New powers to stop polluters for EPA Victoria

New laws have been passed in Victoria which have given the EPA powers to stop pollution and protect the state’s environment.

The Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018 has introduced a criminally enforceable General Environment Duty which requires people conducting activities that pose a risk to human health and the environment from pollution to take responsible steps to eliminate or reduce them.

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It aims to move the focus to prevention, rather than responding to pollution after it has occurred.

The Bill substantially increases maximum penalties to better reflect the seriousness of environmental offences.

The reforms have also delivered improved clarity and flexibility, including reforms to EPA licensing and the environmental audit system.

A range of measures have been introduced to assist the EPA’s ability to protect the environment, including strengthening powers of EPA Authorised Officers to enter premises and investigate suspected breaches of the law.

Community members have also been given the ability to seek civil remedies to enforce the Environment Protection Act and regulations.

The new laws will come into effect on 1 July 2020, which will allow time to develop the regulations and guidance required to support the new laws.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the historic reforms were developed carefully over a number of years and will help Victoria’s environment for generations to come.

“We’re making sure Victoria’s EPA is equipped with the people, powers and resources it needs to do its job and protect Victoria’s environment,” she said.

City of Ballarat signs waste to energy agreement with MRCB

A due diligence study can now be undertaken for the construction of a $300 million municipal waste to energy plant in the Ballarat West Employment Zone.

It comes as a result of the City of Ballarat signing a Waste to Energy Heads of Agreement with the Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB).

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The City of Ballarat has been planning for a waste to energy facility for five years, which would divert 60 per cent of the city’s waste into an energy source for industries and reduce the current regional landfill’s environmental impacts.

Currently, 30,000 tonnes of waste are deposited in the landfill each year, with waste disposal costing more than $18 million per year.

It is estimated that the plant would increase the size of Ballarat’s economy by $202 million through building and flow on effects, with about 420 jobs created during construction and 120 ongoing jobs.

MRCB’s technology partner, Babcock and Wilcox Volund, built its first waste to energy plant in 1931 and has gone on to build more in the United States, China, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Malaysia and Korea.

City of Ballarat Mayor Cr Samantha McIntosh said the Western region was already a leader in renewable energy production, particularly wind energy, but this announcement would further enhance its standing.

“Signing this Heads of Agreement means we are one significant step closer to a Waste to Energy plant in Ballarat that would be a regional solution to our waste reduction issues while providing an affordable and reliable energy source,” Cr McIntosh said.

“It would also be a driving force in attracting industries and employment to BWEZ by delivering a uniquely competitive advantage.”

“We will also maintain our commitment to minimising waste through continual education about re-use and recycling.”

MRCB’s Group Managing Director Imran Salim arrived from Kuala Lumpur to witness the Heads of Agreement signing by Ravi Krishnan, CEO of MRCB International.

“MRCB is delighted to be in Ballarat and looks forward to working closely with the City of Ballarat and the wider community on providing a world class facility,” Mr Salim said.

New appointments for VIC Waste and Resource Recovery Groups

The Victorian Government has appointed 25 directors to the state’s seven Waste and Resource Recovery Groups.

The directors, including nine reappointments, commenced their roles on 1 August.

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They bring a broad range of experience to their roles with diverse backgrounds including energy, engineering, resource efficiency, local government, infrastructure development, sustainability, waste management and environmental policy.

The appointees will aim to ensure the Groups have the skills and experience needed to deliver a safe, resilient and efficient recycling system.

Waste and Resource Recovery Groups are a part of the state government’s Recycling Industry Strategic Plan with local councils across Victoria.

Appointees have increased board representation of women, people with disabilities and Victorians from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds.

More than $100 million has been invested by the state government over the last four years to improve the Victoria’s waste and resource recovery system.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio congratulated the appointees and said she looks forward to working with them to strengthen the state’s waste and recycling sector.

“We’re making sure Victoria is equipped with the people and resources it needs to reduce waste and costs to households,” she said.

A list of the appointments and directors can be found here.

Turning waste into water in the City of Melbourne

More than 60 tonnes of waste have been diverted from landfill thanks to a machine installed by the City of Melbourne that turns food scraps into waste water.

Over the last year, the ORCA aerobic digestion system has used micro-organisms to transform 62 tonnes of food scraps from the busy Degraves street face precinct into greywater, making it one of the most heavily used machines of its type in Australia.

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ORCA Enviro Systems Executive General Manager Tas Papas said micro-organisms in the unit digest the waste, creating wastewater that goes straight into the sewer system via a grease arrestor.

The ORCA is basically a mechanical “stomach” that digests fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy and proteins, so you end up with greywater that is safe to put into the drain without resorting to landfill,” Mr Papas said.

“Degraves Street cafes set aside food waste as part of their daily operations. By diverting the food waste from landfill, we are also able to prevent greenhouse gases from escaping into the environment.

“Over the course of a year, that also means more than 8,000 litres in diesel fuel is saved because fewer trucks are needed on the road.”

