Entries open for Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards

The Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards is now open for entries and features a new category to celebrate outstanding contributions made by volunteers.

The new environmental volunteering category will recognise the impact made by thousands of dedicated individuals and groups who give their time to sustainability projects and environmental protection.

Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said as the most prestigious program of their kind in Victoria, the awards are a terrific showcase of leading edge sustainability practices.

“Through these awards we proudly showcase the businesses, government, schools, institutions and community groups that are leading the way helping to stop the effects of climate change, developing more integrated circular economies and creating a more liveable, engaged, prosperous community for us all,” Mr Krpan said.

According to Mr Krpan, recent research shows that while sustainability remains an important concern for most Australians, only half believe they are doing enough.

“Joining the program’s existing ten categories, the new environmental volunteering category will make the awards more accessible to more people who take environmental action in real, practical and tangible ways,” Mr Krpan said.

The Premier’s Sustainability Awards includes the categories built environment, community, education, environmental justice, environmental protection, environmental volunteering, government, health, innovative products or services, small to medium sized businesses and large business.

2018 winners include small business Yume Food, who won for building a marketplace exclusively for surplus food, the Caulfield to Dandenong level crossing removal project and a campaign by Zoos Victoria and Phillip Island Nature Parks that addressed the threat of plastic debris to marine life.

Entries in the Premier’s Sustainability Awards close on Thursday 13 June.

Related stories:

Tracking sludge flow for better wastewater treatment

A new way of tracking how sewage sludge flows during thermal treatment could help engineers design better wastewater treatment plants and boost the production of biogas.

Researchers at RMIT University have demonstrated how the flow behaviour of sludge can be used as a tool to gauge how quickly organic matter is dissolving at high temperatures, suggesting the potential for online monitoring.

Traditional methods of assessing thermal treatment performance require time-consuming sampling and chemical analysis,  rheology calculations however – which measure and detail how liquids flow – can be done in real time online.

The study, published in Water Research, found a correlation between how sludge dissolves and changes in its flow behaviour, indicating it may be possible to monitor thermal treatment performance simply by tracking flow.

Lead investigator Associate Professor Nicky Eshtiaghi said correctly estimating the rheological parameters of sludge is critical to efficient process design.

“Our technique enables engineers and plant operators to conveniently obtain these parameters without having to perform the measurements at high temperatures themselves,” Ms Eshtiaghi said.

“We hope the research encourages more serious consideration of flow behaviour in optimising and designing high pressure and high temperature sludge-handling processes.”

The new technique can measure flow behaviour without destroying samples, often a big challenge for concentrated sludge data collection.

The study also shows that varying the thickness of sludge has little impact on the effectiveness of thermal treatment, meaning plant operators could potentially increase biogas production by increasing the solid content of sludge during initial treatment processes.

“Thicker sludge can be beneficial for both optimising efficiency overall, and for producing more biogas,” Ms Eshtiaghi said.

“With our discovery that the thickness of sludge makes no difference, this research gives plant operators more flexibility in designing processes that can better exploit the renewable energy potential of wastewater sludge treatment.”

Related stories:

Yume and REMONDIS working together to reduce food waste

Yume, an online business to business marketplace for the sale of surplus food, is working with water and environmental services company REMONDIS to sell excess food and reduce waste.

REMONDIS will use Yume’s marketplace to assist customers in selling their surplus products, reducing waste disposal costs and delivering better environmental outcomes.

REMONDIS General Manager for Integrated and Managed Services Nathan Radley said working with Yume allows the company to expand its services on the waste value chain.

“Yume is a great way to access the first two stages of the food waste hierarchy, avoid and reuse, before we move onto recycling, waste to energy and ultimately disposal,” Mr Radley said.

REMONDIS recently listed 13.8 tonnes of maple syrup on Yume, sourced from a customer with excess stock.

“The product was quickly snapped up on Yume, providing a significant return to the customer while saving 952,000 litres of water and preventing the release of 27,600 kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere,” Mr Radley said.

