Industry associations respond to 60 Minutes recycling report

Waste management industry associations have released a statement contesting claims made in the 60 Minutes Sunday night program, Plastic not so fantastic.

Liam Bartlett’s 60 Minutes report claims much of Australian plastic waste is not being reused or recycled, but rather dumped, buried or burned in illegal processing locations in South-East Asia.

The program refers to Australia’s recycling industry as a ‘con,’ which according to industry associations doesn’t paint a full picture of the Australian recycling industry or its capacity, and includes a false claim that much of Australia’s plastic waste is being disposed of incorrectly.

Recycling groups including the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR), Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), the Australian Organics Recycling Association, Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW and National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) contributed to the statement — urging greater investment, regulatory reform and policy support from governments.

According to the 2018 National Waste Report, Australia generated 67 million tonnes of waste last year, 37 million tonnes of which was recycled.

The report also shows 33 million tonnes of that recycling was undertaken within Australia, with plastic exports decreasing by 25 per cent.

It is estimated in the report that between 10 and 15 per cent of kerbside recycling cannot be recycled because it is contaminated with nappies, soft plastics, garden hoses, bricks and batteries.

ACOR CEO Peter Shmigel said the program should not discourage the vast majority of Australians who regularly recycle.

“Australian recycling is highly successful despite some ill-conceived claims in the broadcast, in fact up to 90 per cent of material collected for recycling is made into new products,” Mr Shmigel said.

Plastic not so fantastic claims 71,000 tonnes of Australian recyclable plastic has been exported to Malaysia.

In response, Mr Shmigel said 71,000 tonnes represents less than two per cent of the 4 million tonnes that is actually exported and less than 0.2 per cent of the 37 million collected for recycling.

“If the claim that all these materials are not being properly processed is accurate, this is very concerning, as there are also legitimate processors in Malaysia,” Mr Shmigel said.

According to the statement, in response to the impacts of restrictions across Asia, the local recycling industry which employs more than 50,000 Australians and generates up to $15 billion in value, is currently making some of the most advanced recycling investments in the world.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said the industry is investing in high-tech infrastructure to improve sorting and processing in order to produce high quality materials from recovered waste.

Ms Sloan is also advocating for a stronger domestic recycling system through a new labelling scheme to build community confidence.

“We need a Made with Australian Recycled Content label which will do two key things – empower the community to take action and ownership of the materials they consume, and incentivise manufacturers and brand owners to include recycled content in their packaging and products,” Ms Sloan said.

“This will create new markets for recycled materials and ensure a sustainable future for kerbside recycling, local resource recovery, and remanufacturing.”

Ms Sloan said the local industry is investing heavily and working collaboratively to upgrade local processing capacities which in the past were, to some extent, built to meet China’s previous specifications.

A recent Reachtel survey commissioned by ACOR found that almost 93 per cent of people said reducing waste and recycling products into new products was important to them and 87 per cent supported increasing recycling and reducing landfill by processing food and garden material from rubbish bins into useful products.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the community continuously votes in favour of recycling through its strong participation.

“We encourage householders to continue to separate and sort their recycling correctly to reduce contamination and realise the environmental and economic benefits of recycling,” Ms Read said.

Prime Creative Media has contacted 60 Minutes for comment.

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Repurpose It goes Volvo buying excavators and loaders

Australian waste-to-resource company Repurpose It have opted for Volvo Construction Equipment’s excavators and loaders for their Victorian plant.

The five new machines will assist the company’s loading and handling duties to assist in their recycling operation that sees large quantities of waste material re-used in the construction industry.

One Volvo EC250DL and two EC220DL units were chosen for excavation duties on the site, Repurpose It aims to input the tools on general earthmoving, screen feeding, sorting and stockpiling projects.

The company chose the L110F and L220H two-wheeled loaders for their loading work which will see hopper fed into their new recycling plant.

Repurpose It CEO George Hatzimanolis said that the company was happy to choose Volvo as the manufacturer alings with their energy efficiency commitments and engineering values.

“Our business is focused on reducing our carbon footprint and working towards a more sustainable future, as is Volvo,” Mr Hatzimanolis said.

“We were also attracted to the quality that comes with Volvo machines.”

The two EC220DL excavation units chosen for the site uses Volvo’s modern D6 diesel engine reporting 10% extra fuel efficiency over its competitors.

The Volvo machines were purchased from Dandenong’s CJD Equipment, Volvo’s exclusive Australian distribution partner.

Industry input sought for VWMA economic report

Victorian waste and recycling companies are being called on to contribute to an industry report on the economic and social contributions the sector provides.

The report, commissioned by the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), aims to provide specific metrics the waste and recycling industry generates for local, regional and national communities.

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It will also aim to help improve communication between the industry, government and community to help build confidence and trust in the sector.

The VWMA aims to highlight the importance the environmental and health benefits of the sector to the community as well as the economic contributions from jobs and investment.

Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions Economist Nick Behrens is working with VWMA to complete the project, which is similar to work carried out in Queensland and currently in the Northern Territory.

A survey is currently open until 14 September to gather data to create anonymous, aggregated high level industry statistics which will be drawn upon to prepare various positions, communications and policy formation in the future.

