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Sydney has been ranked Australia’s most sustainable city in 2018, according to the Sustainable Cities Index from Arcadis.
The index ranks 100 cities on three pillars of sustainability which it defines as people, planet and profit.
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Australian cities were mostly located in the centre of the list, with Sydney and Canberra reaching 34th and 35th place. Brisbane was listed as the 44th most sustainable while Melbourne trailed behind at 56.
All of the cities on the list performed well on people focused measures, scoring high in health, education and digital enablement. Cities performed moderately well when it came to profit due to employment and ease of doing business.
However, each Australian city scored worse in the planet pillar, with greenhouse gas emissions and waste management common issues across all four cities.
London was ranked the most sustainable city, with eight of the top ten spots being European cities.
The 2018 Sustainable Cities Index emphasised the impact of how digital technologies have impacted on citizen’s experience of the city, but it found that technology is not yet able to mitigate things like traffic jams, unaffordable transport options, the absence of green space or the uncertainties caused by ageing infrastructure.
Arcadis Australian Cities Director Stephen Taylor said with no Australian city cracking the top 30, there is a need to improve the long-term sustainability, resilience and performance of our cities.
“Across our cities, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, we’ve seen a real shift over the last few years beyond green sustainability to social sustainability. Both government and private developments are increasingly focusing on how projects can better improve communities, including financial gains and community wellness,” Mr Taylor said.
“Despite the middle of the road rankings, the nation’s strong focus on developing integrated transit systems, addressing affordability and embracing sustainability in construction are all positive signs for future improvement across the three pillars,” he said.
Sacyr Environment Australia is building a new organics plant to divert waste from Melbourne landfills.
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More than 60 tonnes of waste have been diverted from landfill thanks to a machine installed by the City of Melbourne that turns food scraps into waste water.
Over the last year, the ORCA aerobic digestion system has used micro-organisms to transform 62 tonnes of food scraps from the busy Degraves street face precinct into greywater, making it one of the most heavily used machines of its type in Australia.
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ORCA Enviro Systems Executive General Manager Tas Papas said micro-organisms in the unit digest the waste, creating wastewater that goes straight into the sewer system via a grease arrestor.
The ORCA is basically a mechanical “stomach” that digests fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy and proteins, so you end up with greywater that is safe to put into the drain without resorting to landfill,” Mr Papas said.
“Degraves Street cafes set aside food waste as part of their daily operations. By diverting the food waste from landfill, we are also able to prevent greenhouse gases from escaping into the environment.
“Over the course of a year, that also means more than 8,000 litres in diesel fuel is saved because fewer trucks are needed on the road.”
Because space is a premium in the city centre, ORCA was chosen to handle the increased volume of food waste being generated from the busy café district.
“The ORCA has helped City of Melbourne to build strong support among local businesses for food recycling efforts and keep the bustling precinct clean and appealing,” Mr Papas said.
The machine was installed in the Degraves Street recycling Facility in May 2017. The ORCA is rolling out across Australia in pubs, shopping centres, food courts and hotels.
Organic waste from eight Melbourne councils will be sent to a new composting facility, to be built by international waste management company Sacyr Group.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will commit up to $35 million towards the new composting facility.
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The $65 million South Eastern Organics Processing Facility will be the most advanced of its type in Victoria and will produce approximately 50,000 tonnes of high grade compost each year.
The compost will be made from processed household garden and food waste from council kerbside green waste collections in Melbourne’s south-east, which will then be used on local parks and gardens.
Food and green waste makes up an estimated 42 per cent of landfill for Australia’s municipal and commercial waste streams.
The Melbourne councils include Bayside, Cardinia, Casey, Frankston, Glen Eira, Greater Dandenong, Kingston and Monash.
Sacyr expects the fully-enclosed, in-vessel aerobic composting and maturation plant will be operational by mid-2019. It will aim to operate for 15 years, with a potential five-year extension.
The new facility will have an annual processing capacity of 120,000 tonnes of waste each year, the equivalent of 12,000 truckloads of waste. It is expected to abate more than 65,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually. This would cut the greenhouse gas emissions from landfill by 85 per cent if it were to be landfilled, which is equivalent to taking 13,900 cars off the road.
Sacyr Group has built 48 plants around the world and handles more than three million tonnes of waste each year. It currently operates in Australia through its subsidiary, Sacyr Water, which has built and operates the Binningup desalination plant.
The technology used in the plant has been developed over two decades, ensures plant storage reservoirs are completely closed, and uses efficient and reliable deodorisation systems.
Federal Government Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said converting waste to compost can play a part in Australia’s long-term waste solutions.
“This facility alone, which will be the most advanced of its type in Victoria, can process around 12,000 truckloads of waste per year,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“It means food and organic waste produced by south east Melbourne residents will not end up in landfill and will instead produce high-grade compost for our gardens and parks.”
CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the corporation is looking across the economy to identify finance opportunities to reduce Australia’s emissions.
“We’re pleased to be making our first project investment to help councils and communities tackle emissions from their organic waste,” he said.
“When organic waste such as food and green waste ends up in landfill it breaks down and produces methane. With this technology, councils can avoid those emissions by turning their organic waste into reusable compost, while also reducing our unsustainable reliance on landfill as a waste disposal option.
“We strongly endorse the principle of avoiding and reducing waste at the source. Our finance is about effectively manage the remaining waste, so that it doesn’t end up as landfill and we make a meaningful difference to our greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Learmonth said.
