New parliamentary role created for waste reduction

Re-elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new parliamentary position, Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister.

The role has been awarded to Queensland MP Trevor Evans, who was elected to the House of Representatives for Brisbane in 2016.

Mr Morrison has also announced his new cabinet, replacing Environment Minister Melissa Price with Sussan Ley.

Ms Price served as Environment Minister since August 2018, after previously serving as Assistant Minister to the portfolio.

Since being elected to parliament in 2001, Ms Ley has served as Health Minister, Education Minister, Sport Minister and most recently Regional Development Assistant Minister.

“Australians hold strong views on caring for our environment, both locally and globally, and I look forward to listening to the variety of perspectives and ideas that will be put forward,” Ms Ley said.

“As well as implementing our government’s strong range of policy initiatives in this portfolio.”

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said the national industry body welcomed both appointments.

“WMRR congratulates both the minister and assistant minister, and looks forward to working with them on the commitments made by the government ahead of the election. Once the dust settles WMRR will be engaging with Minister Ley on how we can move forward,” Ms Sloan said.

“Effectively drawing that link between the environment and the economy so our essential waste and resource recovery industry maximises the opportunities at hand, to not only protect the environment, but grow local jobs and the economy.”

Australian Council of Recyclers CEO Peter Shmigel said the appointment of Sussan Ley and Trevor Evans represents unprecedented national leadership on recycling,

“This is the first time there’s direct ownership and accountability for recycling results at a ministerial level. The creation of the assistant minister role is a really welcome innovation by Prime Minister Scott Morrison,” Mr Shmigel said.

“The assistant minister helps guarantee the delivery of the government’s very substantive and useful recycling promises, including infrastructure funding and product stewardship progress.”

Roles within the Environment and Energy Department have also been re-shuffled, with responsibility for emissions reduction transferred from environment minister to energy minister.

Ms Price has been removed from cabinet all together and will serve as defence minister, while Angus Taylor remains in his role as energy minister.

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WA caps waste levy

WA Government Environment Minister Stephen Dawson has announced there will be no increase to the state’s waste levy in the next financial year until a pricing review has been completed.

As part of the state’s new Waste Strategy 2030, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation will review the levy to ensure it meets new strategy objectives.

The department will establish a schedule of future waste levy rates and look at expanding the geographic extent of the levy, which currently only applies to the Perth metropolitan region.

A minimum five-year schedule of waste levy rates will be published to provide certainty to local governments in planning their waste services, and to drive investment and employment in the waste sector.

Western Australia has seen significant increases to its waste levy in recent years.

In January 2015, fees for sending putrescible waste to landfill increased from $28 to $55 a tonne and inert waste went up from $8 to $40 a tonne. By July 1, 2018 fees for all waste reached $70 per tonne.

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Mr Dawson said that to ensure the waste levy framework is robust, and to allow time for the review to be completed, the McGowan Government will not increase the waste levy for 2019-20.

“I will publish the schedule of rates beyond these years as soon as our review of the scope and application of the waste levy is complete,” Mr Dawson said.

ANZRP to build world’s first commercial e-waste microfactory

The Australia and New Zealand Recycling Platform (ANZRP) has announced plans to build the world’s first commercial e-waste plastic microfactory after receiving a $250,000 grant from Sustainability Victoria.

In partnership with UNSW SMaRT Centre and e-recycler TES, the microfactory will process up to 500,000 kilograms of waste plastic per year. This will be recovered from e-waste recycling and reformed into 3D printer filament for retail sale.

Worldwide demand for plastic 3D printer filament is estimated to triple during the next four years, reaching a value of more than USD$1,965.30 million by 2023.

With the upcoming e-waste ban in Victoria and growing restrictions on exports of mixed e-waste plastic, options to reduce the cost of recycling and keep these materials out of landfill are growing. The project aims to reform a waste stream (e-waste plastic) that’s currently shipped overseas for processing or sent to local landfill.

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World first e-waste recycling microfactory launches at UNSW

Warren Overton, CEO of ANZRP, said the e-waste plastic micro-factory is a truly circular economy approach that ensures materials are kept in productive use.

“We’re so pleased to be supporting Australian innovation from UNSW and TES that helps improve e-waste recycling,” Mr Overton said.

“As the volume of e-waste continues to increase, technologically advanced approaches such as microfactories will play a key role mitigating the impact of old televisions and computers.

