ACOR call for $150M into regional recycling

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) is urging the federal government to grow regional Australia’s recycling industry with a one-off investment of $150 million.

The investment would go towards better sorting, increased reprocessing, community education and government procurement of recycled content product.

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ACOR Chief Executive Officer Peter Shmigel said recycling has a good base in regional Australia, which can be grown for more jobs and economic value in country areas.

“It’s one of the readily accessible ways to diversify regional economies and make them more resilient against droughts and global market forces,” he said.

“Our industry already has a good place in the bush including lube oil recycling, battery recycling, tyre recycling, industrial plastics recycling and consumer packaging recycling in country areas.”

Mr Shmigel said an independent report from MRA Consulting showed investment in local recycling could lead to the creation of 500 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We can use waste plastics and glass that can’t go back into bottles as part of asphalt in government-funded road projects,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Roads are the biggest asset in country areas and they can be recycled content rather than virgin materials at competitive cost and quality – if governments positively procure for that,” he said.

Mr Shmigel said using recycled content materials in the Snowy 2.0 scheme alone would massively contribute to more jobs and deliver on the community’s recycling expectations.

ACOR members with operations in regional areas include Southern Oil Refinery, Kurrajong Recycling, Re-Group, Visy, Envirostream, Tomra, SIMS Metal Management, ResourceCo, O-I and Downer Group.

SUEZ, ACOR, SV respond to Environment Minister meeting

Stakeholders have largely welcomed the commitments made on Friday by state and territory ministers at April’s Meeting of Environment Ministers – with some suggestions.

Federal Government, state and territory ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association met on Friday to set a sustainable path for Australia’s recyclable waste, in the seventh Meeting of Environment Ministers. Taking action on recycled waste in the wake of China’s restrictions on imports was the focus of the meeting. Australia is one of over 100 countries affected by China’s new restrictions, affecting around 1.3 million tonnes of our recycled waste. Read the story on the outcomes of the meeting here.

Australia’s National Waste Policy will be updated by the end of this year to include circular economy principles, along with a target endorsed of 100 per cent Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.

They pledged for new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic solar panels and batteries, while also agreeing to explore waste to energy further and advocate using recycled materials in government procurement.

While making a number of pledges, ministers agreed to have a teleconference in mid-June to discuss progress on recycling, and to meet in late 2018 to further progress delivery of the commitments on Friday.

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SUEZ Australia & New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Mark Venhoek welcomed the government’s focus on making 100 per cent of products recyclable and re-useable by 2025. He noted that swift action and investment needs to be made to ensure that this goal is met.

“As a waste industry, we are falling behind globally and we require fast action to stimulate the local market for recycled and recovered products,” Mr Venhoek said.

“We support the government’s 100 per cent recycled packaging goal which will create a sustainable demand for these products, but believe that it should be mandatory that packaged products can be re-used.

“Collaboration to achieving this is key and without investment from government and a commitment from packaging manufacturers and industry working together, we will not achieve this goal.”

Mr Venhoek also welcomed the commitment from different levels of government to explore waste to energy projects and the support for the technology from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

“Energy from waste technology is the missing link in the waste management hierarchy and waste infrastructure in Australia. After reduction, re-use and recycling, there is a crucial element: to recover the energetic value from waste,” he said.

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Stan Krpan said leadership is crucial to ensuring we have a sustainable recycling industry that Australians can be proud of.

Mr Krpan said yesterday’s commitments align with the Victorian Government’s suite of waste strategies and programs that move the state toward a circular economy.

“Supporting our local recycling industry to move towards a circular economy is reflected in the ministers’ commitment to increasing our recycling capacity, advocating for the increased use of recycled material and creating targets for the use of recycled content in packaging,” he said.

“We are also encouraged the strong support of product stewardship schemes and the increasing in the procurement of recycled goods government and industry buy,” he said.

“Large procurements by government and companies can influence upstream design to reduce waste and packaging and trigger other innovations.”

