Waste 2019 hosts industry leaders forum

Waste 2019’s industry leaders forum invited senior industry representatives to discuss their vision for the future of waste management in Australia.

The forum, held on day two of the three day conference, was facilitated by Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association CEO Gayle Sloan.

Ms Sloan said the outcome of the discussion was a unanimous agreement that talk needs to make way for action.

The panel included Re.Group National Business Development Manager Garth Lamb, Cleanaway NSW State Manager David Clancey, Veolia General Manager Resource Recovery NSW Christine Hodgkiss, SUEZ NSW/ACT General Manager Tony Grebenshikoff and Bingo Industries’ CEO Daniel Tartak.

During the discussion Ms Sloan said the waste industry should consider changing the waste management hierarchy to the resource management hierarchy.

“Another area that industry has been calling for is the establishment of national specifications that mandate recycled content, and development of procurement processes that mandate the use of locally-made recycled product,” Ms Sloan said.

“Including the use of glass in road base, which would go a long way in solving the numerous glass challenges Australia is facing.”

Ms Sloan said the panel showed an industry wide desire to continue investing in new technology and facilities.

“Industry is more than willing to collaborate with all stakeholders to drive waste and resource recovery forward,” Ms Sloan said.

“But the next important step comes down to creating value and developing markets.”

According to Ms Sloan, with the federal election only three days away, a potential new Environment Minister was on all panelists minds.

“When asked what was on their federal wish list, everyone on the panel agreed a national approach to waste and resource recovery was key, particularly the harmonisation of the waste levy,” Ms Sloan said.

“It’s time for the government to get on with the job and acknowledge that you can’t regulate your way to success and clearly, business as usual is no longer acceptable.”

Related stories:

WMRR releases election plan

Ahead of the 2019 federal election on 18 May, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has released a five-point election plan.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said that as China, India and Indonesia enforce stricter contamination levels of imported commodities, the Australian waste management and resource recovery industry needs 1.2 million tonnes of remanufacturing capacity.

“China’s National Sword policy brought to the fore the need for Australia to focus on domestic processing and remanufacturing. It showed everyone where the gaps were and what issues we needed to fix,” Ms Sloan said.

“While industry is willing and ready to up recovery and remanufacture materials, and community has expressed a hunger for resource recovery, we need support and collaboration from all stakeholders, we especially need leadership from the Federal Government.”

WMRR is calling on everyone from industry, government and the community to support an ‘Made with Australian Recycled Material’ label to highlight and support the use and purchase of Australian recycled material.

Ms Sloan said Labor’s waste and recycling policy offers a ray of hope for the industry, highlighting its commitment to mandate recycled content targets, stimulate demand for recycled materials and develop a $60 million National Recycling and Circular Economy Fund.

“We need all government departments to mandate sustainable procurement of goods that include Australia recycled content, and to be held accountable for their procurement decisions,” Ms Sloan said.

“This is what government leadership looks like and with a top down approach, manufacturers will follow suit. Further, we need support for domestic remanufacturing not later, but now.”

WMRR’s five-point election plan:

1. Leadership in sustainable procurement and market development, creating a strong remanufacturing sector and supporting Australian job creation. Mandatory targets should be set to ensure a 30 per cent government procurement of recycled goods by 2020.

2. Strengthening product stewardship and extended producer responsibility schemes, including the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation implementing the “Made with Australian Recycled Material” label for all packaging. To create jobs and investment in Australia, the Federal Government needs to strengthen the laws and framework around extended producer responsibility and move to a mandatory scheme for recycled content in packaging

3. A national proximity principle to enable certainty, market development and investment in local jobs and infrastructure. The Federal Government needs to clarify the constitutional interpretation of the proximity principle and seek advice from the Commonwealth Attorney General on this matter as a priority.

4. A common approach to levies and industry development (with a minimum 50 per cent reinvestment.) WMRR is calling on the Federal Government to drive coordination across jurisdictions to harmonise policies and regulations, including a common approach for resource recovery exemptions and orders.

5. A whole-of-government approach to circular economy, including considering tax reform and import restrictions to support the sector. The Federal Government must use the levers unique to it in relation to areas such as taxation and importation to encourage the use of recycled materials.

WMRR has opened design submissions for a “Made with Australian Recycled Material” Label.

Related stories

WMRR Landfills and Transfer Stations Conference opens

More than 300 waste management and resource recovery operators have descended on Brisbane this week to discuss landfill and transfer station innovation, design, operation and regulation at the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia’s (WMRR) 2019 Australian Landfills and Transfer Stations Conference.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said the organisation and its sponsors invested in the conference because they recognise that landfills play an important role and are integral to both environment and community safety.

