New solar powered composter for Canberra community

A new solar powered composter has been unveiled at the Canberra Environment Centre to launch the Canberra Community Composting project.

The composter was purchased by the centre after it received a $24,200 grant from the ACT Government’s Community Zero-Emissions Grants program.

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Food scraps can be dropped off at the Environment Centre to be processed by the new machine, nicknamed The Hungry Composter. The project aims to support members of the community who feel as if they don’t have the time, space or knowledge to compost at home.

The Hungry Composter is able to process 100 litres of mixed waste a day, including paper, cardboard, food scraps and green waste. It is solar power, odourless, continuous-feed system that processes food scraps into ready-to-use compost within 10-14 days.

Community members need to register with the Environment Centre before disposing of their waste for composting.

ACT Government Sustainability Programs Senior Manager, Ros Malouf said it was a fantastic example of a community group working with the ACT government to implement a project which will have significant benefits for both residents and the environment.

“In addition to generating nutrient rich soil, composting is a great way to reduce emissions. Organic material sent to landfill produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”

Brisbane battery recycling boost from Lithium Australia

Lithium Australia has announced it will begin manufacturing and recycling advanced battery materials at its research and development lab, VSPC, in Brisbane.

The company aims to close the loop in the energy-metals cycle and is seeking to establish a vertically integrated lithium processing business.

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It aims to improve the lithium-ion battery supply chain with the company’s SiLeach lithium extraction process, superior cathode production, and enhanced recycling techniques for battery materials.

VSPC’s pilot production facilities have been fully re-commissioned, allowing the company to assemble and test lithium-ion coin and pouch cells.

Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said the company intended to turn VSPC into a global facility for manufacturing advanced cathode materials as well as for battery recycling.

“VSPC gives Lithium Australia the opportunity to manufacture the world’s most advanced cathode materials – at the high-margin end of the battery metals market. Importantly, VSPC will also allow us to capitalise on waste batteries as a feed source,” he said.

“We anticipate immense pressure on the supply of energy metals such as lithium and cobalt in the near future. Battery recycling not only supports sustainability but may also, ultimately, prove the cheapest source of those energy metals materials in years to come.

“The ability to produce cathode powders from these materials, while also controlling particle size, is clearly advantageous. It is an integral part of our sustainable and ethical supply policy,” Mr Griffin said.

McDonalds to phase out plastic straws by 2020

McDonalds to phase out plastic straws by 2020

McDonald’s Australia has announced it will phase out existing plastic straws from it 970 restaurants around the country by 2020.

It is currently working with local suppliers to find viable alternatives and will start a trial of paper straws in two restaurants from August.

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The move is part of the company’s global effort to identify sustainable alternatives to its current single-use plastic straws.

The trial will also help McDonald’s reach its goal of making its guest packaging from entirely renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025.

McDonald’s Australia Director of Supply Chain Robert Sexton said as one of the world’s largest restaurant businesses, the company has a responsibility and opportunity to make significant change.

“Together with the global business, we have been working for some time to find appropriate alternatives. We know plastic straws is a topic our customers are passionate about and we will find a viable solution,” he said.

Alongside the moves to eliminate plastic straws, McDonalds is also currently trialling cup recycling through a partnership with Simply Cups. The trial launched in April in eight restaurants and includes segmented dining room bins to separate liquids, plastics, paper cups and general waste.

“Beverage cups are a unique concern when it comes to recycling through normal paper recycling facilities due to the inner plastic lining,” Mr Sexton said.

“By separating the cups through designated bins, we can ensure cups are diverted to the right facility to recycle this material. Our trials will provide useful learnings that will help to determine next steps for potential wider restaurant implementation.”

Volvo Cars commit to 25 per cent recycled plastics by 2025

Volvo Cars has announced that by 2025 at least 25 per cent of the plastics used in each new Volvo will be made from recycled material.

It has also urged the auto industry suppliers to work more closely with car makers to develop new sustainable components, especially when it comes to plastics.

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The company has unveiled a new version of its XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid SUV that has several of its plastic components replaced with equivalents containing recycled materials.

The XC60’s interior has a console made from renewable fibres and plastics from discarded fishing nets and maritime ropes. The carpet contains fibres made from PET plastic bottles and a recycled cotton mix from clothing manufacturing offcuts.

The seats also contain material from PET bottles, with used car seats from old Volvo cars being used to create the sound absorbing material under the bonnet.

It follows the company’s announcement that it will electrify all new Volvo cars by 2019, stating that it aims to make fully electric cars 50 per cent of its global sales by 2025.

President and CEO of Volvo Cars Håkan Samuelsson said Volvo Cars is committed to minimising its global environment footprint.

Environmental care is one of Volvo’s core values and we will continue to find new ways to bring this into our business. This car and our recycled plastics ambition are further examples of that commitment,” he said.

Senior Vice President of Global Procurement at Volvo Cars Martina Buchhauser said the company already work with suppliers when it comes to sustainability.

“However, we do need increased availability of recycled plastics if we are to make our ambition a reality. That is why we call on even more suppliers and new partners to join us in investing in recycled plastics and to help us realise our ambition,” she said.

Image: Volvo Cars

National Sword could displace 111M tonnes of plastic waste by 2030

An estimated 111 million metric tonnes of plastic waste will be displaced by China’s National Sword policy by 2030 around the world, according to new research.

The Chinese import ban and its impact on global waste trade research paper published in the journal Science Advances reports that new global ideas are needed to reduce the amount of non-recyclable materials, including redesigning products and funding domestic plastic waste management.