ACOR Chief Executive Officer Pete Shmigel said the right chords have been struck by ministers about investing in recycling’s future, but we did not hear two very important sounds: implementation details and dollars in the till.

“The recycling industry welcomes commitments about ensuring recyclability of packaging products, buying recycled content products by governments, expanding domestic reprocessing capacity and developing a new national plan,” he said.

“However, today’s ministerial announcement lacks comprehensive targets for all measures, and consequences for underperformance, that make practice from theory.”

Mr Shmigel said pro-recycling policy principles are welcome, but pro-recycling positive action and investment is now to be expected.

“As ACOR, we look forward to working directly with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to identify and facilitate a strengthened investment presence in resource recovery – including in an expedited timeframe. There are good projects that merit backing among our members.”

“As ACOR, we strongly question the timeframe given for products’ recyclability as packaging is getting more complex each day and resulting in greater contamination and community cost each day that passes. By 2025, millions of tonnes of potential contamination would have passed through the system without the producers of packaging taking greater responsibility for their decisions.

Mr Shmigel said similar commitments were given in the 2009 National Waste Policy and, on current timeframes, it will be 16 years by the time they have been realised, describing it as “truly mediocre”.

“Finally, further work is urgently needed at state levels to ensure that recyclate does not need to be disposed to landfill in the short-term.”

Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) Chief Executive Officer Gayle Sloan said it is extremely pleasing that the National Waste Strategy will be updated by the end of this year and WMAA looks forward to participating in this.

“The endorsement by Ministers of a target of 100 percent of Australian packaging being recyclable or reusable by 2025 is heartening, and we look forward to working with government to develop meaningful targets from at least 2020 to ensure that this actually achieved,” Ms Sloan said.

“Industry recalls targets set previously under the National Packaging Covenant that were never monitored or achieved, and once this failure was recognised it was just too late.”

Ms Sloan said while there was no new funding for recycling in Friday’s announcement, one thing WMAA will advocate to start immediately is government at all levels spending existing funds differently.

“Ministers must go much further than simply advocating for increased use of recycled materials in the goods that government and industry buy.

“With over 90 per cent of the community supporting recycling and the purchase of recycled products by government, government needs to hold itself to account and if it does not prioritise the use of recycled material, to report to the community why it does not, this should be the norm going forward, not the exception,” she said.

WMAA in a statement said the federal government must show leadership in this space and act now to grow demand for recycled products that can develop markets and jobs in both metropolitan and regional areas. For example, it said Commonwealth Federal Assistance Grants to local government should be predicated on councils using more recycled glass sand and not virgin sand.

“Industry absolutely recognises that there is a place for waste to energy in Australia as an alternate to landfill, and we support this technology. However, it cannot replace recycling and remanufacturing.”

Director of Boomerang Alliance Jeff Angel, which looks after 47 national, state and local groups, described the voluntary approach to recycled products as “weak.”

“Mandatory rules, as in Europe, are the only assured way to establish a stable and growing market to justify the investment into new manufacturing,” Mr Angel said.

“If we can have an enforceable renewable energy target, then we can have a similar system for recycled content. A lot of questions remain to be answered about the 100 per cent recyclable, compostable or reusable target including collection capacity – it’s not just about labels.”

Federal Government Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg on Friday said finding a solution to the 1.3 million tonnes of recyclable waste is an urgent and important issue which requires a coordinated approach from supply right through to demand.

“It is also an opportunity for Australia to develop its capabilities and capacity in recycling through effective cooperation and collaboration among the three levels of government,” he said.

Survey shows support for Gov assistance towards recycling

A recent survey has shown 88 per cent of Australians support government action to assist the recycling sector.

The survey, conducted by polling firm Crosby|Textor, found groups most in favour of government action were older than 65, weekly recyclers and Coalition voters.

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It found 58 per cent of responses strongly support and 33 per cent supported specific measures to improve recycling through a national plan. Similar support was also found for government purchasing of recycled content products, compulsory changes for all packaging to be recyclable, national education to reduce kerbside recycling contamination, and compulsory recycled content in all packaging.

