The City of Melbourne talks to Waste Management Review about the city’s Draft Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy and recycling initiatives in the CBD.
Q. What were some of the key factors influencing the development of the City of Melbourne’s Draft Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030?
A. The circular economy concept underpins our Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030 (WRRS), which was endorsed by council 16 July 2019.
The strategy outlines an ambitious plan to transition to a 90 per cent waste from landfill diversion rate, reduce truck movements, improve public amenity and reinvigorate our recycling sector.
Q. What are the key ingredients that go into making an organics trial a success?
A. With food making up 50 per cent of household waste in our municipality, finding a solution for discarded food scraps is a key component of the WRRS.
Our residents discarded an estimated 12,000 tonnes of food waste in 2016–17, and through our engagement with the community, we know people want a solution to avoid food going to landfill.
Later in the year we will look at a food and organic waste collection trial, to determine how collection services could work for residents with kerbside bins.
A third bin for organic waste would be rolled out and collected weekly, building on an earlier trial in 2017.
The trial will help us design an effective waste collection service for the whole municipality in the future.
Q. How has the Degraves Street Recycling Facility helped boost food diversion for businesses?
A. The Degraves Facility is a boutique response to the high-density café demographic, and is strategically located due to the high volume of businesses in the area.
By creating a local recycling hub, the City of Melbourne has boosted amenity by limiting the amount of rubbish bins on the street and reducing truck movements.
In 2013, none of the 100 businesses surrounding Degraves Street were recycling. The facility now hosts a food waste processor, a cardboard baler and co-mingled recycling bins.
Each week, 2.5 tonnes of organic waste is processed by the Orca and diverted from landfill.
The Orca uses aerobic digestion to break down the food waste, turning it into water that then goes safely into the sewer.
Q. How is the City of Melbourne addressing challenges such as population growth, high density collection, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change?
A. Ensuring Melbourne maintains its status of one of the world’s most liveable cities – as the daily population grows from 911,000 to 1.4 million by 2036 – is one of our biggest challenges and is therefore central to all our strategic plans.
The WRRS seeks to streamline the waste system and reduce congestion on roads and footpaths, where some of our bins are stored.
To action this, we will introduce more shared waste hubs for businesses in the central city, and remove some commercial bins from the public realm.
We also want to expand the network of five communal waste compactors and recycling hubs in central city laneways, which currently take waste from more than 300 businesses. We can dramatically reduce the number of bins lining our laneways and the number of trucks on our streets by creating more central waste drop-off points.
Reducing the impact of waste is central to the city’s commitment to taking action on climate change, and will help us reach the key target of avoiding 1.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Q. What are the challenges and opportunities to boost City of Melbourne’s 25 per cent recycling rate?
A. Household waste makes up around five per cent of the total waste in Melbourne. Residents recycle only 25 per cent of their waste, which is low compared to the Victorian average of 45 per cent.
This is mostly due to a lack of organics recycling, with food waste representing half of household waste sent to landfill. Residents discarded an estimated 12,000 tonnes of food waste in 2016–17.
We already have a number of initiatives to cut down on waste to landfill, such as offering our residents and businesses discounted worm farms and compost bins.
As for commingled kerbside recycling, at the moment we are one of 30 councils looking for an alternate solution following the closure of SKM Recycling sites.
Kerbside recycling will be taken to a landfill facility until other arrangements can be made.
We are disappointed with this outcome and expect our residents will feel similarly.
We don’t want people to lose their good recycling habits while this is happening. In fact, we’d like people to increase their knowledge of what can be recycled and minimise contamination as much as possible. [comments published in early August].
Q. Where do you see waste and resource recovery heading?
A. At present, the biggest challenge is the recycling sector. In the future we would like to see a robust, local recycling industry that is supported by an increase in the amount of recycled product used in future infrastructure projects throughout Victoria
The Victorian Government will tackle ongoing waste management issues with $11.3 million in immediate financial relief to councils and infrastructure investment.
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said SKM Recycling were significantly undercutting the prices of other recycling providers, and since they stopped accepting waste, many councils are paying double what they were for recycling services.
“To alleviate this financial pressure, the state government will deliver a $6.6 million package to the 33 affected councils over the next four months, providing a rebate that will cover the additional costs they are incurring to deal with their recyclable waste,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“The state government also stands ready to work with the receiver of SKM Corporate, and any prospective buyer to remove the stockpiles at SKM-managed sites and offsite storage of material.”
Ms D’Ambrosio said it had become clear that the quality of Australia’s recyclable material is compromised due to its high rate of contamination.
