QLD Containers for Change recycles 5M in first week

More than five million containers have been returned and recycled in the first week of Queensland’s Containers for Change container deposit scheme.

As part of the scheme, Queenslanders are able to get 10 cents back for returning bottles and cans across one of the schemes 230 sites.

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The scheme uses a mixture of over the counter depots, reverse vending machines, mobile and pop up refund points and drop off points.

Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said that more than half a million dollars have gone back towards Queenslanders or charities and community groups because of the scheme.

“We’ve also seen some great recycling happening in regional areas. More than 780,000 containers have been returned in Wide Bay, and more than 770,000 in Townsville,” Ms Enoch said.

“Queenslanders use nearly three billion containers a year, and sadly they are the most commonly littered item in the environment.

“This scheme has created about 500 new jobs, with people starting work at container refund points across the state,” she said.

Container Exchange (CoEx) is the company responsible for implementing and managing the scheme.

CoEx CEO Ken Noye said it was great to see more than five million containers recycled in a week.

“People are able to support local community groups by donating their containers and we encourage social purpose organisations to sign up for the scheme,” Mr Noye said.

“We also now have 27,000 people signed up with a scheme ID, allowing them to be paid their refund straight into their bank account.

“We’d love to see communities get behind Containers for Change to raise funds for schools, sporting clubs and other not-for-profits,” he said.

Queensland Government establishes #odourbusters taskforce

The Queensland Government has established a taskforce to deal with nuisance odours in the Swanbank area.

The Odour Abatement Taskforce, also known as #odourbusters, will operate from a local base at Redbank Plains to crack down on offensive odours and other environmental concerns in the area for the next 12 months.

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Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the state government was investing 2.5 million in the program to respond to community concerns raised through an independent community survey this year.

“With the information received from 1435 local residents, we have moved swiftly to establish a taskforce of 10 specialist environmental officers,” Ms Enoch said.

“The team will be dedicated to investigating and responding to issues raised by the community.”

Ms Enoch said the community survey addressed waste management, air quality and water management issues within the Swanbank industrial area.

“Part of our response will be to introduce new technologies to monitor air, noise and water quality in Ipswich suburbs,” she said.

“In addition to on-the-ground investigations, the Odour Abatement Taskforce will intensively examine and review current industry regulation and practice.”

Member for Ipswich Jennifer Howard said the Queensland Government will have a strong focus on and interaction with the Swanbank industrial area.

“In the past year, the Department of Environment and Science has received 302 reports of odour from 167 people alleging bad smells from landfill and waste recycling facilities in the Swanbank industrial area,” she said.

“Rest assured, we have some of the highest environmental standards in the world and Queensland has a strong record when it comes to compliance.”

Member for Ipswich West Jim Madden said the Palaszczuk Government ensured there was always strong compliance when it comes to waste management issues.

“Over the last financial year, the state’s environmental regulator carried out more than 7250 compliance checks state-wide to ensure our high environmental standards are met,” he said.

“Of these, 855 compliance checks were conducted in the Ipswich area.

For more information on the #odourbusters, click here.

Lighting Council Australia relaunch product stewardship scheme

Lighting Council Australia (LCA) is relaunching the industry-led battery recycling program, Exitcycle, with support from the Queensland Government to improve the recycling rates of emergency and exit lights.

The voluntary product stewardship initiative developed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and LCA was launched in 2015 as a 12-month pilot project to provide guidance on issues impacting recycling batteries from metropolitan, regional and remote areas.

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Commercial users commit to recycling at least 95 per cent of their end of life emergency and exit lighting batteries as part of the program, while facilitators commit to promoting the scheme to users of these batteries.

LCA National Marketing and Environment Manager Roman Gowor said the program brings industry, government, and community together to improve environmental outcomes, noting that there are approximately 30 million emergency and exit lights across the country.

“The majority of the green-emergency lights we see across all buildings are powered by a combination of older battery technologies, which often use cadmium, nickel metal hydride or sealed lead acid,” Mr Gowor said.

“In the coming years, newer generation batteries will use more sustainable components, however multiple sectors—government, industry and end users— must work together to find the best way of increasing recycling rates.”

The program will be launched at the Queensland Parliament House in Brisbane, with attendees including recyclers, government officials and the lighting industry.

“The Exitcycle approach is successful because it is very well suited at addressing the specific waste issue,” Mr Gowor said.

“Unlike a great proportion of batteries used across the economy, emergency and exit lights are not typically used in households and, by law, can only be serviced by electrical contractors. The Exitcycle program is more targeted than other programs and focuses on electricians and facility and building managers,” he said.

Queensland Government releases waste directions paper

The Queensland Government has released a directions paper for public consultation to inform the development of its new waste strategy, proposing the cost structure of its new landfill levy and its application.