“We must continue to ensure that Australia’s landfills are world’s best practice in order that we continue to maintain a network of high-quality engineered facilities that effectively manages our residual waste while ensuring human health and the environment are protected at all times.

“The role of landfills goes beyond the responsible disposal of residual waste. Landfills and transfer stations play a fundamental role during periods of service and economic disruption and post-disaster emergency waste management,” Ms Sloan said.

Queensland Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch, who opened the conference, noted the groundswell of community support for effective waste management and resource recovery, and reiterated the Queensland Government’s commitment to transitioning to a circular economy.

“Queensland now has a waste levy after years of getting by without an effective market signal. The levy will bolster the recycling and resource recovery sector without a cost impact on community. It will lead to job creation and new industries that manufacture products using recycled content.

“The levy is just one vital component. The draft waste management and resource recovery strategy, which is currently out for consultation, sets the course for Queensland to become a zero-waste society where the waste we produce is reused and recycled as much as possible,” Ms. Enoch said.

Related stories: 

 

WMRR releases NSW election priorities

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) is urging all parties to commit to six key priorities for the upcoming NSW election.

At the Local Government NSW’s Save Our Recycling Election Summit, WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said meeting WMRR’s six priorities would future-proof the state’s economy, protect the environment and create jobs in NSW.

“If China’s National Sword policy has taught us anything, it is the need to strengthen and grow both domestic processing/remanufacturing and local market demand.

“All stakeholders need to play their part in responding to this new reality, it is now up to the NSW Government to show leadership and support our vital industry,” she said.

WMRR is urging all parties to commit to the following priorities:

1. The creation of a market development agency similar to Sustainability Victoria (SV) and Green Industries South Australia (GISA).

2. Greater accountability and transparency of the landfill levy, and a return and reinvestment of 50 per cent of levy funds raised each year to support diversion from landfill, grow remanufacturing facilities, and create markets.

3. To underpin waste infrastructure and award funds accordingly, WMRR is calling for a recommitment for a finalisation of the state’s strategic infrastructure strategy, which has been placed on hold by the NSW EPA since July 2017, to strategically develop and approve required infrastructure.

4. To develop a specific Waste and Resource Recovery State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), including recognition that this infrastructure is critical/essential and requires certainty of both location (by way of designated precincts) and appropriate buffer zones.

5. Enforcement of the proximity principle and development of a common approach to managing ‘waste’ as it becomes a resource, which also requires resource recovery exemptions and orders to be certain and robust.

6. Commitment to sustainable procurement coupled with the development of specifications that include recycled content. Mandate the use of recycled/recovered content in procurement policies for local and state government, including state government agencies, and ensure these are applied in procurement for all building, civil, and infrastructure works.

Related stories: 

 

Queensland landfill levy legislation passes parliament

The Queensland Government has passed its Waste Reduction and Recycling (Waste Levy) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said Queensland was now one step closer to transitioning to a zero waste future.

The legislation passed today reintroduces a waste disposal levy for Queensland.

“Thanks to these new laws we will be able to improve our waste management, stop interstate waste, increase investment in industry, and create more jobs while protecting the environment,” she said.

“The Palaszczuk Government is also standing by our commitment that Queenslanders will not have to pay more to take out their wheelie bin every week. We are providing advance payments to councils over-and-above the rate of household waste that goes to landfill to ensure the costs are not passed onto ratepayers,” Ms Enoch said.

Related stories:

“There is no doubt we need to do better. At the moment, we are generating more waste than we are growing in population and we are also recycling only 45% of the waste we generate, and this needs to change.”

Ms Enoch said because the waste levy will only be paid on waste that is disposed of to landfill, it will provide a valuable incentive to reduce, reuse and recycle waste as much as possible.

“Part of fighting the war on waste also means changing our way of thinking.

“We need to start seeing waste as a valuable resource and the waste levy will help attract investment, develop new industries and products, and grow jobs across the state in the resource recovery sector.

“Not only is diverting waste away from landfill better for our environment, it also provides more job opportunities. It is estimated that for every 10,000 tonnes of waste disposed in landfill, about three jobs are supported. But if that waste was recycled, this would support about nine jobs.”

Ms Enoch said 70 per cent of revenue raised from the waste levy will go back to councils, the waste industry, scheme start-up, and environmental programs.

“This is unprecedented in Australia. No other state or territory reinvests that much from their waste levies.”

The programs the Palaszczuk Government will fund from the levy include compliance work to reduce the risk of litter and illegal dumping, a school-based education program to help our kids learn about recycling, a regional recycling transport assistance program and support for the construction industry.

