COAG proposes export ban

Federal, state and local government ministers have agreed to work on a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, to improve Australia’s recycling capacity.

The agreement was made at the 9 August Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison arguing more needed to be done to deal with rising amounts of recyclable waste.

Environment Ministers will advise a proposed timetable and response strategy following consultation with industry and other stakeholders.

COAG agreed the strategy should draw on the best science, research and commercial experience, including that of agencies like the CSIRO and the work of Cooperative Research Centres.

Australia exported roughly 4.5 million tonnes of waste last year, with the majority sent to Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Malaysia and Thailand.

Indonesia, India and Malaysia have since begun to review their waste import policies.

“It’s our waste, and it’s our responsibility,” Mr Morrison said in a post-meeting press conference, according to an ABC report.

“That’s why I think setting a clear path forward as leaders — that we don’t want to see this going into the ocean, that we don’t want to see this go into waterways, and we’ll do everything in our remit to achieve that goal — is a very important outcome.”

Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Shmigel said the COAG announcement aligned with domestic sustainability goals.

“The best route to COAG’s vision of recycling sovereignty and security is for governments to now match very big deeds and dollars to their discussions. This great leadership by COAG must be followed by great investment that matches industries own,” Mr Shmigel said.

“As part of the Environment Ministers’ upcoming plan, that means: major scale support for reprocessing and remanufacturing infrastructure; unprecedented public sector purchasing of recycled content products and other bold incentives for domestic use of recyclate, such as tax credits for manufacturers, removal of ridiculous regulatory barriers and indeed proposed bans for recycled content products in some states.”

Mr Shmigel said material export bans needed to be implemented over a clear timetable with consultation and care to avoid unintended consequences.

“If there are no new and sustainable markets established for the 4.5m tonnes of currently exported material, there will only be the option of domestic disposal – which is highly undesirable,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Ministers must also remain open to alternative waste treatment and waste to energy where Australia only uses some 2 per cent of its waste, which is massively below European countries, who also have much higher recycling rates.”

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said the meeting represents a step in the right direction towards building a sustainable domestic remanufacturing industry.

“Waste management and resource recovery were firmly on the table at the COAG meeting in Cairns, and leaders agreed to develop a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass, and tyres, while building Australia’s capacity to generate high value recycled commodities and associated demand,” Ms Sloan said.

“This is a significant and positive commitment – industry has always advocated that Australia should be processing our own waste and recyclables. Industry can, and is keen, to build capacity and the fact that we’re on the agenda and we have the Prime Minister’s and Premiers’ attention means we can finally move forward.”

Ms Sloan said WMRR support the task given to environment ministers to advise on a proposed timetable and response strategy following consultation with industry and other stakeholders.

“As part of this exercise, leaders agreed the strategy must seek to reduce waste, especially plastics, decrease the amount of waste going to landfill and maximise the capability of our waste management and recycling sector to collect, recycle, reuse, convert and recover waste,” Ms Sloan said.

“We also look forward to Meeting of Environment Ministers convening sooner rather than later to progress what we all know we need – and what is now clearly in everyone’s sights – market signals that will enable industry to invest and all stakeholders to support onshore remanufacturing and markets for domestic recycled products.”

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NWRIC meets with ministers

Ministers met with the waste and recycling industry in Melbourne to discuss recycling challenges, developing markets for recycled materials, new infrastructure capacity and how waste levies should be managed and reinvested into the sector.

Federal Waste Reduction Assistant Minister Trevor Evans and Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio meet with National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) members and affiliated representatives on 6 August.

NWRIC Chairman Phil Richards said active collaboration between government and the waste and recycling industry was crucial to an effective sector.

“With recycling services under threat in Victoria, growing stockpiles across the country, exemptions revoked for the recovery of organics from mixed waste in NSW, now has never been a more important time for industry and government to work closely together,” Mr Richards said.

“Topics of discussion included the critical importance of long term infrastructure planning coordinated across all levels of government, as well as consistent, regular community education campaigns to rebuild community confidence in recycling.”

NWRIC Secretary Alex Serpo said NWRIC members suggested local procurement of recycled materials, and setting appropriate recycled content levels for packaging and civil construction, could revitalise domestic recycling.

Fuel manufacture and energy recovery projects were also discussed, with industry ready to deliver projects that recover embodied energy from unrecyclable materials, reduce greenhouse emissions and extend the life of landfills.

The role of waste levies in addressing current challenges was another topic of conversation.

“This included the need for states, territories and the Federal Government to develop a national levy pricing strategy through the Council of Australian Governments,” Mr Serpo said.

“This pricing strategy could prevent the inappropriate disposal and movement of waste, stop levy avoidance activities, and ensure the resource recovery industry is viable and competitive.”

