Waste policy report card released

A detailed analysis of the Labor Party, the Coalition and the Greens election promises has been released.

Using criterion based analysis and independent scoring evaluations, the policy report card has determined all three parties are committed to upgrading innovative recycling infrastructure, establishing local markets for recycled content and dealing with plastic pollution.

According to the report card however, only minor commitments to establishing a circular economy and national regulatory arrangement have been made.

The report card was created by the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR), the Australian Industrial Ecology Network (AIEN), the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) and the National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC), with independent consultancy from Equilibrium.

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said the election run up shows an unprecedented, tri-partisan and substantive response to the pressures felt in municipal recycling.

“Labor and the Coalition have come out neck and neck with good grades of C. The Greens also have a C, but less opportunity to realistically implement their vision,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Taken as a whole these policies recognise the landfill diversion, greenhouse gas reduction and jobs creation benefits of our $20 billion and 50,000 job industry.”

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said her organisation was particularly pleased with Labor’s commitment to establishing a National Waste Commissioner.

“This role is key to driving the national waste policy, collaboration across all levels of government and more regulatory consistency between states,” Ms Read said.

“However, NWRIC is concerned with the lack of commitment by the major parties to the use of co-regulatory powers for the Product Stewardship Act for batteries and all electronics.”

AIEN Executive Director Veronica Dullens said tri-partisan support showed recognition for the potential of the waste sector to drive environmental and economic outcomes.

“What is lacking is more specific recognition of the principles of a circular economy and more specific actions to move away from the ‘take, make and throw’ paradigm,” Ms Dullens said.

AORA National Executive Officer Diana De Hulsters said it was time to get serious about policy implementation.

“Given that 60 per cent of a household rubbish bin is potentially compostable, we would like to see comprehensive recycling targets put in place in the National Waste Policy,” Ms Hulsters said.

“Not only those for packaging, which is a minority part of the overall waste stream.”

Official Ratings:

—  All parties have presented credible and coherent policies and achieve a pass mark.

—  The Labor Party scores highly for a balanced suite of programs to support industry growth, recycled content products and work with local and state governments. It loses marks through not specifically committing to wide-ranging community engagement programs – overall achievement is a C.

— The Coalition scores highly for a significant commitment to industry investment and a circular economy approach, however loses marks for lack of recent implementation – overall achievement is a C.

— The Greens score highly with a very strong group of programs, but were marked down due to their inability to implement the proposals – overall achievement is a C.

Click to access the full Report Card.

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Coordinator appointed for WA container deposit scheme

The Western Australian Government has selected Return Recycle Renew to operate the state’s container deposit scheme.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said Return Recycle Renew would be responsible for running the scheme and ensuring all government objectives are met.

“Overseen by a board, the scheme coordinator will manage payments from manufacturers and importers of eligible beverage products, and will be responsible for establishing and implementing collection and logistics networks,” Mr Dawson said.

“An open and competitive process was used to identify the preferred scheme coordinator and I’m encouraged that Return Recycle Renew is best placed to deliver a high performing scheme for our state.”

According to Mr. Dawson, Return Recycle Renew has been appointed for seven years and must meet all recycling targets to be considered for reappointment.

“One of the first tasks for Return Recycle Renew is to run an open application process to establish the collection network,” Mr Dawson said.

“This will include refund points, transport and processing facilities and support for social enterprises to participate.”

Mr Dawson said WA will have more refund points per head than any other state or territory in Australia.

“As a regional Member of Parliament I want to be sure that remote communities do not miss out on the opportunities arising from this scheme,” Mr Dawson said.

“That’s why there will be at least one refund point in every remote town with 500 people or more and we will be looking at a range of other options for smaller communities.”

Mr. Dawson said as beverage containers account for 44 per cent of the volume of litter in WA, effective management of the scheme is crucial to reducing litter and improving the state’s recycling rates.

A chairperson and community representative will be appointed by the end of the month, with remaining directors appointed shortly after.

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187 countries agree to regulate plastic trade

The United Nations has announced amendments to the Basel Convention, including the characterisation of plastic as a hazardous material.

The Basel Convention controls the movement of hazardous waste from one country to another, and with 187 signatories is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on waste.

The amendment was approved by Australia and 186 other countries following a two week conference. Noticeably absent was the United States, the largest plastic waste exporter in the world.

The United States was one of two countries not to ratify the agreement.

UN Environment Executive Secretary Rolph Payet said plastic waste had reached epidemic proportions, with an estimated 100 million tonnes found in the world’s oceans.

“Governments this week amended the Basel Convention to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework,” Mr Payet said.

“Which will make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, while also ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment.”

Mr Payet said a new Partnership on Plastic Waste will be established to assist with implementing the new measures.

“The partnership will provide a set of practical supports including tools, best practices, technical and financial assistance for this ground-breaking agreement,” Mr Payet said.

