New information on Tasmanian Container Refund Scheme released

A Tasmanian round table discussion has seen local government and the waste industry agree to the creation of a Waste Action Plan, amid the release of a report on the potential framework for a Container Refund Scheme.

Consulting firm Marsden Jacob Associates (MJA) has detailed the model framework for a Tasmanian Container Refund Scheme (CRS).

The report concluded the scheme should include common features with similar schemes, such as the eligible containers and price.

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It has allocated 18 months to set up the scheme and found the total funding requirement over 20 years would be $239 million, of which $138 million are refunded deposits. The costs of running the scheme were found to be around $101 million, or 4 cents per eligible container.

A redemption rate of at least 80 per cent was outlined, with a target of at least 60 refund points. Graduated sanctions were recommended for failing to meet these targets, with a verifiable auditing and tracking system required to ensure the objectives are met.

Potential cost savings for local councils were found, with beverage container litter estimated to fall by half, with an 80 per cent redemption rate.

MJA said in the report that the market should be allowed to determine the operational details of the system. The firm estimates nominal price impacts on consumers who don’t redeem the containers would start at around 10 cents per container and rise over time to 16 cents, with cost impacts on redeemers being around 10 cents lower.

Another finding from the report said the CRS should be run by a single co-ordinator and operator, set up as a product stewardship organisation (PSO). This PSO would be overseen by a board of directors that is representative of the industry and ensures access to relevant expertise.

The Action Plan will aim to consider initiatives like the CRS as part of the broader context across Tasmania. It will be further developed following China’s increased restriction on solid waste imports.

With the implementation of stricter contamination levels for imported waste, the amount of recyclate and waste that it will accept has decreased significantly, affecting Australia’s waste industry.

Tasmanian Minister for the Environment Elise Archer said the government will continue to consider the views of local government, industry, business and the community regarding a CRS and a range of other initiatives in developing the Waste Action Plan.

Local Government Association of Tasmania President Doug Chipman said that local government has welcomed the round table.

“The impacts of China’s restrictions are being felt deeply by councils and the community’s interest in waste management in general has risen significantly,” Cr Chipman said.

“We have five motions on waste at our upcoming LGAT General Meeting and I look forward to collaborating with the State Government in addressing these issues.”

Building a more resilient sector: Sustainability Victoria

Waste Management Review speaks to Stan Krpan, Chief Executive Officer at Sustainability Victoria, about the organisation’s future approach to data capture, Victoria’s e-waste ban to landfill and the health of the waste sector.

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Experts react to single-use plastic ban

Plastic bottles dumped

A senate inquiry into Australia’s recycling industry has recommended that all single-use plastics should be banned by 2023.

The decision could potentially include products like takeaway coffee cups, chip packets and takeaway containers.

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Professor Sankar Bhattacharya from Monash University’s Department of Chemical Engineering said time is of the essence to find a new home for recyclate stockpiles.

“Now that China has stopped taking our trash, we’re scrambling to figure out how to keep all those good intentions out of the landfill,” he said.

“The majority of the plastics we use in our daily life – different grades of polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene and even polyvinyl chloride, to some extent – can be processed into liquid fuel.

“That’s what China was doing with the plastic recyclables it bought from us. They’re now realising that their domestic production of waste products is so large that they cannot process any more by bringing in waste plastics from other countries,” he said.

Katherine Gaschk, a Research Masters from Murdoch University said she was pleased with the Senate inquiry’s findings.

“The sooner we accept the need to stop using plastics and change from our current mode as a throw-away society, the better for the future health of our planet,” she said.

“Ultimately it is human behaviour that is responsible for plastic pollution. Removing the plastics will certainly help to reduce pollution, but there is also a need to educate retailers, consumers and manufacturers about the impacts of plastic pollution and how we can reduce our dependence on plastics.”

Simon Lockrey, a Research Fellow from RMIT University’s School of Design warns that while the ban would be great in theory, there may be rebound effects.

“For instance in food systems, packaging can save food waste in the supply chain, from farm to plate,” he said.

“Without acknowledging other changes to that system when taking away single-use packaging, we may move the waste burden, sometimes to more impactful levels. For example, packaging can be a low impact compared to food waste impacts.