“To that end, the state government will also work with councils and industry stakeholders on a major overhaul of kerbside collection to improve the quality of recyclables being collected by councils,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
Council’s hoping to receive assistance will have to provide evidence that alternatives to landfill are being sought, agree to participate in collaborative procurement and provide information on current contractural rates and conditions.
The government has also announced new grants worth $4.7 million, to support projects that will improve the quality of recycled materials through better sorting and processing.
“At the most recent Council of Australian Governments meeting, the Prime Minister acknowledged that recyclable waste is a national issue, as well as an opportunity to rebuild a domestic recycling sector that can provide products to local markets,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“To achieve this, targets will also be considered to drive investment in end uses, such as glass for road base and railway sleepers made from plastics.”
The future of waste management and resource recovery is high on the agenda at all levels of government as Australia’s largest and most comprehensive conference and exhibition, Waste Expo Australia launches registrations.
Hosting more than 120 brands and over 100 speakers across three conference stages, Waste Expo Australia will return to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on October 23 and 24.
Waste Expo Australia will offer free-to-attend conference content across the Waste and Wastewater Summits, attracting the largest gathering of waste management and resource professionals in Australia.
The Waste Summit Conference brought to you by Oceania Clean Energy Solutions will cover six targeted streams from resource recovery, waste-to-energy, collections, landfill and transfer stations, construction and demolition waste as well as commercial and industrial waste.
Key speakers will include Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio, Victorian EPA CEO Cathy Wilkinson and Acting Executive Director for Waste Strategy and Policy at the NSW EPA Kar Mel Tang.
Other national and state-based bodies will be represented, along with case study presentations from local governments including Campaspe Shire Council, City of Holdfast Bay, Yarra City Council and Albury City Council.
Leading off day one of the Waste Summit, a panel will discuss the pressing issues surrounding Australia’s waste-to-energy (WtE) sector.
One of the panel members, Director of Enhar Consulting Demian Natakhan, will discuss the status of landfill solar generation and propose that the final resting place for municipal waste may be the beginning of new energy generation.
“Solar farming on former landfill sites offers a way to put otherwise unproductive land to a valuable use,” Mr Natakhan suggested.
“Where landfill gas is already collected in sufficient quantities to firepower generation, solar can be added onto existing grid infrastructure. In sites with lower landfill gas volumes, new solar generation with grid upgrades can unlock significant solar generation, avoiding the competition between solar farming and productive agricultural or industrial land.”
Confronting the challenges and opportunities in wastewater treatment will also be tackled at the Wastewater Summit brought to you by EnviroConcepts.
Waste Expo Australia Event Director Cory McCarrick said the event continues to grow with more speakers and suppliers on board this year than ever before.
“We have seen an increase in the total number of exhibitors this year to 120 and around 50 of these are exhibiting for the first time at Waste Expo Australia,” Mr McCarrick said.
Key exhibitors this year include Bost Group, Cleanaway, Caterpillar, HSR Southern Cross, Tricon Equipment, Applied Machinery and Hitachi.
“Add to this list our impressive line-up of speakers, there is no other waste event in Australia that gives you access to such thought-provoking content that address the major issues facing the industry coupled with the opportunities to be immersed among the key players and products for free,” Mr McCarrick said.
Waste Expo Australia is co-location with All-Energy Australia, Energy Efficiency Expo and ISSA Cleaning and Hygiene Expo — forming a significant showcase for the waste, recycling, wastewater, renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleaning industries.
Across the two days attendees will have access to industry speakers and suppliers across waste management, wastewater treatment, energy generation, energy efficiency and cleaning and hygiene.
Registration gives you access to all four events on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 October 2019.
The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is urging Victorians to continue recycling despite temporary interruptions to the state’s waste and recycling network.
Despite recent challenges, VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the sector collectively delivers an efficient waste collection service to all Victorians.
“The private sector supports 23,000 Victorian jobs and invests over $800 million into waste and recycling services and infrastructure annually,” Mr Smith says.
“We have the potential to create sustainable solutions out of this current crisis. I hope we capitalise on it.”
Mr Smith said the current approach to waste management and recycling had evolved over decades.
“Current procurement practices have encouraged a concentration of processing capabilities across large operators and sites focused on volume processing, which has traditionally been a lower cost option,” Mr Smith said.
“A series of events over the last 18-20 months has demonstrated the inherent risks of the state’s waste and recycling network when we drive low cost options.”
Over the next procurement period, VWMA strongly recommends government procurement and tendering address ongoing issues and challenges.
“For Victoria and Australia to successfully manage our future waste needs, we must invest appropriately in the people, systems, processes and education to drive sustainable change, with the private sector as a partner for local and state government,” Mr Smith said.
