Applications open for $13 million NSW EPA grants

A total of $13.3 million in grants is now available to councils, waste companies and not-for-profit organisations to divert food and garden waste from landfill.

NSW EPA Head of Organics Amanda Kane said the Organics Infrastructure grants fall under the EPA’s $802 million Waste Less Recycle More initiative, which aims to establish wider organics recovery infrastructure.

“The grants support the purchase of a broad range of infrastructure and equipment to recycle food and garden waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill,” Ms Kane said.

“Through the grant program, $43 million has already been provided to fund 89 projects that have made a positive impact on local communities.”

Environmental Trust Director Grants Tina Bidese said funding would be delivered through a partnership between the EPA and the NSW Environmental Trust.

“Working together, the Environmental Trust and EPA are offering a major opportunity for matched investment in infrastructure to recover more food and garden waste,” Ms Bidese said.

“In doing so, we’re reducing the environmental impacts of organics waste in landfill and making the most of a valuable resource that can be recycled into compost, where it benefits soils and helps crops grow.”

Applications for five grant streams are available:

— Organics Processing Infrastructure: up to $3 million for new organics facilities or facility upgrades to process more food and garden waste.

— Onsite Business Recycling: up to $500,000 for infrastructure and equipment for on-site processing or pre-processing of source separated food and garden waste.

— Food Donation Infrastructure: up to $500,000 to not-for-profit organisations for equipment to collect, store and redistribute quality surplus food.

— Product Quality: up to $500,000 for equipment to improve recycled organics product quality.

— Transfer Stations: up to $500,000 for infrastructure to establish new or upgrade existing transfer stations to receive food and garden waste

The EPA is hosting two webinars 17 July 2019 to assist potential applicants.

Applications close 29 August 2019.

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NSW EPA opens $7 million recycling grants

Business, councils and not-for profits can access more than $7 million in grants to boost NSW recycling rates and encourage innovation in the waste industry, the NSW EPA has announced.

EPA Executive Director Waste Operations Carmen Dwyer said Product Improvement Program and Circulate grant programs are both open for applications.

“These grants can help reshape our waste and recycling industry in NSW, which is undergoing significant change,” Ms Dwyer said.

“Previous grant recipients have already diverted thousands of tonnes of waste from landfill, and are continuing to take major strides forward in reshaping the way we deal with waste.”

A total of $6.3 million is available under the Product Improvement Program, through grants up to $1 million each, to fund innovative projects and provide new recycling solutions via infrastructure or research and development.

In 2018, Unilever received $500,000 under the Product Improvement Program to install new infrastructure at its North Rocks Factory and include a minimum of 25 per cent recycled material in its personal and home care range.

Circulate grants are awarded to projects that prolong or give second life to resources and material via reuse in industrial or construction processes. $1.2 million is available under this program until 2021, with individual grants of up to $150,000.

Under the Circulate program, Cross Connections Consulting received $150,000 to reprocess soft-plastic waste from local businesses into park benches, garden beds, and fencing.

“These grants help to ensure NSW can continue to achieve strong results when it comes to reducing waste, reusing materials and recycling,” Ms Dwyer said.

“Investing in recycling is a no-brainer – it will stimulate local remanufacturing capacity and generate new industries and jobs.”

Both programs are funded through the NSW Government’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, run by the NSW EPA.

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2018 NSW State of the Environment report released

The NSW EPA has released its 2018 State of the Environment report – available for the first time on a purpose built interactive website with the capacity for regular data updates.

EPA CEO Mark Gifford said the report will be used to inform decision makers and the wider community about essential elements of the environment.

“There have been a number of key environmental improvements across NSW in the 25 years since the first State of the Environment report was handed down in 1993,” Mr Gifford said.

“The report highlights areas where government, community and industry efforts are leading to benefits, with less household and industry waste going to landfill, a significant decrease in litter, good air quality, and renewable energy generation rising rapidly.”

The report lists two indicator status’ as moderate, total waste generation and per person waste generation.

Total and per person solid waste disposal, total and per person solid waste recycled and litter items per 1000 meters squared are listed as good.

Mr Gifford said the report also shows how the NSW economy has shifted to become less resource intensive and more services based, resulting in positive environmental outcomes.

“This shows that economic growth and a better environment can be mutual goals,” Mr Gifford said.

“Electricity generation has seen a strong increase in the use of renewable, low emissions sources, from 11 per cent in 2014 to 16 per cent in 2017. Over the three years to June 2016, total NSW and ACT energy consumption declined by almost six per cent.”

According to Mr Gifford, the report shows population growth continues to be a key driver of changes to the environment.

“By 2036 the population of NSW is expected to grow to 9.9 million people with the majority of this growth expected to be in Sydney, which brings challenges for our environment and resource use,” Mr Gifford said.

“Climate change continues to pose a significant threat, counteracting these effects requires collaborative action at a state, national and global level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build the resilience of the environment for the future.”

The report will be used by government and the community to monitor environmental indicators and track progress.

“Having the report released every three years means all agencies can continue to work together on environmental improvements now and into the future,” Mr Gifford said.

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Applications open for NSW FOGO funding

Applications are open for round seven of the NSW EPA organics collections grant program.

$2.6 million is available for local councils and businesses wanting to introduce, or further develop, food and garden waste collection services, with funding provided by the NSW Environmental Trust.

EPA Organics Manager Amanda Kane said the grants would provide funding for household collection services, trials for food waste collections in unit blocks and new food waste collection services for businesses looking to improve their waste practice.

“Councils that have previously received these grants have been able to divert thousands of tonnes of waste by introducing regular organic collections services,” Ms Kane said.

“Councils like Bega, Byron and Shellharbour combined funding with great education programs to teach people how to use the service, while councils like Sydney and Randwick are trialling food-only collections to transform waste into electricity.”

