Cleanaway unveils new optical container sorting facility

Cleanaway has officially opened its new automated optical Container Sorting Facility at Eastern Creek, NSW.

The facility initially opened on 1 December 2017 and included a manual sorting line, which used magnetic sorting and manual picking to separate steel, aluminium, cartons and plastics with a capacity of 1.5 tonnes per hour.

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With construction of the new automated sorting line completed, the facility now has a capacity of eight tonnes per hour.

Optical sorters used in the plant identify containers based on their material type at thousands of reads per minute with air jets being used to separate them for compaction and baling.

These baled materials are then distributed domestically and internationally to be recycled back into food grade containers.

Since beginning operation last year, the facility has processed most of the 900 million containers collected by the NSW Return and Earn scheme.

The NSW Government’s scheme aims to reduce the volume of litter across the state by providing a 10-cent refund for each eligible container returned.

Cleanaway CEO and Managing Director Vik Bansal said schemes such as Return and Earn require the community to pre-sort containers for recycling, reducing the level of contamination at the source.

“With the new sorting technology installed at this facility, we are now able to improve the quality of the commodity streams even further,” Mr Bansal said.

“The Eastern Creek Container Sorting Facility is a critical part of our Footprint 2025. We’re committed to putting the infrastructure and facilities in place to deal sustainably with Australia’s waste, well into the future.”

Mr Bansal says the challenges facing the waste industry over the past 12 months have changed the way Australians view waste.

“It is more important than ever before that we work together to address these challenges. Return and Earn is a great example of that,” he said.

“It has been encouraging to see so many people getting involved and increasing the amount of recyclables being sorted at the source.

Coupled with a better network of facilities to sort the containers collected, we can produce commodity streams which are in demand, meaning more items are being recycled into new products,” Mr Bansal said.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the Return and Earn had been a great success, reducing litter across NSW by a third.

“I commend the people of NSW and congratulate Cleanaway on their state of the art facility that supports Return and Earn to provide a smart solution to reduce litter in NSW and contribute to a more sustainable future,” Ms Upton said.

NSW EPA Acting Chair and CEO steps down

NSW EPA Acting Chair and CEO Anissa Levy has announced she will stand down from her position at the EPA.

She will return to the position of Deputy CEO at Infrastructure NSW.

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Ms Levy joined the EPA as Acting Chair and CEO on 12 March 2018. She has held senior executive positions with the NSW Government, including Deputy Director General of Planning and Programs at Transport for NSW, where she was responsible for the Transport Cluster capital budget, the Bureau of Transport Statistics, strategic integrated transport planning and transport project development.

EPA Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford will act in the position of EPA Chair and CEO.

Recycled glass and soft plastics trial on ACT Govt road

ACT Roads Minister Chris Steel has announced a trial of a material composed of recycled glass and soft plastics as part of the state government’s annual resurfacing program in October.

Plastiphalt – a material composed of recycled glass and soft plastics – will be trialled on existing sections of Horse Park Drive and Gundaroo Drive during the ACT Government’s $16 million 2018-19 road resurfacing program.

“For every tonnes of Plastiphalt placed, the equivalent of 800 plastic bags, 252 glass bottles and 18 used printer toner cartridges will not find their way to landfills,” Mr Steel said.

Three-hundred kilograms of recycled asphalt is also used for every tonne of the material.

The 2018-19 resurfacing program will see approximately 230 lane kilometres, or approximately 1,000,000 square metres of roads resurfaced, across the ACT road network.

“The resealing program is an important part of the maintenance of Canberra’s roads as it covers small cracks and imperfections which could cause potholes and overall deterioration. It protects and extends the life of our roads and improves road safety,” Mr Steel said.

The program of works is expected to be completed by April next year.

NSW Govt cracks down on asbestos waste

The NSW Government has released a draft of its Asbestos Waste Strategy, which aims to make it tougher to illegally dump asbestos and safer to remove it.

The NSW Government has initiated a crackdown on asbestos waste, introducing stronger measures to protect the community and environment from rogue construction and demolition waste operators.

A reform package has been announced and will increase on the spot fines for illegally transporting or disposing of asbestos waste by tenfold.

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Construction and demolition waste facilities will also face tougher inspections and handling rules, along with new fines for illegally digging up landfills.