The survey found that 51 per cent of Queenslanders supported the introduction of waste levies in their state.

96 per cent responded they regularly participated in recycling and 50 per cent were aware of China’s restriction on Australian recyclate exports.

Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) Chief Executive Officer Pete Shmigel said the survey shows the Australian public overwhelmingly supports leadership by governments to reboot recycling.

“Across all states, age groups, city and country, and social and political lines, Australians are resoundingly saying to Ministers: act now for domestic recycling in Australia to survive and thrive,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Australians especially support: having a first-ever national plan for recycling; governments buying more recycled content products, and; making it compulsory for the packaging industry to produce goods that are both recyclable and contain recycled content.”

Crosby|Textor Chief Executive Officer Yaron Finkelstein it is uncommon to see very high figures of overwhelming support for policy changes like what was revealed on this issue.

The nationwide survey selected 1000 people at random of representative Australians from 16 to 18 April, and was commissioned by ACOR, with an margin of error of 3.1 per cent.

Opportunity for 500 jobs: ACOR/MRA Consulting report

Investment in the local Australian recycling industry could lead to the creation of 500 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report from MRA Consulting.

Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) Chief Executive Officer Pete Shmigel said the report shows that remanufacturing half of the material domestically would lead to job creation and reduce as much greenhouse gases as taking 50,000 cars off the road. It comes as China clamps down on its exports of interstate waste with a contaminant level of more than 0.5 per cent.

ACOR recently joined the Waste Management Association of Australia in calling on state ministers to implement its Australian Circular Economy and Recycling Action plan at the Ministerial Council – supported by a $150 million injection.

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“To check the China challenge, we are ready to reboot recycling as a self-sufficient sector that enables employment and prevents pollution. Ministers can support this by agreeing to a National Circular Economy & Recycling Plan that makes a one-off investment in the three ‘i’s’ of recycling: infrastructure, improvement and innovation,” Mr Shmigel said.

“The promise of recycling is that what punters put in the bin becomes new products not lumps in landfill. Our political leaders, through the policy targets they have set, are part of delivering on that promise and should continue to do so on 27 April.”

“We need to make and buy more recycled content products here in Australia. Closing the loop is what’s needed for community confidence, job growth and environmental results,” he said.

Mr Shmigel said other industries are regularly supported in transition and crisis, and the recycling sector needs the same support, otherwise jobs could go including in country towns.

“While state governments have rightly focussed on the system’s short-term survival, it’s time for all governments to jointly act for recycling’s future success,” he said.

The report, titled The China National Sword: the role of Federal Government highlights:

  • New technology to support more Australian reprocessing of mixed paper, mixed plastics and glass cullet;
  • Enhanced methods and machinery at recyclate sorting centres;
  • Support for government and corporate purchasing of recycled content products;
  • A national centre for recycled content product development;
  • Education to ensure what’s collected is clean enough for recycled content product making.

WMAA and ACOR call for national recycling action plan

Australian politicians have been called to implement the Australian Circular Economy and Recycling Action plan at the Ministerial Council by the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) and the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

The move comes in response to China’s National Sword policy, with the Action Plan aiming to build upon state government’s short-term actions to maintain community confidence in recycling services.

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WMAA Chief Executive Officer Gayle Sloan said a concerted effort at this critical point in time is required by all.

“It is absolutely the case that the industry’s future direction is at an important crossroads, with an opportunity to grow more Australian-based manufacturing jobs, and actively build on the 20 years’ worth of environmental gains in Australia,” Ms Sloan said.

“WMAA and ACOR have a united industry position on this important topic, and are committed to working with government to ensure the success of the Australian Circular Economy & Recycling Action Plan,” she said.

WMAA and ACOR are advocating to Federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and state ministers to work with the recycling and resource recovery industry to change strategic directions.

ACOR chief executive officer Peter Shmigel said a $150 million national Action Plan would enable the ‘three I’s’ that are needed to reboot recycling and kickstart the circular economy.

