NSW’s landfill gap

Waste Management Review explores the impact of NSW’s dwindling putrescible landfill space and its effect on long-term infrastructure planning.

Following the lead of Victoria and South Australia, the NSW EPA (EPA), in partnership with Infrastructure NSW, announced it was developing a waste strategy.

The strategy aims to set a 20-year vision for reducing waste, drive sustainable recycling markets and identify and improve the state and regional waste infrastructure network.

It will also aim to provide the waste industry with certainty and set goals and incentives to ensure the correct infrastructure decisions are made to meet community needs.

Stakeholders, including local government, industry experts and the broader community, will work with the EPA over the next six months to provide an evidence base and address the key priorities for the waste and resource recovery sector. This will include examining similar waste strategies in Australia and around the world.

The NSW EPA had released a Draft NSW Waste and Resource Recovery Needs Report 2017-21 in 2017 but the document never went past the consultation stage. The document in itself forecasts the population of NSW will grow to over 8.2 million and it is expected the state will need to process nearly 20 million tonnes of waste. According to the document, there is a known capacity of 31.8 million tonnes of putrescible landfill space per annum, with a gap of 742,000 tonnes per annum.

“Assuming the 2021 resource recovery diversion target is met, NSW will have sufficient existing (or planned and approved) landfill capacity,” the report says.

According to NSW Government’s half-yearly review at the end of 2018, treasury will collect an extra $133.4 million in the current fiscal year alone from its waste levy and an additional $726.7 million over four years. The extra finance suggests additional waste is being landfilled. According to the National Waste Report 2018, core waste (MSW, C&I, C&D) in NSW has grown over the past 11 years by 14 per cent.

FRUSTRATED PROPONENTS

Colin Sweet, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Landfill Owners Association, says that as old landfills filled up, they weren’t replaced with new ones. He recalls the last approval for a putrescible waste landfill was Veolia’s landfill at Woodlawn was well over a decade ago.

“A number of people have tried to get new landfills up and running, but they were either refused or the applicant run out of patience through the planning approval process,” he says.

“You could argue that waste companies looked at how difficult it was to get an approval and how much money was spent to try and get approval and be unsuccessful and that they had very little appetite to commence their own application.”

As a result, Colin says there are no putrescible landfills that receive waste from the Sydney metropolitan area other than SUEZ’s Lucas Heights facility and Veolia’s landfill at its Woodlawn site, despite an appropriate regulatory environment.

The most recent putrescible landfill, that services the Sydney metro area, to be approved was the Woodlawn Bioreactor in 2000 (commissioned in 2004).

Colin says that regional areas lack the capacity to fill the void, with many facing airspace shortages.

He says that the problem is compounded in the event of a bushfire, derailment for Woodlawn, flood or other problem that places either landfill temporarily out of action.

“If one of those facilities shuts down, the other facility doesn’t have the capacity to accept the waste that can no longer go to the facility that is shut down.”

A spokesperson for EPA NSW said natural disasters and other serious incidents can occur at any time or location and the NSW Government has plans in place to respond to such events.

“That planning includes alternative emergency waste management processing and disposal options are available,” they said.

The spokesperson highlighted plans for a 20-year waste strategy for NSW.

“The strategy will set a roadmap towards an integrated waste and resource recovery network across metropolitan and regional NSW, set setting medium-term targets to enable certainty and guide investment by government and industry and strengthen data collection to inform future reform,” they said.

Colin notes that cascading plans exist in Victoria that provide the waste and resource recovery industry with certainty. Sustainability Victoria (SV) has a Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Plan (MWRRG), while the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group also has the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan.

Colin explains that the fact that the EPA is designing an infrastructure plan is not without its flaws.

“The EPA will probably come up with a very good plan from a technical perspective, but it’s the planning department who will effectively decide whether those projects proceed or not,” he says.