Because space is a premium in the city centre, ORCA was chosen to handle the increased volume of food waste being generated from the busy café district.

“The ORCA has helped City of Melbourne to build strong support among local businesses for food recycling efforts and keep the bustling precinct clean and appealing,” Mr Papas said.

The machine was installed in the Degraves Street recycling Facility in May 2017. The ORCA is rolling out across Australia in pubs, shopping centres, food courts and hotels.

EPA VIC consider application for $12M waste to energy facility

Resource Resolution Pty Ltd has applied to establish a $12 million commercial food waste processing facility which has the capability of producing biogas for energy.

The proposed facility would process 30,000 tonnes of liquid food waste a year and produce 2.4 megawatts of power.

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Resource Resolution also aims to recover organic matter for use as animal feed or to generate renewable energy with an anaerobic digestion facility.

Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria received the works approval for the site, planned to be located at 19 Winter Road, Girgarre.

Resource Resolution has proposed to use the Biogass Renewables AD system, which is currently used in Perth, WA. It is estimated that the bioenergy operation will process 23,382 tonnes of dairy, 3,475 tonnes of food products, 2,421 tonnes of fruit and vegetables and 722 tonnes of supermarket and grocery waste.

EPA Victoria’s assessment of the application will consider best practice technology, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions and waste composition. It will also assess any potential risk to human health and the environment, including from emissions to air, noise, disposal of digestate, the waste water treatment system and operation contingencies.

An application for an amendment to the current planning permit is currently under assessment by Campaspe Shire Council.

Works approvals are required for industrial and waste management activities that have the potential for significant environmental impact.

CEFC finance composting facility for Melbourne councils

Organic waste from eight Melbourne councils will be sent to a new composting facility, to be built by international waste management company Sacyr Group.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will commit up to $35 million towards the new composting facility.

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The $65 million South Eastern Organics Processing Facility will be the most advanced of its type in Victoria and will produce approximately 50,000 tonnes of high grade compost each year.

The compost will be made from processed household garden and food waste from council kerbside green waste collections in Melbourne’s south-east, which will then be used on local parks and gardens.

Food and green waste makes up an estimated 42 per cent of landfill for Australia’s municipal and commercial waste streams.

The Melbourne councils include Bayside, Cardinia, Casey, Frankston, Glen Eira, Greater Dandenong, Kingston and Monash.

Sacyr expects the fully-enclosed, in-vessel aerobic composting and maturation plant will be operational by mid-2019. It will aim to operate for 15 years, with a potential five-year extension.

The new facility will have an annual processing capacity of 120,000 tonnes of waste each year, the equivalent of 12,000 truckloads of waste. It is expected to abate more than 65,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually. This would cut the greenhouse gas emissions from landfill by 85 per cent if it were to be landfilled, which is equivalent to taking 13,900 cars off the road.

Sacyr Group has built 48 plants around the world and handles more than three million tonnes of waste each year. It currently operates in Australia through its subsidiary, Sacyr Water, which has built and operates the Binningup desalination plant.

The technology used in the plant has been developed over two decades, ensures plant storage reservoirs are completely closed, and uses efficient and reliable deodorisation systems.

Federal Government  Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said converting waste to compost can play a part in Australia’s long-term waste solutions.

“This facility alone, which will be the most advanced of its type in Victoria, can process around 12,000 truckloads of waste per year,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“It means food and organic waste produced by south east Melbourne residents will not end up in landfill and will instead produce high-grade compost for our gardens and parks.”

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the corporation is looking across the economy to identify finance opportunities to reduce Australia’s emissions.

“We’re pleased to be making our first project investment to help councils and communities tackle emissions from their organic waste,” he said.

“When organic waste such as food and green waste ends up in landfill it breaks down and produces methane. With this technology, councils can avoid those emissions by turning their organic waste into reusable compost, while also reducing our unsustainable reliance on landfill as a waste disposal option.

“We strongly endorse the principle of avoiding and reducing waste at the source. Our finance is about effectively manage the remaining waste, so that it doesn’t end up as landfill and we make a meaningful difference to our greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Learmonth said.

CEFC Bioenergy Sector lead Henry Anning said the CEFC finance model for the Melbourne project was an industry first, providing councils with access to a project financing structure that has rarely been leveraged across local government.

“Australia’s waste sector is facing enormous challenges, because of the growing amount of waste we produce as well as increasing community concerns about the way we handle that waste. This new Melbourne facility provides us with a practical and proven way to turn organic waste into a reusable commodity at the same time as avoiding harmful emissions,” Mr Anning said.

“We expect to see more councils and communities consider innovative ways to manage all forms of waste. This innovative project finance model offers opportunities for other groups of councils considering investing in substantial waste management infrastructure to reduce landfill waste.”

Monash Council top collector of unwanted paint for Paintback

Monash Council has collected the most paint in Australia this year for national product stewardship scheme Paintback.

