Retailers urged to prepare for QLD plastic bag ban

With less than 50 days until the Queensland plastic bag ban comes into effect, the state government has reminded retailers to be prepared.

Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch said Queenslanders use almost one billion plastic shopping bags each year.

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“This figure is astonishing. If you laid out all of these bags, end to end, they would reach from Coolangatta to the top of Cape York more than 160 times,” Ms Enoch said.

“And sadly about 16 million plastic bags end up in our environment every year.

“The ban will also help keep our state beautiful for generations to come and reduce the impact of plastic pollution on our treasured environment and wildlife.”

The Queensland Government is aiming to reduce the amount of single-use plastic items in an effort to tackle plastic pollution.

From 1 July, retailers will no longer be able to supply single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags less than 35 microns in thickness to customers, for free or at a charge.

Ms Enoch said it was pleasing to see some retailers already replacing plastic shopping bags in preparation of the ban.

“It’s also an important time for households to starting planning of how they can use reusable shopping bags when visiting the shops.

“Most household are likely to already have alternative bags they can use such as reusable ‘green’ bags or bags they use every day, like a backpack. Make sure you take them with you when you go shopping or to collect a takeaway, and keep them by the front door, in your car or in your bag.

“Regardless of which reusable shopping bags you use, to maximise the environmental benefit it’s very important that you use them over and over again and recycle them at their end-of-life, where possible,” Ms Enoch said.

The plastic bag ban applies to all retailers which supply single-use light weight plastic shopping bags.

Retailers that continue to supply banned bags after 1 July could face a fine of up to $6,300 per offence. A similar fine also applies to any person, such as a supplier, who provides misleading information about banned bags.

New upgraded waste facility opens in Moranbah, QLD

A $7 million upgraded waste management facility in Moranbah will cut cost, increase revenue and guarantee safe, reliable, long-term waste disposal for the region according to the Queensland Government.

Minister for Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said at the opening of the centre that it would inject $1.4 million into the local economy in the coming years.

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“This new landfill cell and modern refuse transfer station will allow for the bulk handling of waste and provide users with a safer and more reliable means of waste disposal to meet the demands of the community and industry for the next two decades,” Mr Dick said.

“This facility guarantees a reliable means of waste disposal for the seven resource companies depositing 16,000 tonnes of construction, demolition, commercial and industrial waste per annum, and the 8900 permanent residents of Moranbah and surrounds,” he said.

“The facility’s improved efficiency will reduce double handling, cut council’s costs by an estimated 20 per cent and provide improved recycling separation from landfill.”

Isaac Region Mayor Anne Baker said the Moranbah Resource Recovery Centre Improvement and Expansion Project had been an important initiative for the area.

“This project was vital to meeting the continuing demand for waste disposal from residential, commercial and industrial sources across the region and enhancing environmental outcomes,” Cr Baker said.

“Without this project, the capacity of the current landfill had been expected to be exhausted this year.”

“The new refuse transfer station delivered as part of the project provides residents with a modern and purpose-built facility including a four-bay covered waste drop off area,” she said.

The Moranbah Resource Recovery Centre is jointly funded with $3.58 million from the state government and $3.58 from the Isaac Regional Council.

Queensland CDS timeframe extended

The Queensland Government in February extended the timeframe for its Container Deposit Scheme from 1 July to 1 November 2018.

Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said it was important to get the scheme right from day one so that its full community, environmental and recycling benefits are realised.

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“We know Queenslanders want a container refund scheme and we have industry and community support for it. We also recognise it takes time and effort to ensure this is done efficiently and effectively,” she said.

Legislation to extend the start date of the Container Deposit Scheme was introduced into parliament in February.

Waste Recycling Industry Association Queensland Chief Executive Officer Rick Ralph said the new timeframe would give industry time to establish the right systems and make investments to ensure the scheme was accessible to all Queenslanders from the beginning.

“Queensland’s complex demographics, coupled with recent changes in terms of markets for recovered products globally, prove the decision is right and important in making the program the very best it can be,” Mr Ralph said.

A new not-for-profit company Container Exchange (CoEx) has been appointed as the product responsibility organisation (PRO) to administer and run Queensland’s container refund scheme.