A government agency responsible for land use planning across the metropolitan area known as the Greater Sydney Commission has responsibility for planning, but Colin says it does not even come close to Victoria’s quality of waste infrastructure plans. As landfills could take up to 10 years to approve, Colin says the issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

“If you’re going to spend that kind of money over that period of time, you need to have some confidence you will get approval for an environmentally compliant facility which the community needs,” Colin says.

Colin cites Dial-a-Dump’s The Next Generation proposal as one example of the challenges facing NSW landfill planning.

“The Malouf facility made sense because he was going to put his waste to energy facility next to his landfill and could have sent the ash to the landfill via a conveyor belt.”

“Other waste companies would look at that and how much money he spent on trying to get an approval and then ask themselves if they want to spend X amount of dollars,” he says.

IDENTIFYING LAND

Colin says there is virtually no suitably zoned land allocated in NSW for waste management facilities.

As far as the interstate transport to Queensland issue is concerned, Colin questions whether a $70 levy will stop waste from flowing to NSW, which has a $140 levy and higher gate fees for non-putrescible waste. He notes that Sydney will have a gate fee of about $250, including a $140 waste levy versus QLD’s $100 gate fee, including a levy of $70. He says carting waste to NSW may therefore slow waste movement down, but he could not foresee it stopping completely.

“The ideal scenario is that areas within NSW and metropolitan Sydney need to be identified as potential waste management facilities. That also means that within NSW, there needs to be areas marked which are going to be future landfills and those areas would obviously be former or current mining sites.”

“There are other mine sites across NSW, including coal mining, where there are enormous voids, which could be safely used for landfilling.”

Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council says that the difficulty in getting planning approvals over the line is timing.

“The most recent approval was granted in 2017 for the expansion of the Lucas Heights facility. This took between four to five years to get approved.

“Based on past experience approval, the construction of a new landfill would take around eight years allowing for four to five years planning approval and two to three years construction.”

TARGETED INVESTMENT

Rose says that the NSW Government has completely dropped the ball on waste and recycling in the state.

The NSW Waste Less, Recycle More initiative aimed to increase recycling from 63 per cent (2010/11) to 75 per cent (2021/22) diversion from landfill.

“At 2016/17 the diversion rate is 62 per cent even though the government through its Waste Less Recycle More initiative has invested over $500 million from June 2012 to July 2017.

“In 2017-18 alone the NSW Government received $769 million dollars revenue from the waste levy. Why is there so little of the waste levy going back into waste and recycling – an essential community service?”

Rose notes that a needs analysis completed in 2017 by the NSW EPA clearly shows a lack of capacity across the current waste infrastructure to achieve the diversion targets for 2021.
“What has been the government’s response? In 2018, NSW actually reduced it’s capacity to divert waste from landfill by stopping the applicatio

n of mixed waste organics and putting a hold on any progress to establishing energy recovery capacity within the state.”

She says these are two key resource recovery processes essential to diverting more waste from landfill and extending the life of the current putrescible landfills servicing Sydney.

Rose notes that only recently has the NSW Government flagged it will prepare a 20-year NSW Waste Infrastructure Plan that won’t be complet

ed until the end of 2019.

“This is on top of the impacts of China’s National Sword, the impending introduction of the Queensland levy and the vast amount of construction going on in NSW will put substantial pressure on landfill capacity in NSW.”

The main planning challenge that needs to be addressed is the commitment to protecting existing, and identifying new, locations for waste management and resource recovery.

Rose says that while the performance particularly over the last two years of the NSW Government in waste avoidance and resource recovery does not instil a lot of confidence with industry, NWRIC is ever hopeful and committed to working with government.

“NSW has the potential to transform waste management and resource recovery. It has the funding through an annual waste levy of more than $700 million per annum.

“It has a sound Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy and it has a sound planning strategy for the Greater Sydney Region Plan “A metropolis of three cities”. What it currently lacks is leadership and a commitment to actually implement these strategies and deliver on its targets and intentions in a timely manner.”

A spokesperson for SUEZ said that modern and highly engineered landfills play a necessary role in managing New South Wales’ waste, now and in the future.