Under the changes, construction and demolition waste facilities will have tighter inspection controls and constant video monitoring. Facilities must also comply with stringent waste storage rules and provide evidence that staff are properly trained.

Incentives are also available for those doing the right thing, with a 75 per cent levy discount for some types of construction and demolition waste that meets specification to be applied as cover material.

The changes were introduced in the Protection of the Environment Operations Legislation Amendment (Waste) Regulation 2018, which will come into effect in May 2019 to allow the industry time to adjust.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said it is a top priority that stronger penalties act as a deterrent and that waste facility operators improve the way they manage construction and demolition waste.

“By giving the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) stronger penalties, it can more effectively hold the waste industry to account as well as encouraging good behaviour.

“On the spot fines for illegal asbestos transport and disposal have increased from $750 for an individual and $1,500 for a corporation to $7,500 and $15,000.

Ms Upton said the reforms follow comprehensive consultation with local councils, waste facility operators, industry bodies and the community.

“Poor practices were identified particularly at a number of facilities handling construction waste. That is why there are now tougher standards and procedures to safeguard the environment and community.”

“There is also a new, $15,000 on-the-spot fine and penalties of up to $44,000 for illegally digging up old landfills. From now on, landfills can only be dug up in cases of emergency or with specific permission of the EPA,” she said.

SUEZ propose six-year expansion to Sydney landfill

SUEZ has proposed to expand its Elizabeth Drive Landfill at Kemps Creek in Sydney.

The expansion would increase the current height of the landfill by up to 15 metres which could increase by around 5 million cubic metres. No changes to the existing cell design, cap design or waste disposal methods are involved in the project plan.

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Proposed changes to the capacity of the landfill are estimated to extend the life of the landfill by approximately six years to 2030.

The proposal comes in response to an anticipated increase in waste generation from Sydney’s growing population and several large infrastructure projects in the areas.

Elizabeth Drive Landfill is one of the only sites in the Sydney Basin that is able to receive general construction and demolition waste, according to SUEZ.

SUEZ is currently preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the approval that will assess the likely impacts of the construction and operation of the project.

It will focus on topics including waste management, air quality, hazards and risks, noise and vibration, soil and water, traffic and transport, biodiversity, fire and incident management, visual amenity and heritage.

The EIS is expected to be put on public display for comment in late 2018 or early 2019 by the Department of Planning and Environment.

Approval from the Sydney Western City Planning Panel is required following this step before SUEZ can proceed with construction.

Project approval is expected to be decided by mid 2019 with construction aimed to begin in late 2019.

NSW Asbestos Waste Strategy draft released

The NSW Government has released a draft of its Asbestos Waste Strategy, which aims to make it tougher to illegally dump asbestos and safer to remove it.

The NSW Government has released a draft of its Asbestos Waste Strategy, which aims to make it tougher to illegally dump asbestos and safer to remove it.

The strategy outlines new measures to close loopholes for transporters and increasing transparency of waste generators.

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This includes tracking waste vehicles that transport asbestos with GPS tracking devices and increasing the risks and consequences of being caught illegally dumping asbestos.

Penalties for not complying with directions from the NSW EPA could be increased within a six-month timeline, with additional regulatory actions implemented to deter unlawful behaviour. Sentencing provisions would also be strengthened under the changes in the draft, with courts able to determine the monetary benefits gained through illegal business models and included within their sentencing decision.

To make legal disposal of asbestos easier, the draft outlines investigating the removal of the waste levy from separated bonded asbestos waste and implementing additional ways to properly dispose of wrapped asbestos.

The NSW EPA would also work with local councils and the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Activities to provide education and raise awareness to help change behaviours of householders and licensed asbestos removalists.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the government wants to make it easier and cheaper to do the right thing, strengthen regulation and penalties, close loopholes and disrupt illegal business models.

“The NSW Government is committed to reducing illegal dumping by 30 per cent by 2020 and this strategy is just one of the actions to fulfil that commitment,” Ms Upton said.

“In particular, we want to make the legal disposal of bonded asbestos cheaper and easier in NSW so the community and environment are safeguarded.

“Research commissioned by the EPA revealed the cost and inconvenience of legal disposal as major why asbestos is being illegally dumped,” she said.

Ms Upton said it is important that the community, local government and industry have a say on how asbestos waste is dealt with.

