Minister to open Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Conference

Queensland Government Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch will be sharing the government’s vision for the state’s waste and resource recovery industry at this week’s 2019 Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Conference.

Hosted by the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), WMRR in a statement welcomed the Queensland Government’s new waste strategy and its commitment to a circular economy.

“There is no denying that Queensland will have to play catch-up, but the good news is that it has the benefit of hindsight and can learn fundamental lessons from its neighbours on the eastern seaboard,” the statement read.

“The Queensland Government certainly does not have its blinkers on and is asking the right questions. It is pleasing to see that the Department of Environment and Science is thinking about how to stimulate investment to build the economic opportunity that our essential waste management and resource recovery industry offers.”

She said the government’s decisions to date are a sign of things to come, including the potential growth of the state’s resource recovery and remanufacturing industries, which signals more jobs, less reliance on export markets and a boost to the local economy.

“Queensland can outshine the rest of Australia because the state has a minister who has an acute understanding of what needs to be done to build and sustain an integrated and efficient waste and resource recovery system, which undoubtedly includes the consideration and maintenance of well-managed landfills and transfer stations,” Ms Sloan said.

Ms Sloan said that Queensland was focusing on market development and infrastructure planning, which are sorely missing in NSW.

“Queensland has also committed to reinvesting 70 per cent of levy funds in industry, the environment and local government, going above and beyond the other States.

“Importantly, we are seeing plans for a whole-of-government approach, which WMRR has been harping on for years because waste and resource recovery is an essential industry and it is a shared responsibility.”

Ms Enoch will be giving the opening address at 8am on Wednesday, March 27 at the 2019 Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Conference which will be held at the Pullman Mercure in Brisbane.

Keeping it to convention: Tellus Holdings

With hazardous chemical waste stockpiles rising, Waste Management Review explores the current state of regulation governing safe and permanent disposal of this potentially dangerous waste stream.

In 2016-17, Australia produced around 6.3 million tonnes of hazardous waste, an increase of around 26 per cent compared to the previous year, according to the 2018 National Waste Report.

These annual generation figures are dwarfed by the sheer amount of legacy hazardous waste, with hundreds of millions of tonnes being stockpiled and stored in facilities that are inappropriate for long-term situations.

That is according to data from the Hazardous Waste in Australia 2017 report, commissioned by the Federal Government Department of Environment and Energy, which finds new hazardous waste streams are also emerging as a result of changes to technology and consumer habits.

Australia has signed international treaties, such as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which places obligations on countries to ensure hazardous wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner.

Multiple regulatory regimes manage hazardous waste in Australia, including environmental protection regulations which are designed to minimise the impacts on the environment and human health to meet Australia’s international responsibilities. 

National legislation and codes for the transport of dangerous goods aims to prevent accidents and promote safe transport, along with work health and safety regulations to reduce occupational health and safety risks in the workplace. Product stewardship regulations also aim to ensure products such as waste oil, asbestos, e-waste, tyres, batteries, mercury and medicines are responsibly managed.

Ensuring hazardous waste is stored safely often requires strong controls across the lifecycle of the waste, from its generation, to its storage, transport, treatment, recycling, recovery and final disposal. 

Richard Phillips, General Manager of Health, Safety, Environment, Compliance and Quality at Tellus Holdings, says hazardous wastes are often produced across a product’s lifecycle, in the mining, manufacturing, distribution, consumption and recycling stages.

“We all produce hazardous waste. On a per capita basis, Australia is one of the highest emitters of hazardous waste, with some of the larger producers being legacy contaminated site soil clean-up utilities, oil and gas, heavy industry, agriculture and mining industries,” Richard says.

“Much of this waste sits at the bottom of the waste hierarchy and cannot be recycled or reused – it needs to be permanently isolated from our biosphere.

“However, Australia doesn’t currently have the infrastructure to safely and permanently isolate these legacy wastes.” 

He adds that this applies to the isolation of current production and emerging wastes at cost effective price points, while meeting Australia’s international obligations.

One method of managing this waste is through a geological repository with a circular economy park. These use multiple natural and engineered barriers to store hazardous waste long-term, recover valuable materials, or permanently isolate hazardous materials.

Geological repositories make use of man-made and natural barriers, allowing them to permanently isolate waste for hundreds of thousands to millions of years. Because of this, they have been recognised by the United Nations and European Union as effective methods for disposing of hazardous wastes, and due to their safety record, are enforced on a national level in countries such as the UK and Germany for the disposal of nuclear waste.

Richard adds the development of geological repositories requires significant investment of time and money to consider strict site selection criteria and navigate the regulatory approval process, which can cost millions of dollars and require years of development. 

Tellus Holdings has gone through the process of environmental assessment for its two sites: the Sandy Ridge Facility in WA and the Chandler Facility in the Northern Territory. Both projects have been recommended for approval by each jurisdictional Environmental Protection Authority. The Sandy Ridge Facility has been granted a ministerial approval by the WA Government and has received Federal Government approval.

By bringing these sites to market, Tellus aims to provide governments with a tool to adequately use to address the issue of legacy waste, current production and emerging hazardous waste in Australia.

“There’s increasing levels of support from government agencies, regulators, and from our customers for what Tellus is aiming to achieve,” Richard says.