CoEx will be governed by a board of nine directors, made up of beverage industry and independent representation, and will include an independent chair.

As the PRO, CoEx will work with the government to ensure the scheme is a success, and that it remains efficient and delivers positive outcomes for the public, community groups and the environment.

“I am pleased that two of our largest beverage manufacturers – Coca-Cola Amatil and Lion – are involved in CoEx,” Ms Enoch said.

“This is fitting as these entities represent around half of the beverage brands on the Queensland market.

“This approach has the support of environment and community groups, as well as the beverage sector, and will provide balance, transparency and equity in how CoEx and the scheme itself is run.”

Ms Enoch said CoEx was required to ensure an adequate number of container refund points were in place when the scheme started so its benefits would be available across Queensland.

She said the government is looking to have more than 200 refund points across Queensland ready to operate by 1 November this year, and CoEx will ensure they are located where as many people as possible in our de-centralised state can access them.

“CoEx has already started this process by putting a request for proposal into the market, seeking interest from individuals and organisations that want to run container refund points,” she said.

“CoEx will also work to ensure the scheme’s running costs are minimised, with as small an impact as possible on the beverage industry and the community.

“As we move towards the scheme’s 1 November start date, the public will be kept informed of container refund point locations and other relevant information through public information sessions, industry workshops, media announcements and online content.”

The refund scheme will see most drink containers between 150ml and 3L eligible for a 10 cent refund, although some containers are exempt.

Information on the scheme, including eligible containers, is available via the Queensland Government website.

Queensland Forum to discuss China waste ban

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

The forum aims to discuss the Chinese Government’s decision to restrict the amount of waste being imported and how it effects Queensland domestic recycling capabilities.

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It also will attempt to highlight how Queensland can lead the nation in recycling rates to grow the sector locally and increase investment.

Keynote speakers and industry experts will be presenting at the forum and sharing insights and outcomes that outline how Queensland can deliver a new recycling business environment.

In particular, the presentations will address the impacts of the National Sword policy and how local recycling can be improved. Presenters of day one (afternoon) include speakers from the energy, metals and plastics industries as well as material recovery facility operators. Day two (morning) will focus on the state government policy updates and includes a workshop that will discuss and produce solutions and opportunities to deliver back to the Queensland Government for its policy consideration.

The event is supported by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the Bundaberg Regional Council.

The forum takes place on the 26-27 April and will be hosted in the Bundaberg Multiplex Centre, 1 Civic Street, Bundaberg West.

Tickets are $195 until 15 April and $220 standard (not including GST). Click here to register. 

QLD researching new waste to turn to fuel

A Queensland biofuels plant is researching whether they can convert plastic, tyres and an invasive weed into diesel and energy.

The Southern Oil plant currently has been able to turn softwood plantation waste and macadamia nut shells into a renewable fuel source.

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Environment and Science Minister Leeanne Enoch said the facility had so far used four waste-based products and refined it into fuel, and that another seven waste products would be tested.

“This project is amazing, and is leading the way to a sustainable fuel future for Queensland,” Ms Enoch said.

“Now they are going test another seven waste-based products, and woody material from an invasive plant known as the prickly acacia – also a Weed of National Significance – has been prioritised as the next feedstock to be refined into saleable kerosene and diesel products,” she said.

“Other products the Plant are planning to convert into renewable diesel and energy include plastics, wood waste and tyres.”

Laboratory research has begun to refine the renewable crude into jet fuels and lubricants.

Queensland’s Biofuture Envoy Professor Ian O’Hara complemented Southern Oil on the technical advancements taking place.

“To be able to produce renewable biocrude generated from different waste streams, and then apply pilot scale distillation and hyrdotreatment on site to create a certified fuel is a great accomplishment,” Professor O’Hara said.

Southern Oil’s Managing Director Tim Rose said Queensland’s emerging renewable fuel industry was not just good for the environment but also good for Queensland’s economy – with significant benefits flowing through to regional Queensland.

“While we have invested heavily in a world class laboratory and cutting edge technology to produce a certified fuel, we have also invested heavily in independent economic modelling around the availability, aggregation and logistics of available waste streams in Queensland,” he said.

