Building the foundations of sustainability

Sydney’s Better Buildings Partnership has helped significantly reduce waste in the building and construction sector, but just how problematic is waste in the sector as a whole?

Read moreBuilding the foundations of sustainability

Sustainability Victoria detoxing suburbs

Sustainability Victoria’s Detox Your Home initiative has collected 30.6 tonnes of chemicals in 2018.

The program encourages locals to safely dispose of household, shed and garage chemicals at collection sites around Victoria.

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Residents of the Melton and Cardinia Shire handed in 3.3 tonnes of chemicals for disposal in April, with a collective 69 tonnes being collected throughout 2017.

Occupational Health and Safety professional Sharann Johnson who lives on the Mornington Peninsula used the Detox Your Home program.

“Detox Your Home is a great program that helps you remove old chemicals and reduce hazards in your home to protect both your family and the environment,” Ms Johnson said.

“While homes don’t have the same quantities of chemicals that a business might, most have a wide range of products which can be flammable or aggressively corrosive or toxic like garden insecticides.

“There can be serious consequences if there’s a fire, spill or if they’re accidentally handled by children, and they can harm the environment if tipped down the drain or on the ground,” she said.
Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Stan Krpan said Detox Your Home collection showed that people were sitting on an incredible amount of chemicals and that disposing of them through the program meant they’d be disposed of, or recycled, in the most appropriate way.

“You don’t have to live in a municipality in which a Detox Your Home Collection is being held, however bookings are essential for some sites,” said Mr Krpan.

There are restrictions on the types and volumes of material that can be taken to Detox Your Home events.

Collections in May and June will be at:

  • Wantirna South – 5 May
  • Daylesford – 12 May
  • Wangaratta – 12 May
  • Altona – 9 May
  • Swan Hill – 26 May
  • Seymour – 2 June
  • Dandenong -16 June

SUEZ, ACOR, SV respond to Environment Minister meeting

Stakeholders have largely welcomed the commitments made on Friday by state and territory ministers at April’s Meeting of Environment Ministers – with some suggestions.

Federal Government, state and territory ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association met on Friday to set a sustainable path for Australia’s recyclable waste, in the seventh Meeting of Environment Ministers. Taking action on recycled waste in the wake of China’s restrictions on imports was the focus of the meeting. Australia is one of over 100 countries affected by China’s new restrictions, affecting around 1.3 million tonnes of our recycled waste. Read the story on the outcomes of the meeting here.

Australia’s National Waste Policy will be updated by the end of this year to include circular economy principles, along with a target endorsed of 100 per cent Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.

They pledged for new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic solar panels and batteries, while also agreeing to explore waste to energy further and advocate using recycled materials in government procurement.

While making a number of pledges, ministers agreed to have a teleconference in mid-June to discuss progress on recycling, and to meet in late 2018 to further progress delivery of the commitments on Friday.

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SUEZ Australia & New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Mark Venhoek welcomed the government’s focus on making 100 per cent of products recyclable and re-useable by 2025. He noted that swift action and investment needs to be made to ensure that this goal is met.

“As a waste industry, we are falling behind globally and we require fast action to stimulate the local market for recycled and recovered products,” Mr Venhoek said.

“We support the government’s 100 per cent recycled packaging goal which will create a sustainable demand for these products, but believe that it should be mandatory that packaged products can be re-used.

“Collaboration to achieving this is key and without investment from government and a commitment from packaging manufacturers and industry working together, we will not achieve this goal.”

Mr Venhoek also welcomed the commitment from different levels of government to explore waste to energy projects and the support for the technology from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

“Energy from waste technology is the missing link in the waste management hierarchy and waste infrastructure in Australia. After reduction, re-use and recycling, there is a crucial element: to recover the energetic value from waste,” he said.

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Stan Krpan said leadership is crucial to ensuring we have a sustainable recycling industry that Australians can be proud of.

Mr Krpan said yesterday’s commitments align with the Victorian Government’s suite of waste strategies and programs that move the state toward a circular economy.

