ACT proposes single-use plastic ban

The ACT Government has released a discussion paper asking for contributions from the community on phasing out single-use plastics.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said the state could no longer ignore responsibility for plastics that litter the environment.

“Single-use plastic is commonly used for food packaging and includes items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away,” Mr Steel said.

“Single-use plastic litters our waterways, city parks and bush landscapes and goes into landfill where it may take hundreds or even thousands of years to break down.”

Mr Steel said the paper asks the community which problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics government should focus on including plastic straws and cutlery, disposable plates, cups and coffee lids, polystyrene plastic food containers and beverage cups and other non-recyclable plastics.

Proposed items that will be excluded from government action at this time include sanitary items, nappies and incontinence products, reusable plastic bags roughly 35 microns in thickness, health related sterile items, plastic beverage containers and microbeads — which are already being phased out by the territory.

“We are taking real action to become Australia’s most sustainable city,” Mr Steel said.

The European Parliament last year voted to ban single-use plastics in the EU by 2021.

Similarly, South Australia and the City of Hobart are also looking at phasing out single-use plastics.

“It is time that the ACT takes responsible action to reduce single-use plastics and build a circular economy where we reduce our reliance on these products and move to better alternatives,” Mr Steel said.

According to Mr Steel, while the ACT has already acted to reduce single-use plastic bags, through the introduction of the plastic shopping bag ban in 2011, it has the opportunity to do more to reduce the territory’s plastic footprint.

“It is still common place to see takeaway shops continuing to use plastic-foam takeaway containers like it is still the 1980s. Supermarkets also continue to sell plastic plates, cups and cutlery – when it seems like there are clear alternatives already being sold on their own shelves,” Mr Steel said.

“We want to hear from the community about how we can reduce the use of certain single-use plastics where there are clear alternatives that are good for the environment and practical for business, industry and consumers.”

Mr Steel said any decisions to phase-out single use plastics will likely have impacts on business, institutions and ACT residents, including people with a disability, and invites these groups to contribute to the discussion.

“We know from the plastic straw ban in other parts of the world that we need to consider the social equity impact on people with a disability, and I welcome their contribution on how we can responsibly manage our environment while taking these issues into account,” Mr Steel said.

“I encourage all interested or affected Canberrans to join the conversation and tell us their ideas about what they would like us to consider in phasing-out unnecessary and problematic single-use plastics.”

The ACT discussion paper follows a similar announcement in Western Australia last week, with Minister for the Environment Stephen Dawson asking the public to contribute to the Let’s Not Draw the Short Straw – Reduce Single-Use Plastics paper.

Last year the Western Australian government banned lightweight plastic bags and instructed government agencies to stop buying avoidable single-use plastic items.

Mr Dawson also announced a funding partnership between the state government and the Plastic Free Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation committed to the reduction of plastic use in every day life.

The Plastic Free Foundation has been awarded $326,725 in state government funding, with an extra $484,126 coming from Lotterywest, to engage individuals and communities in in the state to reduce plastic waste.

“Waste problems are a shared legacy. The state government wants to hear your practical ideas on how to avoid and reduce single-use plastics so we can protect our environment for future generations,” Mr Dawson said.

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ACT trials recycled asphalt

The ACT is trialling asphalt made from recycled material including soft plastics, used printer toner cartridges, crushed glass and reclaimed asphalt material.

Roads Minister Chris Steel said the ACT is looking into how it could legislate a waste use requirement for new roads across the state, adding that if Australia hopes to build a circular economy all governments need to act and establish markets for the re-use of material.

“Every tonne of this innovative asphalt product will contain approximately 800 plastic bags, 300 glass bottles, 18 used printer toner cartridges and 250 kilograms of reclaimed asphalt.

“The reclaimed asphalt has been sourced from local roads, glass from the ACT’s kerbside recycling (yellow bin) system, and some of the soft plastic through the ACT Container Deposit Scheme,” Mr Steel said.

