ACT proposes single-use plastic ban

The ACT Government has released a discussion paper asking for contributions from the community on phasing out single-use plastics.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said the state could no longer ignore responsibility for plastics that litter the environment.

“Single-use plastic is commonly used for food packaging and includes items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away,” Mr Steel said.

“Single-use plastic litters our waterways, city parks and bush landscapes and goes into landfill where it may take hundreds or even thousands of years to break down.”

Mr Steel said the paper asks the community which problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics government should focus on including plastic straws and cutlery, disposable plates, cups and coffee lids, polystyrene plastic food containers and beverage cups and other non-recyclable plastics.

Proposed items that will be excluded from government action at this time include sanitary items, nappies and incontinence products, reusable plastic bags roughly 35 microns in thickness, health related sterile items, plastic beverage containers and microbeads — which are already being phased out by the territory.

“We are taking real action to become Australia’s most sustainable city,” Mr Steel said.

The European Parliament last year voted to ban single-use plastics in the EU by 2021.

Similarly, South Australia and the City of Hobart are also looking at phasing out single-use plastics.

“It is time that the ACT takes responsible action to reduce single-use plastics and build a circular economy where we reduce our reliance on these products and move to better alternatives,” Mr Steel said.

According to Mr Steel, while the ACT has already acted to reduce single-use plastic bags, through the introduction of the plastic shopping bag ban in 2011, it has the opportunity to do more to reduce the territory’s plastic footprint.

“It is still common place to see takeaway shops continuing to use plastic-foam takeaway containers like it is still the 1980s. Supermarkets also continue to sell plastic plates, cups and cutlery – when it seems like there are clear alternatives already being sold on their own shelves,” Mr Steel said.

“We want to hear from the community about how we can reduce the use of certain single-use plastics where there are clear alternatives that are good for the environment and practical for business, industry and consumers.”

Mr Steel said any decisions to phase-out single use plastics will likely have impacts on business, institutions and ACT residents, including people with a disability, and invites these groups to contribute to the discussion.

“We know from the plastic straw ban in other parts of the world that we need to consider the social equity impact on people with a disability, and I welcome their contribution on how we can responsibly manage our environment while taking these issues into account,” Mr Steel said.

“I encourage all interested or affected Canberrans to join the conversation and tell us their ideas about what they would like us to consider in phasing-out unnecessary and problematic single-use plastics.”

The ACT discussion paper follows a similar announcement in Western Australia last week, with Minister for the Environment Stephen Dawson asking the public to contribute to the Let’s Not Draw the Short Straw – Reduce Single-Use Plastics paper.

Last year the Western Australian government banned lightweight plastic bags and instructed government agencies to stop buying avoidable single-use plastic items.

Mr Dawson also announced a funding partnership between the state government and the Plastic Free Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation committed to the reduction of plastic use in every day life.

The Plastic Free Foundation has been awarded $326,725 in state government funding, with an extra $484,126 coming from Lotterywest, to engage individuals and communities in in the state to reduce plastic waste.

“Waste problems are a shared legacy. The state government wants to hear your practical ideas on how to avoid and reduce single-use plastics so we can protect our environment for future generations,” Mr Dawson said.

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NSW EPA to develop 20-year waste strategy

The NSW EPA, in partnership with Infrastructure NSW, is developing a 20-year waste strategy for the state.

The strategy aims to set a 20-year vision for reducing waste, driving sustainable recycling markets and identifying and improving the state and regional waste infrastructure network.

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It will also aim to provide the waste industry with certainty and set goals and incentives to ensure the correct infrastructure decisions are made to meet community needs.

Stakeholders, including local government, industry experts and the broader community, will work with the EPA over the next six months to provide an evidence base and address the key priorities for the waste and resource recovery sector.

This will include examining similar waste strategies in Australia and around the world.

A long-term vision and roadmap will include new long-term goals for waste generation and landfill diversion, new policy positions and strategic decisions that aim to avoid waste and improve resource recovery, and a plan for new or enhanced policies to improve waste collection.

A framework for the delivery of an integrated state network will be part of the roadmap, along with aims to align policy and regulation to achieve long term strategic objectives and a plan to strengthen data quality and access.

The strategy is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

SUEZ provides $165,000 for sustainability projects

More than $165,000 in funding has been secured by groups working to improve their local communities and environment from waste and water management company SUEZ.

The 2018 SUEZ Community Grants Program provides individual grants of up to $15,000 have been awarded to community groups, organisations and schools.

