SA to ban single-use plastics

The South Australian Government is set to ban a range of single-use plastics, under proposed legislation to be introduced into state parliament.

Environment Minister David Speirs has released, Turning the Tide on Single Use Plastics: The Next Steps, which outlines how the legislation will ban products including plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers.

Mr Speirs said a range of other products including takeaway coffee cups, plastic bags and other takeaway food packaging would be considered for future intervention, following further consultation.

“To help inform the development of the legislation, a stakeholder taskforce will be established – comprising representatives of selected business, industry, local government and interest groups to ensure that impacts are mitigated and appropriate time is given for transition,” Mr Speirs said.

“The banning of single-use plastic products will also be piloted through voluntary business/retailer led ‘plastic-free precincts’, which will identify opportunities and challenges associated with transitioning away from single-use plastic products and inform the legislation.”

Mr Speirs said a discussion paper released earlier this year received strong feedback from South Australians.

“It is clear from the more than 3500 submissions that there is significant community and industry support for increased measures to address a range of single-use plastic products and other items,” Mr Speirs said.

“Nearly 99 per cent of respondents recognised the environmental problems associated with single use plastics, and nearly 97 per cent supported government intervention.”

Mr Speirs said draft legislation would be released for further public consultation later this year, with the intention of introducing it to the parliament in 2020.

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan has welcomed the state government’s announcement.

“South Australia will be the first state in Australia to ban multiple single-use plastic items such as plastic straws, cutlery, and stirrers. Takeaway polystyrene containers and cups are next on the chopping board,” Ms Sloan said.

“SA is once again ahead of the pack, and the hope is that other jurisdictions will follow suit and take similar action against single-use plastics.”

Ms Sloan said she hopes the initiative will improve the quality of recyclable materials recovered by eliminating contaminants.

“Eliminating single-use items that have readily available re-useable alternatives is a great step in reducing waste generation and challenging the convenience paradigm that we have towards consumption,” Ms Sloan said.

“WMRR looks forward to continued engagement with the South Australia Government as it develops legislation for the ban.”

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Industry responds to SA waste levy increase

The South Australian Government’s decision to increase the solid waste levy from $100 to $140 from 1 January 2020 has left the waste industry ‘blindsided’, according to the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR.)

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said while industry supports government action that promotes resource recovery and market development, progress is not as simple as increasing landfill levies.

“Industry was prepared for the original $3 increase, however it has been blindsided by this new amount of $40, which is far greater than planned,” Ms Sloan said.

“The timing and notice of this new levy increase is completely unsatisfactory and does not allow businesses and local government with locked in 2019-20 budgets to prepare for the additional cost.”

According to Ms Sloan, South Australia was previously leading the way in resource recovery, though a blend of policy, guidelines and levy drivers that precluded the requirement for excessive cost structures.

“Part of the reason for South Australia’s success is the strong working relationship between all sectors of industry and the existence of a high-level advisory group to government,” Ms Sloan said.

“The fact that the levy increase was not discussed with this advisory group is extremely disappointing.”

According to Ms Sloan, the levy increase comes in addition to a raft of new and increased costs including increased licensing fees and new financial assurance requirements.

“South Australia should look to Queensland as a model for implementing such a rapid change in levy amount,” Ms Sloan said.

“The Queensland government also looked to implement such a change on 1 January, however this was moved and a years notice given, with mechanisms put in place to manage such a large impact on councils and households.”

Ms Sloan said while WMRR agrees landfill levies are an integral part of a successful waste and resource recovery policy framework, it cannot be the only response from government.

“Such a large increase, without policy support, has a real potential to lead to unintended outcomes such as illegal dumping,” Ms Sloan said.

“A good levy is a certain levy, with telegraphed changes that industry can plan for and respond to.”

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SA budget allocates $12 million to waste and resource recovery

The 2019-20 South Australian budget has delivered $12 million over four years to help councils and industry transition from the effects of China’s National Sword Policy.

The Waste and Resource Recovery Modernisation and Council Transition Package aims to boost recycling and resource recovery, and keep waste out of landfill through investment, infrastructure, education and modernisation of council and industry collection services.

Environment Minister David Speirs said through better collection systems, infrastructure and education, South Australia aims to see a 35 per cent reduction in waste sent to landfill by 2020.

Of the $12 million waste management package $10 million will be provided through Green Industries SA.