The draft of the NSW Asbestos Waste Strategy is available here, with consultations closing on 20 November 2018.

NSW launches draft of its Circular Economy Policy

The NSW Government has revealed its draft of its Circular Economy Policy as part of the state government’s plan to improve its resource recovery methods.

The policy draft defines the state government’s role in implementing circular economy principles across NSW and how it can commit to achieving long term objectives.

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Minimising the consumption of finite resources by replacing raw materials with recovered and recycled products is one of the main principles of the policy.

Additionally, the policy aims to decouple economic growth from resource consumption by maximising the value of resources through keeping materials in use for as long as possible.

Product design will also play a role to implement a circular economy with an aim of creating long lasting products that are able to be easily re-used, remanufactured and repaired.

The draft aims to extend the life of existing landfills to reduce the demand for new landfills along with a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Local market for high quality post-consumer recycled materials will be developed to keep them materials use for longer to reduce dependency on international markets. It also aims to improve the quality of collected materials through better sorting.

To move away from the “take, make and dispose” status quo, the policy recommends innovating technologies that increase resource recovery efficiency and referencing higher value re-use opportunities.

Creating new jobs in manufacturing, service and resource recovery sectors is listed as a main principle behind the delivery of a circular economy.

The draft sets out certain focus areas to guide future government action which involve supporting innovation, encouraging sustainable procurement practices for businesses and government, improving recycling systems and making the most of organic resources through food donation or composting.

Mainstream product stewardship will also aim to provide incentives for producers to take responsibility for the management of products at the end of their lives.

To establish this framework, the NSW Government aims to incorporate circular economy principles in the revision of the NSW Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy in 2019. A Circular Economy Implementation Plan to be developed by 2020 will also aim to provide timing and direction for the implementation of circular economy principles.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the policy draft is the beginning of a better way for NSW to manage its waste and resources.

“Achieving a circular economy will minimise our waste, reduce our impact on the environment and is an opportunity to boost the NSW economy,” Ms Upton said.

“It’s an antidote to the current “linear economy”, where we make things, use them and then throw them away. Instead, we can use items for as long as possible, through repair, re-use and recycling, rather than being thrown away.

“At the same time NSW is working with the Federal Government on the development of national circular economy principles,” she said.

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) has welcomed the release of the draft, however it says there is more work to be done on the policy.

The association has urged the NSW Government to set up an organisation similar to Sustainability Victoria or Green Industries South Australia to implement in the final policy.

WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan said that all states are preparing or implementing similar strategies, so it is vital that they align and work together.

“WMAA supports the paper’s proposal that the NSW Government will investigate opportunities to incorporate circular economy principles into the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy as part of the five-yearly review process,” Ms Sloan said.

“WMAA commends the government for its support for broadening and strengthening stewardship schemes. This has been discussed time and again and it is pleasing to see that industry’s feedback has been heard,” she said.

“We are also calling on government to consider how the waste levy should look like in a circular economy environment, including how collected monies are re-invested in industry to further boost processing and jobs.

Northern QLD councils call for changes to waste levy

North Queensland councils have called on the state government to push back the introduction of the waste levy and to introduce a differential levy rate system.

The North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils (NQROC) has made nine recommendations in a submission to the Queensland Government, calling for the levy to be implemented on 1 July 2019 to align with the new financial year instead of the current set date of 4 March 2019.

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Another recommendation is the implementation of a differential levy rate system to account for differences in rates for metropolitan and regional areas, which the NQROC says is in line with NSW and Victoria. Alternatively, the organisation recommends the implementation of a specific regional subsidy scheme to cover any hidden costs of the waste levy.

NQROC Chairperson and Mayor of Burdekin Shire Council Lyn McLaughlin said it was important for regional councils to raise their concerns about the new waste levy.

“The need to transport waste to distant recycling markets is one of the hidden costs of the waste levy for regional councils,” Cr McLaughlin said.

“It’s less expensive for the larger metropolitan councils who have recycling facilities close to them, however transportation costs are a huge issue for regional and rural communities.

“We need a cheaper levy for the regions or the government must assist with the cost of transporting our waste to other parts of the state,” she said.

Cr McLaughlin said another recommendation related to how the waste levy zone is determined and called for Charters Towers Regional Council and Hinchinbrook Shire Council be removed from the proposed zone.

