NWRIC releases statement in support of Labor waste policy

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has released a statement in support of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s proposed waste and recycling policy.

Labor’s proposal sets out a number of priorities to enhance waste and recycling services, six of which have been highlighted by NWRIC.

NWRIC praised Labor’s commitment to a national container deposit scheme, which includes inviting, but not mandating Victoria and Tasmania become part of an integrated national scheme.

Victoria and Tasmania are currently the only states without a state run container despot scheme in place.

The announcement of a National Waste Commissioner, funded with $15 million over six years, and the expansion of product stewardship schemes to include more e-waste, batteries and white goods were similarly praised.

The council also highlighted the proposed $60 million investment in a National Recycling Fund, and the setting of targets for government purchasing of recycled goods.

NWRIC also cited Labor’s commitment to provide an additional $10 billion in capital for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation over five years.

NWRIC’s statement said the proposal follows Labor’s national policy platform commitment to capture the economic opportunities of a harmonised and strategic national waste reduction and recycling policy, including appropriate energy recovery technologies.

Labor’s policy also commits to establishing a federal EPA and a new Australian Environment Act to replace the current Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Mr Shorten said the new act will aim to tackle inefficiencies, delays and hurdles in the current law, giving business more certainty while protecting the environment.

Presently there are eight different sets of laws and regulations governing waste management and recycling across Australia’s states and territories.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said every household and business in Australia purchases waste services, and most purchase recycling services.

“The Commonwealth can cut costs for all Australians by creating national, high quality regulations covering waste and recycling,” Ms Read said

“NWRIC is calling for a bi-partisan approach to harmonising the regulations protecting our industry.”

Despite welcoming the policy, Ms Read said NWRIC is concerned about Labor’s proposed roll back of the Emissions Reduction Fund.

“Through the Emissions Reduction Fund, a number of leading recycling initiatives have been funded, including returning composting to soils and harvesting renewable energy from biogas,” Ms Read said.

“Waste and recycling services are essential to all Australians. Therefore, it is critical that whichever party wins the upcoming Federal election – they work proactively with industry to create jobs, serve communities, protect workers and reduce pollution.”

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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.

Return and Earn breaks records

Return and Earn broke records for recycling over the Christmas – New Year period, setting a new daily record and processing more than 91 million drink containers.

NSW Government Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said a new state record was set on 2 January, when an incredible 6.8 million drink containers were returned across the state.

“Between 21 December 2018 and 7 January 2019, there were six days with more than six million drink containers returned a day, and the daily average is now 5.8 million drink containers a day being processed across the state,” Ms Upton said.

“This shows strong community support for the NSW Government’s Return and Earn scheme as more and more people are recycling drink containers rather than throwing them away.

“Since the scheme started, more than 1.2 billion drink containers have been returned, which is a massive turnaround in the way people dispose of their empty drink containers.

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Ms Upton said that as well as reducing litter, Return and Earn is creating jobs and helping charities create an alternate income stream.

“Employment charity Hoxton Industries is running Return and Earn bulk depots at Villawood and Ingleburn, enabling them to create jobs for people who would otherwise face barriers to mainstream employment,” she said.

Garry Carr, Director of Hoxton Industries, said running a Return and Earn depot has transformed the employment charity’s operations.

“Return and Earn meant we could expand our operations, employ ten additional staff, and return nearly $200,000 to the community,” Mr Carr said.

“Our mission is to create jobs for people who face barriers to mainstream employment, and we can now do this in new areas and with new employment skills.”

Ms Upton said that, as a result of Return and Earn, eligible drink container litter volume have dropped by 44 per cent and now represent an all-time low of 37 per cent of the NSW litter volume stream.

“At the same time, the state’s overall litter volume has dropped by 48 per cent.

“Return and Earn has been a success because it is backed in by the people of NSW and it’s fantastic to see them help to reduce the amount of litter in the environment,” Ms Upton said.

SA Govt to review CDS

South Australian Government Environment Minister David Spears has announced a review of the state’s more than 40-year-old Container Deposit Scheme (CDS).

A scoping paper has been released to spark a conversation on how to improve the CDS, with comments and submissions open to the government until Friday, 22 February 2019.

The paper indicates that much has changed since the start of the CDS, including the types of containers, consumer choices, technology and markets for recycling. The government is seeking to improve the CDS’ role in recycling and litter reduction.