“Supporting our local recycling industry to move towards a circular economy is reflected in the ministers’ commitment to increasing our recycling capacity, advocating for the increased use of recycled material and creating targets for the use of recycled content in packaging,” he said.

“We are also encouraged the strong support of product stewardship schemes and the increasing in the procurement of recycled goods government and industry buy,” he said.

“Large procurements by government and companies can influence upstream design to reduce waste and packaging and trigger other innovations.”

ACOR Chief Executive Officer Pete Shmigel said the right chords have been struck by ministers about investing in recycling’s future, but we did not hear two very important sounds: implementation details and dollars in the till.

“The recycling industry welcomes commitments about ensuring recyclability of packaging products, buying recycled content products by governments, expanding domestic reprocessing capacity and developing a new national plan,” he said.

“However, today’s ministerial announcement lacks comprehensive targets for all measures, and consequences for underperformance, that make practice from theory.”

Mr Shmigel said pro-recycling policy principles are welcome, but pro-recycling positive action and investment is now to be expected.

“As ACOR, we look forward to working directly with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to identify and facilitate a strengthened investment presence in resource recovery – including in an expedited timeframe. There are good projects that merit backing among our members.”

“As ACOR, we strongly question the timeframe given for products’ recyclability as packaging is getting more complex each day and resulting in greater contamination and community cost each day that passes. By 2025, millions of tonnes of potential contamination would have passed through the system without the producers of packaging taking greater responsibility for their decisions.

Mr Shmigel said similar commitments were given in the 2009 National Waste Policy and, on current timeframes, it will be 16 years by the time they have been realised, describing it as “truly mediocre”.

“Finally, further work is urgently needed at state levels to ensure that recyclate does not need to be disposed to landfill in the short-term.”

Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) Chief Executive Officer Gayle Sloan said it is extremely pleasing that the National Waste Strategy will be updated by the end of this year and WMAA looks forward to participating in this.

“The endorsement by Ministers of a target of 100 percent of Australian packaging being recyclable or reusable by 2025 is heartening, and we look forward to working with government to develop meaningful targets from at least 2020 to ensure that this actually achieved,” Ms Sloan said.

“Industry recalls targets set previously under the National Packaging Covenant that were never monitored or achieved, and once this failure was recognised it was just too late.”

Ms Sloan said while there was no new funding for recycling in Friday’s announcement, one thing WMAA will advocate to start immediately is government at all levels spending existing funds differently.

“Ministers must go much further than simply advocating for increased use of recycled materials in the goods that government and industry buy.

“With over 90 per cent of the community supporting recycling and the purchase of recycled products by government, government needs to hold itself to account and if it does not prioritise the use of recycled material, to report to the community why it does not, this should be the norm going forward, not the exception,” she said.

WMAA in a statement said the federal government must show leadership in this space and act now to grow demand for recycled products that can develop markets and jobs in both metropolitan and regional areas. For example, it said Commonwealth Federal Assistance Grants to local government should be predicated on councils using more recycled glass sand and not virgin sand.

“Industry absolutely recognises that there is a place for waste to energy in Australia as an alternate to landfill, and we support this technology. However, it cannot replace recycling and remanufacturing.”

Director of Boomerang Alliance Jeff Angel, which looks after 47 national, state and local groups, described the voluntary approach to recycled products as “weak.”

“Mandatory rules, as in Europe, are the only assured way to establish a stable and growing market to justify the investment into new manufacturing,” Mr Angel said.

“If we can have an enforceable renewable energy target, then we can have a similar system for recycled content. A lot of questions remain to be answered about the 100 per cent recyclable, compostable or reusable target including collection capacity – it’s not just about labels.”

Federal Government Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg on Friday said finding a solution to the 1.3 million tonnes of recyclable waste is an urgent and important issue which requires a coordinated approach from supply right through to demand.

“It is also an opportunity for Australia to develop its capabilities and capacity in recycling through effective cooperation and collaboration among the three levels of government,” he said.

Australia’s first lithium battery recycling plant opens

Australia’s first lithium battery recycling plant has opened in Victoria in the lead up to the state’s ban on sending e-waste to landfill.

