Industry associations respond to 60 Minutes recycling report

Waste management industry associations have released a statement contesting claims made in the 60 Minutes Sunday night program, Plastic not so fantastic.

Liam Bartlett’s 60 Minutes report claims much of Australian plastic waste is not being reused or recycled, but rather dumped, buried or burned in illegal processing locations in South-East Asia.

The program refers to Australia’s recycling industry as a ‘con,’ which according to industry associations doesn’t paint a full picture of the Australian recycling industry or its capacity, and includes a false claim that much of Australia’s plastic waste is being disposed of incorrectly.

Recycling groups including the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR), Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), the Australian Organics Recycling Association, Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW and National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) contributed to the statement — urging greater investment, regulatory reform and policy support from governments.

According to the 2018 National Waste Report, Australia generated 67 million tonnes of waste last year, 37 million tonnes of which was recycled.

The report also shows 33 million tonnes of that recycling was undertaken within Australia, with plastic exports decreasing by 25 per cent.

It is estimated in the report that between 10 and 15 per cent of kerbside recycling cannot be recycled because it is contaminated with nappies, soft plastics, garden hoses, bricks and batteries.

ACOR CEO Peter Shmigel said the program should not discourage the vast majority of Australians who regularly recycle.

“Australian recycling is highly successful despite some ill-conceived claims in the broadcast, in fact up to 90 per cent of material collected for recycling is made into new products,” Mr Shmigel said.

Plastic not so fantastic claims 71,000 tonnes of Australian recyclable plastic has been exported to Malaysia.

In response, Mr Shmigel said 71,000 tonnes represents less than two per cent of the 4 million tonnes that is actually exported and less than 0.2 per cent of the 37 million collected for recycling.

“If the claim that all these materials are not being properly processed is accurate, this is very concerning, as there are also legitimate processors in Malaysia,” Mr Shmigel said.

According to the statement, in response to the impacts of restrictions across Asia, the local recycling industry which employs more than 50,000 Australians and generates up to $15 billion in value, is currently making some of the most advanced recycling investments in the world.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said the industry is investing in high-tech infrastructure to improve sorting and processing in order to produce high quality materials from recovered waste.

Ms Sloan is also advocating for a stronger domestic recycling system through a new labelling scheme to build community confidence.

“We need a Made with Australian Recycled Content label which will do two key things – empower the community to take action and ownership of the materials they consume, and incentivise manufacturers and brand owners to include recycled content in their packaging and products,” Ms Sloan said.

“This will create new markets for recycled materials and ensure a sustainable future for kerbside recycling, local resource recovery, and remanufacturing.”

Ms Sloan said the local industry is investing heavily and working collaboratively to upgrade local processing capacities which in the past were, to some extent, built to meet China’s previous specifications.

A recent Reachtel survey commissioned by ACOR found that almost 93 per cent of people said reducing waste and recycling products into new products was important to them and 87 per cent supported increasing recycling and reducing landfill by processing food and garden material from rubbish bins into useful products.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the community continuously votes in favour of recycling through its strong participation.

“We encourage householders to continue to separate and sort their recycling correctly to reduce contamination and realise the environmental and economic benefits of recycling,” Ms Read said.

Prime Creative Media has contacted 60 Minutes for comment.

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ACOR backs Labor’s waste minimisation policy

Labor’s proposed $290 million waste minimisation policy has received support from the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said the proposal was a bold boost for recycling and remanufacturing in Australia.

The policy calls for a national ban on single use-plastic bags and microbeads from 2021 and outlines the creation of a National Container Deposit Scheme.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said he will consult with states, territories and industry on how to best implement the proposals.

“This will create a consistent approach across the country – following moves of many state and territories to phase out single-use plastic bags, as well as manufacturers phasing out microbeads,” Mr Shorten said.

Mr Shorten also announced the establishment of a National Waste Commissioner, a $60 million National Recycling Fund and a $15 million investment to assist nearby counties clean up the pacific ocean.

Mr Shmigel said independent modelling commissioned by ACOR shows Labor’s policy has the potential to divert millions of tonnes from landfill to recycling, create 300 new jobs in regional Australia and reduce greenhouse gases.

“The initiative will lift Australia from its 17th position in the world in terms of recycling rates and let us grow the sector from the current 50,000 jobs.”

Mr Shmigel said the policy’s direct investment in infrastructure to decontaminate recycling, building of home-grown markets and expedition of product stewardship schemes were particularly significant.

