Potential emergency plastic tax by 2021: report

The plastic waste crisis is expected to deepen, potentially leading to a federal response in the form of an emergency tax by 2021, according to global wealth manager Credit Suisse.

It argues that reactionary policy measures are highly likely in the short term and could include a tax on virgin resins or additional tariffs placed on imported plastic goods in its report, The age of plastic at a tipping point.

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With too much plastic waste domestically and with no large export markets available, Credit Suisse estimates there will be a sharp increase in plastic being sent to landfill and illegal dumping.

“Our headline view is that things will get worse before they get better: the policy initiatives in the National Waste Strategy won’t take hold until FY20/21,” the report said.

Credit Suisse expects bans on single use-plastics to be extended to the six most common plastic packaging and tax incentives to be provided to help hit the 2025 target of 30 per cent recycled content in packaging.

The long lead time from policy approval to implementation is problematic, particularly for new waste infrastructure, which the company said will likely lead to a more supportive project approval environment for waste infrastructure.

Waste managers are expected to benefit from this scenario, with short term potential from council re-negotiations and long-term potential to fast-track waste infrastructure approvals, according to the report.

“Plastic has infiltrated almost every aspect of human life. It is the most prolific material on the planet, growing faster than any commodity in the last 33 years,” the report said.

“Plastic packaging has become one of the most intractable environmental challenges of our age. None of the commonly used plastics are biodegradable; they accumulate in landfills or the natural environment rather than decompose.

“To curtail the situation in the short run, it is a matter of when, not if, we see reactionary policy measures,” the report said.

Veolia releases Rethinking Sustainability case study videos

Environmental services provider Veolia has released several case study videos to showcase examples of environmental and economic sustainability.

The videos aim to challenge perceptions around sustainability and feature some of the company’s significant projects and industry partnerships.

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The case studies include Veolia’s projects in metropolitan, regional, rural and remote communities across Australia and New Zealand.

Clients and projects shown in the videos include the University of the Sunshine Coast, NSW Health Illawarra-Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD), Seqwater, Hunter Water and Auckland Council.

Veolia Executive General Manager – Refractories and Energy Grant Winn said the University of the Sunshine Coast and the NSW Health ISLHD projects demonstrated Veolia’s capability to consider a client’s long-term needs and deliver strategies that targeted operational efficiency and continuous improvement.

“Our role as a partner is to identify, implement and monitor a client’s energy performance to deliver tangible, long-term benefits, while also taking into consideration macro-environmental concerns that could impact their operations,” Mr Winn said.

Veolia Group General Manager, New Zealand Alex Lagny said Veolia’s partnership with Auckland Council is developing waste management in a region that had only recently transitioned from bags to bins.

“We are working closely with the council to drive improvements and a better understanding of practices through data and insights. It’s an exciting space for us, as Veolia looks to expand its waste management capability in the country.”

To watch the videos, click here.

New appointments for VIC Waste and Resource Recovery Groups

The Victorian Government has appointed 25 directors to the state’s seven Waste and Resource Recovery Groups.

The directors, including nine reappointments, commenced their roles on 1 August.

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They bring a broad range of experience to their roles with diverse backgrounds including energy, engineering, resource efficiency, local government, infrastructure development, sustainability, waste management and environmental policy.

The appointees will aim to ensure the Groups have the skills and experience needed to deliver a safe, resilient and efficient recycling system.

Waste and Resource Recovery Groups are a part of the state government’s Recycling Industry Strategic Plan with local councils across Victoria.

Appointees have increased board representation of women, people with disabilities and Victorians from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds.

More than $100 million has been invested by the state government over the last four years to improve the Victoria’s waste and resource recovery system.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio congratulated the appointees and said she looks forward to working with them to strengthen the state’s waste and recycling sector.

“We’re making sure Victoria is equipped with the people and resources it needs to reduce waste and costs to households,” she said.

A list of the appointments and directors can be found here.

Vic gov set date of bag plastic bag ban for 2019

The Victorian Government has announced it will ban single-use, lightweight plastic shopping bags from late 2019 to fight plastic pollution.

The ban will come into effect from late next year and will include all plastic shopping bags less than 35 microns in thickness. It also includes shopping bags made from biodegradable and compostable plastic.

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It follows a public consultation which received more than 8000 submissions, with more than 96 per cent supporting a ban.

The Victorian Government said it will use feedback over the next 12 months to develop a plastic pollution plan to reduce other types of plastic contaminants in the environment.

A reference group will also be established to help develop the plan, with representatives from the government, industry, retailers and community environment groups.

The state government also announced it will support an education campaign for both retailers and the community to ensure the ban is effective.

It also said a transition period will be required to help consumers and businesses adapt to the changes alongside co-operation with other states and territories on a national, voluntary phase-out of thick plastic bags.

Victorian Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio said banning single-use plastic bags will slash waste, reduce litter and help protect marine life in Victoria’s waters.

“We know Victorians want to do more to reduce pollution in our environment – we’ve received an enormous amount of feedback and they’ve told us loud and clear they want us to deliver this ban,” she said.

“The Government will continue to work closely with Victorian communities and businesses to design the ban – to ensure it works for all Victorians and our environment.”

Microbeads being phased out of Australian cosmetics

Microbeads are being phased out of cosmetics and personal care products in Australia, according to an independent assessment.

The federal government commissioned the assessment which found that out of approximately 4400 relevant supermarket and pharmacy products inspected, only six per cent contained microbeads.

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This follows the challenge set by Australia’s environmental ministers to voluntarily phase out microbeads in cosmetic and personal use products.