According to Mr Smith, the state will see materials traditionally destined for recycling end up in landfill as the system transitions.
“We may need to accept that this temporary interruption could last a few weeks, as our waste and recycling system adjusts and adapts to this most recent challenge. Temporary interruptions shouldn’t discourage people doing the right thing and disposing of their waste in the right bin,” Mr Smith said.
“I also encourage impacted members or industry to attend our conference next week. The State Conference is about Victorian issues and opportunities – this is a critical time for the industry. Come along.”
Mr Smith added that the average Australian generates roughly 2.7 tonnes of waste a year — equivalent to the weight of a Toyota HiAce.
“By global standards that’s high and is not sustainable,” Mr Smith said.
“People can support the current challenges we are having by reviewing their own habits and behaviours, including buying things made locally from recycled material.”
The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) is initiating a range of measures to support councils, following a EPA Victoria notice that SKM Services stop accepting recyclable material at its Laverton North site.
EPA issued the recycler with notices on 19 June that required it bring outdoor stockpiles at Maffra Street, Coolaroo and Laverton North into compliance with the Victorian Waste Management Policy by 3 July 2019.
An EPA media statement said regulatory action followed an inspection that revealed waste on site had increased following an extension of time for compliance.
Additionally, a fire broke out at the Laverton North site 9 July that EPA believes began on a conveyor belt.
“EPA is of the opinion that SKM understood its obligations under the notices, but had not demonstrated a move towards achieving compliance at the Laverton North site,” the statement reads.
“The company will still be able to process waste at its Laverton North site while the notice is in place, but will not be able to receive any new materials until EPA is satisfied that it has achieved compliance with the Victorian Waste Management Policy.”
MWRRG is seeking confirmation from SKM that it has alternative provisions in place to ensure it can continue to provide service to up to 10 affected local councils.
MWRRG CEO Rob Millard said MWRRG’s focus is on ensuring minimal disruption to residents by working with affected councils, other recycling facilities and landfill operators on immediate and long-term solutions.
“Following China’s decision to limit the importation of recyclables, MWRRG has been developing collaborative procurements for recycling services, working with 11 council clusters comprising more than 60 councils across the state,” Mr Millard said.
“By councils working together, larger contracts will be offered in the industry to encourage investment in recycling infrastructure and technology, and to attract new candidates to the Victorian recycling sector.”
Mr Millard said industry would be asked to provide expressions of interest on the collaborative procurements in August, with detailed submissions expected by the end of the year.
More than $2.29 million has been allocated between 28 projects for waste avoidance and recovery in Western Australia, as part of the latest round of Community and Industry Engagement grants.
Western Australian Environment Minister Stephen Dawson, who announced the recipients earlier this week, said awarded projects were selected following an independent panel assessment of 90 applications.
“The community shift to treating waste as a resource shows we are well on our way to owning our impact,” Mr Dawson said.
“In our waste strategy released earlier this year, the state government was clear that we want at least 75 per cent of waste generated to be reused or recycled by 2030.”
Selected projects were broken up into two streams, with awards for the general stream including $93,000 for the Western Australia plastic processing plant and $81,450 for a Mindarie regional council FOGO trial.
Infrastructure stream grants include $114,000 for the reuse and recycle shop baler upgrade and $310,000 for the Old Quarry Road transfer station and reuse shop.
According to Mr Dawson, funding decisions were made to improve the recovery and reuse of focus materials from the WA Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030 including plastic, glass, construction and demolition and FOGO.
“A number of grant recipients have received funding to develop WA’s plastics recycling capacity, including two grants to Greenbatch for reprocessing equipment and education facilities, and a grant to Precious Plastics Margaret River for a community recycling project in the south west,” Mr Dawson said.
As Alex Fraser celebrates its 140th anniversary, Waste Management Review details the company’s efforts to become one of Australia’s leading providers of recycled construction materials.
Not many Australian companies have 140 years of operation behind them. Such a milestone is even more extraordinary when you consider the enormous changes that have occurred over the past century – from two world wars to some of the most challenging economic recessions.
Alex Fraser is one organisation that recently hit that 140-year milestone, attributing its long history of success to investment in its people and its business. As a result, the company was able to swiftly respond to major shifts in material usage and keep pace with changing community expectations.
While the company is synonymous with building a sustainable construction sector, its humble beginnings were in the metals sector.
In 1879, Alex Fraser was a founding member of a metal broker firm, in Queen Street, Melbourne, run by the Melbourne Metal Exchange (MME).