“We intend to establish regional hubs where the waste is generated, to produce our renewable crude. The crude will then be transported from across Queensland to the Gladstone Renewable Fuel Refinery.

“So new regional industries creating new jobs and new market opportunities. The numbers add up. It’s a viable and scalable business proposition.”

New recycling technology processes tyres into resources

Tyre processing company Pearl Global has begun commissioning its first production plant to recycle tyres into valuable secondary products.

The technology uses an applied heating process called thermal desorption, which converts waste tyres into liquid hydrocarbon, high tensile steel and carbon char, and can be sold separately or processed further.

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Pearl has constructed its first production plant, with two thermal desorption units (TDUs) in Stapylton, Queensland and initial commissioning under way. The second TDU is owned by Pearl’s intellectual property licensor and contracting partner Keshi, and will be purchased by Pearl as soon as practical.

Each TDU can process approximately 5000 tons (4536 tonnes) of shredded rubber at full production, equivalent to 50,000 car tyres. On average, this equates to a weekly output 1.5 million litres of raw fuel.

“This is the first plant of its type in Australia and we expect to be ramping up to full production over the coming months,” Pearl Executive Chairman Gary Foster said.

The materials are being developed into potential commercial products, including a degreaser product.

With assistance from The Centre for Energy at the University of Western Australia, Pearl’s degreaser products have been tested and compared to existing commercial degreasers and have surpassed the standards required for commercial degreasers, with one of them showing the best performance of all the degreaser products, according to the company.

Over 51 million used tyres get discarded in Australia a year, but only five per cent are recycled. Pearl’s technology focuses on extracting the resources from tyres instead of using them for constructing children’s playgrounds or exporting. Pearl (formerly Citation Resources Limited) in February rejoined the ASX following a reconstruction and a $5 million capital raising.

Pearl recently received planning approval from the Gold Coast City Council and has approval from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage. It already holds an environmental licence from the Western Australian Government Department of Environment Regulation.

“This is a turning point for used tyre processing in Australia. We are the first company in Australia to receive licenses for the thermal treatment of rubber, to reclaim and recover valuable products for resale,” Mr Foster said.

“Our technology is a significant advancement on other methods of processing waste tyres because it has low emissions, no hazardous by-products, requires no chemical intervention and is the only process that meets the standard emissions criteria set by the Australian regulators for this type of technology,” he said.

Mr Foster said the technology will help Australia handle a serious global environmental problem.

“We believe there is great potential in Australia to immediately deploy our technology at sites close to where tyres have been stockpiled,” Mr Foster said.

“With governments seeking or mandating solutions for waste, Pearl is well placed to offer a solution that is both environmentally sound and commercially viable.”

Pearl has applied to be an accredited member of Tyre Stewardship Australia.

Moranbah Resource Recovery Centre finished in Queensland

A major project has been completed in central Queensland to improve the region’s waste disposal network.

The $7.16 million Moranbah Resource Recovery Centre Expansion and Improvement Project was first started in March 2017 and has seen over 28 Olympic swimming pools worth of soil excavated.

FK Gardner & Sons were awarded the construction tender in February 2017 and sourced local contractors to work on the project.

The centre now has a new landfill cell, stormwater and leachate ponds, and a refuse transfer station.

According to the Isaac Council, the transfer station will enable the bulk handling of waste and improve hygiene and safety for the community and landfill employees.

Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker said the project was vital to meeting demand for waste disposal in the region and improving environmental performance.

“This upgrade is critical in ensuring Moranbah can meet demand for the provision of waste infrastructure to serve the regional community, mining sector and supporting industries,” Mayor Baker said.

“Isaac Regional Council matched the Queensland Government’s $3.58 million funding under the Building our Regions program.”

Queensland Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said Building our Regions was all about making sure communities such as those in the Isaac region benefit from the state’s economic successes.

“The Moranbah Resource Recovery Centre project will improve operational efficiencies and extend the lifespan of the landfill reserve.

“It will meet community and industry waste management requirements and improve the efficiency and recovery of recyclable materials.

