Waste Management Review speaks to RED Group’s Rebecca Gleghorn about the success of its soft plastics recycling program.
More than 100,000 pieces of contact lens waste have been diverted from landfill in Australia as the Bausch + Lomb Recycling Programme hits its one-year anniversary.
Bausch + Lomb launched its recycling programme in partnership with TerraCycle in 2017 to help Australians keep contact lenses, lens cases and blister packs out of landfill.
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Any contact lens waste can be shipped to TerraCycle for no charge, who will shred, wash and melt it down into sustainable raw material to use in manufacturing instead of virgin plastic.
A number of public drop-off locations are also available around Australia in environmentally conscious optometry stores.
For each kilogram collected and sent to TerraCycle, Bausch + Lomb donates $1 to the Optometry Giving Sight foundation.
Optometrist at Bailey Nelson Claremont in Perth Jayson Chong said collecting locals’ contact lens waste helps his team champion sustainability.
“While most of our customers are educated about the environment, many are surprised to learn that we can also recycle contact lenses!” Mr Chong said.
“Running an eco-friendly business helps us build a good reputation and promote workplace satisfaction for our staff.”
Optometrist at Point Cook & Sanctuary Lakes Eyecare in Point Cook in Victoria Jenkin Yau said joining the program was an important way for his store to contribute to the community.
“We felt it was important to become a public drop-off location for the program as our customers like to do the right think socially and environmentally,” Mr Yau said.
“Additionally, the generous donations from Bausch + Lomb to Optometry Giving Sight made the decision very easy.”
TerraCycle Australia & New Zealand General Manager Jean Bailliard said they are thrilled to celebrate this milestone, as it is a huge win for the environment.
“We’re really driven by the commitment of companies like Bausch + Lomb who are dedicated to tackling waste.”
Nestlé will implement the new Australasian Recycling Label and REDcycle logo across all of its locally made products by 2020 to educate consumers that soft plastic can be recycled through the in-store scheme.
The rollout will start in August and will roll out throughout 2019, starting with Allen’s lollies.
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The Australasian Recycling Label shows how each piece of packaging can be disposed of in the best possible way, indicating if the packaging can be recycled via kerbside recycling, conditionally recycled through programs such as REDcycle, or if it is not recyclable.
Nestlé previously announced it aims to make its packaging 100 per cent recyclable or reusable by 2025.
To reach this goal, the company will focus on three core areas, eliminate non-recyclable plastics, encourage the use of plastics that allow better recycling rates and eliminate complex combinations of packaging material.
Nestlé Australia CEO Sandra Martinez said the company is proud to adopt the new label to help consumers correctly recycle by providing the information on how to properly dispose of it.
“Consumers have good intentions when it comes to recycling but they need clearer information. The Australasian Recycling Label will help to remove confusion, increase recycling rates and decrease contamination in recycling streams by helping consumers navigate the process,” Ms Martinez said.
Planet Ark Deputy CEO Rebecca Gilling said the commitment from companies such as Nestlé was an important one.
“We need widespread commitment from industry to apply the Australasian Recycling Label if it’s to become effective in helping consumers improve their recycling habits.”
Coffee grounds could be used to create biodegradable plastic coffee cups thanks to new research from Macquarie University.
The process converts the spent coffee grounds into a lactic acid which is then turned into a plastic, however the method is still being refined by researcher Dominik Kopp.
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Because 50 per cent of coffee grounds are made up of sugars, they can be converted into bio-based chemicals.
The method was inspired by a metabolic pathway that is thought to exist in an evolutionary ancient organism, which lived in hot and extremely acidic environments.
“Australians consume six billion cups of coffee every year, and the coffee grounds used to make these coffees are used only once and then discarded,” says Mr Kopp.
“In Sydney alone, over 920 cafes and coffee shops produced nearly 3,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds every year.
“Ninety-three per cent of this waste ends up in landfill, where it produces greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.”
Mr Kopp sources the coffee grounds from one of the shops on Macquarie’s campus and took them back to the lab.
“We assembled a synthetic pathway to convert the most abundant sugar in the coffee grounds, mannose, into lactic acid,” he says.
“Lactic acid can be used in the production of biodegradable plastics, offering a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuel-derived plastics.
“You could use such plastics to make anything from plastic coffee cups to yoghurt containers to compost bags to sutures in medicine.”
His next step will be to further refine the conversion pathway and improve the yield of lactic acid.
“I think my project is one of many interesting approaches on how to use synthetic biology in a responsible manner for the development of a more sustainable and greener industry that doesn’t rely on crude oil,” says Dominik.
“The simple idea that we are converting waste into a valuable and sustainable product is extremely exciting!”
Litter in New South Wales has dropped by 37 per cent since 2013, with drink container litter being reduced by a third since the introduction of the Return and Earn scheme, according to new figures.