The directions paper proposes that a general waste levy will commence in the first quarter of 2019 and initially will be set at $70 per tonne of general waste sent to landfill. It says it will increase by $5 per year. According to the directions paper, the rate has been suggested to avoid the high rate in the Sydney metropolitan area of $138.20.

“A high levy rate would create a shock to the market and the current resource recovery infrastructure capacity may struggle to meet high demand to divert material from landfill disposal,” it says.

“However, $70 per tonne is still considered to be high enough to send an appropriate price signal to the market and will act as an immediate incentive to divert heavier materials, such as concrete, from landfill.”

“It is broadly in line with the rates in Victoria and South Australia, and would provide a strong market signal to divert waste from landfill without the market shock of a rate in line with NSW.

“It provides a disincentive to transport a significant proportion of interstate waste to Queensland.”

According to the paper, the legislative and regulatory framework, including a detailed levy model, needs to be drafted, consulted on with stakeholders and progressed through the required approval processes. It notes landfill infrastructure, such as weighbridges and security fencing, needs to be made ‘levy-ready’. The paper goes on to say that industry and government information technology systems need to be redeveloped and made able to ‘interface’ with each other so waste can be measured and the levy owed to be calculated. Furthermore, staff training and broader awareness and education needs to be developed and delivered. Stakeholders will be consulted throughout the process.

The report highlights that local government will be a beneficiary of the proposed levy with funding available for waste disposal infrastructure upgrades, education and awareness and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“The operator of a waste disposal facility will be required to collect the levy when the waste is presented to the facility for disposal,” the paper says.

“A waste disposal facility may be operated by, or on behalf of, a local government or by a private company. The operator of the facility is required to remit the amount of levy owed, at a timing, and through a process, to be determined in legislation. Operators will also be required to submit data in relation to the waste received at the site for disposal and what was received and segregated for recovery.”

It says that to be effective, the levy will need to apply to all waste. It recognises special circumstances may require some waste to be exempt, including waste from a natural disaster, wastes where disposal is required by a regulation, such as asbestos, quarantine waste or fire ant infested material, litter and illegally dumped waste collected by a council, community group or other organised participant, in an initiative, such as Clean Up Australia Day. Waste received as part of donations will also be exempt.

A Stakeholder Advisory Group is currently in the process of contributing to the development of the waste strategy and is reviewing the directions paper. It will continue to provide input and advice to government.

The Stakeholder Advisory Group consists of representatives from across the waste industry and key business groups, including Local Government Association of Queensland, Australian Council of Recycling, Waste Recycling Industry Association (Queensland), Waste Management Association of Australia, Sustainable Business Australia, Australian Industry Group, Chamber of Commerce Industry Queensland and Master Builders Association Queensland.

Acting Premier Jackie Trad said the directions paper would inform the development of its new waste management strategy – underpinned by a waste levy.

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Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the directions paper set out the Queensland Government’s long-term vision to attract investment, develop new industries and grow jobs across the state in the waste and recycling sector.

Ms Enoch said that, as well as encouraging recycling, the waste levy would facilitate job creation and market development, particularly in regional areas.

“While every 10,000 tonnes of waste disposed into landfill supports less than three full time jobs, the same amount of waste being recycled supports more than nine jobs.

“This price signal will give industry the confidence to invest in alternative and innovative recycling technologies to grow the sector and create jobs.

“This new strategy marks the start of the journey towards a zero waste future.”

The directions paper also proposes the following targets:

• 20 per cent avoidable waste disposed of to landfill by 2030
• 10 per cent avoidable waste disposed of to landfill by 2040
• Zero avoidable waste disposed of to landfill by 2050

The paper indicates the department has already undertaken preliminary work to identify waste that may be feasible for landfill disposal bans, including tyres and e-waste.

“Landfill disposal bans on these waste streams will support the objectives of existing product stewardship programs that already have well-established collection and recovery networks,” it said.

The Queensland Government also plans to look at waste to energy, according to the paper.

The Transforming Queensland’s Recycling and Waste Industry directions paper is available here, with public comment open until 28 June 2018.

Long term national waste solution must be prioritised: QLD forum

Queensland Government Environment Minister Leanne Enoch has called for a national solution for the waste and recycling industry at the Queensland Secondary Resources Forum.

Ms Enoch said that the state’s domestic recycling capabilities were under pressure following China’s decision on waste imports.

The Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ) is hosting the two-day Queensland Secondary Resources Forum to address issues impacting kerbside recycling and international challenges.

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Queensland Forum to discuss China waste ban

“Today I am meeting with representatives from local government and the waste industry in Bundaberg to discuss practical opportunities in local communities.

“I want to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and group dialogue on smarter, innovative options to better manage, reuse and recycle waste.”

Ms Enoch said Thursday’s meeting provided an opportunity for stakeholders to share local challenges when it comes to waste, and discuss improved systems and processes.