Ms Kane said funding would help recipients make a real difference in the reduction of organic waste sent to landfill.

“Previous projects have supported new or improved green lid bins for 600,000 homes in NSW, diverting an extra 160,000 tonnes of food and garden waste from landfill, turning it into high quality compost,” Ms Kane said.

“With funding support, residents in 42 council areas across NSW are now able to recycle their food and garden waste at the kerbside each week.”

Grants will be delivered through a partnership between the EPA and the NSW Environmental Trust.

Applications close 27 June 2019.

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NSW councils commit to funding waste-to-energy research

10 NSW councils, with support from the NSW Country Mayors Association, have committed to funding research into the viability of council level waste-to-energy solutions.

Led by Tenterfield Council in regional NSW, the proposed project will ensure a fully independent, scientific and rigours study is undertaken.

Tenterfield Chief Executive Terry Dodds said waste-to-energy initiatives would reduce the amount of material sent to landfill and produce low carbon energy that could be used locally or fed into the grid.

“Some people would ask why the hold up, as waste-to-energy plants are used all over the world already? Regional NSW has less scale and population density than most city areas where waste to energy plants are already proven solutions,” Mr Dodds said.

“We need to determine what the smallest scale solution would be that still proved to be economically and environmentally sound regionally.”

Mr Dodds said $160,000 of the $540,000 needed to conduct the study has been committed so far.

“The time to hide our waste problem in ever increasing landfill sites is drawing to a close. Local government needs to seize the lead on addressing these issues given the failures at a state and federal level.”

Tenterfield Shire Council Mayor Peter Petty said as the market for recyclable exports decreases and existing land fill sites reach capacity, a waste-to-energy facility could address the growing waste problem for many regional councils.

NSW Country Mayors Association Chair Katrina Humphries has invited all councils in NSW to contribute to the study.

“We are looking at contributions of $15,000 per council, which compared to the costs of dealing with waste is chicken-feed,” Ms Humphries said.

Tenterfield Shire Council have met with the NSW Office of Regional Economic Development to seek financial assistance.

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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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WSROC calls on NSW Government to reinvest waste levy funds

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) has called on the NSW Government to direct waste levy funds collected in the region to sustainable waste management programs for western Sydney.

According to WSROC President Barry Calvert, the NSW Government has reinvested only $20 million of the $225 million collected from western Sydney waste levies over the last five years.

“Each year councils pay the NSW Government a significant levy on waste sent to landfill, the aim of the levy is admirable – to discourage landfill and encourage recycling and reuse – however, only a small percentage is actually used for this purpose.

“Government should be using waste levy money for the purpose it was collected – to promote a more sustainable waste sector,” he said.

Levy rates for NSW are $81.30 per tonne in regional areas and $141.20 per tonne in metropolitan areas like western Sydney.

Mr Calvert said given that western Sydney processes the majority of the cities waste, improving recycling and resource recovery in the area is critical.

“We should be seeing $234 million invested in helping councils adapt to the new market conditions caused by the China National Sword Policy, investing in the development of local recycling markets and waste processing infrastructure, and implementing measures to reduce waste generation,” Mr Calvert said.

The state governments half yearly budget review, released late last year, showed the treasury collected $769 million in 2017-18.

At the Save Our Recycling Election Summit earlier the year Local Government NSW voiced similar concerns, calling for 100 per cent of waste levy funds to be re-invested into sustainable waste management initiatives for the state.

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NSW Labor’s waste election pledges

New South Wales Labor leader Michael Daley has announced that if elected his government will ban single-use plastic bags and invest $140 million into local recycling initiatives.

Mr Daley said the NSW waste system is struggling to keep up with rapidly declining sites for landfill, China’s National Sword policy and a collapsing market for recycled material.

NSW is the second highest per capita waste producer in the world with every person in the state generating an average of two tonnes of waste each year.

Mr Daley said that within the first 100 days of taking office Labor would introduce legislation to ban plastic bags as part of a longterm plan to phase out single-use plastic.

The proposed $140 million Circular Economy and Job Creation Investment Fund aims to support the resource recovery and recycling industry by investing in recycling and processing facilities, increasing community-based waste reduction and providing seed funding for innovative solutions for dealing with waste.

Mr Daley said the fund would use unallocated waste levy revenue to support recycling and environmental programs.

Labor also plan to establish a recycling, resource recovery and waste council comprised of key industry stakeholders that will provide advice to the Environment Minister.

“It is a fact that recycling waste generates more jobs than sending waste to landfill, Labor’s war on waste will seize this opportunity and at the same time reduce waste and pollution. It’s a win-win,” he said.

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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.

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NSW EPA awards $3.6 million to boost recycling

The NSW Environment Protection Authority is awarding more than $3.6 million to waste and reprocessing facilities and manufacturing plants to increase recycling.

The grants have been awarded under the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s $802 million Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, the largest waste and recycling funding program in Australia.

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Waste Less, Recycle More grants timetable revealed

NSW EPA Executive Director of Waste and Resource Recovery Carmen Dwyer said the funding will help waste and recycling facilities invest in new infrastructure and respond to changing recycling markets.

“Nine projects have been successful in accessing a total of $3,654,000 in funding through the Product Improvement Program.

“The funding will support licensed waste facilities, reprocessing facilities and manufacturing plants to increase recycling of waste materials from households and businesses, in a cost-effective manner.

“Projects funded include boosting the recycling of foam, increasing recycling of kerbside plastics, reducing contamination in recycling of paper and plastics and processing crushed glass for use in road base,” she said.

Ms Dwyer said the funding will also help mitigate the effects of China’s National Sword Policy by improving the quality of recycled materials, increasing the capacity to recover and reprocess waste materials and stimulate local remanufacturing capacity in NSW.