A report released from Keep Australia Beautiful has also found takeaway container litter has been reduced by 19 per cent from 2016 to 2017.
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Print and advertising litter has also been reduced by 35 percent from 2016 to 2017.
NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said Return and Earn’s impact can been seen by looking at the scheme coordinator’s figures for the three months from March to May 2018, which show it collected 67 per cent of all eligible containers supplied into NSW in that period.
“This shows the immediate positive impact the container deposit scheme is having on reducing drink container litter, which is the largest proportion of all litter volume in NSW,” Ms Upton said.
“Overall, there has been a 33 per cent drop in Return and Earn eligible drink containers in the litter stream since November 2017 – the month before the scheme was introduced on 1 December.
“On average three million containers a day are being collected at return points. More than 560 million containers have been processed by Return and Earn so far and as more collection points are rolled out, these results can only increase and the amount of litter will decrease,” she said.
Ms Upton said the NSW Government’s commitment of $30 million to 2021 to reduce litter and littering behaviour through the Waste Less recycle More initiative is having the right effect.
“Such a huge drop shows the NSW Government’s range of anti-litter initiatives are working,” she said.
“I encourage the NSW community to continue returning their eligible drink containers and in their other efforts to reduce litter in our communities.”
Plastic from around 176,000 plastic bags and packaging and glass from around 55,000 bottles has been diverted from landfill to build New South Wales’ first road made from soft plastics and glass.
Downer and Sutherland Shire Council have partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop, RED Group and Plastic Police to build the road in the Sydney suburb of Engadine.
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Toner from approximately 4000 used printer cartridges with more than 60 tonnes of recycled asphalt were also repurposed to create 220 tonnes of asphalt used in the construction of the road along Old Princes Highway between Cooper Street and Engadine Road.
NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said this achievement demonstrates how committed organisations can find innovative solutions to waste reduction.
“The NSW Government has a comprehensive funding program designed to find more ways to make sure waste is taken out of landfill and put to good use,” said Ms Upton.
“In particular, the Product Improvement Co-investment program and the Circulate program together provide $10 million in funding to help find creative ways to reduce the amount of waste and find better uses than simply throwing it away.”
Sutherland Shire Mayor Carmelo Pesce said Council is committed to showing leadership in sustainability and the use of recycled products.
“Sutherland Shire Council collects over 25 thousand tonnes of recycling in the yellow top bins every year,” Councillor Pesce said.
“Using recycled plastic and glass in asphalt to create new road surfaces is just one of the innovative ways Council can reduce its environmental footprint through the use of recyclable material.”
Downer General Manager Pavements Stuart Billing said the milestone event demonstrated the importance of partnerships with other thought leaders to create economic, social and environmental value for products that would more than likely end up in landfill, stockpiled, or as a pollutant in our natural environments.
“Through our partnerships and desire to make a difference, we’ve shown how to recycle and repurpose waste materials into new streams of use. It’s all about pulling products, not pushing waste.”
“Further to the direct sustainability benefits, this cost competitive road product, called Plastiphalt, has a 65 per cent improvement in fatigue life and a superior resistance to deformation making the road last longer, and allowing it to better handle heavy vehicle traffic,” Mr Billing said.
The project is co-funded through the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative funded from the waste levy.
“Our close partnership with Downer, along with our collaborative partnerships with RedCycle and Plastic Police has allowed us to design, develop and manufacture sustainable products using problematic waste streams. We are very pleased to see soft plastics used for the first time in a NSW road,” said Nerida Mortlock, General Manager of Close the Loop Australia.
Mobile Muster is calling on Australians to recycle their old mobile phone after the program was showcased on the ABC’s War on Waste.
The national government accredited mobile phone recycling program is aiming to encourage Australians to take their phones out of storage and recycle them. The program is funded by all of the major handset manufacturers and network carriers to provide the free recycling system.
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Mobile Muster says there are currently more mobile phones in storage than the number of people in the country and estimates that by 2028, that number will reach almost 30 million.
Research shows that three out of four Australians are aware that they can recycle their phones, with Mobile Muster aiming to educate people on how they can recycle responsibly through its program.
Consumer awareness campaigns run by Mobile Muster highlight the environmental and social importance of recycling phones.
It also works closely with councils, workplaces, retailers and schools to raise awareness of mobile phone recycling, while also partnering with charities to give mobile users an added incentive to recycle their phones while doing good for communities.
Mobile Muster has established more than 35000 drop off points across Australia and have an agreement with AusPost where phones can be posted for free to be recycled.
Almost $45 million has been invested to develop a solid collection network and awareness campaigns over the last 20 years.
The program recycles 99 per cent of the material from phones and accessories, including glass, plastics and metals, reducing the need for virgin materials.