NWRIC is calling on all state governments to be more transparent and accountable for the total amount of levies collected annually, what proportion of the levies are invested back into the waste and recycling sector and what outcomes are achieved.

FOCUS Enviro supplies Australia’s first UNTHA XR shredder

Australia’s first UNTHA XR shredder is now operational in Melbourne, after a 15,000 kilometre journey from an engineering facility in Austria.

Exclusive Australian UNTHA shredding equipment distributor FOCUS Enviro supplied the 37-tonne mobile machine to Knox Recycling (KTS).

The UNTHA XR3000C mobil-e will handle up to 30 tonnes of commercial, industrial and wood waste per hour to manufacture process engineered fuel (PEF).

FOCUS Enviro director Robbie McKernan said KTS were previously unable to produce high-specification fuel with only one machine.

Mr McKernan said KTS accompanied FOCUS Enviro on several site visits across Europe to see the UNTHA shredder in action.

“Impressed by the single pass shredding capabilities of this robust technology, FOCUS Enviro then set about configuring a solution that could achieve Knox’s refined less than 50 millimetre output particle requirements,” Mr McKernan said.

“We have seen what the XR mobil-e is capable of, as it has continued to transform the throughputs, fuel quality and energy efficiency of facilities worldwide.”

Mr McKernan said FOCUS Enviro had worked hard to bring UNTHA’s innovation to Australia.

“No other single machine can produce such a homogenous fuel in a single pass, so I think the Knox operation is going to be a leading light in this complex arena,” Mr McKernan said.

According to KTS owner Mark Jeffs, alternative fuel production is becoming more important in Australia.

“As a progressive environmental company we want to be ahead of the curve,” Mr Jeffs said.

“We acknowledged that by investing in world class PEF production technology we could produce a high-quality resource, efficiently, and hopefully really drive the market for this crucial energy source.”

UNTHA Global Business Development Director Gary Moore said the company’s machinery could process a range of waste materials effectively.

“Whether the resulting fuel is going to a local cement kiln or the export market, we always work with the client to optimise throughputs, minimise impurities and maximise margins,” Mr Moore said.

“Australia is one of the world’s most exciting countries when it comes to energy from waste potential, and it’s great to now be a part of it.”

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International specialist to help fight food waste

The Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has partnered with Woolworths and Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) to bring international sustainable food systems specialist Mark Barthel to Australia.

Mark Barthel has 25 years of experience fighting food waste with brands such as Tesco, Amazon, Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Nestle, and international organisations such as WRAP, the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the FAO.

“It is an exciting time to be working with Woolworths, CRC and FIAL to develop a food waste reduction roadmap,” Mr Barthel said.

“Although only three per cent of national food waste is attributed to supermarkets, they still have a critical role to play in engaging with their customers about how they can make the most of the food they buy.”

Mr Barthel said Woolworths was at the forefront in educating customers to minimising food waste via their Food Savers program.

“They have also made commitments themselves, with 100 per cent of their stores now having a food waste diversion program in place,” Mr Barthel said.

“I am excited to be working closely with Woolworths to develop a roadmap that will see them engaging with suppliers, customers and community partners to work together to tackle this issue.”

According to the Australian National Food Waste Baseline report, 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted each year, half of which ends up in landfill.

“Preventing food waste entering landfill in Australia would be the equivalent of taking over 1 million cars off the road in terms of its environmental impact,” Mr Barthel said.

“There is a huge role for businesses to play in reducing food waste along the supply chain, and in addition to working on a roadmap for Woolworths, I’m also going to be working with FIAL to establish a voluntary agreement program with Australian businesses as part of the National Food Waste Strategy.”

FIAL Managing Director Mirjana Prica said the organisation was thrilled to have Mr Barthel working on the implementation of the National Food Waste Strategy.

“His experience in setting up the UK’s Cortauld Agreement, and understanding of sustainable food systems, will provide invaluable insights that will help shape Australia’s efforts to reduce food waste,” Ms Prica said.

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Melbourne backs CDS plan

The City of Melbourne has joined other Victorian councils in calling for the state government to introduce container deposit legislation into parliament.

The campaign was started by the Municipal Association of Victoria, with backing from the City of Frankston, City of Darebin and City of Port Phillip.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said a container deposit scheme (CDS) would help reduce plastic and glass sent to landfill.

“The recycling system is broken and we need to harness community and industry support to fix it,” Ms Capp said.

“We need to reward individuals and community groups who are doing the right thing when it comes to recycling. It’s time to provide an incentive for people who collect bottles and cans and give back to the community.”

Melbourne Environment Chair Cathy Oke said Victoria and Tasmania are the only Australian states yet to commit to a scheme.

The Tasmanian Government announced it would implement a CDS by 2023 in June, but legislation is yet to be enacted.