“While there are many challenges to overcome, there is also an opportunity to facilitate local solutions and growing domestic markets that reduce our reliance on exports.”

She said improvements at a local level could help the federal government in their work towards a national long-term solution.

“I look forward to taking local feedback from the Bundaberg forum to my meeting with state and serritory environment ministers tomorrow, and I also look forward to hearing what the Federal Government has to say about the best way forward for the recycling industry,” Ms Enoch said.

Last month the Queensland Government announced it would develop a new resource recovery and waste management strategy, underpinned by a waste levy, following recommendations from the report from Justice Peter Lyons.

Waste Recycling Industry Queensland Chief Executive Officer Rick Ralph said a national approach was needed and that there was an opportunity for Australia to re-focus on how we manage waste.

“We need to re-set our position when it comes to waste management and recycling across Australia, particularly when it comes to re-manufacturing,” he said.

“Today’s meeting in Bundaberg is important as it allows us to open up the discussion even further.

“We need to rebuild community confidence when it comes to recycling, and we also need to hear from other stakeholders about how we can work together towards a solution for the short, medium and long term.”

 

Queensland Government issues TLPI notice to Ipswich City Council

The Queensland Government has exercised its powers to regulate development applications in Ipswich.

The decision comes in the wake of Queensland waste company Austin BMI’s new landfill proposal and follows the Opposition’s motion for the state government to “call in” the application.

The proposal, which was met with some community opposition, would see a former disused coal mine at New Chum converted into a new landfill and waste transfer station. The landfill would initially process 650,000 tonnes of construction and demolition (C&D) waste each year, rising to more than a million tonnes a year over the 18 to 20-year life of the site. Ipswich City Council is the assessment agency for the BMI Group’s application.

Planning Minister Cameron Dick issued a notice to Ipswich City Council advising of the intention to make a Temporary Local Planning Instrument (TLPI) to suspend part of their Planning Scheme, affecting new or expanded waste facilities in the Swanbank and New Chum industrial area.

April 7 update: 

Requirements for new buffer zones and other safeguards are now in place for residents living near new or expanded waste facilities in the Swanbank and New Chum industrial area.

Mr Dick said that following consideration of council’s comments, he has made the TLPI, which will take effect for two years from 6 April 2018.

“The TLPI will apply to applications for new or expanded waste activities, as identified within the Swanbank/New Chum waste activity area map, to ensure this regionally significant economic area appropriately protects existing, approved or planned sensitive land uses from adverse impacts associated with waste activities.

“While the TLPI is in place, my department will continue to work with council to progress any amendments to its planning scheme.”

In making the announcement last week, Mr Dick said that council has the ability under the Planning Act to amend its planning scheme or to make a TLPI.

“The Planning Minister also has the power to introduce a TLPI.

“By making a Ministerial TLPI under the Planning Act, protections for the surrounding residents can be introduced urgently.

“Accordingly, under section 27(2) of the Planning Act, I have provided notice to the council that I intend to make a TLPI.”

Mr Dick said this is the first time that these reserve powers have ever been used by a Queensland Planning Minister.

“Council have been working with my department as they consider potential changes to their planning scheme to address this issue, and I believe that this TLPI is consistent with their intentions,” he said.

“I also expect that council will give consideration to the TLPI when considering current development applications.”

Last week, Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli said council officers were working vigorously with the Minister’s department to suggest ways to lessen the impact waste facilities have on people in neighbouring areas.

“I personally spoke with the Minister during a recent visit to Ipswich, and I am very pleased that he has listened to what I had to say on behalf of our residents,” Mayor Antoniolli said.

“I stressed upon him the urgency of these matters and the prospect of future applications, and I am thankful for his involvement and swift action.”

Mr Dick said the TLPI will suspend elements of the planning scheme and establishes new assessment criteria for new or expanded waste facilities.

“The TLPI introduces a new buffer of 750 metres from existing, approved or planned residential areas where landfill activities will not be supported,” he said.

“The TLPI does not support new or expansions to existing compost manufacturing that is open to the air, anywhere in the Swanbank/New Chum industrial area.”

 

Mr Dick said during the two-year period, his department will work with council to assist them to progress any amendments to its planning scheme to address the “concerns of the community”.

 

Waste Management Association of Australia QLD outlines priorities

The Waste Management Association of Australia’s Queensland branch (WMAA) has produced its policy priorities for the state government to consider ahead of the election.

The 2017 Queensland state election will be held on 25 November 2017, and WMAA made a series of recommendations in a statement last week, with a focus on adhering to the waste hierarchy and supporting a circular economy.

In the statement, WMAA described Queensland as one of the largest generators and poorest diverters of waste from landfill. The absence of a comprehensive strategy has resulted in Queensland maintaining a ‘take, make, and dispose’ approach to waste and resource recovery, WMAA argued.

