Return and Earn sees half a billion containers returned

More than half a billion containers have been returned to Return and Earn reverse vending machines in NSW, eight months after the scheme launched.

The container deposit scheme aims to improve recycling rates and reduce the volume of litter in the state by 40 per cent by 2020.

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Each eligible container is worth 10 cents when returned to a reverse vending machine or depot.

Drink containers litter currently makes up 44 per cent of the volume of all litter throughout NSW and costs more than $162 million to manage, according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) was the first educational institution to install a reverse vending machine as part of the scheme.

UNSW Senior Manager, Environmental Sustainability Will Syddall said that while this initiative helps to reduce littering and improve recycling rates, it is just one step in improving the way we create and manage waste.

“In the waste hierarchy, reducing and reusing resources is better than recycling them. We encourage the community to use reusable water bottles and coffee cups so that they can avoid disposable cups and bottles altogether,” Mr Syddall said.

“We also recognise that we have more work to do to reduce the amount of single-use plastic and other consumables used on our campuses.”

According to the World Bank, half of the plastic ever manufactured was made in the last 15 years.

Industry, government and community tackle plastic waste

Industry giants, community groups and government bodies came together to tackle the issue of plastic packaging waste in Australia.

Consumer goods manufacturers Coca Cola, Danone, Unilever and Kellogg’s, tech companies Fuji Xerox and Dell, supermarkets Coles and Aldi and senior figures from the NSW Environment Protection Authority met with local community groups to discuss the future of plastic packaging in consumer goods.

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The event was hosted by the Boomerang Alliance with the support of Bloomberg Australia, and examined the infrastructure holes that need to be filled in order to improve Australia’s capacity for waste collection, processing and recycling.

Representatives from Clean Up Australia, Responsible Cafes, Bye Bye Plastic, Planet Ark, Close the Loop and the local Sydney councils of Randwick, Waverly and Inner West Councils also added to the discussion.

A guest panel of speakers shared their expertise and included Australian Packaging Covenant CEO Brooke Donnelly, Waste Management Association Australia CEO Gayle Sloan, Founder of BioPak Richard Fine, and Nature’s Organics CEO Jo Taranto.

Ms Sloan said every council’s waste management has the same definition in their contracts regarding what’s recyclable.

“We have conveyors and depending on the money and infrastructure available, they’ll use infrareds to split out the different types of plastics,” she said.

Most material recovery facilities do this but at a cost and we don’t have enough people buying back [the recycled material]. That’s the problem.”

Mr Fine said it is important that companies are marketing their products as compostable get certified to a recognised standard.

“There’s a lot of greenwashing out there providing vague claims of ‘biodegradable’ which is confusing the consumer and damaging the industry as a lot of these products will simply break down and fragment into small pieces,” he said.

Pictured left to right: Richard Fine, Brooke Donnelly, Justin Dowel, Jo Toranto, Gayle Sloan, Jayne Paramor.

Waste and recycling receive $196M in NSW Budget

The NSW Government has received $162 million more than expected from its waste and environmental levy, while at the same time committing $196 million reduce waste, strengthen recycling and protect the health of the environment in its 2018-19 state budget.

According to the budget papers, the government received a revised $727 million from its waste and environment levy, which it attributes to strong construction sector activity.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority budget for 2018-19 includes $70 million to improve waste management and resource recovery, $8 million for the management of contaminated land and $5 million for asbestos management and emergency clean-up.

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NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the budget provides support for programs and initiatives to reduce litter and waste, while also strengthening recycling and tackling illegal dumping.

“Diverting waste from landfill is a key priority and the NSW Government has set targets to increase the diversion of waste from landfill from 63 per cent in 2014-15 to 75 per cent by 2021,” Ms Upton said.

“The Premier has also made it a priority to reduce the volume of litter in NSW by 40 per cent by 2020, achieved through Return and Earn, Hey Tosser and council and community litter prevention grants.”

In March, a $47 million support package was also announced for the local government and industry to respond to China’s National Sword policy.

“The support package provides a range of short, medium and long-term programs to ensure kerbside recycling continues and to promote industry innovation.”