The first trial is being conducted on a roundabout on Gundaroo Drive, with the asphalt designed to be stronger and more resistant to deformation that standard material.

“The roundabout on Gundaroo Drive is a great place to trial this asphalt as it is a heavy traffic area, where vehicles are turning, and therefore putting more pressure on the road surface,” Mr Steel said.

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NSW crackdown targets illegal waste transporters

The NSW EPA has partnered with police, the ACT Government and local councils to target rogue operators supplying waste soil from construction sites advertised as clean fill to property owners.

Compliance and road side checks were part of the crackdown to ensure fill going to a site had the appropriate council approval to accept it.

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By targeting rogue operators during transport, the NSW EPA aims to stop contaminated and non-compliant materials being illegally dumped or passed off as clean fill to innocent land owners.

Accepting large amounts of fill can create potential dust issues and pollute waterways.

NSW EPA Senior Officer Janine Goodwin said in some of the worst cases, operators are providing unsuspecting residents with soil cheaply or for free that is contaminated with construction and demolition waste, heavy metals or even asbestos.

“Councils require landholders to apply for development approval to bring larger volumes of fill onto private property. If a property is used to accept this material without proper council approval, both the landholder, the owner of the waste and the transport contractor may be fined and the landholder may discover they have to pay to have the material removed,” Ms Goodwin said.

“We have been checking things like documentation to make sure the waste is correctly classified and going to a site that has consent to accept it.”

ACT EPA’s Narelle Sargent said waste being transported between the ACT and NSW needs approval.

“Transporters and builders are on notice that the illegal transport and disposal of waste will not be tolerated in the ACT region, and large penalties apply,” Ms Sargent said.

Canberra’s sustainability strategy tackles waste

A new sustainability strategy for Canberra has been released that set targets for waste reduction, increased recycling and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

It is part of Canberra’s City Renewal Authority’s goal to become a world class sustainable capital city as part of its built environment and design.

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Targets identified in the strategy for 2025 include waste and recycling management plans aim to target 95 per cent of construction resource recovery and increasing the onsite capture and reuse of organics, recyclables and bulky waste by 20 per cent over the 2015 level.

To hit these targets, the strategy plans to deliver exemplars of waste resource recovery in construction and operation phases of Canberran projects.

The City Renewal Authority’s sustainability program uses sustainability policies from across the ACT Government to form the strategy for the City Renewal Precinct.

City Renewal Authority CEO Malcolm Snow said Canberrans have a high expectation that their city be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

“We want a city that will still support future generations, so we need to create a city now where sustainable living is a part of everyday life. This responds to the community’s expectation for government leadership on sustainable development and access to green space,” Mr Snow said.

“Social and environmental sustainability are vital elements of our program as we implement the design-led and people-focused renewal of our city precinct.

“We will make Canberra an even more liveable city by reducing its environmental footprint and setting a high standard of social sustainability,” he said.

Mr Snow said the Authority has set these targets to influence outcomes across the precinct as new development proposals are submitted.

“Achieving these outcomes will require collective urban leadership from government, the community and the private sector. It is in all our interests that the city grows in a way that improves the lives of current and future generations,” he said.

“We can’t do this alone and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to help make the City Renewal Precinct an even better place for people to work, live and visit.”

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.

Community consultation open for Canberra WtE

The ACT Government has begun community consultation on waste to energy (WtE) to help develop policy and provide information for stakeholders.

It follows the results of the ACT’s Waste Feasibility Study which found Canberra was unlikely to achieve a recovery rate of more than 80 per cent without some form of WtE leaving 200,000 to be sent to landfill.

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The ACT Government has launched a survey to gather community feedback and provide information on the different types of WtE to clearly outline the territory’s position on energy recovery. It has also launched an information paper to outline the challenges and opportunities for the technology in the ACT’s context.

The consultation will inform the ACT Government’s consideration of WtE in the territory.