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Some of the questions raised to improve the scheme are: what should be the objectives of the CDS and how well is its achieving these objectives currently? Should more types of containers be included in the CDS and are there containers that could be removed from the scheme? It also asks if the refund amount could be revised and what research is required to inform a review?

Introduced in 1977, the CDS has significantly reduced litter and improved resource recovery for the state. In 2017-18, almost 603 million containers were recovered by collection depots for recycling.

South Australia leads the nation in recovering and recycling beverage containers with an overall return rate of 76.9 per cent.

The scheme operates with beverage suppliers establishing a contract with a super collector and paying a fee to cover the 10 cent refund and handling of containers to the super collector to establish a collection system to recover containers.

Beverage suppliers are able to cover the price of the product when selling to retailers and retailers than pass this cost onto consumers. Beverage containers are sorted and returned to the super collector for recycling which reimburses the refund amount and pays a handling fee to the collection depot. Containers up to and including three litres are covered by the scheme, including soft non-alcoholic drinks, beers, ales and stouts, water, wine-based and spirit beverages and most other alcoholic beverages.

For more information head to the SA EPA website.

WA CDS legislation enters state parliament

Container deposit scheme laws have been introduced into the Western Australian Parliament, with the scheme expected to start in early 2020.

The move is a major milestone for the scheme, which is projected to result in 706 million fewer beverage containers littered over the next 20 years.

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It also aims to increase recycling throughout the state and is expected to reduce the number of containers sent to landfill by 5.9 billion.

The scheme is expected to deliver a net positive benefit of around $152 million over the next 20 years and follows the state government’s waste reduction methods, which includes a ban on lightweight single-use plastic bags and a review of the WA waste strategy.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said Western Australians have been supportive of the scheme, with more than 3000 people supporting it during the public consultation period.

“The introduction of this legislation to Parliament marks a major milestone in bringing a container deposit scheme to Western Australia,” he said.

“Not only will we be diverting waste from landfill, this scheme is likely to create as many as 500 jobs as part of the new container sorting and processing facilities, and refund points across the state.”

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said he is confident the container deposit scheme will reduce litter and increase recycling.

“It will also be designed to provide business opportunities for social enterprises and help charities and community organisations raise money to fund vital community work,” Mr Dawson said.

“This scheme will be a win for the environment and a win for the local economy.”

Coca-Cola partners with CitizenBlue to improve NSW recycling

Coca-Cola Australia has partnered with social enterprise CitizenBlue to introduce more drink container recycling options at venues and events in Sydney and regional NSW.

The partnership will aim to strategically place drink container recycling bins in key venues and events, with the proceeds of the collected waste being sent towards environment and community charities.

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Drink containers collected in these bins will be collected and sorted through the NSW Return and Earn scheme.

The bins are expected to help collect around 7.5 million containers per year, leading to an estimated $750,000 in funds raised.

CitizenBlue is a collective of seven environmental not for profit organisations, including Total Environment Centre, Surfrider Foundation and Landcare NSW.

“We’re on a mission to stop waste from entering our waterways and Coca-Cola has a big goal to ensure that every drink bottle and can they sell is collected and recycled,” said Jeff Angel for CitizenBlue.

“This partnership is a first step towards both not-for-profit groups and a major beverage leader working together to tackle our waste issue.”

The NSW Government has reported a 44 per cent drop in drink containers in the litter stream since November 2017.

Surfrider Foundation Australia Chairperson Susie Crick said CitizenBlue’s aim is for these activities to enhance and promote the existing recycling efforts through the container deposit scheme in NSW.

“More organisations and businesses coming together to find solutions to tackle waste and recycling is better for the environment, the sector, not to mention a funding boost for charities,” she said.

The partnership forms part of Coca-Cola’s recently announced global sustainable packaging strategy, which includes a goal to collect and recycle and equivalent of 100 per cent of the packaging they sell by 2030.

Director Public Affairs and Sustainability at Coca-Cola South Pacific Christine Black said the company is focusing its efforts locally on designing packaging to be 100 per cent recyclable across its entire portfolio.

“This partnership is part of the next step for Cola-Cola in tackling drink container waste, whilst inspiring positive change to ensure our bottles and cans have another life beyond their first use,” Ms Black said.

The collection bins are expected to roll out in the early new year at festivals and venues in NSW.

