WA CDS legislation enters state parliament

Container deposit scheme laws have been introduced into the Western Australian Parliament, with the scheme expected to start in early 2020.

The move is a major milestone for the scheme, which is projected to result in 706 million fewer beverage containers littered over the next 20 years.

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It also aims to increase recycling throughout the state and is expected to reduce the number of containers sent to landfill by 5.9 billion.

The scheme is expected to deliver a net positive benefit of around $152 million over the next 20 years and follows the state government’s waste reduction methods, which includes a ban on lightweight single-use plastic bags and a review of the WA waste strategy.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said Western Australians have been supportive of the scheme, with more than 3000 people supporting it during the public consultation period.

“The introduction of this legislation to Parliament marks a major milestone in bringing a container deposit scheme to Western Australia,” he said.

“Not only will we be diverting waste from landfill, this scheme is likely to create as many as 500 jobs as part of the new container sorting and processing facilities, and refund points across the state.”

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said he is confident the container deposit scheme will reduce litter and increase recycling.

“It will also be designed to provide business opportunities for social enterprises and help charities and community organisations raise money to fund vital community work,” Mr Dawson said.

“This scheme will be a win for the environment and a win for the local economy.”

ALGA calls for Fed Govt leadership on National Waste Policy

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has called for continued national leadership from the Federal Government to ensure waste management and resource recovery policies are consistent across all levels of government.

It follows the endorsement of the new National Waste Policy at the eighth Meeting of Environment Ministers in Canberra last week.

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After the Federal Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy issued a statement indicating a consensus was reached on a national action plan for the National Waste Policy, Environment Minister Melissa Price issued a statement last week claiming state and territory ministers “walked away from solid targets on Australia’s recycling and waste”.

“The Federal Government expected to formalise the targets, after months of negotiations and consultation and endorsement at state and federal official level,” Ms Price said in the statement.

“Instead the state and territory governments refused to endorse aspects of our National Waste Policy.

“This is an incredibly disappointing outcome for the nation that simply deprives Australia of a policy that would ensure we have a responsible and environmentally sensible approach to managing waste in the future.”

The minister went on to say that the Federal Government will continue to press forward with an action plan on reducing waste and increasing recycling.

ALGA President, Mayor David O’Loughlin attended the meeting and said there is more work to be done on the issue.

“The new policy may be full of good intentions and strong principles, but has as much backbone as you’ll find in the average plastic shopping bag,” Cr O’Loughlin said.

“Urgent action is needed as ministers themselves have acknowledged. Industry and communities need to see real on-ground action and there is a critical need for national leadership to maintain a unified approach.

“Dedicated and nationally-coordinated action on recycling will give industry the signal it needs to increase investment in sustainable resource recovery and support the nation’s move towards a circular economy,” he said.

Cr O’Loughlin said it is essential that all levels of government increase their procurement of goods and infrastructure that incorporate recycled materials, such as those used in road bases, to help reduce items entering the waste stream. He adds that state and territory governments need to take the necessary steps to help the recyclate industry sector go further.

“89 per cent of Australians have indicated that they want recycled content included in government procurement,” he said.

“There is more than $1 billion sitting in state waste levy funds that could be invested in industry innovation, pilot projects and financially supporting transitions from virgin product feedstock to recycled feedstock.

“There’s another $1 billion to be collected next year, but the meeting achieved no strong policy commitment, no agreement on concrete targets or timeframes, miniscule investment and little progress,” Cr O’Loughlin said.

Trial funded to turn sawmill waste into diesel and bitumen

Sawmill scraps and sawdust could soon be turned into renewable diesel and bitumen as a result of a $1.2 million feasibility study, funded by the Federal Government and Boral Limited.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has agreed to grant Boral with $500,000 towards the study, with Boral providing the remainder.

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The study will trial a mechanical catalytic conversion technology, developed by Spanish-based Global Ecofuel Solutions SL, along with initial design works for the full-scale plant, exploration of the regulatory challenges and development of the business case.

Boral will explore the technical and financial viability of establishing a biorefinery using this technology near its Herons Creek hardwood sawmill, near Port Macquarie, NSW.

If successful, the proposed biorefinery would cost around $50 million and could convert up to 50,000 tonnes of waste sawmill residue produces each year into transport grade diesel and renewable bitumen.

Sawmill residue, which includes sawdust, remnant woodchips, shavings and offcuts, is currently used for lower value uses such as landscaping and boiler fuel.

Boral consumes a large amount of diesel and bitumen, using around 100 million litres of diesel a year to operate its business in Australia. The company estimates the volume of timber residues should create around 16 million litres of diesel and 8000 tonnes of bitumen.

Boral Building Products Executive General Manager Wayne Manners said if the study was successful, the diesel and bitumen produced at the potential new biorefinery could eventually account for up to 15 per cent of Boral’s annual needs.