Ms Upton said there is also funding for the emergency clean-up of asbestos, managing James Hardie Asbestos legacy sites at Parramatta and support for the Broken Hill Lead program and the management of PFAS.

Return and Earn donations to help Tathra Bushfire Appeal

Donations from NSW Return and Earn refunds can now be sent towards those who have been devastated by the Tathra bushfires.

TOMRA has announced the Tathra Bushfire Appeal has become an official donation partner, allowing 10c donations for each container returned under the state’s container deposit scheme at any reverse vending machine from across NSW.

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Recyclers are able to donate their funds by choosing the option on the reverse vending machine, which will then go towards helping the people of Tathra to rebuild their lives and homes.

TOMRA Chief Executive Officer Ryan Buzzell, says, “It’s such an easy way for people to help out others in need and our team have worked very hard to make this happen quickly, so we ask everyone to give as generously as they can this month.”

Environmental group Take 3 for the Sea has stepped aside to give the Tathra Bushfire Appeal to have the opportunity to raise funds until the end of April.

Take 3 for the Sea Co-Founder Tim Silverwood says, “It’s a terrible thing for anyone to have to experience, so we were really keen to do what we could and I hope that people will find it in their hearts to help the people of Tathra get back on their feet again.”

TOMRA Cleanaway is the network provider for the Return and Earn scheme, with TOMRA providing the vending machines and Cleanaway handling the logistics and sorting.

There are more than 535 collection points across NSW, with the scheme seeing 200 million containers returned in 16 weeks.

Food waste compost combats NSW weeds

The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA) has been able to use compost as a weed suppressant to reduce African lovegrass and improve soil quality.

The Monaro lovegrass project was delivered by Australian Soil Management (ASM) with a $50,000 grant from the NSW EPA’s Organics Market development program.

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Compost made by Snowy Monaro Regional Council from kerbside food and garden waste was blended with supplements to address deficiencies in soil tests and compost analysis.

Two farms at Billilingra at Bredbo and Macfield at Cooma were selected for the project to develop a method for compost use to control lovegrass on the two major soil types in the Monaro region.

The company tested the soil and mapped each site before applying compost to fill soil nutrient gaps.

Both sites recorded an approximate 50 per cent reduction in lovegrass, along with more preferred species, improved pasture quality and more nutrition for cattle.

ASM estimates that within five years, because of the composts efficiency to improve pastures, there would be no need for winter feed of hay or fodder crops.

Results of the project have been shared with farmers at field days and workshops. The NSW EPA says that ten tonnes of compost was sold for immediate pick-up, and followed by a steady increase in the region’s compost sales to 250 tonnes.

NSW Government’s $47M National Sword package

The NSW Government has announced it will release a $47 million package to support local government and industry in response to China’s National Sword policy.

China is the largest importer of recyclable materials from Australia, and the new policy restricts the types of waste that will be accepted.

A one-off package is planned to respond to this, and is funded by the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative and aims to provide short, medium and long term initiative to ensure kerbside recycling continues.

The funding will allow councils to offset extra costs associated with kerbside collections, improve council tendering processes to increase production and use of recycled products, and fund community education to reduce recycling contamination.

The package also includes $9.5 million for industry and local government to invest in infrastructure projects to find new uses for recyclable materials and reduce the amount of unrecyclable materials at the end of the process.

Guidelines have been set in place to ensure applicants seeking funding address the National Sword policy, represent better value for money and demonstrate benefits for the community.

Recycling facilities can also apply to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to temporarily vary their stockpile limits, with facilities being assessed to demonstrate appropriate safety measures remain in place.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the NSW Government is committed to working with the recycling industry and local councils to ensure it continues having a strong kerbside recycling system.

“I have met with industry and government stakeholders to hear first-hand about how we can address the current global challenges to the recycling market in NSW,” Ms Upton said.

“The short-term need for increased stockpiles of recycled material during this critical time must be balanced with the safety of the community and the environment,” she said.

An inter-government taskforce is also being established to urgently progress a longer-term response to National Sword in partnership with industry and councils.

“I have also written to the Federal Environment Minister to urgently progress the work on this issue and the long-term solutions at a national level.”

The Australian Council of Recycling has welcomed the NSW Government’s recycling package.

