$3 million in federal funding for education and resource recovery

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the Planet Ark Environmental Foundation (PAEF) have received $3 million in federal funding to support new recycling education and resource recovery projects.

The funding forms part of the Federal Government’s $100 million Environmental Restoration Fund, and will provide resources and support to drive the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

The National Consumer Education Program (NCEP) has been allocated $1.1 million to create a consistent national approach to consumer education on reducing, reusing and recycling packaging over the next four years.

NCEP will extend the reach of the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) Program, an evidence-based labelling scheme delivered by APCO and launched by Environment Minister Melissa Price in September 2018.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said she is pleased the government have recognised the value of ARL, and other connected projects delivered by the organisation.

“This funding will enable us to continue our collaborative work with industry and our partners to ensure we meet the 2025 targets and continue to work toward achieving a circular economy in Australia,” Ms Donnelly said.

A further $1.6 million will support the development of a Circular Economy Hub, a new online platform and marketplace developed by PAEF and designed to help drive innovation in the transition to a circular economy in Australia.

PAEF CEO Paul Klymenko said the website will match buyers and sellers in waste resources, helping them identify products with sustainable materials, including recycled content.

“An important element will be the Circular Economy Marketplace, which will act as the B2B ‘eBay’ for the circular economy,” Mr Klymenko said.

“Planet Ark is thrilled to have been entrusted with the development of these vital tools.”

The Regional Model for Soft Plastics Recycling project, a partnership between APCO and the Plastic Police based in NSW’s Hunter Valley, will receive $150,000 to explore opportunities for expansion – including extending deployment to other regions.

A further $150,000 will also be provided to the Remote and Regional Waste Collection Partnership, a project aiming to support governments and communities address the challenges of waste and resource recovery in remote and regional areas.

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GRI Waste Standard opens for public comment

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is seeking input from international specialists and advocacy groups to shape its draft Waste Standard.

GRI is an independent international organisation that helps businesses, governments and other organisations understand and communicate their sustainability impacts.

According to GRI Global Sustainability Standards Board Chair Judy Kuszewski, GRI standards are the world’s most widely adopted sustainability reporting framework.

“In the face of a growing global waste crisis, new corporate reporting disclosures are being developed by GRI to help organisations better understand and communicate their waste impacts,” Ms Kuszewski said.

“The new Waste Standard will help companies improve their waste management, with a strong emphasis on the transition to a circular economy.”

The initial draft standard was developed by a multi-stakeholder project working group appointed by the Global Sustainability Standards Board to review, revise and expand the content of waste disclosures, and is an update on GRI 306: Effluents and Waste 2016 .

“The draft GRI Waste Standard recognises that our linear, ‘take-make-waste’ approach is contributing towards a global waste crisis,” Ms Kuszewski said.

“As the world moves to a more circular economy, in which we treat waste as an input material for production, a new approach to reporting is needed.”

Ms Kuszewski said the draft agues for a fundamental shift in the perception of waste, greater emphasis on how decisions on procuring and using materials relate directly to waste generation and new disclosures to understand how discarded waste has been created and the significance of its impact.

“International recognition of the need for action on waste is increasing, and the scale of the issue – from the effect of plastics in marine ecosystems to the mounting disconnect between food waste generation and global hunger – illustrates why businesses and other organisations need to play their part by improving waste management practices,” Ms Kuszewski said.

“The standard will help companies better understand and measure their waste impacts, disclosing reliable and comparable data that ultimately supports better decisions.”

The public comment period is open until 15 July, with contributions welcomed from anyone irrespective of sector, type of business or location.

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Circular Economy Innovation Network hold first meeting

A new circular economy group has been launched by the NSW Government through the Office of Chief Scientist to bring stakeholders together from across governments, industry, universities and not-for-profit groups.

The Circular Economy Innovation Network (CEIN) will look to map and identify opportunities for stakeholders to work together in the goal to reduce waste, enhance sustainability and ultimately boost industry (growth and jobs) by developing a circular economy.

The first stakeholders’ meeting was held at UNSW as CEIN host, was attended by 150 stakeholders wanting to enhance sustainability, and was emceed by Michael Sharpe, Director of the federal government-initiated Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre.

The size and complexity of the waste challenge facing society dominated discussion at the first stakeholders’ meeting of the newly announced CEIN.

CEIN Director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla, who is Founding Director of the UNSW Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre, said that many stakeholders have already been making great progress in reducing waste and using it as a resource, and the first stakeholders meeting was a testament to that.

“What is clear is that we need much greater coordination and connectivity across stakeholders to identify the opportunities and problems in getting a circular economy really going,” she said.

“And that is where the new network comes in. CEIN will bring stakeholders together to not only enhance current efforts to build a circular economy, but to identify the big impact opportunities.”

CEIN Co-Director, Ashley Brinson, who is Executive Director of the Warren Centre at Sydney University, said the passion and enthusiasm displayed during the first stakeholder meeting session demonstrated a strong collective desire to truly establish a circular economy in NSW and Australia.