Yume founder Katy Barfield said through connecting suppliers to buyers, the company helps reduce the 4.1 million tonnes of food waste sent to landfill in Australia each year.

“Yume has already sold over 813,000 kilograms of quality surplus food, returning $2.6 million to Australian farmers and manufacturers.

“In doing so, Yume has saved 56,112 million litres of water and prevented 1,626 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released,” Ms Barfield said.

At the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards, Yume was recognised for its efforts towards reducing waste and landfill impact — winning the Premier’s Recognition Award, the Innovative Products or Services award, and the Small and Medium Enterprises award.

Related stories:

Better Bins to be implemented in 370,000 new households

Over the next 12 months the Western Australian Better Bins program will be implemented in more than 370,000 households in the City of Joondalup, City of Fremantle and Town of East Fremantle, plus additional households in the City of Melville.

The City of Melville trialled a full FOGO system in 2017-18, returning positive results for the diversion of household organics from landfill.

In its Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030, the Western Australian Government outlined food organics and garden organics collection (FOGO) as a priority for waste avoidance and minimisation.

Run by the Western Australian Waste Authority, the Better Bins program aims to ensure that all Perth and Peel households have a third kerbside bin for FOGO by 2025.

Better Bins runs on the principal that more waste separation at the source leads to less contamination and therefore greater recycling and reuse rates.

Under the three-bin FOGO system, food scraps and garden organics are separated from other waste categories at kerbside and reused to create high-quality compost.

The system also functions to keep other waste streams clean and uncontaminated, therefore making them easier to recycle, reprocess and remake into products, reducing the need for extraction of new materials

Currently 16 local governments participate in the program and of these, five are providing a full FOGO service.

After the 370,000 new additions the rate of household participation across the state will stand at 37 per cent.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation will soon start consulting with key stakeholders on how to promote and encourage local governments’ adoption of FOGO systems, hoping to increase material recovery to 75 per cent by 2030.

WA has extended the funding application period until 30 June 2019.

Related stories:

Victorian State of the Environment report lists recommendations

The Victorian State of the Environment 2018 report says the Victorian Government needs to align its institutional planning and procurement processes to support the delivery of its planned circular economy strategy.

The report, commissioned by Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Dr Gillian Sparkes, says five out of six waste indicators are stable.

Indicators used were total waste generation, generation of municipal waste per capita, total food waste generated, diversion rate, littler and illegal dumping and total hazardous waste managed and reported.

While most indicators are stable, except litter and illegal dumping which is improving, the report says the total amount of waste generated is poor and offers two key recommendations to improve the waste situation in Victoria.

First, in 2019 Sustainability Victoria need to develop indicators and implement a comprehensive monitoring and reporting framework to measure delivery of the statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan against circular-economy design principals.

Recommendations suggest that from July 2020 this progress should be expanded and a reporting framework that tracks progress put in place, with a public report released annually.

Second, the Victorian Government needs to align its institutional planning and procurement processes to support the delivery of the circular economy strategy and clarify which agencies will be responsible for delivering policy, procurement, program, reporting and regulatory roles.

The report says this alignment should be adopted statewide to enable an orderly transition to a circular economy in Victoria by 2030, with the initial focus being reducing consumption and contamination levels in kerbside recycling.

Recommendations also note that the Victorian Government needs to commit to long-term, systemic, statewide community education to support these transitions and improve long-term system outcomes.

Related stories:

Engineers develop technology to transform plastic waste

Engineers at Purdue University have developed a new chemical conversion process that can transform polyolefin waste, a form of plastic, into useful products such as fuel, pure polymers and naphtha, a mixture of hydro-carbon.

Leading researcher Professor Linda Wang said the technology has potential to boost profits in the recycling industry and shrink the worlds plastic waste stock.

Ms Wang was inspired to develop the technology after reading only 9 per cent of the 8.3 billion tones of plastic produced globally over the last 65 years had been recycled, with the remaining 79 per cent ending up in landfills and oceans.

“Plastic waste disposal, whether recycled or thrown away, does not mean the end of the story.