Currently the ACT has a target to divert 90 per cent of waste from landfill by 2025 and has implemented a container deposit scheme to also improve the territory’s waste diversion rates.

WtE processing facilities are already in use in the ACT with methane gas captured at the Mugga Lane and West Belconnen landfill facilities used to power around 3000 homes.

The ACT has also set a range of targets to 2020 for secure and affordable energy which involves using clean energy technology.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said in the information paper that a serious conversation about what to do to reach the ACT’s landfill diversion targets is needed and should explore whether WtE is part of the solution.

“WtE technologies sit on a spectrum – not all of these involve burning or heating and some technologies are already in use in the ACT, for example through landfill gas capture at our Mugga Landfill site,” Mr Steel said.

“One of the key recommendations of the Waste Feasibility Study was the development of a WtE policy in the ACT to provide certainty to industry and the community about whether WtE has a role in the nation’s capital.

“As the Minister for City Services I want our community and industry to be partners in co-designing a long-term, informed and evidence-based policy vision for WtE in the ACT.”

The community consultation period will close on 29 November 2018.

New solar powered composter for Canberra community

A new solar powered composter has been unveiled at the Canberra Environment Centre to launch the Canberra Community Composting project.

The composter was purchased by the centre after it received a $24,200 grant from the ACT Government’s Community Zero-Emissions Grants program.

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Food scraps can be dropped off at the Environment Centre to be processed by the new machine, nicknamed The Hungry Composter. The project aims to support members of the community who feel as if they don’t have the time, space or knowledge to compost at home.

The Hungry Composter is able to process 100 litres of mixed waste a day, including paper, cardboard, food scraps and green waste. It is solar power, odourless, continuous-feed system that processes food scraps into ready-to-use compost within 10-14 days.

Community members need to register with the Environment Centre before disposing of their waste for composting.

ACT Government Sustainability Programs Senior Manager, Ros Malouf said it was a fantastic example of a community group working with the ACT government to implement a project which will have significant benefits for both residents and the environment.

“In addition to generating nutrient rich soil, composting is a great way to reduce emissions. Organic material sent to landfill produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”

ACT CDS locations announced as scheme begins

The first locations for the Australian Capital Territory’s Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) have been announced.

The scheme commenced on 30 June 2018 and refunds consumers 10 cents for returning an eligible container.

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The scheme targets containers that occur most often in the waste stream of ACT, covering glass, PET, HDPE, aluminium, steel or liquid paperboard cartons, between 150 millilitres and three litres in size. The scheme does not include plain milk containers, flavoured milk containers above 1 litre, pure juice drinks, wine, spirit or cordial bottles.

Director of ACT NoWaste Michael Trushell said a total of nine return points will open across Canberra’s north and south side with more locations to join over the next 12 months.

“To receive a 10 cent refund, residents will be able to take their eligible containers to two types of return points, express return points for returning up to 500 containers or bulk depots, which can accept any number,” he said.

“The ACT CDS is a little different to the one that operates in NSW. Residents can choose to collect the refund or donate the funds directly to a charity. Social enterprise groups like the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul have express shopfronts across Canberra that will benefit from the scheme.”

The locations include:

  • 151 Gladstone Street, Fyshwick (bulk depot)
  • 10 Buckland Street, Mitchell (bulk depot)
  • 1/9 Wooley Street, Dickson (express return point Vinnies)
  • Corner Pitman Street and Athllon Drive, Greenway (express return point Vinnies)
  • Corner Rae and Purdue Streets, Belconnen (express return point Vinnies)
  • Corner Anketell and Reed Streets, Tuggeranong Square, South Greenway (express return point Salvos)
  • Shop 7, Corner Hindmarsh Drive and Botany Street, Phillip (express return point Salvos)
  • 32 Hoskins Street, Mitchell (express return point Salvos)
  • 15 Mildura Street, Fyshwick (express return point Salvos)

“I would like to thank the Network Operator, Return-It and the Scheme Coordinator, Exchange for Change ACT for working behind the scenes to establish the first CDS for Canberra,” Mr Trushell said.