“SUEZ has an extensive waste management network servicing Sydney which has allowed us to always accept waste to our landfills. However the waste hierarchy also acknowledges the role that energy recovery can play in waste management,” they said.

“In regards to contingency planning, SUEZ maintains business continuity processes at all our facilities as part of our standard operating procedures.”

Marc Churchin – Group General Manager, NSW – Veolia Australia and New Zealand, says that policy certainty and building a collaborative regulatory framework which focuses on extracting and returning value at all stages of the waste lifecycle will make or break NSW’s sustainability leadership.

“In the last ten years, Veolia has committed some $150 million in the development of waste technology and infrastructure to lead the creation of a circular economy including mechanical biological treatment, bioreactor technology, leachate treatment, organics recovery and materials recovery.

“In order for this to continue, and to drive the best outcomes for community, business and municipal sectors, the NSW Government must create optimal conditions for private and public investment in long-term infrastructure which reduces the social and environmental impact of waste.”

A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment refuted claims that it had been historically difficult for proponents to gain approvals for putrescible landfills in metropolitan Sydney.

“Approvals for putrescible landfills in NSW can be granted by either a council or the minister for planning (or his/her delegate). The minister has been the consent authority for only one putrescible landfill in the metropolitan Sydney area in recent years, the Lucas Heights Landfill, which was approved in about 14 months,” they said.

The spokesperson also responded to questions regarding the lengthy approvals process for landfills, whether there was suitably zoned land and the impact of the Queensland levy.

“The department is not aware of a putrescible landfill approval which the minister for Planning (or his delegate) was the consent authority taking 10 years.”

“The State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007 permits waste facilities, including putrescible landfills, in a range of appropriate zones across the state, including some rural, industrial and special purpose zones.”

“The department is working with the EPA and the waste industry to assist in addressing the impacts of the Queensland levy where appropriate. Representatives of the department are also active members of the National Sword taskforce which is a whole of government group addressing a range of issues brought on by the limits imposed on the export of waste.”

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NSW EPA to develop 20-year waste strategy

The NSW EPA, in partnership with Infrastructure NSW, is developing a 20-year waste strategy for the state.

The strategy aims to set a 20-year vision for reducing waste, driving sustainable recycling markets and identifying and improving the state and regional waste infrastructure network.

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It will also aim to provide the waste industry with certainty and set goals and incentives to ensure the correct infrastructure decisions are made to meet community needs.

Stakeholders, including local government, industry experts and the broader community, will work with the EPA over the next six months to provide an evidence base and address the key priorities for the waste and resource recovery sector.

This will include examining similar waste strategies in Australia and around the world.

A long-term vision and roadmap will include new long-term goals for waste generation and landfill diversion, new policy positions and strategic decisions that aim to avoid waste and improve resource recovery, and a plan for new or enhanced policies to improve waste collection.

A framework for the delivery of an integrated state network will be part of the roadmap, along with aims to align policy and regulation to achieve long term strategic objectives and a plan to strengthen data quality and access.

The strategy is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

VIC councils receive $16.5M e-waste infrastructure funding

The Victorian Government has awarded 76 councils a share of $16.5 million to improve the state’s e-waste infrastructure.

Funding will go towards upgrading more than 130 e-waste collection and storage sites and help local councils to safely store and collect increasing amounts of e-waste.

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The funding aims to assist councils prepare for the state’s ban on e-waste which will come into effect in July 2019.

The upgrades aim to ensure 98 per cent of Victorians in metropolitan areas are within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point and 98 per cent of regional Victorians are within a 30-minute drive from a disposal point.

Councils will receive discarded electronics which will then be stripped of components for reprocessing or sold on the second-hand goods market.

Applications will also open in November for a share of $790,000 to deliver local education campaigns, with councils able to apply for up to $10,000 in funding.

E-waste is defined as anything with a plug or a battery that has reached the end of its useful life, including phones, computers, white goods, televisions and air conditioners.

The amount of e-waste generated in Victoria is projected to increase from 109,000 tonnes in 2015 to 256,000 tonnes in 2035.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the funding will ensure the state has one of the best e-waste collection infrastructure networks in Australia.

