Planning for national solar panel product stewardship underway

Research for a national product stewardship program for photovoltaic systems, which include solar panels, is underway.

Research for a national product stewardship program for photovoltaic systems, which include solar panels, is underway.

Sustainability Victoria has appointed product stewardship consultant Equilibrium to analyse and assess potential options for a national product stewardship to help manage end of life products.

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Photovoltaic (PV) panels and associated products and equipment have been identified as a rapidly growing e-waste stream in the future. For the project, “PV systems” have neem defined to include panels and PV system accessories such as inverter equipment and energy storage systems.

Equilibrium has opened an online survey to gather input and information form manufacturers, installers, project developers, the energy industry, and peak bodies.

The information gathered by the survey along with other evidence gathered will support the assessment of potential options.

Organisations and individuals interested in the project can complete the survey here.

Dubbo Regional Council opens new organics processing plant

A new organics processing facility has been opened at the Whylandra Waste and Recycling Facility to recycle food and organic waste from the surrounding councils.

The Dubbo Regional Organics Processing Plant (DROPP) commenced operations in early July and has begun receiving food and garden waste from Dubbo Regional Council, Mid-Western Regional Council and Narromine Shire Council.

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It aims to divert a significant amount of organic waste from landfill and turn it into compost, reducing environmental pollution caused by leachate and methane gas production.

The facility received more than $7 million of funding from the NSW EPA, Dubbo Regional Council and JR Richards & Sons. The project was supported by the Environmental Trust as part of the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More Organics Infrastructure initiative, funded by the waste levy.

Dubbo Regional Council Mayor Ben Shields said the high-tech composting facility was built to handle organic material collected by three council as part of the new Food and Garden Waste Management service.

“It is great to see neighbouring Councils working collaboratively and sharing resources to achieve a common goal,” Cr Shields said.

NSW Member for Dubbo Tony Grant said the regional organics recycling will greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by landfill.

“The carbon footprint of trucking the waste is minor compared to methane that would otherwise be produced by food and garden waste buried in landfill,” Mr Grant said.

“This is a fantastic local initiative where organic waste from the region will be processed locally and reused locally,” he said.

Image: Mayor of Dubbo Region Councillor Ben Shields, Member for Dubbo the Hon Troy Grant and Mayor of Narromine Shire Councillor Craig Davies officially opened the DROPP. 

Volvo backs new program for women drivers

The first Superior Heavy Vehicle Licensing (SHVL) program for women will be delivered in partnership between Wodonga TAFE’s Transport Division DECA, Transport Women Australia Limited (TWAL) and Volvo Group.

The program has been created to help women qualify for their heavy vehicle licence. Volvo will supply a prime mover for the four-week intensive training course designed to provide students with behind-the-wheel experience.

By encouraging female drivers to participate in the course, DECA was looking at a solution to address the driver shortage across the road transport sector.

At the recent Transport Women Australia Conference in Canberra, Women Driving Transport Careers was launched. Offered in Metropolitan Melbourne, the course will be arranged in conjunction with Volvo Group Australia Driver Academy.

Simon Macaulay, National Manager Transport at DECA, said the training will assist females obtain a high demand skill for which to fast-track their entrance into the heavy transport workforce.

“We provide participants with the industry standard skills and know-how. We take them through areas that are barely mentioned in a lot of licence instruction, such as safety protocols and health and safety procedures, road maps, fatigue management, chain of responsibility and use of technology,” Macauley said.

Volvo Group Australia has found the average age of truck drivers in Australia is 47. Meanwhile 52 per cent of employers, according to its research conducted in 2016, struggle to attract the quantity of drivers needed and 46 per cent are already experiencing a shortage of available drivers.

President and CEO of Volvo Group Australia Peter Voorhoeve said the company is working hard to attract new and more diverse talent into the heavy transport sector.

“Australia is standing on the precipice of a serious truck driver shortage, the effects of which will be felt far beyond the transport industry. If the industry does not find ways to attract more drivers to the industry, we will all feel the pain in higher prices for the things that trucks move up and down our highways – food, clothing, construction materials, medical supplies and consumer goods to name just a few.

“As the leading manufacturer of trucks in Australia, we take our role in the industry seriously, which is why we are constantly looking for new ways to grow the heavy transport sector workforce and champion greater diversity in the driver workforce.”

(Image: 2017 Volvo Truck Challenge finalist Kerri Connors).

Battery Stewardship Council welcomes changes

The Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) has begun designing an industry-led stewardship scheme, which will undertake consultations of the industry and public in the coming months.

The BSC welcomed the plan to fast track the development of a stewardship scheme that aims to result in all types of batteries being recycled in Australia.

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The meeting of Environmental Ministers on 27 April 2018 was called to address concerns in the Australian recycling industry with representatives from federal, state and territory ministers.