“Investment in infrastructure and new markets, improvement of recyclate material quality and recycling contracts, and innovation in positive purchasing of recycled content products by governments,” Mr Shmigel said.

“It is time to transform the recycling and resource recovery industry so it can help transform our economy to a more competitive, sustainable and circular model that makes the best use of as many resources, including human resources as possible in Australia,” he said.

NSW Government’s $47M National Sword package

The NSW Government has announced it will release a $47 million package to support local government and industry in response to China’s National Sword policy.

China is the largest importer of recyclable materials from Australia, and the new policy restricts the types of waste that will be accepted.

A one-off package is planned to respond to this, and is funded by the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative and aims to provide short, medium and long term initiative to ensure kerbside recycling continues.

The funding will allow councils to offset extra costs associated with kerbside collections, improve council tendering processes to increase production and use of recycled products, and fund community education to reduce recycling contamination.

The package also includes $9.5 million for industry and local government to invest in infrastructure projects to find new uses for recyclable materials and reduce the amount of unrecyclable materials at the end of the process.

Guidelines have been set in place to ensure applicants seeking funding address the National Sword policy, represent better value for money and demonstrate benefits for the community.

Recycling facilities can also apply to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to temporarily vary their stockpile limits, with facilities being assessed to demonstrate appropriate safety measures remain in place.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the NSW Government is committed to working with the recycling industry and local councils to ensure it continues having a strong kerbside recycling system.

“I have met with industry and government stakeholders to hear first-hand about how we can address the current global challenges to the recycling market in NSW,” Ms Upton said.

“The short-term need for increased stockpiles of recycled material during this critical time must be balanced with the safety of the community and the environment,” she said.

An inter-government taskforce is also being established to urgently progress a longer-term response to National Sword in partnership with industry and councils.

“I have also written to the Federal Environment Minister to urgently progress the work on this issue and the long-term solutions at a national level.”

The Australian Council of Recycling has welcomed the NSW Government’s recycling package.

“In the context of the unprecedented impact of China’s new settings on Australia’s recycling system, the NSW Government package can help relieve short-term pressure while also building longer-term resilience for the recycling system. That’s an important step forward to ensuring that recycling can continue to deliver job and environmental benefits for NSW residents,” ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said.

“It is good to also note that the NSW Government is urging a national approach and we will be calling on all Ministers to adopt an Australian Recycling Resilience Plan to future-focus our industry and drive toward a circular economy that makes fullest use of what comes out of our homes and onto our kerbs,” he said.

“It’s time to shift from ‘crisis’ mode to claiming recycling’s potential as a major national industry of the future.”

 

ACOR appoint new CEO

The Australian Council of Recyclers (ACOR) has announced its new chief executive officer Peter Shmigel.

Mr Shmigel has over 25 years of experience in government, corporate, NGO and consulting roles. He has previously been CEO of Lifeline Australia and has contributed to resource recovery for more than 13 years through policy and technology development.

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ACOR Chairman David Singh said Mr Shmigel’s appointment showed the recycling industry’s determination to grow as part of Australia’s economic transition.

“Recycling has successfully expanded in recent years, and the recycling industry is now poised to go to its next level, including technological, economic and environmental contribution. Pete is a proven leader who is well placed to support us in that regard,” he said.

“We’re recycling around 60 per cent of Australia’s waste right now. As we build a circular economy that relies on urban resources rather than natural ones, it is great to have a pro-active and positive voice like Pete’s working for us”

Peter Shmigel said that it is an exciting time for recycling, as it is an innovating and growing industry.

“We need to change the conversation. We need to show governments, including their treasuries, that recycling has become more than just waste reduction. It’s now about sustainable jobs in the domestic economy in a tough global context, and cutting costly greenhouse gasses in a most affordable and proven way,” Mr Shmigel said.

“As domestic manufacturing declines and mining stabilises, let’s talk doubling the recycling workforce to one per cent of the economy as much as recovering 100 per cent of useable material,” he said.

Mr Shmigel will formally commence in the role in mid-March.