“We’re delivering on our promise to maximise recycling and minimise the damage e-waste has on our environment,” she said.

Amazon invests $10M into US recycling infrastructure

Global logistics company Amazon has announced it will invest $10 million USD into a social impact investment fund to support recycling infrastructure in the United States.

The investment into Closed Loop Fund aims to increase kerbside recycling for 3 million homes around the US to make it easier for customers to recycle and develop end markets for recycled goods.

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An estimated one million tonnes will be diverted from landfill into the recycling stream, which would eliminate the equivalent of 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxides by 2028.

Closed Loop Fund provides cities and recycling companies access to funding to build recycling programs and aims to invest $100 million USD by 2020 to create economic value for cities and build circular supply chains.

The fund aims to improve recycling for more than 18 million households and save around $60 million USD for American cities.

Amazon Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations Dave Clark said the investment will help build local capabilities needed to make it easier for Amazon customers and their communities to recycle.

“We are investing in Closed Loop Fund’s work because we think everyone should have access to easy, convenient kerbside recycling,” he said.

“The more we are all able to recycle, the more we can reduce our collective energy, carbon, and water footprint.”

Closed Loop Fund CEO Ron Gonen said Amazon’s investment is an example of how recycling is good business in America.

“Companies are seeing that they can meet consumer demand and reduce costs while supporting a more sustainable future and growing good jobs across the country,” he said.

“We applaud Amazon’s commitment to cut waste, and we hope their leadership drives other brands and retailers to follow suit.”

Image Credit: Amazon

WA Govt releases draft strategy to reduce 20 per cent of waste by 2030

The WA Waste Authority has released a draft of its Waste Strategy 2030 for comment, outlining key strategies to reduce waste by 20 per cent by 2030.

Other key targets include increasing material recovery to 70 per cent by 2025 and 75 per cent by 2030, and to only recover energy from residual waste.

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It also sets a target of sending no more than 15 per cent of the waste generated in the Perth and Peel regions to be landfilled by 2030.

Strategies to reach these targets include a food organics and garden organics (FOGO) kerbside collection system across the Perth and Peel regions by 2025, provided by local governments with support from the state.

The draft outlines implementing sustainable government procurement practices that encourage the usage of recycled products and support local market development.

A review of the waste levy will also be undertaken to ensure its scope and application meets the objectives of the Waste Strategy 2030.

Statewide communications to support consistent messaging on reducing waste will be developed as part of the strategy, alongside implementing local government waste plans to align planning processes with the new targets laid out.

Data collection and reporting systems will be updated according to the strategy to allow waste generation, recovery and disposal performance be assessed quickly.

A strategy to guide future infrastructure development includes a review of WA’s waste infrastructure and landfills to occur by 2020.

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said in the report WA has an obligation to its current community and future generations to generate less waste, extract more resources and better manage the disposal of waste.

“Waste Strategy 2030 rises to address that challenge and the opportunities that better choices and better waste management present,” Mr Dawson said.

“We will have to work hard to meet the ambitious targets set out in this strategy and deliver against long-standing issues in the waste community. We won’t, for example, be able to meet our 2025 recovery targets without all metropolitan local government’s adopting a three-bin FOGO system, and I will work with those local governments to achieve this.

“Waste is everyone’s business – individuals, households, neighbourhoods, community groups, schools, small and big businesses, local governments, waste managers, the state government and the media,” he said.

Comments on the Waste Strategy 2030 should be sent to wastestrategyreview@wasteauthority.wa.gov.au and are due by Tuesday 6 November.

ACOR releases 10 point recycling plan for National Waste Policy

The Australian Council of Recycling has released a 10-point plan for results-based recycling, which has been submitted to the consultation process for the new National Waste Policy.

It aims to assist the industry and government reaching the goal of 100 per cent recovery of recyclable, compostable, reusable or recoverable materials and their diversion from landfill.

