VWMA call for VIC Gov to build resilient waste system

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has called on the state government to develop an industry led initiative that tackles challenges facing the Victorian waste and recycling system.

The organisation’s position is to set up a VWMA initiative to make sure the Victorian waste and recycling is working in the same direction.

The VWMA said in a statement that the waste sector is facing higher insurance costs, recent import and trade restrictions, urban planning, increased regulations and a negative public perception of the industry.

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It also mentioned China’s National Sword policy and how the restrictions have impacted the entire sector as a whole.

More than 11 million tonnes of waste are generated in Victoria a year, and the waste industry generates over $2.2 billion in revenue for the economy.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said there is an opportunity to establish Victoria as Australia’s most resilient state with regard to waste and recycling management.

“The private sector owns and operates the bulk of waste and resource recovery infrastructure and services in Victoria and should be front and centre in proposing solutions,” Mr Smith said.

“The Victorian Government has had a closed door/invite only approach with regard to formulating responses to the current recycling issues. We’d like to make things more transparent.”

Recycling Industry Transition Support grants open: SV

Victoria’s recycling industry has been provided a $1 million funding package as part of the state Government’s response to China’s National Sword policy.

The move is part of the Victorian Government’s $13 million package towards councils and industry to support the ongoing collection of household recyclable waste.

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Funding will be available to companies that recover and reprocess plastics, paper and cardboard, with work needing to be completed within one year of signing with Sustainability Victoria.

Funding will be available for:

  • Infrastructure, equipment and process upgrades at Material Recovery Facilities to support greater sorting of paper and plastic
  • Infrastructure and equipment upgrades to process paper, cardboard and rigid plastic (wash, granulate, pelletise) to allow material to be used by domestic manufactures and allow for re-entry to export markets
  • Storage and consolidation infrastructure (sheds/shipping containers/temporary cover) to allow for the short-term safe storage of recovered paper, cardboard and plastic while processing capacity and/or end markets is developed.

Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said grants of between $50,000 and $500,000 were available on a 1:1 funding ratio to Victorian-based projects that recover, handle and process plastics, paper and cardboard waste.

“The Recycling Industry Transition Support grants will help to fast-track development of new infrastructure that improves the quality of recovered plastics, paper and cardboard,” Mr Krpan said.

Mr Krpan said project proposals for work costing more than $1m would also be considered as Victoria had many opportunities to expand its recycling sector.

“If there are projects that exceed the million-dollar funding envelope, we also want to hear about them.”

“China’s policy change is serious, but it gives us an opportunity to more-quickly expand our reprocessing capacity and improve the quality of the end-product so it can be made into new products.

“In the 2015/16 financial year, councils collected 590,000 tonnes of recyclables and recycled 95 per cent of this was recycled, but with a growing population we need to look for ways to recycle a greater range of products, not just from households, but across the wider community.”

Mr Kpran said there are many opportunities to build on Victoria’s long-established recycling and re-processing sector which provides the raw material for paper and cardboard, many types of plastic, metal, and glass products.

“Board rooms and investors are also looking for commercial projects that demonstrate their sustainability credentials and reduce risks in their supply chains,” he said.

“Despite the current market volatility, smart, responsible investment and the ongoing maturation of our resource recovery sector and emerging markets for our waste, we should look forward with confidence.”

Applications for the first round of the of Recycling Industry Transition Support grants close on 8 May 2018.

APCO releases Market Impact Assessment Report: National Sword

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has released the Market Impact Assessment Report – which reveals the impact of China’s National Sword policy.

Findings from the report reveal that the volume of Australian export of scrap paper and plastics has remained largely stable over the past 12 months, however their value has dropped significantly due to global oversupply.

According to the report, mixed paper scrap once valued at $124 per tonne (EXW) has dropped approximately 100 per cent and is now close to worthless. Scrap mixed plastic has fallen 76 per cent, from $325 per tonne to $75 per tonne and cardboard is now valued at $125 per tonne, falling 40 per cent from $210 per tonne.

In January 2017, around 71 per cent of Australian exports of scrap paper/paperboard and scrap plastics were exported to China (98,300 tonnes of the 139,400 tonnes total). By January 2018 this had fallen to 34 per cent of Australian exports (43,200 tonnes of the 128,200 tonnes total).

“There is no doubt that the Chinese import restrictions have had a financial impact on the revenue streams of those receiving and sorting recyclables. This has coincided with the increasing costs of electricity, fires at some facilities, stricter compliance requirements and large increases in insurance costs,” the report says.

“The impact on a per tonne basis for all recyclables will vary from one sorting facility to another. Based on the analysis of reported prices for each commodity, the overall impact to end of February compared to long term averages is estimated to be a loss of between $65 and $85/tonne.”

APCO Chief Executive Officer Brooke Donnelly said that what essentially lies at the heart of this issue is China’s decision to revise the contamination threshold for scrap paper and plastics.

“We need to develop the right domestic infrastructure to lower the contamination levels in our waste and start building viable end market solutions here in Australia to ensure a smaller, cleaner packaging waste stream,” she said.

APCO is already developing a range of solutions to improve sustainable packaging design, reduce contamination and improve recycling rates.

Most recently, APCO launched the first nation-wide labelling program to help Australians better understand how to recycle packaging correctly and assist organisations in designing for recycling and working towards lowering contamination levels. Launched in conjunction with Planet Ark and PREP Design, the program has already been adopted by Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Officeworks, Unilever and Woolworths among others.

