Indonesia sends back waste containers

The Indonesian Government has announced that it will ship 547 containers of contaminated waste back to countries of origin, including 100 housing Australian material.

According to a Fairfax Media report, customs officers, police and environment department officials opened containers of contaminated Australian waste for the media on 18th Sept.

The containers contained mostly plastic, with some food waste and visible liquid.

Indonesian Customs Director General Heru Pambugi said three Australian companies had imported the contaminated plastic waste, including one that did not posses required import documents.

Nine containers have already been shipped, with the remainder to follow in separate shipments.

In response, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said WMRR acknowledges and agrees that Australia should be managing its own waste and resources.

Ms Sloan said while Australia does recycle millions of tonnes of waste on-shore, it needs to grow its demand and use of recovered resources.

“Global shifts have resulted in Australia needing to find homes domestically for our recyclables and this is certainly a positive aspiration,” Ms Sloan said.

“Industry does not want to export these materials, and we know that there are many good reasons to sell these materials right here in Australia and turn them back into packaging.”

Ms Sloan noted that contamination, which is a concern for international importers of recycled materials, is primarily a result of people using their household bins incorrectly.

“Of course, industry and government can and should do more, but so can every citizen by being more diligent about what they put into the yellow bin,” Ms Sloan said.

“What is still lacking in Australia, which is the fundamental reason material has been exported in the past, is greater certainty of remanufacturing pull.”

Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Shmigel said media reports about Australian recyclate material being returned by Indonesian authorities inappropriately undermines recycling efforts

“Less than 1.5 million tonnes of material from kerbside recycling was exported to overseas companies to make into products. Of that, some 65,000 tonnes went to Indonesia because buyers there bought it as feedstock for their factories – and there’s a lack of local demand for it,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Some 500 containers marked to be sent back by Indonesia that apparently don’t meet technical specifications is not substantial in the successful scheme of Australians’ recycling efforts.”

Mr Shmigel said off-spec material occurs in every industry.

“It is totally wrong to suggest that Australian recyclate export material is ‘toxic’. It is more likely to be material from our households that’s been earnestly but mistakenly put in the yellow bin,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Moreover, under the Prime Minister’s leadership, COAG has very recently decided – and industry has strongly welcomed – that material should no longer be exported and that we should become fully responsible for and more sovereign with our recycling.”

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Chemical and paint drop-off centres open in SA

The South Australian Government has opened new chemical and paint drop-off centres in Campbelltown, Heathfield, North Plympton and Edinburgh North.

Environment Minister David Speirs said the state government contributed more than $1 million to the centres, with local partners set to operate the facilities.

“Until now, householders could only access a depot at Dry Creek, which only opened on the first Tuesday morning of each month for three hours,” Mr Speirs said.

“The new facilities make it significantly easier for South Australian households to safely dispose of these chemicals, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of this free service.”

According to Mr Speirs, many people don’t realise the damage that can be caused when chemicals and paint are handled or disposed of incorrectly.

“Apart from the threat to our waterways and surrounding environments if flushed into our sewerage and drain systems, storing unused hazardous chemicals at home or in the garden shed can be potentially lethal if not handled properly,” Mr Speirs said.

“They can be particularly dangerous to young children who cannot yet read warning labels.”

Mr Speirs said it was important to note that some items and substances would not be accepted, such as ammunition, asbestos, tyres, fertiliser and pharmaceuticals.

“Residents are reminded to keep chemicals in their original containers where possible, and ensure they are clearly labelled and well-sealed,” Mr Speirs said.

“It is also best to place open or leaking containers in a plastic rubbish bin or bucket, and transport them in the boot of the car or a trailer making it safer for the driver and to also assist in worker safety at the depots.”

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South Australian councils sign procurement MOU

In an Australian-first, nine South Australian councils have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to prioritise the purchase of products made from recycled materials.