The plan details public policy measures such as reforming waste levies to focus on increasing recycling rates with an exemption of recycling residuals across each state.

It also recommends a $1.5 billion investment of waste disposal levy funds into recycling, with transparency and allocation to resource recovery objectives. This funding could potentially be used to invest in recyclate market development and commercialisation projects, improving infrastructure and technology used for sorting and reprocessing, investment into data collection for decision making, and investment into the cost of kerbside recycling.

A landfill ban for batteries, e-waste, and other potentially hazardous materials is recommended in the report as a way of making end of life producer responsibility the way to pay for recycling.

It also recommends a national recycling infrastructure audit, development of new metrics for waste, recycling and resource recovery activity beyond tonnes diverted, the examination of trends and how to optimise parallel container deposit schemes to build a sustainable domestic recycling sector through national industry development.

The plan includes the introduction of a resource recovery incentive for industry with different tax levels for virgin and recycled material in packaging and road construction.

Improving contestability in the recycling sector, creating a dedicated Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding initiative to support recyclate materials collection and sorting, and using more energy recovered from residual waste to generate sustainable energy are key measures to improve recycling according to the report.

The plan also outlines standardising recycling methods and improving government approaches to planning, regulation and enforcement.

To read the plan, click here.

SA Govt invests $3.2M into recycling infrastructure

More than $3.2 million in funding has been approved by the South Australian government for 17 recycling infrastructure projects.

It is part of the state government’s $12.4 million support package announced in May in response to China’s National Sword Policy.

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The funding was delivered through Green Industries SA and covers a range of recycling, waste management and resource recovery projects.

More than $600,000 has been invested into infrastructure that deals directly with recovering and recycling plastic waste.

Around $424,000 has been invested into improving Material Recovery Facilities in Mt Gambier and $357,000 for end of life vehicle recycling.

Projects that improve the infrastructure to recycle post-consumer paper in the Australian market have also received $250,000.

SA Environment Minister David Speirs said China’s National Sword policy was a catalyst to increase the range of our recycled materials and develop local markets as a priority.

“This funding supports a range of projects in both the private sector and local government, across metropolitan and regional South Australia,” he said.

“This investment in the remanufacturing, re-use, and recovery sector helps maintain our world leading diversion results, where 83.4 per cent of all our waste is diverted from landfill.

“The State Government funding of more than $3.2 million has been matched by the applicants, unlocking more than $7.9 million of investment for 17 projects that support an estimated 36 full time jobs,” Mr Speirs said.

The next round of grant funding to support and develop recycling infrastructure is now available.

CEFC invests $30M into Visy Industries

Packaging and resource recovery company Visy Industries plans to invest $30 million of Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) finance across a range of energy efficient, renewable and low-emissions technologies over the next four years.

Visy plans to use the funds to increase waste recycling and processing capabilities while also offsetting the impact of changes in the international recycling market.

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CEFC’s finance is part of a pipeline of potential projects to increase Visy’s manufacturing capacity to recycle waste materials by 10 per cent and improve the energy efficiency of the company’s large-scale manufacturing operations.

Visy’s pipeline includes better processing and sorting technology to increase the amount of material which can be recycled as well as increased energy generation to offset grid energy needs.

The company currently recycles 1.2 million tonnes of paper and cardboard each year and expects to increase its capacity by 10 per cent as a result of the $30 million investment program.

The CEFC aims to increase its investments in waste-related projects as part of its goal to reduce Australia’s overall emissions.

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said Visy is a leader in recycling and the use of energy efficient and renewable energy technologies and that the CEFC was proud to work with the company to respond to the waste crisis.

“As a community, we need to reduce our overall waste as well as invest in more sustainable management of remaining waste. This includes extracting energy from non-recyclable waste to replace fossil fuels, as well as increasing our ability to recycle paper and packaging waste onshore,” Mr Learmonth said.

“As a major Australian manufacturer, Visy is also leading the way in investing in energy efficient equipment and technologies to help power its 24-hour operations. We see this as a model for other manufacturers grappling with high energy prices and commend Visy on its leadership.”