APCO has accelerated the delivery of the PREP design tool, an online evaluation portal that determines if a packaging format is recyclable or not in the current kerbside collection service. For the first time in Australia, organisations can develop their packaging to be recyclable where possible, driving waste avoidance outcomes at the design stage.

APCO is also currently reviewing its Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPGs) to help businesses reduce the environmental impact of their packaging and develop a standardised approach to key issues such as the use of recycled content in packaging.

“Transitioning to a circular economy is essential if we are to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging and this requires collaboration from brands, governments, the recycling and packaging industry and consumers alike. APCO is in a unique position to facilitate this collaboration and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to help Australia realise a circular economy,” Ms Donnelly said.

You can read the Market Impact Assessment Report here.

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.

Waste Taskforce created in WA in response to National Sword

A Waste Taskforce has been created in WA in response to China’s National Sword policy.

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson created the taskforce to advise on waste management in WA, following consultation with state and local governments, the waste industry and community stakeholders.

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The group’s first meeting is planned for 9 April 2018, where it will consider its objectives, scope and governance arrangements.

It will provide advice on how to ensure WA van respond effectively to the National Sword policy and build on the current domestic recycling options.

The taskforce will directly advise the WA Minister for Environment on recycling market issues and opportunities in the state and aims to align with the national actions taken.

Short, medium and long-term opportunities will be explored by the taskforce and will take the WA Waste Strategy and the promotion of a circular economy.

The Waste Taskforce will be chaired by Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment Baldivis MLA Reece Whitby and will include representatives from the Waste Authority and Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, local government and regional councils, the waste services and recycling industry, the packaging industry, Aboriginal and community groups, and key government agencies.

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the recycling sector at a state and national level is facing market challenges caused by fluctuating commodity prices and international policy decisions.

“This is also having an impact on the cost of waste management services,” Mr Dawson said.

“While a national response is important, it is also imperative that local opportunities to support recycling in WA are developed – and the Waste Taskforce will play a critical role in achieving this,” he said.

“I look forward to receiving advice from the Waste Taskforce on how we can support a thriving recycling sector in WA.”

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.”

 

How many recyclables are affected by China waste ban?

Cans for recycling in a container deposit scheme

Consultancy firm Blue Environment was asked by the Federal Government to analyse the amount of waste being sent to China before the ban on contaminants began.

China’s ban on waste with contaminants of more than 0.5 per cent have led to commodity price reductions, stockpiling and instability in the provision of recycling collection services, according to Blue Environment.

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The data showed that 1.25 million tonnes of waste was exported to China in 2016-17, with 920 thousand tonnes made up of paper and cardboard, 203 thousand tonnes of metal and 125 thousand tonnes of plastics.

Blue Environment also report that 99 per cent of waste from the 2016-17 period were affected by these new restrictions.

According to the data, China made up the majority of exported materials in plastics and paper and cardboards, making up 68 and 63 per cent of the total recyclable material exports.

Blue Environment said the data should be considered preliminary and may change with further consideration.

You can read the full data set here. 

Queensland Forum to discuss China waste ban

The Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ) is hosting the Queensland Secondary Resources Forum to address issues impacting kerbside recycling and international challenges.

The forum aims to discuss the Chinese Government’s decision to restrict the amount of waste being imported and how it effects Queensland domestic recycling capabilities.

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It also will attempt to highlight how Queensland can lead the nation in recycling rates to grow the sector locally and increase investment.

Keynote speakers and industry experts will be presenting at the forum and sharing insights and outcomes that outline how Queensland can deliver a new recycling business environment.

In particular, the presentations will address the impacts of the National Sword policy and how local recycling can be improved. Presenters of day one (afternoon) include speakers from the energy, metals and plastics industries as well as material recovery facility operators. Day two (morning) will focus on the state government policy updates and includes a workshop that will discuss and produce solutions and opportunities to deliver back to the Queensland Government for its policy consideration.

The event is supported by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the Bundaberg Regional Council.

The forum takes place on the 26-27 April and will be hosted in the Bundaberg Multiplex Centre, 1 Civic Street, Bundaberg West.

Tickets are $195 until 15 April and $220 standard (not including GST). Click here to register. 

China launches Blue Sky 2018 to replace National Sword

Chinese customs authorities have launched a new waste imports inspections program – Blue Sky 2018.

It runs from March to December 2018 and replaces China’s National Sword program, which ran last year and was preceded by Green Fence.

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Blue Sky 2018’s attention is on the 24 categories of solid waste added to the list of imports bans in 2017, which includes plastics waste, unsorted waste paper and waste textile materials with a contaminant level of more than 0.5 per cent.

A spokesperson for the General Administration of Customs, Zhang Guangzhi, told Letsrecycle.com that it is fully committed to “investigating a number of large-scale smuggling cases of wastes, eradicating a number of smuggling gangs and cutting off a number of smuggling routes and chains of rubbish, and resolutely blocking ‘foreign rubbish’.”

During the operation, the Customs and Excise Department will also reportedly work with the relevant local authorities to promote “comprehensive anti-smuggling work in a concerted manner”.

Mr Guangzhi said that customs would strengthen its links with relevant law enforcement departments, including environmental protection and quality inspection to stop illegal operations and “foreign garbage” shops, with this process coordinated by local government.