“By working alongside industry and internationally recognised research hubs, ANZRP is committed to ensuring all e-waste is managed responsibly. This reduces environmental impact and creates employment.”

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the grants will help develop a circular economy that maximises the reuse of materials and reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

With construction due to start early 2019, the microfactory will be housed at the TES e-waste recycling facility in Somerton, Victoria. This portable factory has the potential to be moved and process recovered e-waste plastic in other areas.

“The microfactory has the potential to scale and accommodate the 6000 tonne plastic feedstock that is currently produced each year from the e-waste recycled through the TechCollect program,” Mr Overton said.

“We have taken the first step with a scalable solution that has guaranteed feedstock, strong environmental benefits, as well as economic benefits through the creation of employment opportunities in regional and metropolitan parts of Australia.”

 

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WMAA’s five policy priorities ahead of MEM

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) has written to Federal Government Environment Minister Melissa Price ahead of the December 7 Meeting of Environment Ministers (MEM) meeting calling for five policy priorities for the government to drive.

In its letter, WMAA called for a national proximity principle as well as a level playing field, including a common approach to levies and market development, and strengthening product stewardship and extended producer responsibility schemes. WMAA also called for government leadership in sustainable procurement and market development and a whole-of-government approach.

Commenting on the upcoming MEM, Ms Sloan said it was time for the Federal Government to take ownership of its important role in driving industry forward and start using the tools and levers that only it has to turn Australia’s circular economy aspirations into reality.

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“The one thing we all know about waste is, it just keeps coming. The role of ministers at this meeting must be to start pulling the right levers for Australia, to leverage demand for these resources to meet this ongoing supply,” WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan said.

“Take the GST as an example. This is not payable on second hand products so why couldn’t the same exemption be applied to recyclate? There are other levers such as research and development incentives, import bans, tax disincentives… All of which can go a long way in incentivising the use of recycled material in Australia.”

Ms Sloan noted that next year, Germany will have a new packaging law requiring all manufacturers, importers, distributors and online retailers to meet strict material generation targets or face hefty fines.

“Packaging producers must also licence their packaging and all businesses will have to register with a central packaging registry to ensure compliance and maintain market access. Australia can draw lessons from Germany because it is time for our Federal Government to take our extended producer responsibility laws and frameworks seriously if Australia is genuine about creating jobs and investment,” Ms Sloan said.

WMAA noted that of course, each state and territory must focus on particular policies, but there is value in developing some commonality across key regulation and policies or further exacerbate what is now a highly uneven playing field and continue to create confusion and uncertainty among businesses that operate nationally.

Vic gov announces $37M recycling package

A $37 million package has been announced for Victoria’s recycling industry to develop new markets.

The Recycling Industry Strategic Plan aims to increase the quality of recycled materials and provide a blueprint for a safe, reliable and resilient recycling system in the medium to long term.

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It will include an $8.3 million expansion to the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund, which is estimated to improve the quality of up to 100,000 tonnes of recycled material.

A further $2 million will go towards the current market development program for recycled materials by identifying new uses, bringing the total to around $4.5 million.

The Victorian Government also aims to drive demand for products containing recycled materials through procurement.

Sustainability Victoria, in consultation with the Department of Treasury and Finance, will assist the government departments and agencies to identify opportunities and develop their own targets to increase procurement of recycled content.

An education program will attempt to improve understanding of what can and can’t be recycled to reduce the contamination level of kerbside recycling, which the state government says has the potential to reduce the amount of recycling sent to landfill by 40,000 tonnes each year.

The Landfill Levy Relief Program will also receive an $800,000 boost to ensure the National Association of Charitable Recyclers can continue focusing their efforts on charity.

It also includes the $13 million temporary relief package announced in February for councils and industry to support the ongoing kerbside collection of household waste following China’s National Sword policy.

The plan will be delivered by consumers and waste producers, the resource recovery industry and manufacturers and all levels of government.

Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio said the government is delivering a new plan for the future of recycling in Victoria, to reduce waste and build a more resilient recycling sector.

“This plan will create a more stable and productive recycling sector, improving the quality of recycled materials and developing new markets for them,” she said.

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has welcomed the announcement and said that further work is necessary to future proof Victoria’s recycling industry.