Waste Management & Resource Recovery Association Australia CEO Gayle Sloan said that the association appreciated the Queensland Government considering the far-reaching impacts the levy would have on stakeholders in the supply chain.

The WMRR had long upheld the positive impacts the waste levy would have on Queensland, including improving the state’s economic, environmental, and social health.

“With the legislation now in place the Queensland Government can kick this into gear so that we can start to create jobs and investment in the state and fall in step with the rest of Australia in transitioning to a circular economy,” Ms Sloan said, adding that industry is keenly awaiting the 1 July 2019 levy start date.

The levy will begin on 1 July 2019 at a rate of $75 per tonne for general waste, $155 per tonne for Category 1 regulated waste and $105 per tonne for Category 2 regulated waste.

WMAA rebrands to WMRR

At the beginning of the year, the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) changed its name to the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR).

In a statement, WMRR said the name, chosen and adopted by its members, reflects the needs of its diverse and growing membership and acknowledges the ever-increasing participation by materials recovery facilities, reprocessors and remanufacturers.

WMRR said the evolution of its brand is reflective of the focus of an essential industry, acknowledging the need for, and value of, collaboration with all stakeholders in the supply chain in order to continue its transition to a circular economy successfully.

In addition to a rebranding exercise, WMRR will soon launch a new working group in each state – the Resource Recovery and Market Development working group – to bring all elements of the supply chain to the table. An energy from waste working group will also be created, operating in place of what was formerly the RER working group.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said the working groups and branch committees form the backbone of the association and in 2019, WMRR will continue to collaborate through a variety of forums such as networking events and meetings, as well as influence policy settings through a raft of important measures, from policy submissions to position papers.

Related stories:

“Another initiative to look forward to is the development of an accreditation program to develop the industry’s professional skills and recruitment of a Training and Development Manager will soon commence,” Ms Sloan added.

Work is also progressing on a number of highly anticipated conferences and events, including the 2019 Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Conference in March, the 2019 Energy from Waste Conference in August, and the various state-based Women of Waste breakfast events.

The statement said that beyond WMRR, 2019 is a year to watch, with two major elections coming our way – federal and NSW and the untapped opportunities for growth in our domestic remanufacturing sector.

“WMRR is determined to make 2019 a year of action and will continue to pressure the Federal Government to get on with the job and act on the key positions that WMRR has consistently been advocating for in order to to drive investment, economic and job growth as well as protect the community and environment,” the statement said.

“But WMRR can only do all of this with the support and contribution of our members. As we embark on a new year, we hope you will continue to join in the conversation, take advantage of the services WMRR has to offer, and support the association’s important work.”

NSW EPA to end agricultural use of mixed waste organic material

The NSW EPA is stopping the restricted use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land and is ceasing use on plantation forests and mining rehabilitation land until further controls can be considered.

In a statement, NSW EPA said the decision followed comprehensive independent studies, but the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) is calling for greater involvement in consultations in what it describes a “surprise announcement”.

Mixed waste organic material is predominantly made from organics in general household waste. Application on agricultural land ceased from Friday 26 October and use on plantation forests and mining rehabilitation land will be suspended until further controls can be considered.

NSW EPA Acting Chair and CEO Anissa Levy said there was a robust scientific basis for the EPA’s decision to stop the use of the material.

“The restricted use of the mixed waste organic material had been permitted on the basis that it provided beneficial reuse of waste. Extensive independent research commissioned by the EPA found that it no longer passed that test,” Ms Levy said.

“The research found there were limited agricultural benefits from the application of mixed waste organic material at the regulated maximum levels of application, but there were potential risks to the environment from the presence of some contaminants, such as small pieces of plastic and glass, as well as concerns about soil quality degradation.

Related stories:

Ms Levy said that as a result, the NSW EPA is revoking the Resource Recovery Exemption and Order – the regulatory instruments that permitted the material to be applied to specific land uses.

“As part of the EPA’s regulatory role, we commissioned an independent assessment of possible health risks related to the use of this product on agricultural land. The assessment used very cautious assumptions to estimate how much exposure a person might have to chemicals present in the material.

“Based on a review of the findings of this health risk assessment the use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land is unlikely to present any health risk to the general public.”

The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health have reviewed the initial findings of the health risk assessment and expert scientific advice, and further work is being done, overseen by an independent panel formed by the Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer. This is expected to be completed in the coming months.

The EPA is contacting all councils affected by the change to their waste management services and all landholders who have previously used the material to let them know, and to support them as they manage these changes.

WMAA in a statement argued that the waste and resource recovery industry was informed some six weeks ago that the EPA had completed research into the impacts of mixed waste organics and the expectation was that the regulator would then release its findings for wider consultation.

