Numurkah tyre stockpile to be cleaned up

A dangerous tyre stockpile in Numurkah will be removed, with the Victorian Government utilising its legislative powers to enter the site and remove the tyres.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio on Thursday called a community meeting in Numurkah, a town located in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley Highway, to announce funding to clear up the stockpile on privately-owned land, where an estimated 500,000 tyres have been stored.

Environment Protection Authority Victoria will use its powers under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to enter the site and remove the tyres, with the assistance of Moira Shire Council.

The removal of the tyres will take approximately 10 weeks, with the waste to be taken to an EPA-licensed facility in Melbourne for shredding and recycling..

A Country Fire Authority fire risk assessment of the Numurkah site concluded that a fire at the premises would be catastrophic. A security fence will be constructed around the border of the site to prevent any access.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the stockpile presents an unacceptable risk to the community.

“We’re providing immediate funding to clean-up this site and keep the community safe,” she said.

 

 

NWRIC calls for National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on the federal, state and territory environment ministers to appoint a National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner to ensure the National Waste Policy will be successful.

In a statement, NWRIC CEO Rose Read said Australia can no longer ignore the waste, resource recovery and recycling challenges it faces. It comes ahead of Friday’s Meeting of Environment Ministers as part of the biannual Council of Australian Governments meeting, where the rebooted National Waste Policy will be discussed.

“We are still one of the highest generators of waste per capita in the developed world,” Ms Read said.

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Ms Read said that inconsistent state waste regulations, limited infrastructure planning, reliance on overseas markets for recyclates, unfair local markets, increasing contamination of and lack of regulated product stewardship schemes are all major barriers to Australia realising the true economic, environmental and social value of its waste as a resource.

“Unless there is a significant shift in how our federal, state and territory governments work together to remove these barriers Australia’s waste will continue to grow and industry will not invest in technologies that would transform waste into valuable resources that meet local and global markets,” she said.

A National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner would be responsible for ensuring the policy is implemented, facilitating collaboration, regulatory reform and encouraging investment from all levels of government, producers, manufacturers, importers, retailers and recyclers.

The NWRIC believes that key actions that must be progressed as a matter of urgency are:

●  Harmonising state waste regulations specifically around waste definitions, licensing and transport.

●  A national waste and recycling infrastructure strategy that maps material and resource pathways for the next 30 years.

●  Regulating battery and tyre product stewardship schemes.

●  Mandating local, state and government procurement of recycled content in products and services.

●  Reviewing the National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) for packaging and including mandated targets for recycled content in packaging and that all packaging must be recyclable,        compostable or reusable.

●  Increasing investment in community and business education that encourages better consumption, increases reuse, improves source separation and reduces contamination.

 

Return and Earn hits one billion mark

More than one billion drink containers have been returned one year on from Return and Earn, leading to a record reduction in litter volume across NSW.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said Return and Earn has been an outstanding success and changed the way people dispose of empty drink containers.

“Before Return and Earn, many drink bottles and cans became litter and only a third were being recycled through yellow lidded bins.

“Now the trend is reversed: far more are recycled than are littered and the state is a cleaner place,” Ms Upton said.

The figures for Return and Earn’s are as follows:

  • Eligible drink containers collected and recycled: up by 69 per cent
  • Eligible drink container litter volume: down 44 per cent
  • NSW total litter volume: down 48 per cent since 2013
  • Drink containers being processed each week: 26 million
  • Most drink containers processed in a day: 5.6 million on Sunday, November 11

“More than half the drink containers in the marketplace (54 per cent) are now being recovered, compared with the 32 per cent that was being collected in yellow bins before Return and Earn kicked in.

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“When combined with the 710 million drink containers collected in yellow bins between December 2017 and September, we now know there has been a massive 69 per cent increase in the number of drink containers recovered compared with yellow bin collections over a similar period last year,” Ms Upton said.

“While litter volume has pleasingly dropped across all litter categories, the largest reduction is from eligible drink containers which now represent an all-time low of 37 per cent of the NSW litter volume stream,” Ms Upton said.

Ms Upton said the Premier’s target of a reducing litter in NSW by 40 per cent cut by 2020 was on track to be met and potentially exceeded.

“This shows the impact and undeniable success of Return and Earn on reducing litter across the state.

“There are 20 Return and Earn collection points across the state that have collected more than six million drink containers, with the record going to Granville with 9.8 million.

“Casula (8.8m), Queanbeyan and Marrickville (8.7m), Carnes Hill and Emerton (8.5m), Marsfield (8.3m), Wagga Wagga (7.9m), Revesby (7.8m) and Dubbo (7.08m) fill out the top 10,” Ms Upton said.

Network Operator TOMRA Cleanaway CEO James Dorney said the scheme is a great success.

“The scheme has exceeded our expectations and has delivered positive outcomes for our environment, multiple charity organisations, donation partners and the community overall.”

Ms Upton said Return and Earn is incredibly popular: almost every second person (45 per cent) has used it so far and 90 per cent say they would use it again.

“In addition, almost 300 community, school, charity and sporting groups have benefited from Return and Earn by featuring on reverse vending machines across the state as donation partners, and many more have fundraised by collecting drink container donations from their communities.