The independent assessment found no shampoos, conditioners, body washes or hand cleaners containing microbeads, the remaining six per cent were not “rinse off” products and posed a smaller risk to the environment.

Microbeads are plastic particles of around one millimetres in diameter and are often found in exfoliants. They can have a damaging effect on marine life and the environment because of their ability to attract toxins, pollute waterways and transfer up the food chain.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the best solution is to prevent them from entering marine environments in the first place.

“Governments have been working with industry to do just this since the Meeting of Environment Ministers in 2016,” he said.

“While our original target was 90 per cent, we will continue the good work done to date until 100 per cent of cosmetics and personal care products are microbead-free,”

“I thank industry for their cooperation and look forward to continuing to work with them until we reach 100 per cent.”

Assistant Minister for the Environment Melissa Price said she was pleased with how well the phase out had gone, considering it was an optional phase out of products by the industry.

“I am really pleased to see such a strong industry response, given the damage that microbeads can do to our marine ecosystems,” Assistant Minister Price said.

“This is further proof that industry is capable of making the right choices when it comes to environmental protection.”

The Federal Government will commission a further assessment on late 2018 to provide an additional level of assurance of the success of the phase out.

Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards now open

Entries are now open for the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards, which recognise individuals, communities, organisations and businesses leading the way to a sustainable future.

Example entries from 2017 included a small business that uses new technology to clean without chemicals, a hospital soap recycling program for disadvantaged communities, a new type of energy efficient residential development and a program to rebuild Port Phillip Bay’s oyster reefs.

The 2018 Premier’s Sustainability Awards categories are:

  • Built Environment
  • Community
  • Education
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Protection
  • Government
  • Health
  • Innovative Products or Services
  • Small and Medium Enterprises
  • Large Business

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the awards are an opportunity to recognise Victorians who are leading the way in sustainable practices across all sectors.

“We know that more and more Victorian businesses, not-for-profit organisations, community groups and government programs are implementing sustainable practices,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

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“Many Victorian organisations are nation leading in their sustainable practices and I encourage them to enter the Premier’s Sustainability Awards this year to inspire others to think more creatively about the work that they do.”

Sustainability Victoria CEO, Stan Krpan, said the awards celebrated sustainability not for its own sake, but the flow on effects that are felt right throughout the community.

“We have an incredible depth of sustainability talent in Victoria – they’re saving energy and resources, developing and applying new technology reducing and re-purposing waste, regenerating natural and man-made environments, and saving threatened species.

“This work leads not only to environmental good, but to other tangible benefits in terms of increased productivity, reduced costs, many community benefits and enhanced reputation,” he said.

As well as awards in each of these categories, the Premier will personally select two overall winners for the Premier’s Regional Recognition Award and the Premier’s Recognition Award.

Entries close on Thursday, June 7.

For more information on the awards criteria, registering for updates and free information sessions, and to read about past finalists and winners, visit the Premier’s Sustainability Awards website.

Pictured: Lily D’Ambrosio

National Plan for PFAS released to protect environment and health

The heads of all state and territory EPAs and the Federal Government have released a National Environment Management Plan for PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) to help protect the environment and human health.

PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals which have historically been used in firefighting foams and other industrial and consumer products for decades, according to EPA Victoria. PFAS can also be found in soil, surface water and groundwater in urban areas, and some PFAS are being phased out around the world as they may pose a risk to human health and the environment.

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The National Environment Management Plan for PFAS describes how to properly deal with and clean up contaminated sites, how to best treat soil and waste, and methods for safely destroying the chemicals.

PFAS can make products heat resistant, non-stick, water repellent, and weather and stain resistant.

Prior to the plan, there was no consistent guidance or direction for communities that had been affected by PFAS.

Environment Protection Authority Victoria’s Executive Director Assessments, Tim Eaton, said PFAS chemicals have been used in a range of products in the past, including pesticides, stain repellents and fire-fighting foams.

“PFAS compounds have had a wide range of uses because they resist heat, chemical and biological degradation, and are very stable,” Mr Eaton said.

“There is now growing concern worldwide about the effects of PFAS on our health and on animals and plants, because of that chemical stability and the fact that they easily enter the environment, moving into soil, creeks, rivers and lakes. We know there are sites with PFAS contamination, so we are working collectively to manage them.”

The plan can be read here.

ACT Government explores liquid fuel facility

The ACT Government has prepared a draft terms of reference and appointed a panel for an independent inquiry into a proposed facility which would see waste plastic converted into liquid fuel.

According to the draft terms of reference, the proposed facility, located in the suburb of Hume, aims to convert landfill destined end of life plastics into road ready diesel, gasoline, and gas.

The terms of reference indicated that the proposed facility plans to process waste plastic by heating the plastic waste and separating the components through a series of chambers, extracting diesel, fuel and LPG.

The proponent plans to build the development in four stages, with the final stage intended to be completed in January 2018.

“Work has taken place over the last couple of weeks to prepare comprehensive draft terms of reference to guide the inquiry into the Hume proposal,” Dorte Ekelund, Director-General, Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development said.

“These cover aspects such as reviewing the proposed technology, identifying and assessing risks, commenting on the suitability of the proposed site and assessing the methodologies of the reports commissioned by Foy Group in relation to public health matters.”

Ms Ekelund said the terms of reference will be finalised in conjunction with the appointed panel.

“The Hume facility proposes new technology so it’s critical a thorough assessment is undertaken of the proposal to see if there are any potential issues, particularly around public health and the environment.”

Ms Ekelund said the panel will start work next month with a report finalised by the end of April 2017 for the government to consider.