Australians believe recyclables going to landfill: research

Most Australians across all states and demographics believe the recyclables they put into their council bins are ending up in landfill, according to new research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

The series of surveys has also found that 49 per cent of people believe that green and eco-friendly efforts will not have an effect in their lifetime, with 63.8 per cent of those older than 65 seeing no benefits being realised.

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Key findings also report that 72.4 per cent of people would recycle more of the material if it was reliably recycled.

Confusion also surround which level of government is responsible for residential waste and recycling services, with some people thinking industry instead of government is responsible for waste management.

UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Director Veena Sahajwalla said rising stockpiles and increasing use of landfill, in the absence of a coordinated government solution to a waste problem, had not been lost on consumers.

“Each council is fending for themselves right across Australia and while the meeting of federal and state environment ministers earlier this year made an important announcement about a new National Waste Policy stating that by 2025 all packaging will be re-usable, compostable or recyclable, we don’t have to wait another seven years for this decision to come into effect,” Dr Sahajwalla said.

“It is clear on this issue that people want action, and they want governments to invest and do something now.

“A number of councils and private business are interested in our technology but unless there are incentives in place, Australia will be slow to capitalise on the potential to lead the world in reforming our waste into something valuable and reusable.”

UNSW’s SMaRT Centre launched a demonstration e-waste microfactory in April, which is able to recover the components of discarded electronic items for use in high value products.

UNSW is also finalising a second demonstration microfactory, which converts glass, plastics and other waste materials into engineered stone products, which look and perform as well as marble and granite.

“Rather than export our rubbish overseas and to do more landfill for waste, the microfactory technology has the potential for us to export valuable materials and newly manufactured products instead,” Dr Sahajwalla said.

“Through the microfactory technology, we can enhance our economy and be part of the global supply chain by supplying more valuable materials around the world and stimulating manufacturing innovation in Australia.”

Planet Ark partner with Bingo Industries to divert coffee grounds

A new trial aims to divert spent coffee grounds from landfill and repurpose them into higher value uses.

Planet Ark will begin the Coffee 4 Planet Ark trial in September in Sydney, in collaboration Bingo industries and with leading coffee roasters and members, such as Lavazza. Tata Global Beverages via its Map Coffee brand will collect spent coffee grounds from limited corporate businesses in Melbourne.

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The program aims to roll out around the country in 2019 after it identifies the best and most cost-effective collection method.

Planet Ark undertook a 2016 feasibility study that found almost 2800 tonnes of spent coffee grounds are sent to landfill in Sydney alone.

Once in landfill, the grounds would begin to break down and produce methane. Diverting the spent grounds from Sydney would save approximately 1600 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually, according to the study.

To develop new end uses for coffee grounds, Planet Ark has begun working with the SMaRT centre at the University of New South Wales. It has also secured a partnership with Circular Food to produce a nutrient rich soil fertiliser called Big Bio, which will utilise the collected grounds.

Planet Ark CEO Paul Klymenko said the Coffee 4 Planet Ark program was an important step in ensuring spent coffee grounds were being used to their greatest potential rather than entering landfill.

‘Currently, the vast majority of coffee grounds produced after extracting your coffee are going to landfill. Planet Ark believes in creating a circular economy where all resources are used to their greatest potential,’ Mr Klymenko said.

‘We are thrilled to be working with some of Australia’s leading coffee roasters to trial a collection and repurposing system for coffee ground waste.’