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The report, authored by researchers at the University of Georgia, said China had imported 106 million tonnes of plastic waste since 1992, which makes up more than 45 per cent of total global plastic imports.

The National Sword Policy has implemented new restrictions on the contamination rate for imported waste, requiring a cleaner and more processed version of materials such as plastics, metals, paper, cardboard and textiles.

“The displaced plastic waste is equal to nearly half (47 per cent) of all plastic waste that has been imported globally since reporting began in 1988,” the report said.

“Only 9% of plastic waste has been recycled globally, with the overwhelming majority of global plastic waste being landfilled or ending up contaminating the environment (80 per cent).

“Plastic packaging and single-use items enter the waste stream immediately after use, contributing to a cumulative total of 6.3 billion MT of plastic waste generated worldwide.”

The report warns that if no adjustments are made in solid waste management, then much of the waste that would have been diverted from landfill by customers paying for a recycling service will be landfilled.

“Both the displaced plastic waste and future increases in plastic recycling must be addressed immediately. Initially, the countries exporting the most plastic waste can use this as an opportunity to develop and expand internal markets,” the report said.

“If domestic recycling of plastic waste is not possible, then this constraint reinforces the motivation to reduce use and redesign plastic packaging and products so that they retain their value and are more recyclable in domestic markets.”

EPA TAS opens waste minimisation for Sustainability Award

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Tasmania has opened nominations to the 2018 Community Achievement awards.

The EPA Sustainability Award acknowledges businesses from any industry sector who have developed and implemented initiative that minimise waste, maximise resource efficiency, reduce pollution and conserve water and energy.

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Submissions should be a for a project that provides measurable improvements in waste minimisation, resource efficiency, water conservation or energy efficiency and results in wider community or flow on benefits for the sector.

Nominations are now open for the following categories:

  • EPA Sustainability Award
  • University of Tasmania Teaching Excellence Award
  • Ricoh Business Centre Hobart Community Group of the Year Award
  • Prime Super Business Achievement Award
  • Prime Super Employer Excellence in Aged Care Award
  • MAIB Disability Achievement Award
  • Get Moving Tasmania Physical Activity Award
  • Fonterra Australia Agriculture Award
  • Betta Milk ‘Make It Betta’ Health Achievement Award
  • Rural Health Tasmania Innovation in Mental, Social and Emotional Wellbeing Award

Nominations can be submitted here, and close on Thursday 23 August.

Unilever Australia on track for sustainablity targets

Unilever Australia has announced it is on track to meet 80 per cent of its Sustainable Living Plan commitments, which include improving the health and wellbeing for 1 billion people and reducing the company’s environmental impact by half.

The plan originally launched in 2010 and aimed to decouple the company’s growth from its environmental impact, while increasing the company’s positive social impact.

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Some key commitments include sourcing 100 per cent of all grid electricity used in manufacturing with renewable sources by 2020, becoming carbon positive in its manufacturing operations by 2030 and making 100 per cent of its plastic packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable while increasing the recycled plastic content in its packaging by 25 per cent by 2025.

Unilever Australia and New Zealand CEO Clive Stiff said the company has made good progress towards the targets in Australia and globally and that consumers were increasingly aware of the impact the products they purchase have on the environment.

“We also want to be transparent about how much more work there is still to do. This is critical when we are witnessing a crisis of trust in institutions in Australia and across the world. We believe business must play a leading role in restoring trust, and that at the heart of trust lies transparency,” Mr Stiff said.

“We also know that the biggest challenges facing our nation and our world can’t be addressed on our own. There is an ever-increasing need for us to work in partnership to drive transformational change across our value chain. To do so will require a new level of transparency across the board and business must be part of the solution.”

Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards now open

Entries are now open for the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards, which recognise individuals, communities, organisations and businesses leading the way to a sustainable future.

Example entries from 2017 included a small business that uses new technology to clean without chemicals, a hospital soap recycling program for disadvantaged communities, a new type of energy efficient residential development and a program to rebuild Port Phillip Bay’s oyster reefs.

The 2018 Premier’s Sustainability Awards categories are:

  • Built Environment
  • Community
  • Education
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Protection
  • Government
  • Health
  • Innovative Products or Services
  • Small and Medium Enterprises
  • Large Business

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the awards are an opportunity to recognise Victorians who are leading the way in sustainable practices across all sectors.

“We know that more and more Victorian businesses, not-for-profit organisations, community groups and government programs are implementing sustainable practices,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

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“Many Victorian organisations are nation leading in their sustainable practices and I encourage them to enter the Premier’s Sustainability Awards this year to inspire others to think more creatively about the work that they do.”

Sustainability Victoria CEO, Stan Krpan, said the awards celebrated sustainability not for its own sake, but the flow on effects that are felt right throughout the community.

“We have an incredible depth of sustainability talent in Victoria – they’re saving energy and resources, developing and applying new technology reducing and re-purposing waste, regenerating natural and man-made environments, and saving threatened species.

“This work leads not only to environmental good, but to other tangible benefits in terms of increased productivity, reduced costs, many community benefits and enhanced reputation,” he said.

As well as awards in each of these categories, the Premier will personally select two overall winners for the Premier’s Regional Recognition Award and the Premier’s Recognition Award.

Entries close on Thursday, June 7.

For more information on the awards criteria, registering for updates and free information sessions, and to read about past finalists and winners, visit the Premier’s Sustainability Awards website.

Pictured: Lily D’Ambrosio