“Return and Earn has been a success because people in NSW have taken it on and are helping to keep our environment litter free.” 

* NSW receives quarterly National Litter Index litter counts from Keep Australia Beautiful (in August, November, February and May). Only the November and May counts go towards the annualised, publicly released Index figure. The additional counts are commissioned by the NSW Government to inform NSW litter reduction policies and programs.

AORA presents inaugural student award

The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) is presenting an inaugural student award for the University of Queensland.

The annual AORA Student Research Awards will be managed by UQ’s Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients (CROWN).

The AORA Awards for Advancing Research, Development and Education in Organics Recycling will see participation from post graduate students enrolled at honours, masters or PhD level at an Australian or New Zealand university.

The awards aims to encourage students to undertake and excel in research designed to advance the nation’s knowledge and understanding of manufacturing high quality and value-added recycled organic products and their use in agricultural and horticultural production systems, including amenity horticulture.

Research considered for an award may apply to any stage of the organics recycling supply chains handling, including urban organic residues, food and fibre processing residues, biosolids or animal manures. It could also involve utilising generated recycled organic products as organic fertilisers, soil amendments, components of soil blends and growing media and for a wide range of land management purposes. Further information is provided in the awards guidelines and nomination form, both of which are available from the AORA Website and CROWN website.

Australia has $5B bioenergy potential: report

Australia stands on the precipice of a significant bioenergy economy, according to a new report launched this week.

Future energy organisation, Bioenergy Australia, has released the first Bioenergy State of the Nation Report in Canberra.

According to the report a significant bioenergy opportunity awaited Australia in which up to $5 billion in potential investments could be sought across regional areas and Queensland was leading the way.

The report from KPMG commissioned by Bioenergy Australia helped to outline criteria for launching a sizeable bioenergy economy.

Speaking at Parliament House to launch the report, Bioenergy Australia CEO Shahana McKenzie said there was much to be gained through the adoption of best practice approaches throughout Australia in light of reviews the report makes of state and territory policies to facilitate policy transfer and learning.

“Queensland has already adopted a number of successful policies which can be adapted and deployed to drive bioenergy uptake across the country,” she said.

Bioenergy is said by advocates to deliver a range of benefits such as employment and economic development of rural/agricultural communities, energy security, utilisation of waste streams and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Report assessments were based on bioenergy performance measured against five evaluation criteria: policy development and effectiveness, bioenergy project development, technology and feedstock, sustainability guidance, advocacy and education.

“Queensland is driving the bioenergy agenda on a number of fronts and should be commended for the incredible work happening across the state,” Ms McKenzie said.

“They have a government who recognises bioenergy as a priority industry, actively rolling out new projects through the delivery of the Biofutures Roadmap and Biofutures Program,” she said.

“There is no shortage of viable options we can implement to drive us forward, and we hope the Bioenergy Australia State of the Nation Report can be this force for change in the sector so Australia can leverage the wide-ranging potential benefits of a bio-economy.”

Fed Govt releases PFAS contamination recommendations

The Federal Government’s PFAS Sub-Committee has made nine recommendations to improve its response to PFAS contamination.

It is part of a report tabled by the Chair of the PFAS Sub-Committee, Andrew Laming, and analyses the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination in and around defence bases.

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The report recommends establishing a Coordinator-General with the authority and resources to effectively coordinate Federal Government efforts to reduce PFAS contamination and to ensure there is a consistent approach across community consultations and cooperation with state, territory and local governments.

Improvements to voluntary blood testing program could also be used as a source of longitudinal information on the health effects of PFAS exposure and the effective methods to break PFAS exposure pathways.

The Federal Government has also been recommended to assist property owners and businesses in affected areas for demonstrated, quantifiable financial losses associated with PFAS contamination from defence bases. This could be undertaken through a comprehensive scheme that is flexible enough to accommodate a variety of individual circumstances.

“I would like to thank and pay tribute to the many members of PFAS affected communities across the country who made submissions to the inquiry and who appeared to give evidence at public and in-camera hearings. I trust that this report honours their effort,” Mr Laming said.

Queenslanders recycle 50M containers in four weeks

More than 50 million drink containers have been returned during the first month of Queensland’s container refund scheme, Containers for Change, with almost $5 million in refunds being refunded.

Within the first four weeks, more than 60,000 Queenslanders have signed up to receive the 10-cent refund, alongside the creation of more than 500 jobs to support the scheme across the state.

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Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the scheme has been a smash hit and helps reduce the number of containers that end up in landfill or as litter.

“This is a phenomenal result in only four weeks and we have to remember this is just the very beginning for Queensland’s container refund scheme, Containers for Change,” Ms Enoch said.

“Queenslanders use nearly three billion containers every year and sadly they are the second most commonly littered item in the environment, despite the fact they can be easily recycled.

“Charities and community groups are also getting involved with over 1000 having registered with the scheme, sharing in the donation of refunds, to support vital community services,” she said.

Ms Enoch also praised the efforts of the container refund operators and said the results of their work speak for themselves.