“It speaks to the 88 per cent of Australians who told a recent survey they want a more pro-active recycling policy,” Mr Shmigel said.

Director of the Boomerang Alliance Jeff Angel said the policy doesn’t go far enough however, stressing the need for ‘buy recycled’ tax incentives and mandatory rules for recycled content in products.

‘’An important piece of the puzzle is mandatory rules for recycled content in products. This needs to extend beyond government to the private sector. It’s the only way to cement reprocessing of waste into the economy and save resources and the environment. Anything less is fiddling at the edges.

‘’The introduction of a plastic pollution reduction strategy to set a future direction to reduce single use plastics wasted or littered should have been included,” Mr Angel said.

“The public and many industry sectors recognise that packaging is a significant problem, but the problem includes all single use and disposable plastic waste.’’

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ACOR partners with Australian Tyre Recyclers Association

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) and the Australian Tyre Recyclers Association (ATRA) have announced a partnership as part of ACOR’s new national divisional structure.

Under the new structure ATRA Executive Officer Rob Kelman will serves as Executive Director of the new tyre recycling and container deposit scheme divisions.

“The used tyre recycling sector is maturing alongside the rest of the recycling industry in Australia and this amalgamation is testament to its important role in the industrial and manufacturing sector.

“There will be a continued focus on ATRA’s approach to industry audits and accreditation, but it will also bring much more accountability in terms of our exports,” Mr Kelman said.

ATRA members recycle more than 20 million used tyre units per annum, representing 95 per cent of Australia’s used tyre recycling activity.

ACOR President Peter Tamblyn said the partnership would help promote industry leading practices in tyre recycling and drive the sustainability of the used tyre recycling sector.

“Industry leaders and companies have agreed that working together under the one banner will help bring a focus to the issues and projects that matter and to necessary policy reform.

“The recycling industry employs 50,000 people across Australia and is worth around $20 billion to the Australian economy, and this shows us further maturing,” Mr Tamblyn said.

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New ReachTel poll shows strong support for red bin recycling

A NSW ReachTel poll has shown strong support for red bin recycling, with 93 per cent supporting the recycling industry and 79 per cent supporting the use of organics on farm use.

The poll, conducted in mid-February with 1546 representative respondents, affirms the NSW Government’s move to protect the future of the alternative waste treatment (AWT) industry, according to the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR.)

The poll comes months after the NSW EPA announced it was stopping the restricted use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land after comprehensive independent studies into potential health risks.

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Media reports indicate that NSW Government Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton wrote to the state’s major recycling companies to reveal the government was awaiting expert advice to determine the future use of mixed waste organics.

The poll shows that 92.8 per cent agree that reducing waste and recycling products into new products and uses is important, 78.6 per cent support the use of “organic material for farm use and land rehabilitation,” and 87.3 per cent support “increasing recycling and reducing landfill by processing food and garden material from rubbish bins into useful products.”

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said the community overwhelmingly supports the treatment and recovery of household residual material and its diversion from landfill.

He added that this has been the practice by AWT operators in NSW for 18 years prior to a pre-emptive government decision to delete the practice, alluding to the ban on mixed waste organic outputs.

“It’s pointless to send valuable material to landfill and to miss out on the benefits to farms, mine sites, the environment, and jobs,” Mr Shmigel said.

The results show participants were primarily concerned with increased landfill and pollution in the environment.

Mr Shmigel said the next step after the NSW election is for the government and the EPA to collaborate with industry on the details and delivery of a revived AWT sector.

 

Mandatory product stewardship cost on consumers calculated

A new analysis for the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) by independent consultancy firm Equilibrium has estimated the cost of mandatory product stewardship schemes on consumers.

The analysis looked at mandatory product stewardship approaches for different products, and estimated the potential dollars per unit that a mandatory scheme would cost.

Under the current Product Stewardship Act 2011, schemes can be established for a variety of different products and materials to lower their lifecycle impacts.

Mandatory schemes involve enabling regulations to be made that require some persons to take specific action on products, according to the analysis. This could include restricting the manufacture or import of products, prohibiting products from containing particular substances, labelling and packaging requirements and other requirements for reusing, recovering, treating or disposing of products.

For a mandatory e-waste scheme, the cost is estimated to be between $1.55 and $1.85 for an e-waste unit size equivalent product of 0.75 kilograms. For mattresses, the cost of a mattress unit (standard double size) would be between $14.50 to $16.50. A mandatory tyre scheme would cost about $3.50 to $4.00 equivalent passenger units.