“The transfer station became operational on September 25, 2017 and the new landfill cell is expected to accept waste from February 2018.”

Waste and recycling council calls for levy portability

Enforcing landfill levies across state borders will prevent further unnecessary cross border transport of waste, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council believes (NWRIC).

Following the ABC’s Four Corners report on August 7, three government reviews have been commissioned into the Australian waste and recycling industry – a review by a legal expert on behalf of the Queensland Premier, a NSW Upper House inquiry and a Commonwealth senate review. The NWRIC is offering solutions to the problems addressed by these reviews.

Interstate waste transport
A key issue raised by the reviews is the use of lower cost landfills in south east Queensland for the disposal of NSW construction and demolition waste. The reviews will also address challenges in recycling markets, a better use for landfill levy revenue and illegal practises.

While the haulage of waste materials from Sydney to Brisbane is undesirable, it is not illegal. The trade has been created by regulatory disparity between NSW and Queensland. Private industry have been lobbying for a regulatory solution on this issue for more than three years.

The regulatory disparity could be solved by either implementing a landfill levy in Queensland of $40 per tonne or more, or by reducing the landfill levy in NSW on construction and demolition material down to $100 per tonne or less. However, the NWRIC does not recommend either of these options as levies should stable and if introduced, should be carefully planned.

The NWRIC is instead proposing that state governments make landfill levies ‘portable’ across state borders. This means that levies applicable should be based on where waste is generated, not where it is landfilled. If implemented by neighbouring states, this solution will also prevent unnecessary interstate waste movements between Victoria, NSW and South Australia.

The council is currently liaising with the Heads of EPAs taskforce to promote this effective interim solution. Over the longer term, the NWRIC is calling for all states and jurisdictions to harmonise the regulations covering the Australian waste and recycling industry. Regulatory harmony will promote investor confidence and prevent future undesirable consequences.

The Queensland Government is leading an investigation into this same issue. A couple of weeks ago, they announced that retired Supreme Court judge, Peter Lyons QC, will lead the independent investigation into interstate waste transport. It comes after a roundtable jointly chaired by the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Environment Minister Steven Miles.

“We are sending a clear message to interstate operators transporting waste to this state,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“Mr Lyons is a highly regarded former Supreme Court Judge and Queen’s Counsel who will commence immediately to investigate the interstate waste transportation issue.”

The scope of his investigation will include incentives for movement of waste from other states and how to prevent this from occurring, opportunities for regulatory reform, and the role of other states and the Commonwealth.

Ms Palaszczuk said Mr Lyons’ duties will also include consultation with industry, specifically those who participated through the roundtable process.

“I have asked for a report, including recommendations be provided to government by mid-November.

In addition to the investigation, government is taking steps to ensure operators are complying with the law.

Minister Miles said Operation TORA involving officers from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP), Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) and Queensland Police Service (QPS) is continuing.

“Officers on the ground are blitzing interstate trucking waste,” he said.

“This is an important industry that contributes to the economy and employing thousands of Queenslanders.”

Recycling Markets
The emerging ‘circular economy’ in Australia is subject to unpredictable price fluctuations in the global market. Currently, glass has a marginal value, and plastic prices are at a historic low. The stockpiling of materials prior to recycling is a normal process in the recycling market, and stockpiled glass from kerbside collection is neither a hazardous material nor a fire risk.

In order to stimulate recycling markets, the NWRIC is proposing that more landfill levy money be hypothecated back to industry. The NWRIC advocates this revenue be used to support uniform and comprehensive regulatory enforcement, statewide waste management and recycling infrastructure planning and the creation of viable, long term markets for recycled products.

Where levy revenue is to spent directly on infrastructure projects, the NWRIC proposes that funds be offered as loans rather than grants – as this structure ensures transparency, accountability and a level market. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation serves as an existing model for this type of program.

To assist governments in creating the regulatory conditions conducive to stimulating investment into the circular economy, the NWRIC has produced its National Roadmap for a Circular Economy. Read more about it here. This document offers a range of regulatory solutions to improve the environmental, social and economic performance of Australia’s waste and recycling industry, and is available from the NWRIC website.