WA Govt release potential network models for CDS

Two potential strategies for WA’s container deposit scheme (CDS) have been released, with the preferred option aiming to establish a full-time refund point for every 20,000 people.

A draft released by the WA Department of Water and Environment Regulation’s (DWER) highlights two options to achieve minimum service standards for approximately 98.8 per cent of the population.

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DWER’s preferred option is expected to deliver a net present value of $152 million, with a benefit-cost ratio of 1.31. It will involve establishing one full time refund point for major regional centres with populations between 10,000 and 20,000 and at least two full time refund points for major regional centres above 20,000. A population threshold of 500 is set for flexible refund points.

Modelling from Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 Census data suggests this will require a minimum of 196 refund points, made up of 111 full time refund points and 85 flexible refund points.

The alternative option is to provide a full-time refund point for every 15,000 people, which would mean a minimum of 228 refund points, made up of 143 full time refund points and 85 flexible refund points. This option is expected to deliver a net present value of $123 million, as a benefit-cost ratio of 1.28.

The draft aims to balance the cost and convenience of the container deposit scheme and has been released during the Request for Proposal for the scheme coordinator to inform the respondents in the development of their offers.

DWER will analyse submissions and make recommendations to the Minister for Environment and form the part of the development of the state-wide collection network as stage two of the Request for Proposal period.

Submissions close on 6 December. For more information, click here.

QLD Containers for Change recycles 5M in first week

More than five million containers have been returned and recycled in the first week of Queensland’s Containers for Change container deposit scheme.

As part of the scheme, Queenslanders are able to get 10 cents back for returning bottles and cans across one of the schemes 230 sites.

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The scheme uses a mixture of over the counter depots, reverse vending machines, mobile and pop up refund points and drop off points.

Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said that more than half a million dollars have gone back towards Queenslanders or charities and community groups because of the scheme.

“We’ve also seen some great recycling happening in regional areas. More than 780,000 containers have been returned in Wide Bay, and more than 770,000 in Townsville,” Ms Enoch said.

“Queenslanders use nearly three billion containers a year, and sadly they are the most commonly littered item in the environment.

“This scheme has created about 500 new jobs, with people starting work at container refund points across the state,” she said.

Container Exchange (CoEx) is the company responsible for implementing and managing the scheme.

CoEx CEO Ken Noye said it was great to see more than five million containers recycled in a week.

“People are able to support local community groups by donating their containers and we encourage social purpose organisations to sign up for the scheme,” Mr Noye said.

“We also now have 27,000 people signed up with a scheme ID, allowing them to be paid their refund straight into their bank account.

“We’d love to see communities get behind Containers for Change to raise funds for schools, sporting clubs and other not-for-profits,” he said.

Waste reduction winners of the NSW Sustainable Cities Awards

Winners of the Keep Australia Beautiful NSW Sustainable Cities Awards have been announced and include the NSW container deposit scheme and a hospital recycling program.

The NSW EPA sponsored and presented two awards for waste management and litter reduction.

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Winning initiatives include Auburn Hospital’s Think before you bin it project to improve recycling and reduce hospital waste and the City of Canterbury Bankstown’s We Like Greenacre Litter Free, which resulted in a 54 per cent reduction in litter in Greenacre over three years.

The Vinnies Container Deposit scheme won the inaugural Return and Earn Litter Prevention Award, as the organisation have collected millions of containers at their automated depot and over the counter return points in NSW.

The Return and Earn school’s category went to Glenmore Park High School, which mobilised its school community to collect litter to fundraise for a minibus for the Special Needs Unit.

NSW EPA Acting Chair and CEO Anissa Levy said these projects along with other winners demonstrate the power of acting locally to reduce waste and litter in communities.

“All of the winners demonstrate extraordinary leadership in waste and litter reduction initiatives in our communities, and I commend them all on their efforts,” Ms Levy said.

Ms Levy said the NSW Government is committed to reducing waste and litter in the environment.

“We have dedicated $802 million over nine years to 2021 as part of the Waste Less Recycle More initiative – the largest waste and recycling funding program in Australia,” she said.

“We have also introduced the state’s largest litter reduction initiative, the Return and Earn container deposit scheme, to help achieve the Premier’s target of a 40 per cent reduction in litter volume by 2020.

“More than 814 million containers have been returned to return points across NSW in just over ten months, and drink container litter volume has already dropped by a third since November last year.”