According to Local Government Association of South Australia (LGA) President Sam Telfer, the MOU is the beginning of a circular procurement pilot project led by the LGA, with the assistance of a $96,500 Green Industries SA grant.

Mr Telfer said the goal is to increase local demand for recycled materials, support the development of a circular economy in SA and reduce waste and recycling costs for councils.

“China’s National Sword Policy has made waste and recycling significantly more expensive for South Australian councils,” Mr Telfer said.

Mr Telfer said it was vital to develop new markets for recycled materials in South Australia, and to support this, councils should prioritise the use of recycled materials in their procurement processes.

“This MOU sends a clear message to industry about the types of products that councils want to purchase as part of their commitment to supporting the environment and improving their sustainability,” Mr Telfer said.

Through the MOU, councils have committed to prioritising the purchase of recycled-content products through the procurement process, and tracking and reporting on recycled-content purchasing by weight.

According to a LGA statement, most will also adopt a rolling target for the purchase of recycled plastic products, and work towards eventually buying back recycled materials equivalent to half the weight of plastics collected in council areas.

“Examples of products made of recycled materials that can be purchased by councils include road and construction materials, street furniture, bollards, office stationery and compost,” the statement reads.

“The MOU was signed on-site at Advanced Plastic Recycling (APR); a leading manufacturer and designer of recycled wood plastic composite products made from 100 per cent post-consumer waste. Products produced by APR include bollards, boardwalks, fencing and street furniture.”

APR CEO Ryan Lokan said that by using materials sourced locally from kerbside recycling, APR prevent 1500 tonnes of plastic and 1500 tonnes of wood from entering landfill each year.

“The greatest benefit coming from mandatory buy back is the demand created,” Mr Lokan said.

LGA CEO Matt Pinnegar and LGA President Sam Telfer.

“Demand drives innovation and it is companies like ours that will rise to the challenge to meet the requirements for recycled material.”

South Australian Environment Minister David Speirs said improved recycling and resource recovery not only reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill, but also supports the state’s economy.

“This project will help drive local demand for recycled materials, supporting local reprocessing and remanufacturing opportunities here in South Australia,” Mr Speirs said.

Participating councils include Adelaide Hills Council, City of Burnside, City of Charles Sturt, Mount Barker District Council, Rural City of Murray Bridge, City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters, City of Onkaparinga, City of Port Adelaide Enfield and City of Prospect.

City of Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson said the circular procurement pilot project highlights councils working together to find positive and long-term solutions, to issues facing recycling in South Australia and across the country.

“This announcement builds on our plans – and those of other SA councils – to establish new material recycling facilities in our communities,” Ms Thompson said.

“Exciting projects like this help us become more self-sufficient, create circular economies and reduce our reliance on recycling companies, delivering major benefits to the environment and local economy.”

Adelaide Hills Council Acting Mayor Nathan Daniel said the program will lead to improved knowledge and understanding of circular procurement, through the increased purchase of products with recycled content.

“This will in turn provide stability and ongoing markets for recyclable material placed in the kerbside recycling bin. Adelaide Hills Council is committed to providing leadership in transitioning to a sustainable future that prioritises the use of recycled material,” Mr Daniel said.

“It’s essential that we continue to look at ways to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill. Council hopes the pilot project will help develop local markets for recyclable materials by increasing market demand for recycled content products and materials.”

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NSW EPA releases new C&D guidelines

The NSW EPA has published two new guidance documents to help the construction and demolition industry strengthen their procurement and contract processes around waste disposal.

In NSW, waste owners and transporters may be guilty of an offence if construction and demolition waste is transported to the wrong facility or disposed of illegally.

Individuals can be fined up to $250,000, while corporations can be fined up to $1,000,000. If the offence involves asbestos waste, the fines double.

EPA Executive Director Waste Operations Carmen Dwyer said the documents, Construction and Demolition Waste: A Management Toolkit and Owner’s Guide to Lawful Disposal of Construction and Demolition Waste, will help both private and government organisations strengthen their waste processes.