Break Free From Plastic Global Coordinator Von Hernandez, who attended the conference, said the amendment will require exporters to obtain the consent of receiving countries before shipping most contaminated, mixed, or un-recyclable plastic waste.

“After China banned imports of most plastic waste in 2018, developing countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, have received a huge influx of contaminated and mixed plastic wastes that are difficult or even impossible to recycle,” Mr Hernandez said.

“This decision provides an important tool for countries in the Global South to stop the dumping of unwanted plastic waste into their country.”

BaliFokus Co-Founder Yuyun Ismawati, who also attended the conference, said the amendment would force higher standards of responsible plastic waste management.

Ms. Ismawati said Indonesia had received an additional 184,702 tons of plastic waste following China’s National Sword policy – with imports increasing by 141 per cent and exports decreasing by 48 per cent.

“Toxic plastics disposed by rich communities in other countries will no longer become the burden of poor communities,” Ms Ismawati said.

According to the 2018 National Waste Report, Indonesia is Australia’s second-largest waste destination, taking 19 per cent of total waste exports.

The amendment follows a recent Malaysian investigation into illegal plastic waste imports and an Indian ban on the material.

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Which Bin launches in South Australia

The South Australian government has launched a campaign urging residents to consider what they put in their household recycling and organics bins.

Environment Minister David Speirs said the Which Bin campaign was launched to raise awareness of kerbside recycling contamination and bin restrictions.

“South Australians are great recyclers and we have a proven history in waste management,” Mr Speirs said.

“However, we can all do much better when it comes to knowing what should, and should not go in the recycling and green organics bin.”

Mr Speirs said food and green organic waste represents roughly half the contents of the state’s general waste bins.

The campaign aims to divert this waste for landfill and drive traffic to the newly developed Which Bin website, according to Mr Speirs.

The Which Bin website provides residents with a definitive recycling guide irrespective of local council.

“Education is a vital tool in improving the way South Australians approach waste management, and we feel the new campaign will inform the community in an easy to understand way,” Mr Speirs said.

A suite of resources for local government has also been developed, including calendars, bin stickers, signage, posters and customisable social media assets.

“The more we can divert from landfill to recycling and composting the better, for both the environment and reducing costs for local councils while creating jobs,” Mr Speirs said.

“We can support the local recycling industry by ensuring the correct recyclable items are placed in the correct bin and that these are clean and contaminant free.”

Which Bin is funded through the state government’s $12.4 million support package for the recycling industry.

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Quantifying the Victorian contribution

A recent study by the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has quantified the economic contribution the sector makes to the Victorian economy.

The data follows the same modelling recently used by National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) state and territory affiliates Waste and Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) and Waste and Recycling Industry Northern Territory (WRINT).   

The VWMA commissioned economist Nick Behrens, Director of Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions, to complete a report that breaks down the economic and social contribution of the waste management and secondary resources industry to the Victorian economy. 

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the interconnected waste and resource recovery network seen nationwide comprises a fleet of vehicles, other machinery and infrastructure assets to consolidate, process, recovery, treat, dispose or export waste which all aspects of the economy produce.

“I think that’s something the broader economy doesn’t always recognise,” Mr Smith said.

The Victorian snapshot shows that more than 1100 businesses create 23,000 direct Victorian jobs. The overall industry, including the government and private sector, creates an annual turnover of $3.7 billion. 

This contribution makes up $2.3 billion of Victorian gross state product of the state’s roughly $399 billion of gross state product. 

Mr Smith said that the report shows the waste sector provides an essential service similar to that of water, electricity and roads/logistics.

“This report is the first time we’ve articulated our benefit with data back to the community or to key parts of government at a local, state or federal level,” Mr Smith said.

“Membership with state-based associations such as the VWMA empowers us to act on our members’ behalves and for the interests of the sector. It’s through our members’ support that we’ve been able to carry out this research.”

Mr Smith said that the valuable data and information provides the VWMA with evidence to shape and define the state’s waste management and resource recovery narrative.

“It provides us with authoritative information about the sector which should not be underestimated when we frame the valuable contribution we make to the economy [direct and in-direct], the environment and society.”

The waste and resource recovery sector also supports the growing balance of the Sustainability Fund (sourced through landfill levies). 

“It’s really important to recognise the critical support role the sector plays in supporting the state government’s collection of landfill levies which we understand to be about $215 million a year. The Sustainability Fund is critical in funding the EPA, Sustainability Victoria and other agencies working to make Victoria safe, prosperous and sustainable.”

“The data sets highlight a compelling story about what the private sector’s stake in waste and resource recovery currently looks like. Our data indicates that state government contributions are minuscule when compared to the investments and contribution of the private sector.”

Mr Smith said that the report also highlights industry’s commitment to ensuring a sustainable and efficient waste and resource recovery network.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO Rose Read said that the report is an important step for the sector in telling its story about the benefits it delivers to the community, councils, the environment and businesses.

