Rethinking Sustainability: Veolia’s new campaign

Veolia’s Ben Sullivan, NSW Group General Manager, tells Waste Management Review about the company’s innovative virtual reality campaign and how raising community awareness has formed an integral part of its approach to infrastructure.

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Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority upgrade

An Adelaide recycling plant has signed an arrangement to convert used paper into newspapers, in a $500,000 sorting line upgrade.

News Corp reports the company signed the deal late last month with a New South Wales mill. Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority services the council districts of Playford, Salisbury and Gawler.

NAWMA chief executive Adam Faulkner told News Corp the deal was “exciting” and a “huge opportunity” in the wake of the Chinese ban on waste imports of plastics and paper.

“What it means basically is that residents who recycle paper in their yellow-top bins from our three northern council areas, that paper will be turned back into newspapers,” he said.

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“Keeping business onshore is the most important bit and supporting local manufacturing at the paper mill.”

Mr Faulkner also reportedly vowed to save residents from rate hikes linked to an increase in collection costs by absorbing any additional costs until the deal commences on 1 September.

“We saw this China shift happening around August last year and we moved early,” Mr Faulkner said.

“The fact we own and run our own facility on behalf of the councils gives us that slight competitive advantage where we can direct these materials to where they need to go.”

Mr Faulkner said there was still a “rocky road to go” and supported calls from the Local Government Association for the South Australian Government to help alleviate the situation by tapping into its $100m Green Industry Fund.

“We just need to ride this out. That’s why we’re calling on SA Environment Minister David Spiers to release some of that money into local government.”

Mr Speirs told News Corp that after that meeting he was working on a relief package to help councils and the waste industry. He said there would be “firm detail” on its support package within weeks.

 

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.

Meeting of Environment Ministers revives National Waste Policy

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.

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.

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.

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.

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This accounts for four per cent of Australia’s recyclable waste, but 35 per cent of recyclable plastics and 30 per cent of recyclable paper and cardboard. The ministers agreed statement said the restrictions include new limits on contamination for recycled material which much of Australia’s recycling does not meet.

On recycling waste, ministers agreed to reduce the amount of waste generated and to make it easier for products to be recycled. Ministers endorsed a target of 100 percent of Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025 or earlier. The governments will work with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), representing over 900 companies to deliver this target. Ministers endorsed the development of targets for the use of recycled content in packaging and to monitor this closely.

They also agreed to work together on expanding and developing the local recycling industry. Ministers pledged to advocate for increased use of recycled materials in the goods that government and industry purchase, including paper, road materials, and construction materials and to collaborate on creating new markets for recycled materials.

Waste to energy was also on the agenda, with a pledge to explore it and other waste to biofuels projects, as part of a broader suite of industry growth initiatives. The agreed statement said ministers would continue to recognise the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste a a priority, consistent with the waste hierarchy. This will include support from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

On microbeads, ministers announced the voluntary phase-out of microbeads, which Ministers initiated in 2016, is on track with 94 per cent of cosmetic and personal care products now microbead-free. The agreed statement said ministers remain committed to eliminating the final six per cent and examining options to broaden the phase out to other products.

On food waste, ministers reaffirmed their commitment to halving Australia’s food waste by 2050. They agreed to align their community education efforts to cut food waste and to encourage residual food waste to be composted.

On product waste, ministers agreed to fast-track the development of new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic solar panels and batteries. This builds on existing successful industry-led product stewardship approaches that manage products such as televisions and computers, tyres and oil.

Ministers also agreed to take action on a range of other nationally significant matters including: guidelines to manage chemical contamination from fire-fighting foams (known as PFAS), opportunities to grow the carbon farming industry, progressing the National Clean Air Agreement, collaboration on the management of flying foxes and their commitment to the recently agreed approach to national environmental-economic accounting.

Ministers also acknowledged action taken on climate change. South Australia raised its proposal to nominate the Flinders Ranges to Australia’s World Heritage Tentative list.

 

 

Long term national waste solution must be prioritised: QLD forum

Queensland Government Environment Minister Leanne Enoch has called for a national solution for the waste and recycling industry at the Queensland Secondary Resources Forum.

Ms Enoch said that the state’s domestic recycling capabilities were under pressure following China’s decision on waste imports.

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

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Queensland Forum to discuss China waste ban

“Today I am meeting with representatives from local government and the waste industry in Bundaberg to discuss practical opportunities in local communities.

“I want to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and group dialogue on smarter, innovative options to better manage, reuse and recycle waste.”

Ms Enoch said Thursday’s meeting provided an opportunity for stakeholders to share local challenges when it comes to waste, and discuss improved systems and processes.

“While there are many challenges to overcome, there is also an opportunity to facilitate local solutions and growing domestic markets that reduce our reliance on exports.”

She said improvements at a local level could help the federal government in their work towards a national long-term solution.

“I look forward to taking local feedback from the Bundaberg forum to my meeting with state and serritory environment ministers tomorrow, and I also look forward to hearing what the Federal Government has to say about the best way forward for the recycling industry,” Ms Enoch said.

Last month the Queensland Government announced it would develop a new resource recovery and waste management strategy, underpinned by a waste levy, following recommendations from the report from Justice Peter Lyons.

Waste Recycling Industry Queensland Chief Executive Officer Rick Ralph said a national approach was needed and that there was an opportunity for Australia to re-focus on how we manage waste.

“We need to re-set our position when it comes to waste management and recycling across Australia, particularly when it comes to re-manufacturing,” he said.

“Today’s meeting in Bundaberg is important as it allows us to open up the discussion even further.

“We need to rebuild community confidence when it comes to recycling, and we also need to hear from other stakeholders about how we can work together towards a solution for the short, medium and long term.”

 

Greens launch plan to reboot recycling

The Greens have launched a policy platform to address the recycling crisis ahead of Friday’s meeting of environment ministers.

Waste & Recycling and Healthy Oceans portfolio holder Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the system is failing and the industry is in crisis. He said the Greens are calling on the federal government to adopt the plan.

“This problem has been a long time coming and the Chinese restriction on importing waste has tipped it over the edge. Big packaging companies have avoided responsibility,” Mr Whish-Wilson said.

“Industry is crying out for national leadership. There needs to be a comprehensive federal government plan to solve the crisis. We can either turn towards opportunity or turn towards a meltdown in kerbside recycling. This policy is a blueprint to seize that opportunity.”

Mr Whish-Wilson said China’s restriction on importing our recycling waste is an opportunity to reboot Australia’s recycling industry with an approach that is  good for jobs and the environment.

“With a bit of help, industry can retool to use that plastic and paper waste that once went to China, here in Australia. And we can build a substantive manufacturing sector providing more environmentally sustainable products.”

The Greens plan to reboot recycling involves:

  • Investing $500 million over five years into infrastructure and programs to improve the quality of recycling. This will administered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and will require matching funding, dollar-for-dollar, from state governments.
  • Introduce mandatory product stewardship schemes, including a national container deposit scheme.
  • Distributing $10 million in grants to community groups and social enterprises to run high quality reuse and recycling centres.
  • Establish mandatory targets for the procurement of recycled material at all levels of government.
  • Recommit to and reinvigorate the National Waste Policy.

The Greens also released a plan to tackle marine pollution with the following strategy:

  • Work towards a phase-out of single use plastics.
  • Introduce an immediate national ban on microbeads and single-use plastic bags.
  • Allocate $50 million to establish a Plastic Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to help clean up our oceans and improve plastic recycling.

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.