According to the International Energy Agency, Australia’s manufacturers are the most energy intensive in the world and accounted for around 40 per cent of natural gas consumption in 2014-15.

Visy Chairman Anthony Pratt said the company was pleased to partner with the CEFC to improve sustainability.

“Visy has pledged to invest $2 billion in Australian manufacturing to create jobs, increase efficiencies and boost sustainability,” Mr Pratt said.

CEFC Bioenergy Sector Lead Henry Anning said with the investment into Visy, it will be able to upgrade its existing infrastructure as well as invest in new equipment.

“We see clean energy technologies playing an increasingly important role in enabling Australian industry to reduce its energy intensity and better manage its energy-related operating costs,” he said.

“Visy is already a great example of this, meeting a part of its energy needs, including heat, through its existing biomass and energy from waste investments.

“The CEFC finance will allow Visy to further complement these energy sources with new investment to lift the overall energy efficiency of its operations. These are proven technologies that can be considered right across the manufacturing sector.”

Image: Henry Anning

City of Yarra uses recycled glass and plastic in road resurfacing

Around 100 tonnes of recycled glass and plastic have been used in a road resurfacing project in Melbourne’s City of Yarra.

A road resurfacing trial took place in the suburb of Richmond, with Stanley and Margaret Street repaved with an asphalt product containing recycled glass, asphalt and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic.

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The project repurposed around 7300 two litres plastic bottles and 55,000 glass bottles, which is equivalent to the annual kerbside recycling collection for every household on Stanley Street.

The City of Yarra engaged recycling company Alex Fraser for the project and has called on the company to repair and repave more streets in the coming weeks, which will use an additional 1000 tonnes of sustainable asphalt.

Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy said this was a prime example of how a circular economy can be achieved – with government, industry and community working together to recycle problem waste streams, and invest in recycled materials to build new, sustainable infrastructure.

“The City of Yarra’s progressive approach to the use of sustainable material is an excellent illustration of how local councils can proactively reuse the waste generated in their communities to build and maintain their cities while reducing the carbon footprint of their projects by up to 65 per cent,” Mr Murphy said.

City of Yarra Mayor Daniel Nguyen said the City of Yarra had worked with Alex Fraser to incorporate sustainable materials like glass and recycled concrete into its road works.

“As a council with a strong focus on sustainability we are excited about using recycled plastics in our latest roadworks for the wide range of environmental benefits it delivers,” said Cr Nguyen.

TSA implements Demonstration and Infrastructure funding stream

Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) has expanded to include a Demonstration and Infrastructure stream to grow the end market for tyre-derived products.

The new project stream will support projects that offer significant domestic use of tyre-derived products and demonstrate their benefits and viability to potential end users and product specifiers.

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A minimum 1:1 funding criterion is required for all projects, with a minimum funding level of $50,000 excluding GST and maximum of $300,000 excluding GST, however considerations will be given for larger or smaller project cash contribution on a dollar for dollar basis if the case can be made for the achievement of greater outcomes.

Applications will be assessed most favourably if a project consumes high volumes of Australian tyre-derived products and are considered innovative by TSA. Projects that can demonstrate a strong correlation between the delivery of the project and ongoing consumption of tyre derived products will also be strongly considered.

Projects must have collaborative partnerships between industry, research bodies and end users such as councils, road authorities, manufacturers or civil engineering and construction companies to demonstrate a realistic market application.

One example is the testing performed by state road authorities of the application of the newly released Australian Asphalt Pavement Association national specifications for crumbed rubber containing asphalt.

Other projects include the University of Melbourne’s trial to develop an optimum blend of permeable paving that uses recycled tyres to create footpaths, bike paths, carparks and low volume traffic roads which also can provide water to nearby trees.

The expanded funding stream does not allow funding of recycling infrastructure, seed funding for new ventures, clean-up of stockpiles or for feasibility studies.

TSA has already committed more than $3 million in support of research and development projects that focus on finding new domestic uses for tyre derived products.

For more information and to apply, click here.