Envirostream Australia has opened its $2 million facility at New Gisborne, north of Melbourne and recycled 240,000 kilograms of batteries last year.

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Before the facility was opened, most lithium batteries were sent overseas for recycling. Victoria’s e-waste is projected to rise from 109,000 tonnes in 2015 to about 256,000 tonnes by 2035.

The Victorian government announced an election commitment to enact a ban on sending e-waste to landfill, which takes effect on 1 July 2019. More on the government announcement here.

Sustainability Victoria is rolling out $16.5 million e-waste infrastructure development and awareness program to prepare for the ban.

This includes $15 million in grants to Victorian councils and state government entities to upgrade infrastructure at more than 130 collection sites and a $1.5 million awareness campaign to educate Victorians about how to properly dispose of e-waste.

The upgrades aim to ensure 98 per cent of Melburnians are within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point, and regional Victorians are within a 30-minute drive of one.

Envirostream received $40,000 from Sustainability Victoria to buy equipment to increase the recovery of valuable materials in batteries.

The 2017 Commodity Research Book Battery Raw Material Review says global consumption of lithium carbonate is expected to grow from 184,000 tonnes in 2015 to 534,000 tonnes in 2025, chiefly through the rapid adoption of electric vehicles, e-bikes and energy storage systems.

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Stan Kpran said Envirostream Australia is one of the country’s trailblazers in reprocessing electronic waste and is helping to keep valuable resources out of landfills.

“Envirostream is showing how opportunities can be developed in Australia’s resource recovery sector, create jobs in regional communities and capture valuable chemicals, copper, steel, nickel, lithium, other metals and graphene captured so they can be sent to South Korea to be used in new batteries,” Mr Kpran said.

“Only three per cent of Australian batteries are currently recovered. It’s the lowest rate in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”

Envirostream Director Andrew McKenzie said recycling batteries at New Gisborne would create five new jobs over the next year and help build Victoria’s recycling capacity.

“We have a nationally coordinated partnership to increase Australia’s low recovery rates of batteries and mobile phones and want to make sure these recoverable resources are not just thrown away or sent offshore for recycling,” Mr McKenzie said.

“We’re working with Planet Ark and MobileMuster to increase used mobile phone and battery recovery and to educate the community about the need to recycle electronic waste onshore.”

“We’re in an increasingly mobile world. Lithium batteries are now the dominant mode of energy storage for domestic and industrial uses, and like other e-waste, their use is growing fast,” he said.

Pictured: Sean O’Malley from Planet Ark, Spiro Kalos from Mobile Muster, Andrew McKenzie and John Polhill from Envirostream and Sustainability Victoria’s Shannon Smyth.

Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre launches

A new national research effort is aiming to reduce food waste in all stages of the product, from production to final disposal.

The $133 million Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre program is a partnership between 57 industry and research participants from Australia and internationally.

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Food waste costs Australia $20 billion a year, with significant amounts of it being sent to landfill.

To reduce food waste throughout the value chain, the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre aims to transform unavoidable waste into high value products and engage with the industry and consumers to deliver behavioural change.

Sustainability Victoria (SV) Chief Executive Officer Stan Krpan said $150,000 from SV’s Love Food Hate Waste program will be used to fund research on consumer behaviours concerning food waste and reducing food waste in the supply chain.

“As Victoria is one of the nation’s major food producers and processors, this is a particularly important issue,” Mr Kpran said.

“The CRC ticks boxes in terms of how we can do more to efficiently produce and process food and deal with waste,

“The University of Melbourne’s 2016 Melbourne Foodprint report found Melbournians wasted more than 200kg of food per person every year. It‘s not just a waste of resources along the food production and processing chain; it’s a major producer of greenhouses gas emissions as the food decomposes,” he said.

Mr Krpan said the project would help primary producers, food processors, retailers, food rescue agencies and technology and service providers.

“It will also help local government to contain the cost of operating landfills and long-term, that’s good for everyone. It will also reinforce Sustainability Victoria’s work to reduce the production of waste or all types.”

“There are many opportunities to develop and use products derived from primary production that is otherwise wasted.