It identified four key objectives that needed to be addressed as part of the long term solutions the state government should explore, which include contractural models for waste and resource recover, unlocking the sustainability fund, stimulating local markets through state and local government procurement and community education.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said recycling is one of the easiest things Victorians can do to support the environment and the economy.

“Engagement with the community about how to recycle correctly is important and a shared responsibility. The private sector shares that responsibility but we need consistency and commitment to messaging that we’ve had a part in shaping,” Mr Smith said.

“The Victorian Government’s $37 million investment shows commitment and long-term thinking. However, we must maintain an open and ongoing dialogue on these challenges to ensure public confidence is restored.”

“The waste and recycling sector has suffered a lot of damaging publicity over the last 12 months. Further discussion with the sector will be required to target public engagement to help rebuild public confidence back into this essential service,” he said.

The government has released an overview about recycling and what it is being done to respond to international market changes here.

Waste Taskforce created in WA in response to National Sword

A Waste Taskforce has been created in WA in response to China’s National Sword policy.

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson created the taskforce to advise on waste management in WA, following consultation with state and local governments, the waste industry and community stakeholders.

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The group’s first meeting is planned for 9 April 2018, where it will consider its objectives, scope and governance arrangements.

It will provide advice on how to ensure WA van respond effectively to the National Sword policy and build on the current domestic recycling options.

The taskforce will directly advise the WA Minister for Environment on recycling market issues and opportunities in the state and aims to align with the national actions taken.

Short, medium and long-term opportunities will be explored by the taskforce and will take the WA Waste Strategy and the promotion of a circular economy.

The Waste Taskforce will be chaired by Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment Baldivis MLA Reece Whitby and will include representatives from the Waste Authority and Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, local government and regional councils, the waste services and recycling industry, the packaging industry, Aboriginal and community groups, and key government agencies.

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the recycling sector at a state and national level is facing market challenges caused by fluctuating commodity prices and international policy decisions.

“This is also having an impact on the cost of waste management services,” Mr Dawson said.

“While a national response is important, it is also imperative that local opportunities to support recycling in WA are developed – and the Waste Taskforce will play a critical role in achieving this,” he said.

“I look forward to receiving advice from the Waste Taskforce on how we can support a thriving recycling sector in WA.”

Landfill levy waived For bushfire victims

The Victorian Government has waived the landfill levy to help Victorians in the south west recover from bushfires.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced that the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (Victoria EPA) will work with local councils and landfill operators in the Colac-Otway, Corangamite, Moyne and Southern Grampians council areas to apply the exemption.

The waiver applies to the levy component of the gate price.

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The Victorian Government has also announced assistance for the local government areas of Colac-Otway, Corangamite, Moyne and Southern Grampians is being provided through the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).

Anyone who has been affected by the bushfires and suffering personal hardship and distress should call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226 to find out about the assistance available.

Information on disaster assistance can be found on the Australian Government’s Disaster Assist website at disasterassist.gov.au and the VicEmergency website at emergency.vic.gov.au/relief

“We’re doing what we can to help those affected by these devastating bushfires,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“We’re helping farmers manage waste from dead livestock and damaged homes, sheds and fencing – so they can focus on getting back on their feet.”

Look at contracts: WALGA hosts China waste ban session

Western Australia’s peak local government body has written to the state’s Environment Minister requesting a taskforce of state, local government and waste industry representatives to focus on local processing and reprocessing options.

It follows two information sessions on the impact of China’s ban on 24 categories of solid waste with a contaminant rate of 0.5 per cent. The WA Local Government Association (WALGA) hosted more than 80 representatives from over 30 local governments.

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In its newsletter, WALGA said the key messages from the sessions were to keep on recycling, look at contracts, develop local markets and advocate for changes in packaging design.

“It is important for local governments to ensure residents continue recycling, with a focus on reducing contamination in the kerbside recycling bin. There are still viable markets for collected material,” it said.

WALGA advise local government to look at their contractual arrangements with service providers and that local governments should consider whether their contracts include rise and fall clauses.

“WALGA will continue to advocate for changes to packaging design to ensure products are recyclable and that consistent labelling on recyclability is used by the packaging industry to assist residents with source separation.”

In other news, WALGA is also establishing a working group to investigate ways to reduce illegal dumping. Expressions of interest are requested from local government officers by Thursday, 29 March. For more information, complete the online survey here.