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Recycling education programs, youth sustainability networks, community resources sharing initiatives and sustainable gardens are some of the successful projects that have secured funding.

Since it began in 2014, the SUEZ Community Grants Program has provided more than $740,000 to Australian organisations contributing to stronger communities and healthier environments.

SUEZ Australia and New Zealand CEO Mark Venhoek said the company sees supporting grassroots organisations and projects as crucial in helping communities and their local environments thrive.

“Every year we are inundated with applications from right across the country, from Western Australia to the east coast, for an incredibly diverse range of sustainable projects,” Mr Venhoek said.

“It’s inspiring and heartening to see such dedication to building strong and connected communities, creating a groundswell for sustainable living practices and supporting the circular economy. We look forward to seeing how this year’s recipients put the grants to work to grow the impact of their initiatives.

“We are always blown away by the depth of what’s happening out there in our communities, and it’s a real privilege to be able to continue to support that important work,” he said.

Community consultation open for Canberra WtE

The ACT Government has begun community consultation on waste to energy (WtE) to help develop policy and provide information for stakeholders.

It follows the results of the ACT’s Waste Feasibility Study which found Canberra was unlikely to achieve a recovery rate of more than 80 per cent without some form of WtE leaving 200,000 to be sent to landfill.

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The ACT Government has launched a survey to gather community feedback and provide information on the different types of WtE to clearly outline the territory’s position on energy recovery. It has also launched an information paper to outline the challenges and opportunities for the technology in the ACT’s context.

The consultation will inform the ACT Government’s consideration of WtE in the territory.

Currently the ACT has a target to divert 90 per cent of waste from landfill by 2025 and has implemented a container deposit scheme to also improve the territory’s waste diversion rates.

WtE processing facilities are already in use in the ACT with methane gas captured at the Mugga Lane and West Belconnen landfill facilities used to power around 3000 homes.

The ACT has also set a range of targets to 2020 for secure and affordable energy which involves using clean energy technology.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said in the information paper that a serious conversation about what to do to reach the ACT’s landfill diversion targets is needed and should explore whether WtE is part of the solution.

“WtE technologies sit on a spectrum – not all of these involve burning or heating and some technologies are already in use in the ACT, for example through landfill gas capture at our Mugga Landfill site,” Mr Steel said.

“One of the key recommendations of the Waste Feasibility Study was the development of a WtE policy in the ACT to provide certainty to industry and the community about whether WtE has a role in the nation’s capital.

“As the Minister for City Services I want our community and industry to be partners in co-designing a long-term, informed and evidence-based policy vision for WtE in the ACT.”

The community consultation period will close on 29 November 2018.

Industry input sought for VWMA economic report

Victorian waste and recycling companies are being called on to contribute to an industry report on the economic and social contributions the sector provides.

The report, commissioned by the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), aims to provide specific metrics the waste and recycling industry generates for local, regional and national communities.

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It will also aim to help improve communication between the industry, government and community to help build confidence and trust in the sector.

The VWMA aims to highlight the importance the environmental and health benefits of the sector to the community as well as the economic contributions from jobs and investment.

Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions Economist Nick Behrens is working with VWMA to complete the project, which is similar to work carried out in Queensland and currently in the Northern Territory.

A survey is currently open until 14 September to gather data to create anonymous, aggregated high level industry statistics which will be drawn upon to prepare various positions, communications and policy formation in the future.

The survey also includes questions about insurance to, general questions about government guidance and accessing government support.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said it is important for the waste sector to come together and start to shape its own story for the government.

“An important element in that story involves the contribution made to the Victorian economy,” Mr Smith said.

“Most industry sectors publish their own data sets and reports into economic contribution and employee numbers to communicate and express their importance to local and state government and to the community. It is important our industry does the same.

“With an election this year and a new four year-term state government elected, this report will be a useful resource for our sector in advocating for industry support, regional development and regulatory and insurance challenges into the future.”

To complete the survey, click here. Results are anticipated to be released in the first week of October 2018.

New abilities for Ipswich waste operators

New amendments to Queensland planning safeguards have been approved by the state government and will give waste operators across Ipswich the ability to reduce impacts on the community.

Buffer zones and other safeguards for residents living near new or expanded waste facilities in Swanbank and New Chum were implemented through a Temporary Local Planning Instrument (TLPI) amendment from Queensland Planning Minister Cameron Dick.