“Industry has after all had a long history of transparent and constructive consultation on the issue, dating back to 2008 when Hyder Consulting (now Arcadis) completed an extensive project into the chemical contaminants of alternative waste treatment (AWT) organics – the “AWT DORF” project – that was sponsored by industry, WMAA, and numerous state governments and departments, including the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.”

WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan said that it is imperative that industry is given a chance to review the findings particularly as the EPA has confirmed in today’s statement that the use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land is unlikely to present any health risk to the general public.

She said this is consistent with research and assessments conducted by industry.

“We are calling on government to openly and collaboratively work with industry to ensure that NSW’s resource recovery industry’s future is not undermined and that industry and local government are not adversely impacted by this decision,” said Ms Sloan.

“Industry and local councils have invested significantly in AWT in NSW over many years with the support of the EPA. The EPA itself, in its review of waste and resource recovery infrastructure, noted in 2017 there was in fact a one million tonne shortage of AWT processing capacity across the state.”

WMAA acknowledges that there must be continued leadership by the EPA to drive positive resource recovery outcomes based on robust consultation and said it is looking forward to working with government on the future of recovery in NSW.

“We await the release of the technical report but in the interim, we need to ensure that collections do not cease because of this decision and that we do not lose the community’s confidence in resource recovery in NSW. It is also important that industry does not suffer losses because of this decision,” Ms Sloan said.

“It is vital that we maintain public confidence in our industry particularly given the challenges of late. Industry and government have a shared responsibility to work together to find long-term sustainable solutions. We appreciate government is willing to look into financial relief packages for industry and local government that may be severely impacted by the revocation of this exemption and order.”

NSW launches draft of its Circular Economy Policy

The NSW Government has revealed its draft of its Circular Economy Policy as part of the state government’s plan to improve its resource recovery methods.

The policy draft defines the state government’s role in implementing circular economy principles across NSW and how it can commit to achieving long term objectives.

Related stories:

Minimising the consumption of finite resources by replacing raw materials with recovered and recycled products is one of the main principles of the policy.

Additionally, the policy aims to decouple economic growth from resource consumption by maximising the value of resources through keeping materials in use for as long as possible.

Product design will also play a role to implement a circular economy with an aim of creating long lasting products that are able to be easily re-used, remanufactured and repaired.

The draft aims to extend the life of existing landfills to reduce the demand for new landfills along with a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Local market for high quality post-consumer recycled materials will be developed to keep them materials use for longer to reduce dependency on international markets. It also aims to improve the quality of collected materials through better sorting.

To move away from the “take, make and dispose” status quo, the policy recommends innovating technologies that increase resource recovery efficiency and referencing higher value re-use opportunities.

Creating new jobs in manufacturing, service and resource recovery sectors is listed as a main principle behind the delivery of a circular economy.

The draft sets out certain focus areas to guide future government action which involve supporting innovation, encouraging sustainable procurement practices for businesses and government, improving recycling systems and making the most of organic resources through food donation or composting.

Mainstream product stewardship will also aim to provide incentives for producers to take responsibility for the management of products at the end of their lives.

To establish this framework, the NSW Government aims to incorporate circular economy principles in the revision of the NSW Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy in 2019. A Circular Economy Implementation Plan to be developed by 2020 will also aim to provide timing and direction for the implementation of circular economy principles.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the policy draft is the beginning of a better way for NSW to manage its waste and resources.

“Achieving a circular economy will minimise our waste, reduce our impact on the environment and is an opportunity to boost the NSW economy,” Ms Upton said.

“It’s an antidote to the current “linear economy”, where we make things, use them and then throw them away. Instead, we can use items for as long as possible, through repair, re-use and recycling, rather than being thrown away.

“At the same time NSW is working with the Federal Government on the development of national circular economy principles,” she said.

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) has welcomed the release of the draft, however it says there is more work to be done on the policy.

The association has urged the NSW Government to set up an organisation similar to Sustainability Victoria or Green Industries South Australia to implement in the final policy.

WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan said that all states are preparing or implementing similar strategies, so it is vital that they align and work together.

“WMAA supports the paper’s proposal that the NSW Government will investigate opportunities to incorporate circular economy principles into the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy as part of the five-yearly review process,” Ms Sloan said.

“WMAA commends the government for its support for broadening and strengthening stewardship schemes. This has been discussed time and again and it is pleasing to see that industry’s feedback has been heard,” she said.

“We are also calling on government to consider how the waste levy should look like in a circular economy environment, including how collected monies are re-invested in industry to further boost processing and jobs.