“Right now, population is the only criteria for determining if you are in the waste levy zone. Regional economies are more complex than that and it is our view other factors like local economic conditions and financial sustainability should also be considered,” Cr McLaughlin said.

NQROC Deputy Chair and Mayor of Charters Towers Liz Schmidt said Charters Towers Regional Council was an example of where a population only approach can be flawed.

“Charters Towers Regional Council is just over the waste levy population threshold, so we are included in the waste levy zone. This ignores the fact that the number of people we provide waste services for is much less than the actual population.  We have a large number of rural properties covering an area the size of Tasmania who deal with their own waste,” Cr Schmidt said.

“Then there are the costs of waste management for townships like Balfes Creek, Homestead, Pentland, Greenvale, Hervey Range, Sellheim, Mingela and Ravenswood. Waste costs for these towns are already heavily subsidised by council and are unlikely to ever be self-sustaining.

“A waste levy just adds a greater financial burden which means more cost for our communities. We aren’t like the larger councils of South East Queensland but the government doesn’t seem to realise that.” she said.

In introducing its bill in September, Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said that Queenslanders will not have to pay more to put out their wheelie bin every week, with $32 million committed in this year’s budget in advance payments to Queensland councils.

“We are providing advance payments to councils that covers 105 per cent of the cost of their municipal waste,” Ms Enoch said.

“This means councils are being paid more than the cost of what they actually send to landfill every year.

“Councils will have no reason to increase rates because of the waste levy – we are giving them more than enough funding to cover this.

“In fact, councils could choose to use the extra funds to increase their waste management services.”

 

Waste reduction winners of the NSW Sustainable Cities Awards

Winners of the Keep Australia Beautiful NSW Sustainable Cities Awards have been announced and include the NSW container deposit scheme and a hospital recycling program.

The NSW EPA sponsored and presented two awards for waste management and litter reduction.

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Winning initiatives include Auburn Hospital’s Think before you bin it project to improve recycling and reduce hospital waste and the City of Canterbury Bankstown’s We Like Greenacre Litter Free, which resulted in a 54 per cent reduction in litter in Greenacre over three years.

The Vinnies Container Deposit scheme won the inaugural Return and Earn Litter Prevention Award, as the organisation have collected millions of containers at their automated depot and over the counter return points in NSW.

The Return and Earn school’s category went to Glenmore Park High School, which mobilised its school community to collect litter to fundraise for a minibus for the Special Needs Unit.

NSW EPA Acting Chair and CEO Anissa Levy said these projects along with other winners demonstrate the power of acting locally to reduce waste and litter in communities.

“All of the winners demonstrate extraordinary leadership in waste and litter reduction initiatives in our communities, and I commend them all on their efforts,” Ms Levy said.

Ms Levy said the NSW Government is committed to reducing waste and litter in the environment.

“We have dedicated $802 million over nine years to 2021 as part of the Waste Less Recycle More initiative – the largest waste and recycling funding program in Australia,” she said.

“We have also introduced the state’s largest litter reduction initiative, the Return and Earn container deposit scheme, to help achieve the Premier’s target of a 40 per cent reduction in litter volume by 2020.

“More than 814 million containers have been returned to return points across NSW in just over ten months, and drink container litter volume has already dropped by a third since November last year.”

NSW EPA opens grants up to $250,000 to reduce food waste

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. ORCA

The NSW EPA has opened applications to grants worth up to $250,000 to establish five ‘Love Food Communities’ across the state.

The funding aims to assist councils tackle the issue of food waste across an entire community, including homes, businesses, schools, supermarkets, clubs, pubs and community groups.

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All projects involved will include delivery of the EPA’s Food Smart and Your Business is Food programs for households and businesses.

The Food Smart program aims to educate NSW households about reducing food waste, with participants receiving a toolkit with bag clips and food huggers to reduce food waste. Your Business is Food provides businesses with information, advice and resources to reduce the amount of food that is disposed of.

Applications to the grants are open to local government in two stages. Stage one is the submission of an Expression of Interest by 19 November 2018, which will be assessed by an independent panel.

Successful applicants will be invited to the second stage to develop a detailed project plan. Funding of up to $20,000 is available for the project planning stage.

Final applications must be submitted by 18 March 2019.

For more information and to access the application form, click here.