Of the 400 million batteries that enter the Australian market each year, less than three per cent of non-car batteries are recycled in Australia, according to a 2014 trend analysis and market assessment report, prepared on behalf of the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation.

Toxic chemicals such as nickel, cadmium, alkaline and mercury are often found in batteries, and can be a risk to the environment and human health due to their flammability and the leaching of heavy metals.

The BSC was formed earlier in 2018, combining government and industry bodies, to undertake background work to understanding the markets and barriers to recycling that need to be addressed in a stewardship scheme.

The work of the Battery Stewardship Council is supported by the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) with funding from the QLD Department of Environment and Science.

Chairman of the Battery Stewardship Council Gerry Morvell said Australians have to stop the throw away mentality which wastes a fully recyclable resource and poses a long-term threat to human health and the environment.

“One of our key aims is to facilitate the building of a strong and effective battery recycling industry in Australia. We do not want a repetition of the go-stop issue that has emerged with plastics,” said Mr Morvell.

Australian Battery Recycling Initiative Chief Executive Officer Libby Chaplin said there is a confluence of events paving the way for an industry led scheme that could quickly solve this rapidly escalating problem waste.

“Australia has the capability and there is growing motivation to transform this waste management concern into a resource recovery success story,” she said.

How many recyclables are affected by China waste ban?

Cans for recycling in a container deposit scheme

Consultancy firm Blue Environment was asked by the Federal Government to analyse the amount of waste being sent to China before the ban on contaminants began.

China’s ban on waste with contaminants of more than 0.5 per cent have led to commodity price reductions, stockpiling and instability in the provision of recycling collection services, according to Blue Environment.

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The data showed that 1.25 million tonnes of waste was exported to China in 2016-17, with 920 thousand tonnes made up of paper and cardboard, 203 thousand tonnes of metal and 125 thousand tonnes of plastics.

Blue Environment also report that 99 per cent of waste from the 2016-17 period were affected by these new restrictions.

According to the data, China made up the majority of exported materials in plastics and paper and cardboards, making up 68 and 63 per cent of the total recyclable material exports.

Blue Environment said the data should be considered preliminary and may change with further consideration.

You can read the full data set here. 

New additions to WMAA’s Board of Directors

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) has announced four new directors for the board.

It follows an announcement earlier in 2018 that the WMAA would be undergoing a period of board renewal.

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The following members will be affirmed as directors at the 11 May 2018 annual general meeting and commence their two-year term:

  • Adam Faulkner – Adam has previously served on the WMAA Board and is an active member of the company’s SA branch. He is currently the acting CEO of the Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority.
  • Georgina Davis – Georgina has extensive experience in waste innovation in government and academia.
  • Jade Barnaby – Jade is the most recent recipient of the WMAA Women in the Environment Award. Currently she is the National Accreditation and Compliance Manager for Tyre Stewardship Australia and has been the Program Manager for Victoria’s household battery recycling system in WA.
  • Tim Youe – Tim has experience in Local Government and is currently the CEO of the Southern Metropolitan Regional Council managing a significant resource recovery system in WA.

Eligible members are now being called by the WMAA to apply for the role of Vice President and elected director.

EOI open to build Toowoomba landfill gas development

Toowoomba Regional Council is looking for expressions of interest to develop the landfill gas resource at its major landfill.

The council has completed a business case which has identified the significant resource available at the Toowoomba regional landfill.

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Landfill gas could help supply the council with a sustainable source of gas and electricity. The landfill is also next to major energy users including the Wetalla Water Reclamation Facility, the APA gas pipeline and the Baillie Henderson Hospital.

Two key options the business case identified were to use the resource to produce electricity for the Wetalla treatment plant, other council facilities or export into the electricity grid, or produce compressed natural gas for use in council vehicles, facilities or into the local gas grid.

The Toowoomba Regional Council has a three-step plan to enter into an arrangement, with the first accepting expressions of interest, followed by early respondent involvement and formal commercial tender.

Companies that are able to utilise more than one landfill gas constituent will be considered more favourably than others that only seeks to utilise one.

Applications for expressions of interest close on 24 April.

Federal Govt offer waste battery export guidance

The Federal Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy has released a report that offers guidance on whether a hazardous waste permit is required to export waste batteries to another country.

Batteries can increase the risk of toxic chemicals polluting the environment if not disposed of properly.

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The report clarifies the Federal Government’s position on the status of batteries as hazardous waste under the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports Act) 1989 (the Act) and Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) (OECD Decision) Regulations 1996 (the OECD Regulations).

Alkaline, nickel-metal hydride, zinc-carbon and zinc chloride waste batteries are considered by the Federal Government to not require an import permit, as long as they are not flammable, explosive or toxic.

These batteries are considered to be in List B for the Basel Convention for international transport of potentially hazardous waste.

The Federal Government said it is the responsibility of the waste exporter to check whether the destination and transit countries require a hazardous waste permit to import waste batteries.

The report can be read here.