company is highly interested in gaining more experience of fuel cells in actual customer operations.

“Fuel cells constitute a promising technology in the needed decarbonisation of transports,” Ms Nilsson said.

Renova Head of Development Hans Zackrisson said electrification using fuel cells fuelled by hydrogen is a highly appealing alternative for heavy commercial vehicles such as refuse trucks.

“The trucks benefit from all the advantages of electrification while maintaining some of the best aspects of fossil-fuel operations, namely range, hours in service and payload,” Mr Zackrisson said.

Scania has also previously partnered with Norwegian food wholesaler Asko to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology for its production plant.

The project is being implemented in cooperation with the Swedish Energy Agency and Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology. The fuel cell refuse truck is expected to be delivered in the end of 2019 or by the beginning of 2020.

NSW EPA to develop 20-year waste strategy

The NSW EPA, in partnership with Infrastructure NSW, is developing a 20-year waste strategy for the state.

The strategy aims to set a 20-year vision for reducing waste, driving sustainable recycling markets and identifying and improving the state and regional waste infrastructure network.

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It will also aim to provide the waste industry with certainty and set goals and incentives to ensure the correct infrastructure decisions are made to meet community needs.

Stakeholders, including local government, industry experts and the broader community, will work with the EPA over the next six months to provide an evidence base and address the key priorities for the waste and resource recovery sector.

This will include examining similar waste strategies in Australia and around the world.

A long-term vision and roadmap will include new long-term goals for waste generation and landfill diversion, new policy positions and strategic decisions that aim to avoid waste and improve resource recovery, and a plan for new or enhanced policies to improve waste collection.

A framework for the delivery of an integrated state network will be part of the roadmap, along with aims to align policy and regulation to achieve long term strategic objectives and a plan to strengthen data quality and access.

The strategy is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

National Waste Policy consensus hits stalemate

After the Federal Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy issued a statement indicating a consensus was reached on a national action plan for the National Waste Policy, Environment Minister Melissa Price issued a statement claiming state and territory ministers “walked away from solid targets on Australia’s recycling and waste”.

It comes after the end of year Meeting of Environment Ministers as part of the Council of Australian Governments, which expected to reach agreements on updates to the National Waste Policy. The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council had called for a National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner responsible for ensuring the policy is implemented, facilitating collaboration, regulatory reform and encouraging investment from all levels of government.

According to the ministers official statement, Australia’s state and territory environment ministers agreed by their next meeting to work towards developing a national action plan for the National Waste Policy with appropriate funding, robust targets and milestones.

The ministers agreed to strengthen the national action plan to address plastic pollution, a national approach to waste policy and regulation, including cross border transportation of waste, consideration of proximity principles and a coordinated approach to waste levies. It also committed to increasing demand for recycled materials through procurement.

Ministers agreed to review the targets and milestones annually to ensure priority actions stay focused.

Environment ministers also agreed to consult on new draft guidance on PFAS for an updated PFAS National Environmental Management Plan.

However according to a media release from Environment Minister Melissa Price, state and territory governments “walked away from solid targets on Australia’s recycling and waste”.

“The Federal Government expected to formalise the targets, after months of negotiations and consultation and endorsement at state and federal official level,” she said.

“Instead the state and territory governments refused to endorse aspects of our national waste policy.

“This is an incredibly disappointing outcome for the nation that simply deprives Australia of a policy that would ensure we have a responsible and environmentally sensible approach to managing waste in the future.”

The minister went on to say that the Federal Government will continue to press forward with an action plan on reducing waste and increasing recycling.

Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Shmigel spoke to ABC News about the outcome.

“What we have on the table right now is one statement from the meeting of ministers saying we’ve agreed and we have another statement from the federal minister saying that the states have not agreed, so which one is it?,” Mr Schmigel told ABC News.

He said there was a real risk that kerbside recycling services could come to a halt with commodity prices falling dramatically as a result of exports of materials into China, noting those restrictions had now spread to other markets such as Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

“If ministers don’t recognise that these are new threats to the system, they are being naive,” he continued.

ACT Government Member of the Legislative Assembly Chris Steel told ABC News that the Federal Government had failed to provide a robust action plan.

“It is disappointing that the Commonwealth failed to provide a robust action plan that would allow us to move together, all states and territories and the Commonwealth towards defined targets under a National Waste Policy. This has been in development for well over a year. The Commonwealth hasn’t done that work prior to the meeting and that’s why we weren’t able to agree on national waste targets,” he said.

NSW Government Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton told ABC News efforts were made to achieve further action.

“As a group…we did push for more. Waste is a critical issue, we need action. We need more than a policy and so what we secured an agreement for was a national action plan with targets to be worked up, to address some of the priorities which can’t be swept under the carpet any more,” she said.

In response to the December 7 meeting, the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) welcomed the statement but said it was concerned at what seems like a lack of real action. WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan praised the consensus on harmonised waste levies and a national proximity principle.

“However, the lack of short-term actions that should have been the minimum commitment out of Friday’s meeting will prove problematic,” she said.

“We are coming up to a year since China rolled out its National Sword policy and still, there are no priority actions that will create demand for the resources we manage in order to alleviate the significant pressure our essential industry is under and in the medium-term, create jobs and boost the Australian economy.”

“We may have a shared vision to transition to a circular economy and while we congratulate ministers on adopting the 2018 National Waste Policy which includes circular economy principles, and we acknowledge that ministers have voiced the need for the urgent development of an action plan, this simply does not go far enough, quickly enough.

Ms Sloan said that as a start, there is not one action in the statement that would drive investment in the industry and the concern is that ministers are simply kicking the can down the road considering there are two significant elections coming up in 2019. She said there needs to be some real action in the form of a roadmap, targets and policies backed by funding as opposed to statements about committing to commit.