“In the context of the unprecedented impact of China’s new settings on Australia’s recycling system, the NSW Government package can help relieve short-term pressure while also building longer-term resilience for the recycling system. That’s an important step forward to ensuring that recycling can continue to deliver job and environmental benefits for NSW residents,” ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said.

“It is good to also note that the NSW Government is urging a national approach and we will be calling on all Ministers to adopt an Australian Recycling Resilience Plan to future-focus our industry and drive toward a circular economy that makes fullest use of what comes out of our homes and onto our kerbs,” he said.

“It’s time to shift from ‘crisis’ mode to claiming recycling’s potential as a major national industry of the future.”

 

NSW Illegal Dumping Strategy updated

The NSW Government has committed $65 million and updated the NSW Illegal Dumping Strategy to clamp down on illegal littering.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton announced the changes, saying they would help make NSW a cleaner state by 2021.

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“The NSW Illegal Dumping Strategy tackles a serious environmental and health issue,” Ms Upton said.

“It is backed by ambitious targets and a significant financial commitment to cut the rate of illegal dumping across the State by nearly a third.”

The NSW Illegal Dumping Strategy outline key actions to stop illegal dumping. It discusses the value of education, collaborative partnerships, enforcement and infrastructure.

NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will deliver the updated strategy by partnering with public land managers, local government, charities and community groups.

Funding has gone towards certain initiatives, with $9 million for regional illegal dumping squads to help prevent and clean up dumped rubbish, $3 million for the Clean-up and prevention program that helps land managers and community groups, and $1 million to the Aboriginal Land Clean-up and Prevention Program.

RIDonline, the NSW EPA’s illegal dumping database, has been expended to let the community report incidents.

“This Government is committed to a cleaner NSW and this Strategy will help us continue to work to reduce dumping in our community areas and environment,” Ms Upton said.

The strategy can be found here.

Almost 100 million containers collected by NSW Return and Earn

Almost 100 million containers have been returned since the NSW Return and Earn scheme began in December last year, according to the official website.

Reverse vending machine technology, alongside over-the-counter and automated depots have helped NSW reach this goal. As of Monday, the website showed more than 98 million containers collected.

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NSW Minister for Environment, Gabrielle Upton said more than five million drink containers had been returned over the second weekend of February.

Nepean Distributors, a drinks product supplier to schools and sporting club canteens, have been supporting the scheme and having a positive impact on the local community, according to EPA NSW.

In two months, Nepean Distributors has processed 133,034 containers, with over record of 11,879 in a day.

“It is making people, especially kids and teenagers, think about recycling. We want to help change their mindset to think about their environment and cleaning up their local park,” Managing Director of Nepean Distributors, Anthony Morrissey said.

They have also teamed up with local sports groups such as Macarthur BMX to help fundraise for the club and encourage locals to donate their refunds to charities like the African AIDS Foundation.

Organics market development grants open: EPA NSW

The Tasmanian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is considering a proposal for an organics processing facility at Mowbray in Launceston.

NSW businesses, councils, agricultural associations and project communicators can now apply for the second round of grants to promote the benefits of compost into new markets.

Grants worth up to $300,000 are available to provide funding for projects that will build markets for compost made from household food and garden waste, including material collected from kerbside bins.

Example projects that are eligible for funding include showcasing compost benefits to farmers, demonstrating benefits to soil health, or improving market confidence by promoting the high standard of modern compost quality.

Previous rounds of grants have already funded projects that have demonstrated how compost builds resilient turf on sporting fields and improves soil health on farms in Sydney and the Riverina.

EPA Unit Head Organics Amanda Kane said the grants gave business, councils and agricultural associations the chance to deliver projects that could make a real difference when it came to organic waste.

“From saving good food from being wasted and addressing food insecurity in our state, to increasing NSW capacity to process more collected green waste, we’re tackling organics waste from every angle,” Ms Kane said.

“This funding is helping to build strong, viable markets for a quality recycled product and supports other programs to increase supply through more collections and infrastructure to build the capacity of the industry in NSW to process more.”

The grants are being delivered through the NSW EPA’s Waste Less Recycle More initiative.

Applications close 28 March, 2018.