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ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said the Australian community has long supported recycling and overwhelmingly wants to be able to recycle more products and items.

“This new data shows that we can do so affordably. In all cases, the cost of recycling these items is likely to be lower than two per cent of their consumer price. Therefore, cost concerns should not be a key barrier to action by our policy-makers,” he said.

Mr Shmigel said that recycling of these items is a well-established practice overseas, including in much less developed countries, and it is difficult to understand why it is not here too.

“Indeed, the formal review of Australia’s Product Stewardship Act has disappeared and is significantly overdue, the new National Waste Policy has a blank space for product stewardship, and there has been no news following ministers’ apparent discussion of product stewardship at the December 2018 Meeting of Environment Ministers.”

ACOR also believes the major political parties need to make commitments in the areas of recycling infrastructure investment, incentives for and procurement of recycled content products and community education. It has submitted industry analysis for consideration.

Equilibrium Managing Director Nick Harford said that while they can be improved, the current co-regulated TV, computer and mobile phone product stewardship schemes are producing good results. He added that there has been no demonstrable consumer concern about their cost.

“While the current schemes are not mandatory, and research estimates that mandatory schemes may have higher administration costs, the estimated cost per unit in relation to the total product cost is generally reasonable,” he said.

The analysis of the potential impacts of mandatory schemes covered factors including:

  • Collection and transport
  • Processing and recycling
  • Compliance, monitoring, audit and reporting
  • Safety and environmental management
  • Sales
  • Administration
  • Marketing, communications and education

ACOR releases agenda for 2019

The Australian Council of Recycling’s (ACOR) focus for 2019 will be promoting the uptake of recycled content products through industry-led projects, according to ACOR AGENDA 19 released by the peak body today.

Projects and partnerships under ACOR AGENDA 19 include an anti-contamination initiative for kerbside recycling, starting with NSW to improve the quality of materials needed for product manufacturing.

The agenda also comprises a recycling commodities index to provide greater certainty for recycled content manufacturing industry participants. ACOR will also launch a recycled contents products directory and online trading platform, in addition to a thought leadership initiative on incentives for the use of recycled content.

ACOR’s plan will see it compile and promote research on: jurisdictional comparison of “waste” definitions; jurisdictional comparison of recyclate to roads specifications; jurisdictional comparison of waste levy reinvestment and the location of industry facilities by electorates.

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A voluntary industry accreditation will also be rolled out across the supply chain and industry-provided training for regulatory and public policy partners.

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said that if society is not buying recycled content products, then Australians are not really recycling.

“The board of ACOR has decided our best contribution are positive and practical projects that increase the usage of products with recycled content. It is market demand that will ensure the full economic, social and environmental benefits of recycling, and put the circularity into the circular economy,” he said.

Mr Shmigel said in its own businesses, the recycling sector is massively innovative, enterprising and results-driven and ACOR AGENDA 19 initiatives reflect that industry ethic.

“While having the right public policy is important for recycling’s future, and ACOR will continue to advocate, we are determined to positively and practically act, and not just talk, in the recycling sector’s best interests,” Mr Shmigel said.

“We are an industry that employs some 50,000 people and may generate some $20 billion of value. It’s time we and our partners take that to the next level, including through ACOR AGENDA 19.”

You can read the agenda here.

APCO appoints three directors to its board

Three new directors have been appointed to the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) Board at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting.

Chair of the Australian Council of Recycling and owner of Re.Group, which oversees the container deposit schemes in the ACT and Queensland, David Singh was one of the new directors appointed to the board. His selection is part of APCO’s efforts to collaborate with the waste and recycling industries and its support for the rollout of container deposit schemes nationally.

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CEO, Director and Company Secretary of the Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia and Board Director of the Banksia Foundation, Andrew Petersen was also selected to be a director.

Fellow of the Australian Institute of Packaging Keith Chassell was appointed to the board. Mr Chassell has around 50 years of experience in the packaging, fast moving consumer goods and the food and beverage sectors.

The Board of Directors for 2019 includes Sam Andersen, Andrew Petersen, Keith Chessell, David Singh, Trent Bartlett, Jacky Nordsvan, Anne Astin, Jason Goode and Renata Lopes.