“We already have a composting industry which uses some food waste, and there is the potential to feed it into digesters which breaks it down, creates gas to drive electricity and reduces what goes to landfill,” Mr Kpran said.

Recycling Industry Transition Support grants open: SV

Victoria’s recycling industry has been provided a $1 million funding package as part of the state Government’s response to China’s National Sword policy.

The move is part of the Victorian Government’s $13 million package towards councils and industry to support the ongoing collection of household recyclable waste.

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Funding will be available to companies that recover and reprocess plastics, paper and cardboard, with work needing to be completed within one year of signing with Sustainability Victoria.

Funding will be available for:

  • Infrastructure, equipment and process upgrades at Material Recovery Facilities to support greater sorting of paper and plastic
  • Infrastructure and equipment upgrades to process paper, cardboard and rigid plastic (wash, granulate, pelletise) to allow material to be used by domestic manufactures and allow for re-entry to export markets
  • Storage and consolidation infrastructure (sheds/shipping containers/temporary cover) to allow for the short-term safe storage of recovered paper, cardboard and plastic while processing capacity and/or end markets is developed.

Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said grants of between $50,000 and $500,000 were available on a 1:1 funding ratio to Victorian-based projects that recover, handle and process plastics, paper and cardboard waste.

“The Recycling Industry Transition Support grants will help to fast-track development of new infrastructure that improves the quality of recovered plastics, paper and cardboard,” Mr Krpan said.

Mr Krpan said project proposals for work costing more than $1m would also be considered as Victoria had many opportunities to expand its recycling sector.

“If there are projects that exceed the million-dollar funding envelope, we also want to hear about them.”

“China’s policy change is serious, but it gives us an opportunity to more-quickly expand our reprocessing capacity and improve the quality of the end-product so it can be made into new products.

“In the 2015/16 financial year, councils collected 590,000 tonnes of recyclables and recycled 95 per cent of this was recycled, but with a growing population we need to look for ways to recycle a greater range of products, not just from households, but across the wider community.”

Mr Kpran said there are many opportunities to build on Victoria’s long-established recycling and re-processing sector which provides the raw material for paper and cardboard, many types of plastic, metal, and glass products.

“Board rooms and investors are also looking for commercial projects that demonstrate their sustainability credentials and reduce risks in their supply chains,” he said.

“Despite the current market volatility, smart, responsible investment and the ongoing maturation of our resource recovery sector and emerging markets for our waste, we should look forward with confidence.”

Applications for the first round of the of Recycling Industry Transition Support grants close on 8 May 2018.

Glass and plastics could be used to help build footpaths

End-of-life plastics and glass fines could soon be used in the construction of footpaths instead of going to landfill, according to a new study from the Swinburne University of Technology.

The research found plastics and glass fines could be incorporated into concrete footpaths while still meeting the standard requirements, and without compromising the mechanical properties.

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It is estimated that approximately 100,000 tonnes of flexible plastics end up in landfill each year, and only 48 per cent of glass waste is recovered for recycling, according to Sustainability Victoria.

The next step for this project is to include local governments and industries to increase the amount of recycled content in footpath construction.

“The use of recovered plastics and glass fines in concrete footpaths will divert significant quantities of these materials from landfill, while reducing the demand for virgin construction materials,” said Swinburne University of Technology’s Dr Yat Choy Wong.

This research project is one of seven projects that investigate new ways to increase the use of recovered class and flexible plastics.

South Melbourne Market wins sustainability award

The South Melbourne Market has been recognised for its recycling efforts by the Institute of Public Administration Australia’s (IPAA) Victoria Environmental Sustainability Award.

The market also won the equally prestigious Environmental Sustainability Award at the 2017 LGPro Awards for Excellence.

Port Phillip Council owns and manages the popular South Melbourne Market, and both awards were for the market’s innovative organic waste systems.

The market’s role in recycling tonnes of food, vegetable and other waste is reducing both costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

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The market’s award-winning waste program includes two processes that recycle organic waste – a vermicomposting worm farm project and the installation of a GaiaRecycle machine that heats and dehydrates organic material.