Councils and industry have been allocated $5.5 million to upgrade and standardise waste collection and recycling services, as well as expand education aimed at improving recycling knowledge in the community.

An allocation of $4 million will also be available to enable investment in modern infrastructure, improve processing, increase efficiency and boost jobs.

An additional $500,000 will be available to help local governments implement new waste management strategies.

“The waste management and resource recovery industry is a major player in South Australia’s economy, with approximately 4800 people employed and we want to this number to grow,” Mr Speirs said.

The EPA has received the remaining $2 million – $1.6 million for compliance and audits to ensure the integrity of the waste and resource recovery sector and $400,000 to enable a review of the state’s container deposit scheme.

Mr Speirs said the package would help councils modernise their waste management practices and reduce the amount of rubbish sent to landfill.

“This funding package will lead to less waste sent to landfill, a reduction in emissions and will also provide vital stimulus to our world-leading waste management and resource recovery sector, leading to more than 200 jobs here in South Australia,” Mr Speirs said.

“We know that landfill is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and that councils and industry need to have the tools to divert more for resource recovery and continue moving South Australia towards a truly circular economy.”

Mr Speirs said the funding package comes on top of the $12.4 million support package announced in 2018 to help the recycling industry and local government in response to China’s National Sword Policy.

“China’s National Sword Policy has provided the industry with a challenge, but this funding package on top of support already provided in last year’s state budget will help modernise and transition our resource recovery sector.”

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Which Bin launches in South Australia

The South Australian government has launched a campaign urging residents to consider what they put in their household recycling and organics bins.

Environment Minister David Speirs said the Which Bin campaign was launched to raise awareness of kerbside recycling contamination and bin restrictions.

“South Australians are great recyclers and we have a proven history in waste management,” Mr Speirs said.

“However, we can all do much better when it comes to knowing what should, and should not go in the recycling and green organics bin.”

Mr Speirs said food and green organic waste represents roughly half the contents of the state’s general waste bins.

The campaign aims to divert this waste for landfill and drive traffic to the newly developed Which Bin website, according to Mr Speirs.

The Which Bin website provides residents with a definitive recycling guide irrespective of local council.

“Education is a vital tool in improving the way South Australians approach waste management, and we feel the new campaign will inform the community in an easy to understand way,” Mr Speirs said.

A suite of resources for local government has also been developed, including calendars, bin stickers, signage, posters and customisable social media assets.

“The more we can divert from landfill to recycling and composting the better, for both the environment and reducing costs for local councils while creating jobs,” Mr Speirs said.

“We can support the local recycling industry by ensuring the correct recyclable items are placed in the correct bin and that these are clean and contaminant free.”

Which Bin is funded through the state government’s $12.4 million support package for the recycling industry.

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SA Govt to review CDS

South Australian Government Environment Minister David Spears has announced a review of the state’s more than 40-year-old Container Deposit Scheme (CDS).

A scoping paper has been released to spark a conversation on how to improve the CDS, with comments and submissions open to the government until Friday, 22 February 2019.

The paper indicates that much has changed since the start of the CDS, including the types of containers, consumer choices, technology and markets for recycling. The government is seeking to improve the CDS’ role in recycling and litter reduction.

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Some of the questions raised to improve the scheme are: what should be the objectives of the CDS and how well is its achieving these objectives currently? Should more types of containers be included in the CDS and are there containers that could be removed from the scheme? It also asks if the refund amount could be revised and what research is required to inform a review?

Introduced in 1977, the CDS has significantly reduced litter and improved resource recovery for the state. In 2017-18, almost 603 million containers were recovered by collection depots for recycling.

South Australia leads the nation in recovering and recycling beverage containers with an overall return rate of 76.9 per cent.

The scheme operates with beverage suppliers establishing a contract with a super collector and paying a fee to cover the 10 cent refund and handling of containers to the super collector to establish a collection system to recover containers.

Beverage suppliers are able to cover the price of the product when selling to retailers and retailers than pass this cost onto consumers. Beverage containers are sorted and returned to the super collector for recycling which reimburses the refund amount and pays a handling fee to the collection depot. Containers up to and including three litres are covered by the scheme, including soft non-alcoholic drinks, beers, ales and stouts, water, wine-based and spirit beverages and most other alcoholic beverages.

For more information head to the SA EPA website.

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.

First SA road built with plastic bags and glass

The first South Australian road built with soft plastics and glass at Happy Valley in the City of Onkaparinga will utilise plastic from approximately 139,000 plastic bags and packaging and 39,750 glass bottle equivalents.