With the price of metal fluctuating on an almost daily basis, Fraser and his fellow MME members controlled the entire output from Barrier Mines as well as other important mines throughout the country with silver, lead, zinc and tin the principle metals.
In the early 1920s, Fraser made the decision to retire and return to his country of birth, leaving the business to a clerk employed with the company – Archibald McKellar. McKellar’s 11 years with the business helped him grow the business throughout the Great Depression and eventually take over as owner.
With the passing of McKellar Snr, his son Archie took over after World War II in the 1950s. Margins were difficult at the time and with stiff competition in the tin and lead business, McKellar Jnr set looked for new opportunities, starting with the demolition and recycling of metal from returned fighter jets and tanks from the war.
Many of these initial opportunities saw Alex Fraser become a pioneer in commercial recycling, including plastics and dry nylon recycling. During the 60s and 70s, demolitions became a prominent activity for Alex Fraser and by the late 70s, its primary industry.
The early 80s marked the beginning of a new age in Alex Fraser’s recycling story as it embarked on one of its most ambitious projects yet. Led by Jamie McKellar and his brothers Robert and Peter, the family’s third generation began to transform large quantities of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, like concrete, asphalt, brick and stone, into new construction resources such as aggregates and roadbase.
With the establishment of its first concrete recycling site in Port Melbourne, Alex Fraser started to grow its employee base from an initial few to more than 260 across five recycling plants in Queensland and Victoria.
Alex Fraser Asphalt was launched in the 1990s. It quickly expanded to include two high-capacity asphalt plants on opposite ends of Melbourne’s metro area and five asphalt crews renowned for their quality workmanship and reliability.
Together, Alex Fraser’s recycling and asphalt operations work with local governments, contractors and asset owners to build greener roads throughout Melbourne and Brisbane, reducing the carbon footprint of construction by up to 65 per cent.
DEVELOPING A REPUTATION
One of its biggest milestones arose in 1992, when governments, councils and contractors began to recognise and support the use of recycled C&D. Alex Fraser worked closely with government to develop VicRoads specifications. These specifications have been periodically updated and set an outstanding example of government agencies supporting the use of recycled content.
Alex Fraser went from strength to strength, winning the Western Ring Road and Albert Park Grand Prix track projects and laying the foundations of Melbourne’s Crown Casino. As of 1987, it was responsible for almost half of Victoria’s C&D recycling effort.
By 2008, Alex Fraser became a major recycling enterprise, having produced 20 million tonnes of sustainable construction materials. Peter Murphy, who has been with Alex Fraser for more than 15 years, transitioned the company into its next phase of growth, stepping up to the role of Managing Director in 2011 after the company changed hands to John Swire & Sons.
Peter’s background in logistics drove Alex Fraser’s commitment to reliability, ensuring responsive delivery to its valued customers. He and his team consistently benchmark locally and internationally which has helped foster a culture of innovation and best practice at Alex Fraser.
Peter led the establishment of a network of world class recycling facilities, and spearheaded Alex Fraser’s innovative recycled glass projects.
Fast forward to 2019 and Alex Fraser’s notable achievements span turning glass into construction sand, converting historically landfilled concrete into recycled aggregates and roadbase, and using a wide variety of recyclables in its quality asphalt mixes, including recovered asphalt, glass and plastics.
It is now responsible for producing up to four million tonnes of sustainable construction material per annum, recovering millions of tonnes of demolition and glass waste and paving more than 1000 kilometres of green roads every year.
This year the company is in the midst of commissioning a world-first glass recycling plant and new high recycled technology asphalt plant, doubling the volume of recycled sand produced in Victoria while drastically increasing the volume of recycled materials incorporated in its asphalt mixes.
Peter credits the company’s innovation and agility to its people who are always looking for the next improvement, and to strengthen long-term relationships with customers and regulators.
“We work hard to provide reliable services, so our customers can get their projects done on time, on spec and on budget. On all our customer projects, supply timelines are integral to performance. If we can give them a high volume of consistent material, their project will be more efficient,” Peter explains.
He says that it was rewarding to see the efforts of Alex Fraser’s people recognised last year with the company winning the Waste and Recycling Award at the Victorian Transport Association Australian Freight Industry Awards.
“The prize commended our game-changing glass recycling operation that diverted hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste from landfill and provides resources that are badly needed to fulfil Victoria’s multi-billion-dollar infrastructure pipeline,” Peter says.
“It also substantially reduces heavy vehicle movements. There’s plenty of talk about recycling lately. We’ve been doing it for a long time on a large scale and have continued to innovate and invest.”