For more information on the scheme, click here.

TIC Mattress Recycling passes the baton to Soft Landing

TIC Mattress Recycling has announced national social enterprise, Soft Landing, will become the new operator of the company’s mattress recycling business, effective 1 June.

TIC Mattress Recycling commenced its mattress recycling processed four years ago and built Australia’s first automated deconstruction plant for end of life mattresses in Melbourne and Sydney.

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Soft Landing was established in 2009 to train and provide jobs people experiencing barriers to employment in Illawarra NSW. The organisation now has sites in Sydney, Illawarra, Newcastle, Melbourne, ACT and WA.

Soft Landing has recycled over 600,000 mattresses, created employment for over 300 people and saved 440,000 cubic metres of landfill space.

Soft Landing team members Kane, Adam and Corey at the Bellambi facility in NSW

A cross-sector partnership between Soft Landing and TIC Mattress Recycling was established in 2016 to improve growth, efficiency and innovation in the mattress recycling industry.

TIC Mattress Recycling Managing Director Michael Warren said Soft Landing is the right organisation to take mattress recycling to the next level.

“TIC Group is confident Soft Landing will keep Australia at the forefront of global innovations that support people, planet and the integration of leading technology,” he said.

Soft Landing Executive Officer Community Resources John Weate said the cross-sectional partnership with TIC Group has been a great step in Soft Landing’s Journey.

“We thank all the team at TIC for their commitment to this partnership, and look forward to welcoming those employees joining the Soft Landing team in this transition,” he said.

“We also look forward to ongoing relations with the broader TIC Group given their leading expertise in reverse logistics and saving disused retail items from landfill.”

Featured Image: TIC Group CEO, David Harris; TIC Mattress Recycling General Manager, Michael Warren; Soft Landing National Manager, Andrew Douglas; TIC Director, Mark Gandur; Community Resources CEO, John Weate

ACT container deposit scheme start date announced

The ACT Government has announced that Canberra’s container deposit scheme will start on 30 June.

Contract agreements have been signed with the scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator Re.Turn-it.

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Residents will be able to return eligible beverage containers at registered collection points to receive a 10-cent refund.

The scheme is similar to the legislation in SA, NT and NSW, which use the refund to encourage consumers to dispose of drink containers properly to decrease litter.

Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris said the ACT has always said it would introduce a scheme as quickly as possible to align with NSW but took time to make sure the scheme it was done right.

“I’m excited to announce that the ACT’s Container Deposit Scheme will start on 30 June 2018, which I’m sure will be good news for local sporting groups and kids who have already started stockpiling cans and bottles,” Ms Fitzharris said.

“The scheme will provide opportunities for container refunds to be donated to charities and offer increased economic and employment opportunities for participating collection points,” she said.

“We also want to make sure industry are supported through this process, and this week we will introduce legislation to allow beverage manufacturers up to two years before they have to introduce ACT specific refund marking on their containers.”

Examining similar schemes around Australia alongside community consultation, discussions with industry, social research and waste audits were performed to inform the scheme.

Re.Turn-It is responsible for establishing a series of collection points where people will be able to return their containers once the scheme begins.

Managing Director of Re.Group David Singh said the company’s approach will be to maximise customer convenience, which includes delivering a range of collection point formats across ACT, designed to suit the needs of different members of the community.

Collection points will include depots where containers are counted on the spot for immediate cash refunds, as well as express collection points where customers are able to drop off containers and have the refund automatically credited to their account within a few days. Reverse vending machines are also a possibility at some sites in the ACT.

“By working with charities and disability employers, our aim is to ensure that the ACT CDS provides real benefits to the wider community, as well as to individual customers,” he said.

“We are committed to ensuring that, from Day 1, the people of the ACT have options on where to take their containers. We’ll also work with the Territory to expand the collection network over time, taking account of customer feedback and demand,” said Mr Singh.