“South Australian first introduced their scheme in 1977, leading the nation on waste management. They currently offer a 10 cent deposit and refund on beverage containers,” Ms Oke said.

“Introducing a similar scheme in Victoria would help reduce litter while providing a commodity that could be used by our local industry.”

Ms Oke said the scheme could include manually operated or automated reverse vending machines, that would give credit for each item deposited.

“Victorians are looking for answers to the waste crisis, so it’s time we helped people do their bit to help create a stronger recycling sector,” Ms Oke said.

“Along with reducing litter, the scheme would ensure the beverage supplier industry takes greater responsibility for packaging, and rewards individuals, community groups, sporting clubs and charities for picking up littered beverage containers.”

Following SKM’s decision to no longer accept recyclable materials, the City of Melbourne has been forced to send 45 tonnes of recycling to landfill each day.

Ms Oke said SKM sorts 50 per cent of Victoria’s kerbside recycling – close to 300,000 tonnes a year.

“More than $500 million of landfill levy income collected by Victorian Councils is available in the state government’s Sustainability Fund and could be invested to increase capacity in the local recycling sector,” Ms Oke said.

“We need the state government to unlock the funds councils have collected from landfill levies and invest in new technologies to transform our waste and resource recovery sector.”

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V/Line installs recycled plastic sleepers

Recycled plastic railway sleepers have been installed on Victoria’s regional train network for the first time, with funding assistance from Sustainability Victoria.

According to a Sustainability Victoria statement, the recycled sleepers are an innovative replacement for the V/Line’s current concrete sleepers.

“V/Line trains are heavier and tend to run faster than metro trains, so they need incredibly sturdy sleepers. Concrete has always been the most reliable option – until now,” the statement reads.

“Testing shows the recycled plastic sleepers won’t melt, crack or flake off under pressure. They won’t leach into the environment and are much less carbon intensive to make.”

The product was installed near Wyndham Vale train station in late July.

“Made from a mix of polystyrene and agricultural plastic waste, the recycled sleepers are an environmental alternative,” the statement reads.

“For every kilometre installed, the sleepers use 64 tonnes of plastic waste that would’ve otherwise gone to landfill.”

The result of two years of development and testing at the Monash Institute of Railway Technology and Integrated Recycling, the sleepers were partly funded though Sustainability Victoria’s Research, Development and Demonstration grants and the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund.

The product will last up to 50 years, with low maintenance requirements meaning fewer servicing closures on V/Line services.

“The sleepers can be recycled once it’s time to replace them – a great example of how a circular economy can work,” the statement reads.

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NSW Circular to host stakeholder event

NSW Circular has partnered with the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre to help Central Coast businesses map and identify opportunities to reduce waste, enhance sustainability and boost industry.

The event, held 7 August, will bring stakeholders together from across governments, industry, universities and not-for-profit groups to discuss transitioning to a circular economy.

University of New South Wales Professor and NSW Circular Economy Innovation Network Director Veena Sahajwalla will present the keynote address.

“We are aiming to facilitate market-based solutions to the opportunities and challenges faced in efficiently managing our materials, supplies and waste, and will be looking for pilot projects to create new pathways and outcomes,” Ms Sahajwalla said.

Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre National Director of Industry Michael Sharpe will facilitate a discussion to identify new local circular economy solutions.

“Hunter and Central Coast businesses are already some of the most innovative in Australia, and with this event we hope to share some of those examples to develop more circular economy solutions,” Mr Sharpe said.

“The manufacturing sector plays a critical role in this area, which is resulting in more efficient business operations and economic growth.”

Mr Sharpe said attendees will learn how a circular approach can be incorporated into local supply chains and deliver greater economic, social and environmental benefits.

Panellists include:

Professor Veena Sahajwalla – NSW Circular Director

Ashley Brinson – NSW Circular Co-director

Debbie Hambly – Milk Bottle Collective Project Manager

Ian Hudson – Industry Capability Network Deputy Director

Tim Askew – Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils Regional Project Manager

Marta Fernandes – Nespresso Technical and Quality Manager

Brooke Donnelly – Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation CEO

Paul Klymenko – Planet Ark CEO

Nishi Vissamraju – Downer Group National Environmental Sustainability Advisor Transport and Infrastructure

Jodi Boylan – The War of Waste Executive Producer

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Melbourne fast-tracks waste strategy

The City of Melbourne will fast-track the delivery of its Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy and bring investment in infrastructure forward.

Following SKM’s decision to no longer accept waste material, the city has been forced to send 45 tonnes of recycling to landfill each day.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the city, and its subsidiary Citywide, will run an independent feasibility study into establishing a large-scale recycling centre in Greater Melbourne.