“I’m optimistic that other states will follow Victoria, Queensland and Northern Territory’s footsteps and adopt the same methodology developed by Queensland Economy Advocacy Solutions.”

Fast Facts

How the VWMA will use the data:

  • It will help contextualise and frame the broader contribution to Victoria
  • It will work with other associations to help inform the national contribution
  • It will use the data to engage with government, the media and politicians about the important role the sector plays.

How the waste sector can use the data:

  • When talking about their business, contribution and local benefits
  • Combine with other applications or documents that communicate the sector’s broader benefits.

How government can use the data:

  • In government reports or documents
  • To prevent duplications of existing work carried out by the private sector
  • To work with associations to better engage with businesses wanting to drive outcomes for the sector.

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Fight Food Waste Research Centre launches new program

A new research program launched by The Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre will investigate the transformation of food waste into valuable products.

Fight Food Waste Centre Chief Executive Officer Steve Lapidge said the Transform program will improve the Australian food industry’s competitiveness, productivity and sustainability.

“Dr Paul Luckman will lead a national program to transform food waste into valuable products – we have 46 industry partners and 10 research partners from across the country, with a total of $121 million being invested over 10 years,” Dr Lapidge said.

“We are working to deliver new sources of revenue and market growth for food companies, with less waste ending up in landfill and more food donated to feed hungry Australians.”

Lead researcher Paul Luckman said 42 per cent of food produced in Australia is wasted – at an annual cost of $20 billion.

“The Transform program aims to identify and prioritise valuable products from waste streams and find the technology gaps and process limitations in transforming that waste,” Dr Luckman said.

“We’re already looking at a wide range of projects, from turning food waste into supplements to fuelling sustainable wastewater treatment with food waste.”

Dr Luckman said the program is expected to save 87 gigalitres of water via recovery and reuse, reduce food waste by 30 million tonnes and save 44 million tonnes of greenhouse gas.

According to Dr Luckman the program will also create 5200 jobs in rural areas and save $600 million in waste produce and waste-handling costs.

The Fight Food Waste centre has been allocated funding through the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s CRC Program until 2028.

The program is hosted by The University of Queensland’s Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation.

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AORA 2019 National Conference wrap-up

The Australian Organics Recycling Association brought together recycling suppliers, researchers and packaging associations all under the one roof to identify cost-effective and sustainable solutions to organics. 

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NWRIC welcomes Coalition waste policy

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has issued a statement of support for the Coalition’s proposed waste and recycling policy.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the Coalition’s recent policy announcement would help facilitate a cleaner environment for all Australians.

“The announcement reveals a federal election which has seen the biggest tri-partisan commitment to waste and recycling in Australian history,” Ms Read said.

“The Coalition’s promises follow equally welcome commitments by the Labor Party and the Greens.”

Ms Read highlighted the Coalition’s $100 million Australian Recycling Investment Fund, Product Stewardship Investment Fund, $20 million investment in new and innovative solutions to plastic recycling and commitment to continue working with state, territory and local governments on opportunities to get more recycled content into road construction.

Ms Read said while party commitments vary in focus and values, the lead up to the election has seen a recognition of the waste and recycling challenges facing Australia.

“This is welcome news for all Australians because irrespective of who they vote for, they all put their bins out,” Ms Read said.

“Furthermore industry’s priorities are clear, more jobs, better services and less pollution – there is really nothing to disagree with about delivering this essential community service.”

NWRIC is concerned however about the lack of targets for government procurement of recycled goods, incentives to producers to increase recycled content in their products and packaging or willingness to drive state harmonisation of waste regulations and levies.

“Having six states and two territories enforcing different laws, levies and standards limits industry investment in innovative waste management and resource recovery infrastructure and services essential to building a circular economy,” Ms Read said.

“Good policy combined with funding is the key to effective outcomes and greater certainty for industry investment.”

Ms Read said for the proposed Product Stewardship investment to achieve meaningful outcomes, it must be underpinned by smart, simple regulations that create a level playing field and ensure full producer engagement.

“The National Waste Recycling Industry Council is calling for the appointment of a National Waste Commissioner to drive these necessary reforms and a tri-partisan approach to harmonising the regulations framing our industry,” Ms Read said.

“This process has been a clear success for work health and safety and heavy vehicle laws.”

Ms Read said every household and business in Australia purchases waste services and most purchase recycling services.

“The Commonwealth can cut costs for all Australians and stimulate industry investment by driving collaboration between states, industry and producers and essential regulatory reforms,” Ms Read said.

“It is critical that whichever party wins the upcoming federal election that they work proactively with industry to create jobs, serve communities, protect workers and reduce pollution.”

Earlier in the election cycle NWRIC similarly praised Labor’s policy commitments, specifically noting the development of a national container deposit scheme, National Waste Commissioner and the $60 million investment in a National Recycling Fund.

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