Mobile Muster Manager Spyro Kalos said most Australians know that we shouldn’t throw their phones in the bin, but many people hang on to them just in case they’re needed which often leads to them being forgotten in a draw.
“We know that recycling can be confusing sometimes, so we cut through that by providing a free and simple way for people to easily recycle their mobile phones. To date, we’ve recycled over 1,300 tonnes of mobile phones and accessories, including 13 million handsets and batteries. But there is always more to do,” he said.
“With millions of phones lying dormant at home, the e-waste problem is getting bigger and we all need to be talking about it more. Mobile phones can and should be recycled when they reach the end of their lives. We can all do our part to fight the war on waste, and it starts at home. That’s why we’re calling all Australians to find their old phones and recycle them the right way – today,” said Mr Kalos.
Featured Image Credit: Mobile Muster
The Vinyl Council of Australia aims to expand its PVC Recycling in Hospitals program to cover 150 hospitals by the end of 2018.
After launching in 2009, the recycling program has grown to operate in 138 hospitals throughout Australia and New Zealand. It is managed by the the Vinyl Council of Australia and its member partners: Baxter Healthcare, Aces Medical Waste and Welvic Australia.
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More than 200 tonnes of PVC waste from hospitals has been diverted from landfill to recycling over the past year. The material is redirected to reprocessors, which use the recycled polymer in new products such as garden hoses and outdoor playground matting.
The program partners also explore designs for new product applications for the material generated through the program.
Vinyl Council Chief Executive Sophi MacMillan says thanks to the great support and enthusiasm from healthcare professionals, the PVC Recycling in Hospitals program is now operating in every state in Australia, except the Northern Territory.
“It’s a great example of how the healthcare sector can demonstrate leadership in PVC sustainability and recover high quality material that can be genuinely recycled locally for use in new products,” Ms MacMillan said.
“We are currently looking at further end product applications for the recyclate.
“New South Wales is one of our priorities given it only has 11 hospitals participating in the program at the moment. As the state with the biggest population in Australia, the opportunity to grow the program there is really good.”
Almost 430,000 plastic bags worth of plastics have been diverted from landfill to create 27 plastic benches installed across Rottnest Island, Western Australia.
The benches and some boardwalk sections are part of the island’s recently opened Wadjemup Bidi walk trail, which is 45 kilometres long.
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Recycled plastic was chosen for maintenance, functionality, aesthetic and sustainability reasons.
Sections of recycled plastic boardwalks include Henrietta Rocks and Porpoise Bay, while the benches have been installed throughout the trails, offering views at Cape Vlamingh, Cathedral Rocks and Bickley Bay.
WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the initiative continues to push to reduce waste in the state and protect the environment for future generations.
“It’s fantastic to announce this new sustainability initiative during Plastic Free July, which engages the community in a discussion about waste avoidance, which is at the top of the waste hierarchy, with a focus on reducing our use of plastic,” Mr Dawson said.
WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said Rottnest Island wants to be recognised as a sustainable must-visit tourism destination.
“These long-term sustainability priorities will mean that Rottnest Island can continue to be enjoyed by visitor for generations to come,” he said.
The first episode of Craig Reucassel’s War on Waste season two will broadcast on the ABC at 8:30 pm on Tuesday 24 July.
More than 4.3 million viewers watched the original series in 2017, which sparked one of the ABC’s most successful social media campaigns with a video on dumping edible bananas reaching 20 million views.
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Season two’s first episode will look at new issues around plastic water bottles and straws, and e-waste.
It will also delve deeper into previously discussed issues of food waste and Australia’s recycling crisis.
A giant footprint made of plastic packaging was created on Sydney’s Manly beach to highlight the amount of single-use plastic that ends up in waterways.
With more than 10 million plastic straws being used every day in Australia, Mr Reucassel joins forces with the minds behind the #strawnomore movement to challenge pubs and fast food chains to ban the straw from their venues.
The show will also look at Australia’s fastest growing waste stream, e-waste. With tonnes of discarded computers, mobile phones and electrical goods ending up in landfill, Mr Reucassel highlights the dangers of the toxic elements within them leaching into the environment.
War on Waste season two also sees Mr Reucassel going undercover to expose the amount of food that is wasted when eating at restaurants.
Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW Executive Director Tony Khoury said the issues of disposable water bottles will be placed under the microscope.
“Last year’s series saw tremendous media coverage extend to disposable coffee cups, single-use plastic bags, household food waste and the wasteful policy of retailers,” he said.
Mr Khoury said collectors and processor can help the war on waste by providing better education for waste generators, provide a range of recycling options, use modern equipment, transport all waste and recyclables to a lawful facility and invest in training for workers.
“We all can lobby the NSW Government to invest more of the $700 million collected from the waste levy into waste management programs and much needed infrastructure to divert more waste from landfill,” he said.
Image credit: ABC