“Therefore, it would be good with this senate initiative to see the complimentary strategies for industries using single-use packaging to make sure we are in a waste reduction winner all around,” Mr Lockrey said.

Thavamani Palanisami, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Newcastle’s Global Centre for Environmental Remediation said what should be the next step.

“Tags such as ‘biodegradable’, ‘bio-based’, ‘100 per cent degradable’ need to be regulated,” he said.

“We need to create public awareness about types of plastic and their individual behaviour.

“We need to set standard testing methods to verify the biodegradability of the plastic items tagged as ‘biodegradable’,” Dr Palanisami said.

National Sword could displace 111M tonnes of plastic waste by 2030

An estimated 111 million metric tonnes of plastic waste will be displaced by China’s National Sword policy by 2030 around the world, according to new research.

The Chinese import ban and its impact on global waste trade research paper published in the journal Science Advances reports that new global ideas are needed to reduce the amount of non-recyclable materials, including redesigning products and funding domestic plastic waste management.

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The report, authored by researchers at the University of Georgia, said China had imported 106 million tonnes of plastic waste since 1992, which makes up more than 45 per cent of total global plastic imports.

The National Sword Policy has implemented new restrictions on the contamination rate for imported waste, requiring a cleaner and more processed version of materials such as plastics, metals, paper, cardboard and textiles.

“The displaced plastic waste is equal to nearly half (47 per cent) of all plastic waste that has been imported globally since reporting began in 1988,” the report said.

“Only 9% of plastic waste has been recycled globally, with the overwhelming majority of global plastic waste being landfilled or ending up contaminating the environment (80 per cent).

“Plastic packaging and single-use items enter the waste stream immediately after use, contributing to a cumulative total of 6.3 billion MT of plastic waste generated worldwide.”

The report warns that if no adjustments are made in solid waste management, then much of the waste that would have been diverted from landfill by customers paying for a recycling service will be landfilled.

“Both the displaced plastic waste and future increases in plastic recycling must be addressed immediately. Initially, the countries exporting the most plastic waste can use this as an opportunity to develop and expand internal markets,” the report said.

“If domestic recycling of plastic waste is not possible, then this constraint reinforces the motivation to reduce use and redesign plastic packaging and products so that they retain their value and are more recyclable in domestic markets.”

China approves greener lithium extraction method

China has approved a new method of extracting lithium in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way, according to Xinhua News.

Professor of the institute of environmental science and engineering in Nanchang University Qiu Zumin told Xinhua News the lithium extraction technology has passed the national scientific and technological achievements appraisal. It is expected to replace China’s current methods of extracting lithium, which have been blamed for creating significant amounts of waste with low profitability.

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Lithium batteries are used in most electronics, from mobile phones to computers, to electronic cars. Currently, China imports 80 per cent of its lithium carbonate.

Xinhua News says China’s traditional methods produce 30 to 40 tonnes of waste to produce one tonne of lithium carbonate, while also being expensive to treat.

The new methods has been jointly developed by the Jiangxi Haohai Lithium Energy, Nanchang University and other institutions to separate all the elements in lithium micas.

Chair of Haohai Peng Guiyong told Xinhua News the company plans to invest one billion yuan ($205 million AUD) to build a production line with an annual capacity of 40,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate.

ACOR call for $150M into regional recycling

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) is urging the federal government to grow regional Australia’s recycling industry with a one-off investment of $150 million.

The investment would go towards better sorting, increased reprocessing, community education and government procurement of recycled content product.

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ACOR Chief Executive Officer Peter Shmigel said recycling has a good base in regional Australia, which can be grown for more jobs and economic value in country areas.

“It’s one of the readily accessible ways to diversify regional economies and make them more resilient against droughts and global market forces,” he said.

“Our industry already has a good place in the bush including lube oil recycling, battery recycling, tyre recycling, industrial plastics recycling and consumer packaging recycling in country areas.”

Mr Shmigel said an independent report from MRA Consulting showed investment in local recycling could lead to the creation of 500 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We can use waste plastics and glass that can’t go back into bottles as part of asphalt in government-funded road projects,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Roads are the biggest asset in country areas and they can be recycled content rather than virgin materials at competitive cost and quality – if governments positively procure for that,” he said.