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“These changes allow waste operators to bring forward new ideas, such as waste to energy solutions, to improve their existing operations and reduce impacts on the community and environment,” Mr Dick said.

The changes followed industry and council feedback on it current operation, with the expansion of the safeguards also including Ebenezer, Willowbank and Jeebropilly industrial areas.

“While these TLPIs regulate development applications for these areas, Council will use the two-year interim period to amend their planning scheme to address community concerns over the impact of waste facilities,” Mr Dick said.

“Development applications may be given favourable consideration by the Ipswich City Council where it can be clearly demonstrated, with a high degree of certainty, that improved amenity, environmental or community outcomes are able to be achieved.

“Both TLPIs complement actions already being undertaken by the Environment Minister with the newly formed Waste Management Stakeholder Advisory Group and Odour Abatement Taskforce,” he said.

A $100 million Resource Recovery Industry Development Program is due to be released later in 2018 to develop a high value resource recovery industry in Queensland.

Member for Jordan Charis Mullen said the government had consulted with the Ipswich City Council for their comments on both TLPIs.

“I am very pleased the TLPI’s are now in place and community concerns have been addressed while we use the next two years to work with the department to progress amendments to the planning scheme,” Ms Mullen said.

Waste Recycling Industry Association Chief Executive Officer Rick Ralph said industry and all levels of government have a critical role in addressing community concerns while maintaining the waste industry’s ongoing business aspirations.

“We are committed to realising council and the state government’s future direction on waste, and to reshape Queensland to become Australia’s leading secondary resources and recycling state,” Mr Ralph said.

Queensland Government establishes #odourbusters taskforce

The Queensland Government has established a taskforce to deal with nuisance odours in the Swanbank area.

The Odour Abatement Taskforce, also known as #odourbusters, will operate from a local base at Redbank Plains to crack down on offensive odours and other environmental concerns in the area for the next 12 months.

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Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the state government was investing 2.5 million in the program to respond to community concerns raised through an independent community survey this year.

“With the information received from 1435 local residents, we have moved swiftly to establish a taskforce of 10 specialist environmental officers,” Ms Enoch said.

“The team will be dedicated to investigating and responding to issues raised by the community.”

Ms Enoch said the community survey addressed waste management, air quality and water management issues within the Swanbank industrial area.

“Part of our response will be to introduce new technologies to monitor air, noise and water quality in Ipswich suburbs,” she said.

“In addition to on-the-ground investigations, the Odour Abatement Taskforce will intensively examine and review current industry regulation and practice.”

Member for Ipswich Jennifer Howard said the Queensland Government will have a strong focus on and interaction with the Swanbank industrial area.

“In the past year, the Department of Environment and Science has received 302 reports of odour from 167 people alleging bad smells from landfill and waste recycling facilities in the Swanbank industrial area,” she said.

“Rest assured, we have some of the highest environmental standards in the world and Queensland has a strong record when it comes to compliance.”

Member for Ipswich West Jim Madden said the Palaszczuk Government ensured there was always strong compliance when it comes to waste management issues.

“Over the last financial year, the state’s environmental regulator carried out more than 7250 compliance checks state-wide to ensure our high environmental standards are met,” he said.

“Of these, 855 compliance checks were conducted in the Ipswich area.

For more information on the #odourbusters, click here.

WA community want plastic bag ban

Community consultation in WA has found that more 95 per cent of comments on banning plastic bags have been positive.

The ban will affect lightweight plastic bags from 1 July 2018 in order to reduce litter and protect the environment. The ban also includes biodegradable, degradable or compostable – with handles and a thickness of 35 microns or less, often found in supermarkets and retail stores.

More than 4400 people responded by the close of consultation and 90 per cent were also in favour of banning biodegradable, degradable or compostable plastic bags which continue to persist in the environment as microplastics.

The consultation reported a need for a transition period for retailers to prepare customers for alternatives to plastic bags. The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has announced it will assist retailers in this process.

A WA-wide education campaign will also aim to ensure consumers are encouraged to use reuseable bags.

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said he wants to work with the community to make the transition towards a plastic bag free WA as easy as possible.

These initiatives reflect the community’s desire to work together to reduce the significant impact of plastic bags, and other waste and litter on our environment,” Mr Dawson said.

“Banning plastic bags is just one of a number of strategic waste reform initiatives demonstrating this Government’s commitment to reducing waste. We have also committed to introducing a container deposit scheme,” he said.