The survey also includes questions about insurance to, general questions about government guidance and accessing government support.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said it is important for the waste sector to come together and start to shape its own story for the government.

“An important element in that story involves the contribution made to the Victorian economy,” Mr Smith said.

“Most industry sectors publish their own data sets and reports into economic contribution and employee numbers to communicate and express their importance to local and state government and to the community. It is important our industry does the same.

“With an election this year and a new four year-term state government elected, this report will be a useful resource for our sector in advocating for industry support, regional development and regulatory and insurance challenges into the future.”

To complete the survey, click here. Results are anticipated to be released in the first week of October 2018.

Monash Uni helping farmers profit from food waste

Research has begun on helping farmers transform their food waste into profit while improving their business model thanks to a joint effort from Monash University’s School of Chemistry, IITB (India), the Food Innovation Centre and the agriculture industry.

Monash University is using a holistic approach to ‘biomass valorisation’ to help the industry extract high value components such as antioxidants, oils, pectin and protein from food disposal. Mangoes, pomegranate and pineapple skin, spent coffee grounds and almond ash.

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The food waste also extends to fresh produce that is disposed for not meeting the cosmetic standards of supermarkets.

Professor Tony Patti said the biomass valorisation looks at the entire fruit or vegetable, not just what is eaten, which is what currently provides value to the grower.

“The skins, seeds, kernels, leaves and off-cuts were seen as ‘waste’, adding to their disposal costs. These by-products are not waste, but a potential valuable resource, providing several components, identified as being of high market value,” Dr Patti said.

“Monash is working with Australian growers and businesses to diversify the potential market opportunities, including expansion into the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and pet food industries.

“Using this research, food and agricultural companies can tackle costly waste challenges, improve their environmental footprint and create a sustainable business that takes full advantage of growing demand in domestic and export markets for high quality food products,” he said.

Australia could be the future of battery recycling – report

Australia could lead the world in lithium-ion battery recycling, according to a new report.

The ‘Lithium battery recycling in Australia’ report says a new battery recycling industry could be possible to reuse and recycle Australia’s annual 3300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste.

It looks at the growing demand for lithium-ion technology, which is currently being used in large amounts of electronics and household devices.

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The report says an effective recycling industry could also stabilise global lithium supplies to meet consumer demand.

The majority of Australia’s battery waste is shipped overseas, with the rest being sent to landfill, creating fire and environmental risks. It is a growing waste, increasing by 20 per cent each year and could exceed 100,000 tonnes by 2036.

Only 2 per cent of Australia’s lithium-ion battery waste is currently recycled, however 95 per cent of the components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.

In comparison, of the 150,000 tonnes of lead-acid batteries sold in 2010, 98 per cent were recycled.

CSIRO research is supporting recycling efforts, with research underway on processes for recovery of metals and materials, development of new battery materials, and support for the circular economy around battery reuse and recycling.

CSIRO battery research leader Anand Bhatt said Australia must responsibly manage its use of lithium-ion technology in support of a clean energy future.

“The value for Australia is three-fold. We can draw additional value from existing materials, minimise impact on our environment, and also catalyse a new industry in lithium-ion re-use/recycling,” Dr Bhatt said.

Dr Bhatt and his team are working with industry to develop processes that can support the transition to domestic recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

“The development of processes to effectively and efficiently recycle these batteries can generate a new industry in Australia. Further, effective recycling of lithium batteries can offset the current concerns around lithium security,” Dr Bhatt said.

Australian Battery Recycling Initiative CEO Libby Chaplin said the report came at a critical time.

“Currently we are racing towards a world where lithium batteries are a very big part of our energy supply, yet we have some real work to do to ensure we are able to recycle the end product once it has reached its use by date,” Ms Chaplin said.

“The CSIRO report provides critical information at an opportune time given the discussions around how to shape a product stewardship scheme for the energy storage sector.”

Vict Govt responds to China waste ban

In response to China’s National Sword decision, Victorian councils and industry will be provided a $13 million package to support the ongoing collection of household waste.

The assistance will go towards helping councils and industries that have been affected by the China policy, giving them and their contractors time to develop longer-term solutions, including renegotiating contracts.

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The Victorian Government has also moved to establish a recycling industry taskforce to develop a plan for industry transition.

The decision comes not long after the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) called for a suite of measures to improve the situation.

The VWMA in a statement welcomed the opportunity to represent its member base on any proposed taskforce and said it has been assured by relevant government agencies that it will have a seat at the table. It advocated for the taskforce to have fair representation of the waste and resource recovery sector, including small and medium operators and the waste transport sector. It said the taskforce should be steered by principles such as a competitive resource recovery sector and circular economy principles that prioritise local jobs over exports or landfilling.

China has not banned the importation of waste entirely but new restrictions on the contamination rate means that they require a cleaner and more processed version of these materials.

“While recycling is ultimately a matter for local councils, we’re stepping in to help councils and industry affected by China’s new import rules,” said Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio.

“This is about protecting jobs and ensuring Victorians have confidence to continue recycling.”

Council assistance will be provided until 30 June, though they will be required to meet an increase in recycling costs from 1 July.

 

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