Downer and City of Onkaparinga have partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop and RED Group for the project, following similar projects in NSW and Victoria.

Along with soft plastics and glass, toner from about 3200 used printer cartridges and more than 50 tonnes of recycled asphalt were also repurposed to create 265 tonnes of asphalt used to construct the road along Caribbean Crescent in Happy Valley.

Downer Executive General Manager Road Services Dante Cremasco said the milestone event demonstrated the importance of partnerships with other thought leaders to create economic, social and environmental value for products that would more than likely end up in landfill, stockpiled, or as a pollutant in natural environments.

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“Together with City of Onkaparinga and our partners, we have proven that with thought leadership and the tenacity to make a positive difference, we have set a new benchmark in the state when it comes to sustainability by creating new avenues to recycle and repurpose waste materials into new streams of use. It’s all about pulling products, not pushing waste,” Mr Cremasco said.

“Further to the direct sustainability benefits, this cost competitive road product called Reconophalt has enhanced properties of improved strength and resistance to deformation making the road last longer, andallowing it to better handle heavy vehicle traffic,” Mr Cremasco added.

City of Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson said this is an exciting South Australian first and demonstrates council’s commitment to working with industry on innovative and cost-effective solutions to a changing operating environment.

“The City of Onkaparinga manages and maintains over 1350 kilometres of sealed roads and works hard to ensure they’re well maintained as cost effectively as possible and in line with leading asset management principles,” Mayor Thompson said.

“We also collect approximately 14,000 tonnes of recyclables every year. Major disruptions in international markets for recyclables over the last 12 months present significant challenges, as well as emerging opportunities.”

“Creating local demand for recyclables products is one such opportunity and this is a fantastic example of what can be achieved by government working with industry.”

Downer partnered closely with Close the Loop to tailor waste products such as soft plastics to suit a road construction application.

“Our close partnership with Downer, along with our collaborative partnership with RED Group has allowed us to design, develop and manufacture sustainable products using problematic waste streams. We are very pleased to see soft plastics used for the first time in a SA road,” said Nerida Mortlock, General Manager of Close the Loop Australia.

Green future

The concrete jungles that are Australia’s major cities traditionally thrive on resource-heavy steel mesh reinforcement, but Fibercon offers a new solution by using recycled plastic fibre, Emesh, to reduce waste, costs and resources for concrete constructions.

From the footpaths that line suburbs to the sky-scraping obelisks that populate capital cities – the building blocks of concrete infrastructure are a designer’s dream, but for developers, can be a resourcing nightmare.

Although it seems concrete will continue to be a foundation of urban design for the foreseeable future, innovators like Fibercon have invested in alternative and sustainable technologies to reduce the environmental concerns that affect the construction industry.

Fibercon developed its Emesh technology in 2015, creating the plastic fibres from 100 per cent recycled polypropylene. For civil applications like drains, footpaths, bikeways and pavements, steel is still in use as a reinforcing mesh. Australian company Fibercon has found a way to replace this with recycled plastic fibres, called Emesh, to give footpaths more longevity.

It has been a five-year journey for Fibercon CEO Mark Combe, whose collaboration with Research and Development Manager Tony Collister sparked a three-year PhD program at James Cook University, leading researchers across the world to bring Emesh into reality.

Emesh has been used in a number of footpaths at the JCU campus in North Queensland and throughout some councils in Queensland, NSW and Victoria. It uses offcuts and plastics from industrial waste, which is then used to reinforce the concrete.

Using Emesh to reinforce concrete instead of traditional steel mesh has recycled 100 tonnes of plastic waste from councils along the eastern seaboard alone, but has also saved about 1588 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, 32,670 cubic metres of water and 318 tonnes of fossil fuels.

The industry award winning Emesh not only netted Fibercon recognition from Shell and the Australian Department of Industry, Innovation & Science, but also saw CEO Mark Combe named in the top 50 most innovative engineers of last year.

Mark says the project’s aim was to enter the recycling market and provide economic benefits, but sceptics were unsure it could be brought to fruition.

“It’s just good getting the recognition, knowing that we’re on the right track. We were told that it wasn’t going to be big enough and now we’re supplying huge councils all over Australia,” Mark says.

“The building industry talks about innovation, but it often doesn’t do it, so for us it’s pretty different, but it’s been a difficult road.”