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“There is a real opportunity for Queensland to introduce policy settings that will support the return of materials back to the economy instead of to landfill,” said Gayle Sloan, WMAA CEO.

“The current linear approach adversely impacts Queensland in making it difficult for resource recovery industries to invest, depriving Queensland of the opportunity to create new jobs.”

WMAA Queensland outlined a number of key policy positions, including to comprehensively review the state’s Waste Avoidance and Resource Productivity Strategy 2014, and implement a strategy that supports the waste hierarchy. The Queensland branch also called to develop a comprehensive waste and resource recovery infrastructure strategy.

Among the recommendations was a call for a “reinvestment into landfill levy” from the government to avoid the unnecessary transportation of waste.

The statement called on the government to mandate sustainable state and local government procurement policies which prioritises the purchase of goods with recycled content.

In the area of landfilling, WMAA called for the development and implementation of best practice guidelines. It also recommended more opportunities for food waste and green waste recycling from the municipal solid waste stream through financial assistance to councils and a host of other measures.

Read the full statement on WMAA’s website.

 

 

Queensland Department of Environment releases annual report

Plastic bottles dumped

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection’s (EHP) 2016-17 Annual Report highlights a year of achievement in climate change, banning plastic bags and tackling rogue environmental operators, Acting Environment Minister Mick de Brenni says.

Mr de Brenni said the department achieved a number of significant milestones as Queensland’s environmental regulator.

“The department now has greater powers to pursue poor environmental performs, and crack down on companies walking away from site rehabilitation,” Mr de Brenni said.

He said that in the area of environmental management, a new operational policy was developed and released to manage the use of firefighting foam products in Queensland containing PFAS. This includes a three year transition to a ban on foam.

“When it comes to compliance and enforcement activities, Operation TORA – led by EHP—continues to stamp out rogue waste management operators to ensure that Queensland does not become the dumping ground for other states,” he said.

“Big achievements in EHP’s policy area include the container refund scheme and the plastic shopping bag ban – both come into effect from 1 July 2018.”

Mr de Brenni said some of the other achievements highlighted in the annual report include a whole-of-government climate adaptation strategy and the launch of the Queensland Climate Resilient Councils program.

“Tackling climate change is critical for strengthening the resilience of our iconic places, particularly the Great Barrier Reef. In the last year, one of the biggest achievements was keeping the Reef off the endangered list,” he said.

The Minister said the health and management of the Great Barrier Reef was a key, ongoing priority for the department.

“In 2016–17, EHP’s Office of the Great Barrier Reef continued to coordinate and deliver the state’s commitments under the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan and the implementation of the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce,” Mr de Brenni said.

“This work allowed new major projects to start in partnership with agricultural producers, with the end goal of helping to improve the quality of water flowing into reef catchments.”

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection’s 2016-17 Annual Report was tabled in the Queensland Parliament.

The report can be viewed online here.

Banana waste has biofutures potential

A small-scale biogas, organic waste to energy plant

Commercialising banana waste for sustainable organics manufacturing will be challenging, but the project has a lot of potential in Queensland, says Peter Hannan, the CEO of Growcom.

In an opinion piece published in the North Queensland Register, Mr Hannan explained that banana waste could play a key role in the biofutures industry, which focuses on the development and manufacturing of products from sustainable organic and/or waste resources, as opposed to fossil fuels.

He highlighted the Queensland Government’s allocation of $20 million in funding over three years for its sustainable biofutures industry plan.

Mr Hannan noted that Growcom, which represents the Queensland horticulture industry, had been involved in a project to produce and harvest methane gas from banana waste, which was funded by the Sustainable Industries Division of the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Growcom’s project demonstrated the feasibility of constructing a low-cost on-farm anaerobic digester to convert banana waste to biogas. It also assessed the most productive use of the biogas fuel on-farm to power machinery and return power to the grid,” he wrote.

Mr Hannan wrote that the aim of biofutures was to utilise ‘waste steams’ as feedstocks in the future to generate a range of sustainable chemicals, fuels, synthetic rubber, cosmetics and textiles.

“While the most common potential feedstocks mentioned are sugar cane bagasse, sorghum stover, algae and recycled waste/used lube oil, Growcom hopes that other feedstocks such as banana waste from the horticulture industry will be utilised.

“More than 30 000 tonnes of bananas are grown in Australia each year, mainly in northern Queensland. About 20 per cent of the banana crop, some 60,000 tonnes a year, is damaged or bruised during harvesting and transport to packing sheds and cannot be sold.

“Damaged bananas and banana bunch stalks can be converted into a gaseous fuel by anaerobic digestion, a process in which bacteria break down carbohydrates in the absence of air, producing a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. In fact, all plant material can be processed in this way.”

Mr Hannan wrote that the challenge going forward was to find an investor to undertake industrial design, enabling the system to be commercialised and made available to growers.