The NWRIC’s visionary policy

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO Rose Read highlights the association’s priorities in 2019 and its long-term plan for resource recovery in Australia. 

Read moreThe NWRIC’s visionary policy

Packaging MFA reveals recycling challenges and opportunities

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) this week launched a Packaging Materials Flow Analysis (MFA), a new report developed in partnership with the Institute of Sustainable Futures (ISF) mapping the current state of post-consumer packaging in Australia.

Commissioned on behalf of APCO, the report highlights a compelling need to improve packaging recovery and recycling rates across all material streams.

In 2017/18 Australians generated an estimated 4.4 million tonnes of total packaging waste, with 68 per cent of this collected, and 56 per cent of the collection total recovered by recycling efforts. This ranged from 32 per cent for plastics and up to 72 per cent for paper streams – highlighting a significant opportunity to improve waste management practices to achieve higher recovery rates.

Of the 4.4 million tonnes, the report shows 44 per cent was landfilled, 33 per cent went to local secondary material utilisation, 19 per cent exported, four per cent stockpiled and more than 0.5 per cent to energy recovery.

The MFA Report is one of several APCO initiatives being conducted during the foundation phase of the targets (2019-2020) – the groundwork stage that focuses on research, engaging stakeholders and setting baselines and frameworks.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said that to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets, we need to first understand the journey materials take along the entire supply chain and establish a baseline of data to measure change and interventions. She said that the MFA is first step in this process.

As a critical first step in achieving the 2025 national packaging targets for all material to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, the report outlines the current journey of Australia’s packaging waste from bin to landfill or reprocessing, identifies significant data and infrastructure challenges in the system and models five potential solutions for the future.

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One of the challenges is the major losses to landfill to recoverable materials occurring before waste is collected for sorting at materials recycling facilitates (MRFs) or container deposit scheme collections. The report attributes this to incorrect disposal of packaging wastes by households and businesses.

“Better management of this waste at the source, through improved source separation, is important. Critically, consumer education and awareness raising around appropriate disposal and collection channels, as well as smarter design of packaging for recycling, are also key strategies. These are already supported by the new Australasian Recycling label (ARL) and the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP),” the report says.

Additionally, the report shows the opportunity to increase sorting efficiency by diverting materials, especially glass, from kerbside to the expanding container deposit scheme collections. It finds better sorting equipment will also support improvements in contaminant removal. The report shows there are about 100 MRFs in operation across Australia, with throughput capacities ranging from 5000 to 250,000 tonnes per annum. Around 45 per cent of the total packaging waste stream for 2017/17 gets directed to MRFs and their capabilities for efficiently sorting co-mingled and highly contaminated waste is indicated to be a major factor limiting packaging sorting efficiency in Australia.

“Upgrading existing MRF capabilities is difficult and expensive owing to market uncertainties (e.g., caused by Chinese waste import restrictions), making the case for improving up-stream source separation and collection stronger,” the report says.

Future modelling shows potential to achieve an overall packaging waste recovery rate of 77 per cent, assuming a range of strategies are adopted to address losses across the whole chain, from collection to processing.

With glass packaging, the estimated recovery rate is just over 50 per cent and 23 per cent of glass waste disposed to the residual stream. About 80,000 tonnes of glass is collected and sorted through container deposit collection systems.

The investigation in particular highlights the importance of improving source separation, particularly for plastics to address residuals, a priority for paper in reducing contamination (embedded glass fines) that could be achieved with separated paper or glass separation and diverting glass to CDS to improve the quality of the stream to be suitable for bottle to bottle recycling.

Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS) Research Director and co-author of the report Dr Nick Florin said that there is great potential to step-up material recovery from the current overall recovery rate of 56 per cent and at the same time increase demand for recycled materials to drive the transition to a circular economy for packaging.

“APCO, as the central product stewardship organisation, is well placed to support this coordinated transition that involves cooperation between consumers, designers, recyclers and packaging manufactures,” Dr Florin said.

The MFA also highlighted significant data and infrastructure gaps that need to be addressed before the 2025 targets can be achieved. These findings will be used to inform additional packaging and recycling research to develop a complete picture of the current system.

Ms Donnelly said we can’t implement effective and meaningful changes to the system if we don’t first have a complete and accurate picture.

“A collaborative approach will be critical to building this. The challenge ahead of us requires a complete transformation of the current system. Over the next 12 months, APCO will be leading an ambitious agenda of projects to build on the findings of the MFA. We look forward to working closely with all stakeholders as we transition to a circular model for packaging in Australia,” she said.

Throughout 2018 APCO also facilitated a series of five, year-long industry working groups attended by more than 80 industry members from across the value chain and government to explore solutions to problematic packaging types (including glass, polymer coated paperboard (PCPB), soft plastics, biodegradable and compostable packaging, and expanded polystyrene).

In 2019, APCO will be co-ordinating 22 new projects to build on the findings of the MFA and the 2018 working groups. These will include further detailed research into packaging consumption and recycling to establish baselines for the 2025 targets, developing targeted design resources to improve packaging recyclability, and developing strategies to address problematic packaging, including plastics.

To read the full APCO Packaging Material Flow Analysis 2018, visit the APCO website.

Pure and simple: Applied Machinery partners with FIMIC

With China’s National Sword putting pressure on plastic recyclers, Applied Machinery has partnered with an Italian company to help recyclers hit contamination targets.

Read morePure and simple: Applied Machinery partners with FIMIC

Chinese Govt launches waste-free city plan

The Chinese Government has launched a pilot program to create a “no-waste city” to combat a growing backlog of waste.

According to a Reuters report, the environment ministry said the program of waste-free cities was designed to use resources more efficiently and eliminate growing health and environment risks from waste.

Ecology and Environment Minister Li Ganjie said the new program would aim to cut the amount of waste produced and improve treatment rates.

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This would see green development methods and lifestyles encouraged to minimise landfill volumes the reduce the environmental impact of waste.

Ten cities will be selected for phase one, which includes measures for better sorting, urban planning and constructing new treatment facilities, the environment minister said.

The Reuters report highlighted that despite China’s ban on the imports of solid waste, firms have argued China lacks the infrastructure and waste treatment for a profitable business. Earlier this month, China was reportedly aiming to build 100 new large-scale recycling “bases” by the end of 2020.

Since China’s ban on recyclables, other nations such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have since launched their own policies to designed restrict international imports.

Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam waste imports crackdown

As Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam all move to crack down on waste imports, Australia and many global markets are now being faced with a need to look to their own domestic processing capabilities. 

Read moreMalaysia, Thailand and Vietnam waste imports crackdown

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.

Read moreRethinking Sustainability: Veolia’s new campaign

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.

Related stories:

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.

 

 

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