“Many of these operators are small family-run businesses and I want to congratulate these operators for their hard work in getting the refund points up and running and Queenslanders for their support,” she said.

Container Exchange CEO Ken Noye said the scheme provides opportunities for organisations to help their communities.

“It provides unprecedented opportunities for these bodies to raise funds for much-needed resources, especially smaller organisations which have to compete for funding in the not-for-profit-sector,” Mr Noye said.

“Queensland will benefit from the 500 new jobs being created around the state to implement and operate the scheme, and that’s good news for people who want to work within the scheme.”

Victorian Government Environment Minister reappointed

Lily D’Ambrosio will continue her work as the Victorian Government’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change following the announcement of a new cabinet.

It comes after the Labor party’s sweeping victory in November’s election.

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One of her key responsibilities will be to implement the government’s commitment to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. She has also been appointed the Minister for Solar Homes, tasked with overseeing Solar Victoria as it rolls out a large-scale program of solar panels, solar hot water systems and batteries to help reduce power bills for consumers.

Ms D’Amrosio has represented the electorate of Mill Park in the Victorian Legislative Assembly since 2002. She was appointed the Minister for Industry and Minister for Energy and Resources after the election of the Andrews Labor Government in 2014. In 2016, she was appointed Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and Minister for Suburban Development.

One of her achievements in the climate portfolio saw her oversee the passage of the Climate Change Act, which led to Victoria becoming the first Australian state to legislate in line with the Paris Agreement for net zero emissions by 2050. The minister has also overseen an overhaul of the Environmental Protection Act 1970, a 2014 election promise, which reformed the regulatory body to focus on the prevention of harm to human and environmental health.

 

EPA grants Australian Paper waste facility works approval

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has granted Australian Paper a works approval to develop a large-scale, waste to energy facility in Victoria.

The facility is proposed to be co-located within the boundaries of the Australian Paper site in Maryvale, Latrobe Valley and process residual municipal solid waste, and industrial and commercial waste.

The plant would generate steam and electricity that can be directly used in the paper mill and its operations or power exported to the grid. As proposed, it would replace two existing gas-fired boilers, produce approximately 30 megawatts of electricity and 150 tonnes per hour of steam and would result in a 13 million tonne net reduction of greenhouse gases through its lifetime.

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EPA’s assessment of the application considered issues such as use of best practice technology, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, waste fuel composition, compliance with waste hierarchy, the principles of the Environment Protection Act 1970, environmental management and potential risks to human health and the environment including emissions to air, noise, disposal of fly ash, the wastewater treatment system and operational contingencies.

EPA Executive Director of Regulatory Standards, Assessments & Permissioning Tim Eaton said EPA’s decision followed many months of consultation and research including taking in 128 submissions and reviewing additional information. The statutory deadline for decision was 28 November.

“The project is highly complex and with so many submissions it was clear that thorough consultation would be needed especially with the community most directly involved,” said Mr Eaton.

The company’s full application, assessment and the responses to the submissions will be made publicly available here.

“Approval of the application means that EPA has satisfied itself that the project can be built to meet the requirements of the Environment Protection Act 1970 and all relevant policies and regulations to protect human health and the environment from the harmful effects of pollution and waste,” he said.

 

Australian Paper now requires further approvals, including a planning permit from Latrobe City Council and securing waste contracts. Completion of final detailed design, construction and commissioning will all need to be consistent with the works approval before Australian Paper can apply for an EPA operating licence.

 

WMAA’s five policy priorities ahead of MEM

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) has written to Federal Government Environment Minister Melissa Price ahead of the December 7 Meeting of Environment Ministers (MEM) meeting calling for five policy priorities for the government to drive.

In its letter, WMAA called for a national proximity principle as well as a level playing field, including a common approach to levies and market development, and strengthening product stewardship and extended producer responsibility schemes. WMAA also called for government leadership in sustainable procurement and market development and a whole-of-government approach.

Commenting on the upcoming MEM, Ms Sloan said it was time for the Federal Government to take ownership of its important role in driving industry forward and start using the tools and levers that only it has to turn Australia’s circular economy aspirations into reality.

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“The one thing we all know about waste is, it just keeps coming. The role of ministers at this meeting must be to start pulling the right levers for Australia, to leverage demand for these resources to meet this ongoing supply,” WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan said.

“Take the GST as an example. This is not payable on second hand products so why couldn’t the same exemption be applied to recyclate? There are other levers such as research and development incentives, import bans, tax disincentives… All of which can go a long way in incentivising the use of recycled material in Australia.”

Ms Sloan noted that next year, Germany will have a new packaging law requiring all manufacturers, importers, distributors and online retailers to meet strict material generation targets or face hefty fines.

“Packaging producers must also licence their packaging and all businesses will have to register with a central packaging registry to ensure compliance and maintain market access. Australia can draw lessons from Germany because it is time for our Federal Government to take our extended producer responsibility laws and frameworks seriously if Australia is genuine about creating jobs and investment,” Ms Sloan said.

WMAA noted that of course, each state and territory must focus on particular policies, but there is value in developing some commonality across key regulation and policies or further exacerbate what is now a highly uneven playing field and continue to create confusion and uncertainty among businesses that operate nationally.