Of course, none of Alex Fraser’s achievements would be possible without its continued efforts to improve the end markets for recycled materials. The company conducts ongoing research and development with partners including CSIRO, Australian Road Research Board, Melbourne’s RMIT, Melbourne University and Swinburne University. Testing over an extended period on materials and pavements demonstrates that recycled aggregate matches, if not exceeds, the performance of the equivalent virgin material.
Part of its ongoing work is liaising with individual local government areas and businesses to educate them on the environmental and commercial benefits of using recycled material.
Peter says that as natural resources deplete and quarries move further afield, transport costs increase sharply.Recycled materials are not only a sustainable option, but often the most economical.
Alex Fraser’s desire to benchmark recycled materials led to a decision to partner with RMIT Centre of Design and conduct a life-cycle analysis of its recycling operation compared with a quarrying operation.
In May 2008, the results of the RMIT research were released indicating the carbon footprint of recycled crushed concrete is 65 per cent less than equivalent quarried material. These findings have subsequently been independently verified in accordance with international standard ISO14040.
“Demand is increasing and the constant challenge is to ensure that all of these major projects happening across the country are aware of sustainable alternatives,” Peter says.
“The consistent quality, compaction, transport and density benefits of recycled construction materials are well recognised as presenting substantial savings to construction costs, so they are well supported across the sector.”
He says that Alex Fraser’s recycled road base and aggregates comply with road building authorities’ specifications, such as VicRoads and Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads, and the vast majority of local governments also support the use of recycled content.
“VicRoads has a strong track record of choosing recycled materials for some of its biggest projects, including the M1 and M80,” Peter says.
Last year, Alex Fraser developed PolyPave™ – a high-performing asphalt product containing recycled materials, including plastic, glass and RAP. Melbourne’s City of Yarra was the first of many councils to incorporate the new material in its roads through a resurfacing project in late 2018.
Peter says that Alex Fraser has been planning for the long term and sets a very high benchmark in operating standards for its sites.
“This includes ensuring our operations are ‘not seen and not heard’ through extraordinary measures to address air quality management, acoustics, traffic and visual amenity as well as constantly working to reduce the carbon footprint of our own operations and our customers’.”
POSITIONED FOR GROWTH
Alex Fraser was last year acquired by construction and building material supplier Hanson Australia. Complementing Alex Fraser’s unique sustainability offering is Hanson’s technical expertise, sophisticated systems and large site network.
Peter says that Hanson’s ownership strengthens the viability of recycled materials, with great synergies between the two businesses.
“We are working together to improve efficiencies at Alex Fraser and Hanson, including recycling Hanson materials.”
As for the future of Alex Fraser? The company has continued to invest and aims to expand its capabilities with new materials and new locations.
“The new integrated facility at Laverton is a demonstration of a thriving circular economy at work. It has answered a long-standing question around how successfully waste materials can be recycled into quality resources for greener roads.”
Peter says that Alex Fraser will continue to be agile, evolving its business to align with community needs as it works towards another prosperous 140 years.
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.
Queensland’s Resource Recovery Industries 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan aims to support modernisation in current industries and advance product development in underdeveloped end markets.
State Development Minister Cameron Dick is encouraging all Queenslanders to read the newly released draft and provide feedback.
“The ongoing development of markets for recycled and repurposed material through investment in modern efficient facilities and processes will reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and assist Queensland to become a zero-waste society,” Mr Dick said.
“Working closely with industry and other stakeholders, we’ve developed a series of roadmaps focused on emerging priority sectors with global growth potential.”
The roadmap outlines four strategies to enable growth in the resource recovery industry – accelerate the project pipeline, develop market and supply chains, create responsive policy and legislative frameworks and develop applicable technology.
The draft outlines a number of proposed actions including delivery of the $100 million resource recovery industry development program and developing a comprehensive analysis of the resource recovery market sector, including the identification of supply chain efficiencies and the promotion of new market opportunities.
The state government will also work to provide facilitation services, ensure the availability of suitable industrial land and investigate opportunities for the inclusion of recycled products in government procurement policies.
According to the roadmap’s key date timeline, a waste and resource recovery infrastructure plan will be established by September and an energy-from-waste policy released shortly after.
Mr Dick said through these initiatives the state government hopes to see more material re-enter the production cycle.
“We’re actively looking for opportunities to support new resource recovery sector projects through programs such as the resource recovery strategy and industry development activities,” Mr Dick said.
“Government will support industry to overcome some of the typical barriers encountered by emerging or new technologies, including access to funding, business case development, commercialisation partnerships and the de-risking of projects.”
The Resource Recovery Industries 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan complements the draft Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy released in February 2019.