This has seen more than a 90 per cent reduction in organic waste volume at the market and spawned the production of two nutrient-rich, garden fertiliser products sold at the market.

The market’s recycling efforts has led to the processing 400 cubic metres of green waste in 2016/17 (equivalent to 22 garbage trucks) through the worm farm. Market Magic is a mix of worm faeces and mushroom compost which is sold at the market.

An onsite bottle crusher processes 15 tonnes of glass a year, and the Gaia recycling unit turns 8.4 tonnes of food and waste into compost every week which then gets sold at the market.

Polystyrene boxes are compressed into bricks which are made into a wide range of plastic products, including CD cases, coat hangers, picture frames, toys, and pens, stapler bodies and rulers. Some are used as alternatives to wood for products, such as interior decorative mouldings, or hollow foam blocks, that can be filled with concrete to form walls with better sound and thermal characteristics than conventional concrete blocks.

SecondBite also collect leftover fresh food from the market and redistribute it to people in need. Last year, the market gave nearly 24 tonnes of fresh food, which could feed nearly 50,000 people.

The IPAA award was sponsored by statutory authority – Sustainability Victoria.

“As community expectations about environmental sustainability grows and waste disposal costs rise, it’s clear that the South Melbourne’s market is hitting the mark on both counts,” Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said.

“The South Melbourne Market’s comprehensive program could be applied to other markets and shopping centres, not just in Melbourne, but around Australia.”

“The City of Port Phillip, market management and the businesses that operate there are doing a great job to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping vulnerable people in the community.”

Port Phillip Council Mayor Bernadene Voss said the award-winning systems were proving it was possible to successfully divert organic waste from landfill at such a large scale.

“Our market is the first retail market in Australia to adopt this technology and the results really are outstanding,” Cr Voss said. “Thanks to our twin award-winning projects, we’re already diverted from landfill about 950 tonnes of green and food waste.

“Shoppers here can take a bow too, because when they choose produce here, they automatically divert more on-site organic waste from landfill. Our stallholders also deserve praise because they’ve fully supported this innovative waste management program and helped us deliver the widespread benefits.”

“I would like to congratulate Port Phillip Council for their excellent project that pushed the boundaries and demonstrated what success in public administration looks like,” said The Institute of Public Administration Victoria CEO David Ali.

“These awards are one of the few opportunities we have as a sector to acknowledge the ‘wins’ and the people who strive for excellence across our state.”

Stan Krpan returns as head of Sustainability Victoria

Stan Krpan has returned to statutory authority Sustainability Victoria as Chief Executive officer after spending five months as head of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce.

Mr Krpan said he was pleased to be back at Sustainability Victoria and looked forward to re-connecting with his colleagues, stakeholders and the industry to deliver on its SV2020 strategy, which works towards a sustainable, low emissions Victoria.

He thanked his colleagues Jonathon Leake, Carl Muller and Stephanie Ziersch who acted as Interim CEO during his absence.

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In early July, Mr Krpan accepted the secondment as Chief Executive Officer of a taskforce to investigate the extent of non-compliant cladding on Victorian buildings.

The taskforce assessed more than 1400 Victorian buildings, with all of them declared safe to occupy despite 220 buildings not complying with regulations. The taskforce will continue its work to ensure buildings are rectified.

Mr Krpan returned to Sustainability Victoria as CEO on Monday.

He said his experience at the taskforce had been rewarding as they worked to deliver recommendations to the Victorian Government on how to improve compliance and enforcement of building regulations to better protect building occupants.

“It was rewarding to work collaboratively across government authorities, key agencies, including fire engineers and industry professionals, to deliver a thorough, timely and practical approach to this issue,” Mr Krpan said.

Mr Krpan said his time at the taskforce had given him the chance to reflect on all the good work Sustainability Victoria had been doing in his absence.

“The leadership team did a fantastic job. There have been some learnings along the way which I can take back to my role at Sustainability Victoria. I look forward to leading the organisation once again as we deliver on our clear direction of helping Victorians take action on climate change and use resources wisely,” he said.

 

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