As waste has become a larger issue in the Australian construction industry, Mark says that it’s not only the materials, but a waste of time, money, transport and traffic control.

“In the building industry there’s a phenomenal amount of waste, even in something simple like a footpath there’s got to be a better way. We’re trying to make things simple in a sustainable way,” Mark says.

The City of Charles Sturt in north-west Adelaide is the first council in South Australia to adopt the ‘green concrete’ alternative, after a recommendation from Hi Mix Concrete Business Development Manager Daniel Romano.

Daniel recommended the council use the Emesh concrete after construction firm Nova Group reached out to them to provide concrete for the St Clair Recreation and Adelaide Parklands Upgrade projects.

“When Adelaide based construction firm Nova Group came to us to supply concrete for a number of Charles Sturt Council projects, I recommended Emesh instead of the traditional steel reinforcement,” Daniel says.

“I called all around Australia looking for different prices because (plastic mesh) is quite expensive. Someone mentioned recycled plastic, so I started buying Emesh.

“I’m trying to push it more, once other councils hear about it, they’ll want to use it as well. It’s easier for the customer, it’s quicker and better for the environment.”

Hi Mix is a father-son operation established in 1989 and their willingness to adapt to new technologies like Fibercon’s Emesh is slowly spreading throughout Adelaide.

While Emesh has supported councils such as Charles Sturt with its $26.5 million St Clair Recreation project, Daniel says the new technology needs to be pushed further by concrete producers.

One core benefit Hi Mix found when applying the recycled plastic mesh was the time and resources saved in not having to cut steel mesh or manoeuvre mesh and bar chairs.

Mark says he was aiming to achieve something different in the construction industry.

“Usually sustainability comes at a cost, there’s the ‘green premium’, which isn’t the situation for Emesh. It actually works out cheaper and faster,” he says.

Looking to the future, Emesh is quickly becoming a big part of Fibercon’s business as they try to push their product deeper into the Australian market and into international territories.

As for the future of the company, Mark says he’d like to expand internationally as part of the vision of Emesh.

 

2018 SA State of the Environment Report released

The Environment Protection Authority has released 2018 South Australia’s State of the Environment Report, indicating in the report that the prospects of achieving the government’s waste generation reduction target seems unlikely.

The report shows South Australia’s Waste Strategy 2015-20 set a target to reduce waste generation per capita by more than five per cent by 2020 from the 2015 baseline, equating to a reduction of 400 kilograms per person from the volume generated in 2016-17 by 2020. It notes that given the current upward trend, this seems unlikely.

The report shows the average amount of waste generated in SA rose by just over 2000 kilograms per capita per year in 2003-4 to 3000 kilograms in 2016-17 – an increase of 42 per cent.

It highlights that current priority actions to meet the target are to promote green purchasing, waste avoidance, collaborative consumption and production, product refurbishment and behaviour change.

“Given strong competing influences on consumer behaviour in the form of marketing, fashion and social norms, a targeted program is needed to encourage production (for example, design, durability and packaging), marketing (for example, labelling) and consumption (for example, product selection) choices that reduce waste generation,” the report says.

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“There is also a major opportunity for government to take the lead in increasing the strength of a circular economy, including through green procurement.”

To tackle these issues, the report recommends coordinated national action to reduce waste, including through regulation of packaging, providing leadership in the strengthening of the local resource recovery industry through green procurement and strengthening education and behaviour change initiatives aimed at reducing waste.

“While we continue to get better at diverting most of this waste away from landfill to resource recovery, the most efficient solution remains that of avoiding generation of the waste in the first place,” the report says.

“However, it also remains imperative to keep getting better at reusing recovered resources locally to reduce the risk of reliance on other markets.”

The key recommendations of the report are to review the state’s climate change response to ensure that climate risks are adequately embedded into planning and investment by government agencies, review environmental reporting in the state, including trend and condition report cards, prioritise water management and onground land stewardship initiatives and a range of other areas.

Environment and Water Minister David Speirs said the state government was considering the EPA’s important report in detail.

“This report provides a wealth of information about the challenges facing our state, that can be used to help shape government policy and actions in the future,” Mr Speirs said.

Environment Protection Authority Board Presiding Member Catherine Cooper said that the report assesses the state and condition of SA’s major environmental resources and identifies significant trends in environmental quality, and shows that, while South Australia was doing reasonably well, in some areas there are serious challenges to be met.

To read the report in full, click here.