“We know that most people in this industry are keen to cut out unlawful behaviour, and the toolkit and guide provide steps that businesses can take to ensure their waste material is lawfully disposed of,” Ms Dwyer said.

“The documents provide step-by-step guides to help industry bolster their contracts with waste transporters, and factor in control measures from the beginning of the procurement process through to disposal.”

Guidance includes knowing what waste streams will be generated, questioning waste management quotes that appear too low, checking council development consent and environment protection laws and having clear roles and responsibilities for everyone managing waste on the project.

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RMIT professors push for industry input on circular economy

Academics engaged to provide comment on Victoria’s draft Circular Economy Policy have warned that without industry input, the strategy’s success could be limited.

The Victorian Circular Economy Policy draft was opened to public comment earlier this year.

According to the official document, the policy aims to re-define growth by decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and design waste out of the system.

According to RMIT professors Usha Iyer-Raniga and Scott Valentine, the strategy needs to involve a rethinking of resource efficiency across the economy, and extend its focus beyond Victoria’s waste and recycling crisis.

Ms Iyer-Raniga said while environmental ministries have an important role in circular economy strategic development, business model innovation and corporate buy-ins are needed to foster results.

“As the Danish and Dutch experiences in circular economy planning show us, it is not only about diverting tins of soda away from landfills, it is about new innovations and new strategies for producing and consuming goods and services,” Ms Iyer-Raniga said.

Both Ms Iyer-Raniga and Mr Valentine are members of RMIT’s CE Hub, which helps businesses find profitable resource efficiency strategies.

“If implemented correctly, a circular economy strategy will enhance corporate profitability, reduce resource costs, make Australian industry more competitive and create new business and jobs,” Mr Valentine said.

“In short, the circular economy needs to be approached as an economic development strategy, and connections need to be made with research and development hubs like we have at RMIT. Failure to do so will discourage corporate buy-in and the initiative will underperform.”

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$30M Victorian stockpile clean-up begins

The first truck loads of construction and demolition waste are being removed from a waste stockpile in Lara, Geelong, after the Victorian Government took control of site management in May.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the process could take several years, with the state government providing $30 million for clean-up and fire prevention measures.

“Poor site management practices by the previous operator let the recycling waste grow to dangerous levels, resulting in an unacceptable fire risk to the local community, the environment and emergency services,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“There is absolutely no excuse for the reckless behaviour of the people who left this mess for us to deal with, and we will have no hesitation pursuing them to cover the cost of the clean-up.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the site contains an estimated 320,000 cubic metres of predominantly construction and demolition waste, including materials such as timber, concrete, bricks, plaster, glass and ceramics.

“The first stage will be the processing and removal of a 27,000 cubic metre stockpile of timber, weighing an estimated 3500 tonnes,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The City of Greater Geelong will project manage the works on behalf of the EPA and government, including managing interim fire risk measures by maintaining 24/7 security, secure fencing and maintenance of firefighting equipment.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the EPA is pursuing previous site occupiers, owners, company directors and any other relevant parties to recover the costs of the fire prevention measures and clean up.

“Since August 2017, the EPA has had additional powers to support Victoria’s fire services and issue remedial notices to facilities not properly managing potential fire risks,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“These powers will be strengthened further under the new Environment Protection Act which will come into effect on 1 July 2020, to prevent situations like this in the future.”

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Veolia hosts MRF education day

Veolia opened the doors of its Echuca materials recovery facility (MRF) to local councils and commercial businesses on 11 September, to educate them on MRF operations and processing.

Veolia Commercial Services General Manager Daniel Paone said educating customers and the wider community was an important part of Veolia’s approach to materials recovery.

“Veolia owns and operates the MRF in Echuca, which has a design capacity of approximately 20,000 tonnes per annum. The MRF processes mixed recyclables that are collected throughout the region,” Mr Paone said.