“We need to ensure that the 2018 policy does not end up amounting to nothing very much like the 2009 iteration,” she said.

 

 

Coca-Cola partners with CitizenBlue to improve NSW recycling

Coca-Cola Australia has partnered with social enterprise CitizenBlue to introduce more drink container recycling options at venues and events in Sydney and regional NSW.

The partnership will aim to strategically place drink container recycling bins in key venues and events, with the proceeds of the collected waste being sent towards environment and community charities.

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Drink containers collected in these bins will be collected and sorted through the NSW Return and Earn scheme.

The bins are expected to help collect around 7.5 million containers per year, leading to an estimated $750,000 in funds raised.

CitizenBlue is a collective of seven environmental not for profit organisations, including Total Environment Centre, Surfrider Foundation and Landcare NSW.

“We’re on a mission to stop waste from entering our waterways and Coca-Cola has a big goal to ensure that every drink bottle and can they sell is collected and recycled,” said Jeff Angel for CitizenBlue.

“This partnership is a first step towards both not-for-profit groups and a major beverage leader working together to tackle our waste issue.”

The NSW Government has reported a 44 per cent drop in drink containers in the litter stream since November 2017.

Surfrider Foundation Australia Chairperson Susie Crick said CitizenBlue’s aim is for these activities to enhance and promote the existing recycling efforts through the container deposit scheme in NSW.

“More organisations and businesses coming together to find solutions to tackle waste and recycling is better for the environment, the sector, not to mention a funding boost for charities,” she said.

The partnership forms part of Coca-Cola’s recently announced global sustainable packaging strategy, which includes a goal to collect and recycle and equivalent of 100 per cent of the packaging they sell by 2030.

Director Public Affairs and Sustainability at Coca-Cola South Pacific Christine Black said the company is focusing its efforts locally on designing packaging to be 100 per cent recyclable across its entire portfolio.

“This partnership is part of the next step for Cola-Cola in tackling drink container waste, whilst inspiring positive change to ensure our bottles and cans have another life beyond their first use,” Ms Black said.

The collection bins are expected to roll out in the early new year at festivals and venues in NSW.

First SA road built with plastic bags and glass

The first South Australian road built with soft plastics and glass at Happy Valley in the City of Onkaparinga will utilise plastic from approximately 139,000 plastic bags and packaging and 39,750 glass bottle equivalents.

Downer and City of Onkaparinga have partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop and RED Group for the project, following similar projects in NSW and Victoria.

Along with soft plastics and glass, toner from about 3200 used printer cartridges and more than 50 tonnes of recycled asphalt were also repurposed to create 265 tonnes of asphalt used to construct the road along Caribbean Crescent in Happy Valley.

Downer Executive General Manager Road Services Dante Cremasco said the milestone event demonstrated the importance of partnerships with other thought leaders to create economic, social and environmental value for products that would more than likely end up in landfill, stockpiled, or as a pollutant in natural environments.

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“Together with City of Onkaparinga and our partners, we have proven that with thought leadership and the tenacity to make a positive difference, we have set a new benchmark in the state when it comes to sustainability by creating new avenues to recycle and repurpose waste materials into new streams of use. It’s all about pulling products, not pushing waste,” Mr Cremasco said.

“Further to the direct sustainability benefits, this cost competitive road product called Reconophalt has enhanced properties of improved strength and resistance to deformation making the road last longer, andallowing it to better handle heavy vehicle traffic,” Mr Cremasco added.

City of Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson said this is an exciting South Australian first and demonstrates council’s commitment to working with industry on innovative and cost-effective solutions to a changing operating environment.

“The City of Onkaparinga manages and maintains over 1350 kilometres of sealed roads and works hard to ensure they’re well maintained as cost effectively as possible and in line with leading asset management principles,” Mayor Thompson said.

“We also collect approximately 14,000 tonnes of recyclables every year. Major disruptions in international markets for recyclables over the last 12 months present significant challenges, as well as emerging opportunities.”

“Creating local demand for recyclables products is one such opportunity and this is a fantastic example of what can be achieved by government working with industry.”

Downer partnered closely with Close the Loop to tailor waste products such as soft plastics to suit a road construction application.

“Our close partnership with Downer, along with our collaborative partnership with RED Group has allowed us to design, develop and manufacture sustainable products using problematic waste streams. We are very pleased to see soft plastics used for the first time in a SA road,” said Nerida Mortlock, General Manager of Close the Loop Australia.

Europe reaches 44 per cent battery recycling collection rate

Around 44 per cent of batteries sold in Europe were collected for recycling, with Belgium reaching 70.7 per cent, according to new data from the European Union’s statistical office, Eurostat.

In total, the data found around 214,000 tonnes of portable batteries and accumulators were put on the market in 2016, with around 93,000 tonnes collected for recycling, meaning more than twice the amount of batteries that had been put on the market than were collected.

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Luxembourg reached 63.4 per cent collection rate, with Hungary and Lithuania reaching around 53 per cent. Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom achieved collection rates of around 45 per cent.

The EU target for collection rates of portable batteries was set at 45 per cent in 2016, meaning 13 EU member states did not reach the target.

Australia has a comparatively low recycling rate of batteries, with the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative finding only three per cent of batteries are recycled and 70 per cent are sent to landfill.

To improve Australia’s battery recycling rates, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called for a regulated product stewardship program for batteries by 2020.

The NWRIC said such a low recycling rate means regulator intervention is the only option.

“With a combination of sensible regulation, targeted investment and consumer education, almost all of Australia’s used batteries can be safely recycled. This would reduce the risk of fires at recycling facilities and minimise the contamination of compost,” the organisation said in a release.