“These facilities will provide Australia with the infrastructure it requires to ensure hazardous waste has a safe, final resting place permanently isolated from the biosphere in an environmentally sound manner.”

Tellus plans to support the creation of a circular economy by storing similar materials over time in order to create economics of scale advantages and by investing in technologies that recycle and recover valuable materials.

Plant waste to power planes

Plant waste from agriculture and timber harvesting could be converted into high-density aviation fuel according to the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in China.

The research, published in scientific journal Joule, comes at a time when international bodies and governments begin to invest more resources into the issue of organic waste streams, and provides an interesting case study for the future of the industry.

Scientists at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics have converted cellulose, a polymer formed on plant cell walls, into a high density fuel that can be used as a wholesale replacement or an additive to improve the efficiency of other jet fuels.

While chain alkanes derived from cellulose such as branched octane, dodecane, and hexadecane have previously used for jet-fuel, researchers believe this is the first study to produce more complex polycycloalkane compounds that can be used as high-density aviation fuel.

Author of the study research scientist Ning Li said the new biofuel could be instrumental in helping aviation “go green.”

“Our biofuel is important for mitigating CO2 emissions because it is derived from biomass and has higher density (or volumetric heat values) compared with conventional aviation fuels.

“As we know, the utilisation of high-density aviation fuel can significantly increase the range and payload of aircraft without changing the volume of oil in the tank,” Li said.

Li and his team said the process’ cheap, abundant cellulose feedstock, fewer production steps, and lower energy cost and consumption mean it will soon be ready for commercial use applications.

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Victoria first recycled concrete trial in Hoppers Crossing

In a Victoria first trial, a two-hundred-metre long concrete footpath made with 199,000 recycled glass and plastic bottles has been laid in Hoppers Crossing.

The new concrete, developed by Sustainability Victoria and Swinburne University of Technology, was funded through the Victorian Government’s Research, Development and Demonstration grant as part of the $4.5 million Resource Recovery Market Development Program (RRMDP).

RRMDP was announced last year and aims to develop Victorian markets for recyclable waste, boost research and increase the use of recovered glass fines and flexible plastics in products and processing techniques.

The Swinburne University of Technology research team worked with recycled content supplier PolyTrade, Wyndham City Council and concrete contractor MetroPlant to develop the material.

The aggregate contains 2600 kilograms of shredded recycled plastics between four and eight millimetres and 5500 kilograms of glass fines —leftover glass particles typically between three and eight millimetres in size.

The glass fines and plastic are bound directly into the concrete through a technique similar to that used for traditional aggregate materials.

Approximately 100,000 tonnes of flexible plastics and over 60,000 tonnes of glass fines, which are too small to be recycled by standard process, end up in Victorian landfills every year.

Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said the development of innovative new products helps encourage government to invest in building better waste systems that divert materials from landfill, consume fewer natural resources and reduce carbon emissions.

“Sustainability Victoria has been thinking circular for a long time, we can create more value from our waste by designing for reuse, keeping products circulating in the economy at their greatest value for as long as possible.

“A circular economy requires commitment from industry, government and the community, which is why we apply the principles to our program design and delivery,” Mr Krpan said.

The footpath will be closely monitored to confirm durability and performance, and if, or how, any plastics could potentially be released from the solid bound pavement.

The aggregate blend meets required strength and standards for footpath construction, with tests showing similar wear resistance to control samples.

Information from the project will be captured and used to improve recycled concrete technology to inform future projects.

Sustainability Victoria will continue to work with councils, Local Government Victoria and the Municipal Association of Victoria to increase the uptake of recycled content in infrastructure.

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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.

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National Food Waste Baseline report released

The Federal Government has announced the key findings of Australia’s National Food Waste Baseline report.

Last year, the Federal Government appointed a steering committee to support the implementation of the National Food Waste Strategy, which has a goal to halve the nation’s food waste by 2030.

The Food Waste Steering Committee provided guidance and advice to Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) as it developed plan in 2018 that clearly sets out the actions to be taken to reduce Australia’s food waste over the short, medium and long term.

A National Food Waste Baseline was developed in order to measure and monitor progress towards the food waste reduction goal.

In a statement, Environment Minister Melissa Price said that findings from the National Food Waste Baseline report will be used to develop measurable baselines, food waste datasets and targeted strategies to meet the target.

The National Food Waste Baseline report shows Australia generated 7.3 million tonnes of food waste across the food supply and consumption chain in 2016-17, the equivalent of 298 kilograms per person.

The report, commissioned by the Federal Government, shows that while Australia recycled 1.2 million tonnes of total food waste and recovered 2.9 million tonnes through alternative uses, it still disposed of 3.2 million tonnes over the period.

Consulting with industry organisations, the report found 2.5 million tonnes (34 per cent) of food waste was generated by households, 2.3 million tonnes (31 per cent) by primary production and agricultural pursuits and 1.8 million tonnes (25 per cent) by the manufacturing sector.

Sugarcane fibre (bagasse) was excluded from the baseline as the report identifies it as already well utilised, with mill-generated bagasse primarily combusted to generate on-site power.

Ms Price said targeted research and the implementation of the National Food Waste Strategy by Food Innovation Australia will strengthen the rigour of the governments food waste datasets and its capacity to further reduce food waste.

Findings were released by the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre in Adelaide with a full report to be published on the Federal Government website in the coming weeks.

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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.

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