“By working with our customers, we can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill and avoid contamination risk, which not only has a negative impact on the environment, but puts the safety of our people at risk. The more our customers and the community understand how the facility works, the more effectively we can serve the community and our customers.”

Veolia Sustainability Coordinator Francesca Stafford said the open day highlighted a range of issues caused by contamination including safety risks for MRF employees, a reduction in commodity recyclability and an increase in sorting and disposal costs.

“Hosting an industry open day like this one is an essential component of our wider engagement strategy,” Ms Stafford said.

“Education and awareness is fundamental to sustainability, and allowing our clients to see the issues first hand will help them drive positive change within their local communities.”

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Return and Earn consumer research released

According to recent Return and Earn consumer research, eight out of 10 residents are satisfied with the New South Wales container deposit scheme (CDS), and over two-thirds believe it contributes to long-term recycling outcomes for the state.

TOMRA Cleanaway CEO James Dorney applauded the New South Wales community for their role in the scheme’s success.

“The success of the scheme is a testament to the incredible efforts of the NSW community who in July, returned and earned more than two billion containers in just 19 months since the scheme began,” Mr Dorney said.

“The survey showed that more than half of NSW residents are using the scheme, which in turn demonstrates how easy access to drop-off points and a well-planned network of collections and recovery infrastructure are critical to the success of any recycling system.”

According to the survey, 55 per cent of the New South Wales population have used the scheme, up from 48 per cent in December 2018.

Additionally, the survey showed that 78 per cent believe the scheme will benefit the environment.

Cleanaway Solid Waste General Manager David Clancy said the scheme had far exceeded expectations, reaching one billion containers in a year and two billion in 19 months.

Mr Clancy estimates that Return and Earn is likely to hit three billion containers before the end of 2019, accounting for almost half of all beverage containers sold in the state.

“Container deposit or refund schemes incentivise customers to return their drink containers to collection points in exchange for a refund,” Mr Clancy said.

“They are a perfect example of delivering on the triple bottom line of sustainability – there’s less litter in the environment, refunds can be used to benefit local community groups, associations and charities, and finally recycled containers become a part of the circular economy, extending the use of existing materials while reducing reliance on natural resources.”

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SA single-use plastic taskforce meets

A taskforce, with representation from 15 different organisations, has meet to help inform the next steps towards banning single-use plastics in South Australia.

The state government asked the taskforce to consider what impacts legislation might have on businesses and the community, and provide advice on what a phase out of single-use plastic straws, cups, drink stirrers and food service items might look like.

Environment Minister David Speirs said the taskforce is made up of a range of interested stakeholders, including environmental groups, business representatives, the hospitality industry and disability advocates.

“The group will discuss solutions and alternatives as part of any move to phase out single-use plastics, to ensure South Australians can transition smoothly,” Mr Speirs said.

“The taskforce will also seek presentations and meetings with those with a stake in any future changes to legislation, and will assist communication with the community and business.”

According to Mr Speirs, South Australia leads the nation in issues of environmental responsibility.

“The issue of our plastic use and plastic pollution is one of the most pressing topics of our time, and we won’t be left standing on the sidelines watching the impact on our environment go unchecked,” Mr Speirs said.

“We know that our interstate colleagues are eagerly awaiting the outcomes from our taskforce and from our plastic free precinct trials. We want South Australia to again lead the way nationally and provide a blueprint for how to reduce single-use plastics.”

Legislation banning single-use plastics in South Australia is expected to be introduced into parliament in the first half of 2020.

Members of the single use plastics task force include:

Australian Food and Grocery Council

Australian Hotels Association (SA)

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation

Conservation Council SA

Environment Protection Authority

Green Industries SA

KESAB environmental solutions

Local Government Association of SA

National Retail Association

JFA Purple Orange

Disability Elders of All Ages

Restaurant and Catering Industry Association

SA Independent Retailers

Waste Management Resource Recovery Association

Woolworths Group

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