“The application of this technology has the potential to transform the way we use low value hardwood sawmill residues into a resource that could be highly valuable, not just to Boral, but to the industry more generally,” he said.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project further shows that big businesses are increasingly moving towards renewable energy solutions.

“If this ground-breaking technology is successful, we hope to see a transition to similar biorefineries by other companies which have a waste stream in forestry or agriculture,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“The transport sector is a significant user of energy in Australia, with liquid fuels a key long-term energy source for heavy-vehicle road and air transport since they cannot readily be electrified.

“Bioenergy comprises a growing proportion of Australia’s energy mix, and this new technology could see residue from the production process be used to reduce Boral’s reliance on diesel and bitumen derived from fossil fuels,” he said.

City of Mitcham uses waste tyres in asphalt trial

Around 850 used tyres have been recycled to pave a 335 metre stretch of road as part of a crumbed rubber asphalt trial in the City of Mitcham, South Australia.

The asphalt trial is funded by Tyre Stewardship Australia to support research and development into ways of improving local markets for tyre-derived products.

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A specific warm mix of dense-graded crumb rubber modified asphalt was used on the trial, which has been laboratory tested and found to be suitable for use in challenging underlying soil conditions, such as reactive clay.

The test will focus on a range of performance factors including cracking, rutting, moisture retention and general durability. The results of the test are expected to increase the specification of such roads across Australia.

If successful, the trail aims to contribute to doubling the use of recycled tyre rubber in Australia’s roads, leading to an increase in the percentage of annual used tyres consumed from around five per cent to 10 per cent.

Australia generates around 56 million end-of-life tyres each year, however only around 10 per cent of that volume is recycled domestically in all uses. Crumbed rubber asphalt and rubberised road surface spray seals can provide a potentially benefit of increasing recycling rates and improving roads.

City of Mitcham Mayor Heather Holmes-Ross said there was not only a sustainability dividend, as the asphalt will also have the potential to directly lower maintenance costs as it is less prone to cracking and rutting.

“We are trialling the crumb rubber asphalt because of the significant environmental benefits as well as the opportunity to improve the quality and life of road pavements, particularly in areas of reactive clay soils,” Ms Holmes-Ross said.

Acting CEO of Tyre Stewardship Australia Steve Clifford congratulated the council for conducting the test.

“The work done in South Australia will play an important role in creating valuable domestic recycling outcomes for end-of-life tyres. Outcomes that can also deliver new green jobs,” Mr Clifford said.

Ongoing testing is scheduled to run for two years, with results monitored on a regular basis to assess the key performance parameters.

NSW EPA to develop 20-year waste strategy

The NSW EPA, in partnership with Infrastructure NSW, is developing a 20-year waste strategy for the state.

The strategy aims to set a 20-year vision for reducing waste, driving sustainable recycling markets and identifying and improving the state and regional waste infrastructure network.

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It will also aim to provide the waste industry with certainty and set goals and incentives to ensure the correct infrastructure decisions are made to meet community needs.

Stakeholders, including local government, industry experts and the broader community, will work with the EPA over the next six months to provide an evidence base and address the key priorities for the waste and resource recovery sector.

This will include examining similar waste strategies in Australia and around the world.

A long-term vision and roadmap will include new long-term goals for waste generation and landfill diversion, new policy positions and strategic decisions that aim to avoid waste and improve resource recovery, and a plan for new or enhanced policies to improve waste collection.

A framework for the delivery of an integrated state network will be part of the roadmap, along with aims to align policy and regulation to achieve long term strategic objectives and a plan to strengthen data quality and access.

The strategy is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Europe reaches 44 per cent battery recycling collection rate

Around 44 per cent of batteries sold in Europe were collected for recycling, with Belgium reaching 70.7 per cent, according to new data from the European Union’s statistical office, Eurostat.

In total, the data found around 214,000 tonnes of portable batteries and accumulators were put on the market in 2016, with around 93,000 tonnes collected for recycling, meaning more than twice the amount of batteries that had been put on the market than were collected.

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Luxembourg reached 63.4 per cent collection rate, with Hungary and Lithuania reaching around 53 per cent. Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom achieved collection rates of around 45 per cent.

The EU target for collection rates of portable batteries was set at 45 per cent in 2016, meaning 13 EU member states did not reach the target.

Australia has a comparatively low recycling rate of batteries, with the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative finding only three per cent of batteries are recycled and 70 per cent are sent to landfill.

To improve Australia’s battery recycling rates, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called for a regulated product stewardship program for batteries by 2020.

The NWRIC said such a low recycling rate means regulator intervention is the only option.

“With a combination of sensible regulation, targeted investment and consumer education, almost all of Australia’s used batteries can be safely recycled. This would reduce the risk of fires at recycling facilities and minimise the contamination of compost,” the organisation said in a release.