APCO Board Chair Sam Andersen said the board is delighted to welcome the new board members who bring a wealth and diversity of industry experience at a critical time for Australia’s waste and recycling, packaging and sustainability sectors.

“This has been a remarkable year of growth and progress for APCO, and we look forward to an even more productive year in 2019 with the support and guidance of the new Board Directors,” Ms Andersen said.

ACOR releases 10 point recycling plan for National Waste Policy

The Australian Council of Recycling has released a 10-point plan for results-based recycling, which has been submitted to the consultation process for the new National Waste Policy.

It aims to assist the industry and government reaching the goal of 100 per cent recovery of recyclable, compostable, reusable or recoverable materials and their diversion from landfill.

The plan details public policy measures such as reforming waste levies to focus on increasing recycling rates with an exemption of recycling residuals across each state.

It also recommends a $1.5 billion investment of waste disposal levy funds into recycling, with transparency and allocation to resource recovery objectives. This funding could potentially be used to invest in recyclate market development and commercialisation projects, improving infrastructure and technology used for sorting and reprocessing, investment into data collection for decision making, and investment into the cost of kerbside recycling.

A landfill ban for batteries, e-waste, and other potentially hazardous materials is recommended in the report as a way of making end of life producer responsibility the way to pay for recycling.

It also recommends a national recycling infrastructure audit, development of new metrics for waste, recycling and resource recovery activity beyond tonnes diverted, the examination of trends and how to optimise parallel container deposit schemes to build a sustainable domestic recycling sector through national industry development.

The plan includes the introduction of a resource recovery incentive for industry with different tax levels for virgin and recycled material in packaging and road construction.

Improving contestability in the recycling sector, creating a dedicated Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding initiative to support recyclate materials collection and sorting, and using more energy recovered from residual waste to generate sustainable energy are key measures to improve recycling according to the report.

The plan also outlines standardising recycling methods and improving government approaches to planning, regulation and enforcement.

To read the plan, click here.

Bingo Industries become ACOR member

Australian Paper Recovery, Bingo Industries, Closed Loop and Northern Adelaide Waste Management Alliance have become members of the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

The new additions have grown ACOR to 36 members, worth $20 billon and employs around 50,000 people across the collection, sorting, processing, remanufacturing, and product stewardship activity streams.

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A 10-point plan for results-based recycling is also being planned by the ACOR board to develop industry accreditation and system standards.

ACOR has also states it will provide stronger policy and innovation forums for business active in stewardship, including for packaging containers, e-waste, batteries, oil, solar related equipment and tyres.

“As ACOR aims for smart solutions in resource recovery policy and leadership in industry innovation, it’s pleasing to have new members like APR, Bingo, Closed Loop and NAWMA join ACOR and contribute,” ACOR President David Singh said.

“Our Board understands it’s time for our industry to stand up, put forward new ideas and positively partner for results-based recycling.

“Results-based recycling is about more jobs, broader environmental gains and continued community confidence via a mature industry. We get there through sound and accountable policy, technological and digital innovation, closed loop teamwork, and urban growth management,” he said.

ACOR calls for more recycled packaging after plastic bag ban

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) has called on large Australian brands to commit to using recycled content in their packaging as Coles and Woolworths phase out single-use plastic bags.

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said the move to stop supplying plastic bags in supermarkets is a good step, but a bigger move for the environment and economy is ensuring recycled content material is used for packaging.

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“Giving consumers a chance to buy recycled content products has more benefits than bag bans, and survey work shows more than 80 per cent of Aussies support such a move. Ministers can do more to encourage recycled content in packaging at their next discussion about the China crisis,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Putting recycled content into Australian packaging creates domestic demand for collected material and that drives investment and jobs in remanufacturing into new products, and lower risk for Councils’ kerbside recycling collections.”

“At present, Coles appears to have a voluntary target of 5 per cent of products sold having recycled content. It’s unclear what Woolworths’ target is.”

Mr Shmigel said it would be great if both companies announced what their targets are for recycled content going into the future.

“Without recycled content and other measures to make recycling sustainable, we are ‘pushing’ material out and not ‘pulling’ it through. It just shifts more costs to local governments for recycling services. If we can’t get progress through voluntary measures, the community is right to expect regulation to get it done, as is the case in Europe,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Coca-Cola is showing what can be done. Mount Franklin water bottles are all made with recycled content plastic, and they are looking at switching 50% of all their bottles to recycled content,” he said.