Mr Shmigel said using recycled content materials in the Snowy 2.0 scheme alone would massively contribute to more jobs and deliver on the community’s recycling expectations.

ACOR members with operations in regional areas include Southern Oil Refinery, Kurrajong Recycling, Re-Group, Visy, Envirostream, Tomra, SIMS Metal Management, ResourceCo, O-I and Downer Group.

Australian company will convert China’s waste plastic to fuel

Australian company, Integrated Green Energy Solutions (IGES), has announced a joint venture agreement with the Chinese Crown World Holdings (CWH) to expand its plastic-to-fuel production operations in China.

The agreement targets construction of a waste plastic-to-fuel facility in Weifang in Shandon Province of China. The facility will have an initial production capacity of 200 tonnes per day, producing 70 million litres of road-ready fuels per annum.

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The proposed site has existing infrastructure and sufficient space to expand the facility to over 600 tonnes per day as the joint venture ramps up supply and offtake activities.

The first project will be jointly funded by both parties, with IGES contributing US$12.75 million (AU$16.41 million) and CWH contributing US$12.25 million (AU$15.77 million).

Crown World Holdings is a wholly owned subsidiary of Beautiful China Holdings (BCH), committed to becoming the leading eco-environmental protection operation and service provider in China.

In 2017, the Chinese government notified the World Trade Organisation it intended to ban the import of all scrap plastics and unsorted paper by the end of 2017 as part of a broad clean-up effort against “foreign garbage.”

As of January 2018, China enforced this policy. The move has hit Europe’s recycling industry hard, as 87 per cent of Europe’s waste ended up in China.

As China has committed to cleaning up the plastic problem that has led them to ban foreign plastics, IGES is using the opportunity to help the country convert the waste plastics into road-ready diesel fuel, using its patented pyrolysis technology.

IGES’s patented plastic-to-fuel process enables the company to reduce the environmental impacts of waste plastic, that would otherwise be used in landfills or discarded into the environment.

Earlier in January, IGES had announced the purchase of an Amsterdam-based entity with a fully approved and sanctioned Environmental Approval Permit, enabling IGES to produce road-ready diesel that meets European Standard EN590 and gasoline by December 2018.

Opportunity for 500 jobs: ACOR/MRA Consulting report

Investment in the local Australian recycling industry could lead to the creation of 500 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report from MRA Consulting.

Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) Chief Executive Officer Pete Shmigel said the report shows that remanufacturing half of the material domestically would lead to job creation and reduce as much greenhouse gases as taking 50,000 cars off the road. It comes as China clamps down on its exports of interstate waste with a contaminant level of more than 0.5 per cent.

ACOR recently joined the Waste Management Association of Australia in calling on state ministers to implement its Australian Circular Economy and Recycling Action plan at the Ministerial Council – supported by a $150 million injection.

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“To check the China challenge, we are ready to reboot recycling as a self-sufficient sector that enables employment and prevents pollution. Ministers can support this by agreeing to a National Circular Economy & Recycling Plan that makes a one-off investment in the three ‘i’s’ of recycling: infrastructure, improvement and innovation,” Mr Shmigel said.

“The promise of recycling is that what punters put in the bin becomes new products not lumps in landfill. Our political leaders, through the policy targets they have set, are part of delivering on that promise and should continue to do so on 27 April.”

“We need to make and buy more recycled content products here in Australia. Closing the loop is what’s needed for community confidence, job growth and environmental results,” he said.

Mr Shmigel said other industries are regularly supported in transition and crisis, and the recycling sector needs the same support, otherwise jobs could go including in country towns.

“While state governments have rightly focussed on the system’s short-term survival, it’s time for all governments to jointly act for recycling’s future success,” he said.

The report, titled The China National Sword: the role of Federal Government highlights:

  • New technology to support more Australian reprocessing of mixed paper, mixed plastics and glass cullet;
  • Enhanced methods and machinery at recyclate sorting centres;
  • Support for government and corporate purchasing of recycled content products;
  • A national centre for recycled content product development;
  • Education to ensure what’s collected is clean enough for recycled content product making.

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.