“As a matter of urgency, our waste collection business Citywide will work with independent experts to look at the best way to create a specialised recycling facility in Victoria that will be stable and sustainable,” Ms Capp said.

“The study will consider the potential size and location for a new facility, as well as the number of municipalities it could service. It would also consider the level of recycled material required for it to be viable and potential markets for recycled materials.”

Ms Capp said the city would also investigate new ways to reduce contamination throughout the municipality.

“We want to stop recyclables going to landfill as soon as possible and deliver long-term improvements for our residents and businesses,” Ms Capp said.

“We are going to increase the number of shared waste hubs for businesses in the central city.”

Ms Capp said the city is also examining international best practices and will run an expression of interest period for technology usable in Melbourne’s inner city laneways.

“This could include using everything from mini-compactor bins, specialised vehicles and collection of source separated materials such as glass, organics, paper and cardboard,” Ms Capp said.

“Ultimately we need to work towards the model used by many European countries where recycling streams are collected and processed separately.”

According to Ms Capp, the issue cannot be tackled by individual municipalities.

“The City of Melbourne will be working with other councils, the Victorian Government and the community to achieve long-term change,” Ms Capp said.

City of Melbourne Environment Chair Cathy Oke said local residents and businesses also needed to play their part to reduce contamination in waste streams.

“Rather than send our recycling overseas, we will examine the feasibility and cost of preparing materials for manufacturing use here in Victoria,” Ms Oke said.

“We need to provide a cleaner product for our recycling industry to return to a more sustainable and stable footing.”

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Coles donates unsold food waste

Food charity SecondBite has received a $500,000 grant from the Coles Nurture Fund, facilitating the purchase of four new refrigerated trucks.

The grant follows a new five-year agreement between Coles and SecondBite that will increase food collections from Coles’ metropolitan supermarkets from three to five days a week.

The trucks will collect unsold, edible food in bulk from Coles’ distribution centres and redistribute it to charities.

Coles CEO Steven Cain said food donations to SecondBite rose 25 per cent in 2018-19, with Coles expecting those volumes to increase further this year.

“We have an opportunity and responsibility to help fight hunger in Australia by donating our unsold, edible food to people who are vulnerable and facing tough times,” Mr Cain said.

“Everyone deserves to have regular meals and our SecondBite partnership is one of the ways in which we hope to sustainably feed Australians to lead healthier, happier lives.”

Coles diverted 36,392 tonnes of food waste from landfill in 2018-19 through donations to food charities, farmers for animal feed and to be recycled for compost, organic waste and energy.

SecondBite CEO Jim Mullan said the new trucks would allow SecondBite to significantly increase the volume and range of food that could be delivered to charities.

“These trucks – each with a 4.5 tonne capacity and space for eight pallets of food – will make a huge difference to SecondBite’s efficiencies,” Mr Mullan said.

“Rather than making several trips in a van, we will now be able to collect bulk amounts of stock in a single visit.”

According to Mr Mullan, the trucks will also allow SecondBite to transport a greater variety of stock.

“Historically we have been largely confined to collecting fruit and vegetables from Coles distribution centres, but the new refrigerated trucks allow bulk collections of yoghurts, cheese, butter, milk, juice, and other high-risk foods, as well as frozen products.”

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ARRB reviews the use of vehicle tyres in bitumen

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) is recommending further research into the use of passenger vehicle tyres in bitumen production.

ARRB Senior Professional Leader Guy Hand said Victoria’s Transport Department, formerly VicRoads, engaged ARRB to undertake a literature review on the subject.

“Using more end-of-life tyres in road construction is a known way to curb significant environmental challenge for Australia. The question is, how do we make that happen?,” Mr Hand said.

“One possibility is to engage the use of end-of-life car tyres.”

Most crumb rubber repurposed into Australian road construction currently comes from end-of-life truck tyres.

According to Mr Hand, truck tyres are predominantly composed of natural rubber, whereas car tyres contain a high proportion of synthetic rubber, as well as a nylon component.

“It is not well understood whether synthetic rubber will behave in bitumen in the same nature that natural rubber does,” Mr Hand said.

“No data from an Australian context is available to establish the compatibility and performance of synthetic rubber in bitumen.”

Mr Hand said the key objective of the review is to understand the current specifications of crumb rubber sourced by other road agencies, and the market availability and processing requirements of passenger vehicle tyres.

ARRB were additionally asked to identify the benefits and limitations of using passenger vehicle tyre crumb rubber as a road material in asphalt and sprayed seals.

“There are also barriers for recycling car tyres to be considered, such as economic, environmental and processing challenges,” Mr Hand said.

“With the Victorian Government’s focus on increasing the use of recycled materials in road construction, this literature review will help inform all stakeholders on the issues associated with the use of passenger vehicle tyres in bitumen.”

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