NWRIC presents at ALGA general assembly

At the Australian Local Government Association’s (ALGA) Your Community, Your Environment presentation, National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read highlighted the need to promote a shared approach to resource recovery and circular economies.

The presentation was held as part of ALGA’s National General Assembly in Canberra. Other speakers included APCO Government Partnership Manager Peter Brisbane, Planet Ark Head of Sustainable Resource Programs Ryan Collins, Lake Macquarie Council Deputy CEO Tony Farrell and Alice Springs Mayor Damien Ryan.

“Industry and local councils can work together to put recycling back on a sustainable pathway,” Ms Read said.

“Central to this shared approach are activities that will reduce contamination, such as consistent statewide community education programs, smarter ways to separate materials at source, removing toxic and dangerous items from bins and upgrading re-processing capacity at material recovery facilities.”

In addressing plastics, Ms Read identified a number of steps to help material recycling facilities remain viable.

“We need to upgrade our recycling facilities and sorting and reprocessing capacity, so they can produce higher quality outputs that meet producer specifications,” Ms Read said.

“It is vital that local, state and federal governments procure recovered mixed plastics for civil construction, and that packaging companies are required to meet minimum recycled content.”

Ms Read said there is also opportunity to reduce carbon emissions and improve soil quality if local councils work with industry, to set up food and organic collection services and composting facilities.

“Key to the success of increased organics recovery will be preventing contamination, establishing local markets for the compost produced and planning for recycling precincts in local council areas,” Ms Read said.

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City of Swan ‘health checks’ residential bins

The City of Swan in Perth is conducting ‘health checks’ on residential kerbside bins to help the community improve recycling habits and reduce waste contamination.

The bin auditing program involves city staff visually checking the contents of general waste and recycling bins in randomly selected areas.

The checks are followed by constructive individual feedback on how each household can waste less and better recycle.

Feedback will be provided in the form of a tag on the bin handle, which states if there are any contaminated items in the recycling bin or items in the general waste bin that can be recycled.

City of Swan Mayor David Lucas said while most of people have good intentions when it comes to waste and recycling, many are unsure of what to place in different bins.

“If your recycling bin is contaminated with even a few unsuitable items, the remaining recyclable material in that bin will go to landfill,” Mr Lucas said.

Mr Lucas said through individual tailored feedback residents will learn how to properly separate their waste.

According to the Western Australian Local Government Association, similar programs in South Australia have reduced waste contamination by up to 60 per cent, and increased the amount of material sent to recycling facilities by 25 per cent.

Mr Lucas said 2000 households and businesses in the City of Swan are planned to take part in the program.

Whiteman Ward Councillor John McNamara said each property selected to take part will be audited four times over an eight week period.

“We’re focusing on providing useful feedback to residents to change behaviour, however if contaminated items continue to be placed in bins by the end of the program, residents will be required to remove the contamination before the bin is emptied,” Mr McNamara said.

“There have been some recent changes around what can be recycled which can be confusing, we’re using this program to empower our community to recycle better and waste less.”

The city will use information collected through the program to understand how well recycling is understood and to determine where more information is required.

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Fed Govt releases PFAS contamination recommendations

The Federal Government’s PFAS Sub-Committee has made nine recommendations to improve its response to PFAS contamination.

It is part of a report tabled by the Chair of the PFAS Sub-Committee, Andrew Laming, and analyses the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination in and around defence bases.

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The report recommends establishing a Coordinator-General with the authority and resources to effectively coordinate Federal Government efforts to reduce PFAS contamination and to ensure there is a consistent approach across community consultations and cooperation with state, territory and local governments.

Improvements to voluntary blood testing program could also be used as a source of longitudinal information on the health effects of PFAS exposure and the effective methods to break PFAS exposure pathways.

The Federal Government has also been recommended to assist property owners and businesses in affected areas for demonstrated, quantifiable financial losses associated with PFAS contamination from defence bases. This could be undertaken through a comprehensive scheme that is flexible enough to accommodate a variety of individual circumstances.

“I would like to thank and pay tribute to the many members of PFAS affected communities across the country who made submissions to the inquiry and who appeared to give evidence at public and in-camera hearings. I trust that this report honours their effort,” Mr Laming said.

EOI open for WALGA bin tagging program

Expressions of interests are open for WA councils to roll out the WA Local Government Association’s (WALGA) bin tagging program.

WALGA has received funding from the WA Waste Authority to assist five local governments implement the program, with each local government needing to provide in-house staffing to assist.

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Assistance with the bin tagging program includes designing and printing of bin tags, funding to assist staffing for audits and training to facilitate the implementation of the program.

The program aims to encourage households to separate materials into the correct bin by providing direct feedback on through the tags.

Each tag will provide feedback on the content of a resident’s bins and provide guidance for what can and can’t be placed in the bin.

Bin auditors will conduct an assessment of the contents of each bin at the kerb and collect data for each household. The tag is then placed to provide individualised feedback about the content of the bin.

The program aims to reduce the long term costs for local governments by reducing contamination and encouraging diverting waste from landfill.

Generic tags have been made available for two bin systems and three bin systems for local governments that provide green waste or food organics in garden organics (FOGO) bins.

WALGA has prepared guidelines to give local governments a step by step process to implement the tagging program in their area, which detail the planning, preparation, implementation and evaluation phases of the program.

The program was tested in a pilot phase in 2015 and rolled out in 2016 across the Cities of Cockburn and Joodnalup, the Shire of Capel and the Towns of Bassendean and Mosman.

For more information on how to apply, click here.

New mercury treatment plant to eliminate contaminated exports

One of the largest mercury treatment facilities in the southern hemisphere has opened and will eliminate the need to export mercury-contaminated waste from Australia.

Located in Karratha, Western Australia, the Contract Resources’ Gap Ridge Processing Facility is capable of handling all mercury contaminated waste produced by Australia’s oil and gas sector into the foreseeable future.

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It also fulfils the Australia’s obligations under the Basel Convention, an international treaty designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between countries.

Contract Resources Chief Executive Adam Machon said the facility sets the international benchmark for best-practice in safe and efficient mercury waste management and recycling of all elements for alternate use. He says it helps avoid the need for mercury contaminated landfill or further processing, as required by other technologies.

“Through combining the world’s best practice processing technologies and Contract Resources’ 30 years of industry experience, the facility has set a new benchmark globally for the safe treatment, recycling and processing of domestic and export-destined mercury contaminated waste from the oil and gas sector,” Mr Machon said.

“The export of mercury contaminated waste has always and continues to concern us, due to the risks of the combination of road, rail and shipping transport, loss of the custody chain and recent high-profile cases of mercury waste being dumped illegally overseas,” he said.

Mr Machon said the opening of the facility demonstrates Contract Resources’ commitment to developing innovative, safe and environmentally complaint, mercury waste management solutions to ensure the safe treatment and recycling of mercury related waste.