“These plastics degrade slowly and release toxic microplastics and chemicals into the land and the water.

“This is a catastrophe because once these pollutants are in the ocean they are impossible to retrieve completely,” she said.

The chemical conversion process incorporates selective extraction and hydrothermal liquefaction and can convert more than 90 per cent of polyolefin waste.

If the plastic is converted into naphtha it can be used as a feedstock for other chemicals or further separated into specialty solvents.

Purdue’s School of Engineering Technology is hoping to optimise the conversion process to produce high quality gasoline and diesel fuels saying fuel derived from polyolefin waste could each year satisfy four per cent of annual demand for gasoline and diesel fuel.

A February 2019 University of Technology Sydney study that revealed Australia only recycles a third of its plastic packaging waste suggests Wang’s technology has application potential in Australia.

Related stories:

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. 

Potential emergency plastic tax by 2021: report

The plastic waste crisis is expected to deepen, potentially leading to a federal response in the form of an emergency tax by 2021, according to global wealth manager Credit Suisse.

It argues that reactionary policy measures are highly likely in the short term and could include a tax on virgin resins or additional tariffs placed on imported plastic goods in its report, The age of plastic at a tipping point.

Related stories:

With too much plastic waste domestically and with no large export markets available, Credit Suisse estimates there will be a sharp increase in plastic being sent to landfill and illegal dumping.

“Our headline view is that things will get worse before they get better: the policy initiatives in the National Waste Strategy won’t take hold until FY20/21,” the report said.

Credit Suisse expects bans on single use-plastics to be extended to the six most common plastic packaging and tax incentives to be provided to help hit the 2025 target of 30 per cent recycled content in packaging.

The long lead time from policy approval to implementation is problematic, particularly for new waste infrastructure, which the company said will likely lead to a more supportive project approval environment for waste infrastructure.

Waste managers are expected to benefit from this scenario, with short term potential from council re-negotiations and long-term potential to fast-track waste infrastructure approvals, according to the report.

“Plastic has infiltrated almost every aspect of human life. It is the most prolific material on the planet, growing faster than any commodity in the last 33 years,” the report said.

“Plastic packaging has become one of the most intractable environmental challenges of our age. None of the commonly used plastics are biodegradable; they accumulate in landfills or the natural environment rather than decompose.

“To curtail the situation in the short run, it is a matter of when, not if, we see reactionary policy measures,” the report said.

Sydney ranked as Australia’s most sustainable city

Sydney has been ranked Australia’s most sustainable city in 2018, according to the Sustainable Cities Index from Arcadis.

The index ranks 100 cities on three pillars of sustainability which it defines as people, planet and profit.

Related stories:

Australian cities were mostly located in the centre of the list, with Sydney and Canberra reaching 34th and 35th place. Brisbane was listed as the 44th most sustainable while Melbourne trailed behind at 56.

All of the cities on the list performed well on people focused measures, scoring high in health, education and digital enablement. Cities performed moderately well when it came to profit due to employment and ease of doing business.

However, each Australian city scored worse in the planet pillar, with greenhouse gas emissions and waste management common issues across all four cities.

London was ranked the most sustainable city, with eight of the top ten spots being European cities.

The 2018 Sustainable Cities Index emphasised the impact of how digital technologies have impacted on citizen’s experience of the city, but it found that technology is not yet able to mitigate things like traffic jams, unaffordable transport options, the absence of green space or the uncertainties caused by ageing infrastructure.

Arcadis Australian Cities Director Stephen Taylor said with no Australian city cracking the top 30, there is a need to improve the long-term sustainability, resilience and performance of our cities.

“Across our cities, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, we’ve seen a real shift over the last few years beyond green sustainability to social sustainability. Both government and private developments are increasingly focusing on how projects can better improve communities, including financial gains and community wellness,” Mr Taylor said.

“Despite the middle of the road rankings, the nation’s strong focus on developing integrated transit systems, addressing affordability and embracing sustainability in construction are all positive signs for future improvement across the three pillars,” he said.