“We heard from both the Chair and Co-Chair of the NSW Government’s Steering Committee for the CEIN, as well as many stakeholders representing the different sectors and industries that are central to a circular economy, and a key acknowledgement was the need for a coordination of sustainability efforts,” she said.

The CEIN is undergoing its start-up phase and is developing a series of stakeholder workshops to identify themes and opportunities, as well as other activities such as identifying tools and resources needed to promote innovative solutions to reduce and re-use waste and improve product design and production to reduce and re-use waste.

Ms Sahajwalla said that by making the right connections between researchers, businesses and governments, we can play a significant role in developing a true circular economy in Australia.

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EOIs open for Queensland Waste to Biofutures Fund

Expressions of interest are open for the Queensland Government’s $5 million Queensland Waste to Biofutures Fund.

The Waste to Biofutures Fund offers grants from $50,000 to $1 million to develop pilot, demonstration or commercial-scale projects that produce bio-based products instead of conventional fossil fuel-based products.

This includes utilising household food and green waste, tyres and plastics, recovered fats and oils from restaurants, and biosolids from sewerage treatment plants.

Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said the aim was to make Queensland a world leader in the re-manufacturing of materials to turn waste into bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts.

“Through this initiative we’ll see innovative waste processing technologies emerge that are scalable and can be deployed statewide, particularly in regional areas of Queensland.

“We’re already doing this at pilot plants where we’re converting a variety of feedstocks like sugarcane waste into biofuels. These processes are supporting Queensland’s transition to a low carbon, circular economy – the results being improved energy efficiency, enhanced fuel security and reduced emissions,” Mr Dick said.

The fund has two pathways both which require the applicant to provide co-funding that matches or exceeds the grant amount.

The first pathway is the purchase and installation of plant and equipment for an existing or greenfield facility to produce bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts and the second is collaborative research projects that could contribute to the commercial development and growth of Queensland’s biofutures industry.

The fund is an addition to the $100 million Resource Recovery Industry Development Program which targets projects using proven technologies to divert waste from landfill or stockpiling.

Expressions of interest are open until 8 April.

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NSW Labor’s waste election pledges

New South Wales Labor leader Michael Daley has announced that if elected his government will ban single-use plastic bags and invest $140 million into local recycling initiatives.

Mr Daley said the NSW waste system is struggling to keep up with rapidly declining sites for landfill, China’s National Sword policy and a collapsing market for recycled material.

NSW is the second highest per capita waste producer in the world with every person in the state generating an average of two tonnes of waste each year.

Mr Daley said that within the first 100 days of taking office Labor would introduce legislation to ban plastic bags as part of a longterm plan to phase out single-use plastic.

The proposed $140 million Circular Economy and Job Creation Investment Fund aims to support the resource recovery and recycling industry by investing in recycling and processing facilities, increasing community-based waste reduction and providing seed funding for innovative solutions for dealing with waste.

Mr Daley said the fund would use unallocated waste levy revenue to support recycling and environmental programs.

Labor also plan to establish a recycling, resource recovery and waste council comprised of key industry stakeholders that will provide advice to the Environment Minister.

“It is a fact that recycling waste generates more jobs than sending waste to landfill, Labor’s war on waste will seize this opportunity and at the same time reduce waste and pollution. It’s a win-win,” he said.

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Australian-first Circular Economy Lab opens

In a first for Australia, a Circular Economy (CE) Lab launched this week in Brisbane, which will see industry, research and government partnerships to identify and deliver three initial pilot projects.

Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the Palaszczuk Government had pledged $150,000 to start the initiative which will launch innovative projects to change the way we think about materials, resources and waste in Queensland.

“Today’s launch of theCE Lab will help to propel Queensland’s transition to a new low-carbon and circular economy, delivering new opportunities for industry and more jobs for Queenslanders,” Minister Enoch said.

She said Queensland needs to move to a more-circular way of thinking and acting towards its valuable materials and resources, instead of simply using and throwing things away.

“A key feature of the CE Lab will be to consolidate industry, research and government partnerships and expertise to identify and deliver three initial circular economy pilot projects,” she said.

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“These partnerships, once operational, will focus on understanding what actions Queensland can take today to manage the transition to the circular economy of tomorrow.”

She said the CE Lab will test ideas and explore opportunities with leaders from across a range of sectors.

“The circular economy concept is relatively new in Australia, but it is well established overseas and continues to gain traction,” Minister Enoch said.

“This work certainly aligns with the vision outlined in the Queensland Government’s Draft Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy which is currently open for public feedback.

“I commend Coreo and Business Models Inc. on driving the establishment of this trailblazing new initiative.”

Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp said the CE Lab means Queensland is amongst the world leaders in acknowledging that there is an urgent need for a circular economy.

“For a long time, we’ve existed in a linear take-make-dispose economy. A circular economy is not just about recycling the products we use, it’s about creating new economic opportunities,” Ms Kemp said.

“A circular economy will transform the way we design, teach, invest and buy. In a circular economy there is no waste and at the worst attempt there is less.

“A circular economy designs products with disassembly and re-use in mind and materials are sourced as an enabler for extension of life or reuse in closed loop or extended loop applications.”