Queenslanders recycle 50M containers in four weeks

More than 50 million drink containers have been returned during the first month of Queensland’s container refund scheme, Containers for Change, with almost $5 million in refunds being refunded.

Within the first four weeks, more than 60,000 Queenslanders have signed up to receive the 10-cent refund, alongside the creation of more than 500 jobs to support the scheme across the state.

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Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the scheme has been a smash hit and helps reduce the number of containers that end up in landfill or as litter.

“This is a phenomenal result in only four weeks and we have to remember this is just the very beginning for Queensland’s container refund scheme, Containers for Change,” Ms Enoch said.

“Queenslanders use nearly three billion containers every year and sadly they are the second most commonly littered item in the environment, despite the fact they can be easily recycled.

“Charities and community groups are also getting involved with over 1000 having registered with the scheme, sharing in the donation of refunds, to support vital community services,” she said.

Ms Enoch also praised the efforts of the container refund operators and said the results of their work speak for themselves.

“Many of these operators are small family-run businesses and I want to congratulate these operators for their hard work in getting the refund points up and running and Queenslanders for their support,” she said.

Container Exchange CEO Ken Noye said the scheme provides opportunities for organisations to help their communities.

“It provides unprecedented opportunities for these bodies to raise funds for much-needed resources, especially smaller organisations which have to compete for funding in the not-for-profit-sector,” Mr Noye said.

“Queensland will benefit from the 500 new jobs being created around the state to implement and operate the scheme, and that’s good news for people who want to work within the scheme.”

Repurpose It’s Australian-first C&D washing plant

Victoria’s reliance on extractive resources is increasingly becoming an unviable prospect, but a new solution will soon see more construction and demolition materials recovered in the state.

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ACCC to reauthorise levy raise for container recycling scheme

The ACCC has proposed to allow product stewardship organisation AgStewardship to increase its levy on the sale of agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals by participating manufacturers.

Funds raised from the levy are used in the drumMUSTER and ChemClear programs to collect and recycle agvet chemical containers and safely dispose of agvet chemicals.

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AgStewardship intends to increase the levy from four cents per litre of kilogram to six cents, to keep pace with increased expenses and to fund improvements to its programs.

This is the first increase in the levy since it began in 1998 and the ACCC is proposing to reauthorise the collection of the levy at the higher level for a further five years.

Over the lifespan of the programs, drumMUSTER has diverted more than 32 million containers from landfill and ChemClear has resulted in more than 661,000 litres of agvet chemicals being collected for safe disposal and recycling.

ACCC Commissioner Roger Featherston said the programs mean collection and recycling services are provided at no further cost to purchasers of agriculture and veterinary chemicals included in the scheme.

“As a result, many more containers and chemicals are returned and safely disposed of, which reduces the negative environmental, health and safety consequences of improper disposal, leading to better outcomes for farms and the environment,” Mr Featherston said.

Currently 116 manufacturers of agvet chemicals participate in the scheme, which AgStewardship estimates covers more than 90 per cent of Australian agvet chemical manufacturers.

“This is an impressive level of coverage, but if more manufacturers can be encouraged to participate in the scheme, then it should achieve even greater environmental and other public benefits,” Mr Featherston said.

Potential emergency plastic tax by 2021: report

The plastic waste crisis is expected to deepen, potentially leading to a federal response in the form of an emergency tax by 2021, according to global wealth manager Credit Suisse.

It argues that reactionary policy measures are highly likely in the short term and could include a tax on virgin resins or additional tariffs placed on imported plastic goods in its report, The age of plastic at a tipping point.

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With too much plastic waste domestically and with no large export markets available, Credit Suisse estimates there will be a sharp increase in plastic being sent to landfill and illegal dumping.

“Our headline view is that things will get worse before they get better: the policy initiatives in the National Waste Strategy won’t take hold until FY20/21,” the report said.

Credit Suisse expects bans on single use-plastics to be extended to the six most common plastic packaging and tax incentives to be provided to help hit the 2025 target of 30 per cent recycled content in packaging.

The long lead time from policy approval to implementation is problematic, particularly for new waste infrastructure, which the company said will likely lead to a more supportive project approval environment for waste infrastructure.

Waste managers are expected to benefit from this scenario, with short term potential from council re-negotiations and long-term potential to fast-track waste infrastructure approvals, according to the report.

“Plastic has infiltrated almost every aspect of human life. It is the most prolific material on the planet, growing faster than any commodity in the last 33 years,” the report said.

“Plastic packaging has become one of the most intractable environmental challenges of our age. None of the commonly used plastics are biodegradable; they accumulate in landfills or the natural environment rather than decompose.

“To curtail the situation in the short run, it is a matter of when, not if, we see reactionary policy measures,” the report said.