CEFC Bioenergy Sector lead Henry Anning said the CEFC finance model for the Melbourne project was an industry first, providing councils with access to a project financing structure that has rarely been leveraged across local government.
“Australia’s waste sector is facing enormous challenges, because of the growing amount of waste we produce as well as increasing community concerns about the way we handle that waste. This new Melbourne facility provides us with a practical and proven way to turn organic waste into a reusable commodity at the same time as avoiding harmful emissions,” Mr Anning said.
“We expect to see more councils and communities consider innovative ways to manage all forms of waste. This innovative project finance model offers opportunities for other groups of councils considering investing in substantial waste management infrastructure to reduce landfill waste.”
Around 80 retail and hospitality businesses have gathered for the City of Melbourne’s first waste forum, which looked at ways to assist medium sized businesses could reduce waste.
The forum resulted in more than 200 practical ideas and concepts which will be compiled and reviewed by the City of Melbourne as part of the council’s ongoing programs to assist small and medium businesses in the city.
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The top 10 ideas for waste reduction were identified in the forum and included installing more recycling bins across the city, installing additional organics recycling facilities and providing incentives for businesses to reduce their waste.
Additional ideas for businesses to reduce waste included the introduction of grants or loans and education to improve waste management.
Collaboration between businesses and waste collectors was also identified as a way of improving recycling.
Other ideas identified included the collection of unwanted office or shop fit out furniture for reuse and investigating a city-wide coffee/tea cup exchange system.
Participants included businesses involved in the council’s initial pilot program, which saw 27 businesses receive a $2000 grant to embark on waste reduction activities.
City of Melbourne Councillor Susan Riley recognised the need to look at ways to help small to medium sized retail and hospitality businesses to reduce waste.
“Reducing waste does so much more than just help to clean up the environment, it also can reduce costs, increase sales and even cut the number of garbage trucks on the city streets,” Cr Riley said.
“The level of insight and the number of opportunities for businesses to work together to reduce waste is inspiring.”
“Nothing is being ruled out, we’re open to all ideas and we want retailers and businesses to share their thoughts as we plan for a rapidly growing city.”
Image Credit: City of Melbourne
A new trial aims to divert spent coffee grounds from landfill and repurpose them into higher value uses.
Planet Ark will begin the Coffee 4 Planet Ark trial in September in Sydney, in collaboration Bingo industries and with leading coffee roasters and members, such as Lavazza. Tata Global Beverages via its Map Coffee brand will collect spent coffee grounds from limited corporate businesses in Melbourne.
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The program aims to roll out around the country in 2019 after it identifies the best and most cost-effective collection method.
Planet Ark undertook a 2016 feasibility study that found almost 2800 tonnes of spent coffee grounds are sent to landfill in Sydney alone.
Once in landfill, the grounds would begin to break down and produce methane. Diverting the spent grounds from Sydney would save approximately 1600 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually, according to the study.
To develop new end uses for coffee grounds, Planet Ark has begun working with the SMaRT centre at the University of New South Wales. It has also secured a partnership with Circular Food to produce a nutrient rich soil fertiliser called Big Bio, which will utilise the collected grounds.
Planet Ark CEO Paul Klymenko said the Coffee 4 Planet Ark program was an important step in ensuring spent coffee grounds were being used to their greatest potential rather than entering landfill.
‘Currently, the vast majority of coffee grounds produced after extracting your coffee are going to landfill. Planet Ark believes in creating a circular economy where all resources are used to their greatest potential,’ Mr Klymenko said.
‘We are thrilled to be working with some of Australia’s leading coffee roasters to trial a collection and repurposing system for coffee ground waste.’
A new business case for a new Centre of Excellence for Resource recovery will be developed for western Melbourne.
The Victorian Government, the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recover Group, waste industry and local councils will come together to develop the business case as part of the Western Metropolitan Partnership.
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It will act as an advisory group established by the state government to provide a way for communities to directly engage with state and local governments. The partnership will also aim to provide advice on the top priorities for jobs, services and infrastructure.
In 2017, the partnership advised there was a need for well-planned suburbs and improved waste management.
Local government areas covered by the partnership include Maribyrnong City Council, Brimbank City Council, Melton City Council, Hobsons Bay City Council, Moonee Valley City Council and Wyndham City Council.
The business case will be delivered under the $37 million Recycling Industry Strategic Plan.
Edith Cowan University (ECU) will begin phasing out single-use plastic water bottles and straws across all of its campuses from the start of semester two.
It follows initiatives on the east coast from the Universities of Canberra, Melbourne, Sunshine Coast and Monash University.
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ECU said it believes it is the first Western Australian University to limit the use of plastic water bottles on campus.
The phase out will be done as part of a staged approach to restrict single-use plastic water bottles. Beginning with around 40 events it holds on its campuses, ECU will instead provide water refill stations.
The university is also investigating solutions including an increase to the number of water fountains on campus, offering free or discounted multi-use water bottles on campus and discussing with commercial tenants for alternatives to single-use bottles.
ECU Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Chapman said it was a big step forward for the University.
“With around 30,000 students and 1800 staff, we can make a huge difference by taking this first step to limit single-use plastic water bottles at our campus events,” Professor Chapman said.
“It’s also financially responsible. More than 90 per cent of the cost of bottled water can be traced back to the bottle, lid and label.
“This is not a ban. This is about education and providing alternatives. By offering high quality, convenient options to students, staff and visitors, we are confident we can reduce the demand for single-use plastic water bottles on our campuses.