The council was the first in Victoria so sign up to the Paintback scheme in 2016 and has since returned the most paint across Australia for two years in a row.

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In 2017/2018, the transfer station in Notting Hill collected 345,590 kilograms of paint, with more than 86,700 customers using the service at the station.

Paintback’s service is provided for no cost to residents looking to dispose of their unwanted paint, as it is funded by a 15 cents levy added to the price of paints.

City of Monash Mayor Paul Klisaris said he couldn’t be prouder of the community’s use of the Paintback scheme to keep paint and its packaging out of landfill.

“The takeup of this program proves that our transfer station is a well-utilised community resource and that people want to do everything possible to send as little as possible to landfill and reuse and recycle wherever possible,” Cr Klisaris said.

“This is a great initiative led by the paint industry and shows leadership in responsible disposal and innovative reuse of its products.”

Paint packaging and waste liquid are separated under the program, with the containers being recycled. The waste paint can be used in a number of ways, including for energy recovery for solvent and liquid/solid separation for water-based paint. Additional research into finding new ways to use unwanted paint is also being funded by the industry.

Paintback Chief Executive Karen Gomez said the City of Monash was an early adopter of the Paintback scheme and welcome trade partners with open arms.

“It goes to show you what a positive attitude, with shared- responsibility can achieve,” Ms Gomez said.

AORA Victoria 2018 Award winners announced

The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) has celebrated industry achievements from the past year in Victoria at its 2018 awards dinner.

Its event was attended by more than 90 representatives from organics processors, industry suppliers, to state and local government organisations.

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Speeches from Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan and Parliamentary Secretary for Environment Anthony Carbines highlighted the support the government is putting forward into the organics industry.

The Melbourne Cricket Club won the 2018 Sustainability Victoria Outstanding Contribution to Industry Development Award thanks to the club’s organic fertiliser that it creates on site form organic waste.

Waste produced at the MCG is treated in-house and turned into a soil additive that is being used to sustain the heritage listed Yarra Park which surrounds the stadium. An Eco Guardians dehydrator at the MCG takes the organic waste and processes them into a soil additive known as SoilFood.

Glen Eira City Council won the 2018 Yarra Valley Water Outstanding Local Government Initiative in Collection/Processing/Marketing Award thanks to the councils Food Organics into Garden Organics (FOGO) program.

Food scrap recycling was identified as a priority in the council’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2016-2021. Glen Eira changed organics processor to Veolia to bring the service to residents sooner, as the company are the only contractor currently servicing the South East Organics Processing contract that is capable of processing food waste.

The campaign was soft launched in November 2017, with further marketing in the lead up to its introduction on 1 May 2018. Council offered residents a free kitchen caddy as part of the program, with around 7721 households receiving one.

Environmental management company Kilter Rural won the 2018 RMCG Compost User Demonstrating Innovation and Advocacy in Agricultural Markets Award. The company has led the recovery of severely degraded farmland in the irrigation district in Northern Victoria and restored the land to profitable production.

Burdett’s Sand and Soil won the 2018 Compost User Demonstrating Innovation and Advocacy in Amenity Market Award after using compost through its solids for at least 20 years. The company has expanded into pine barks and mulches and is known to be an avid compost user and support of recycled organics.

Image: Melbourne Cricket Club

Vic gov announces $37M recycling package

A $37 million package has been announced for Victoria’s recycling industry to develop new markets.

The Recycling Industry Strategic Plan aims to increase the quality of recycled materials and provide a blueprint for a safe, reliable and resilient recycling system in the medium to long term.

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It will include an $8.3 million expansion to the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund, which is estimated to improve the quality of up to 100,000 tonnes of recycled material.

A further $2 million will go towards the current market development program for recycled materials by identifying new uses, bringing the total to around $4.5 million.

The Victorian Government also aims to drive demand for products containing recycled materials through procurement.

Sustainability Victoria, in consultation with the Department of Treasury and Finance, will assist the government departments and agencies to identify opportunities and develop their own targets to increase procurement of recycled content.

An education program will attempt to improve understanding of what can and can’t be recycled to reduce the contamination level of kerbside recycling, which the state government says has the potential to reduce the amount of recycling sent to landfill by 40,000 tonnes each year.

The Landfill Levy Relief Program will also receive an $800,000 boost to ensure the National Association of Charitable Recyclers can continue focusing their efforts on charity.

It also includes the $13 million temporary relief package announced in February for councils and industry to support the ongoing kerbside collection of household waste following China’s National Sword policy.

The plan will be delivered by consumers and waste producers, the resource recovery industry and manufacturers and all levels of government.

Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio said the government is delivering a new plan for the future of recycling in Victoria, to reduce waste and build a more resilient recycling sector.

“This plan will create a more stable and productive recycling sector, improving the quality of recycled materials and developing new markets for them,” she said.

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has welcomed the announcement and said that further work is necessary to future proof Victoria’s recycling industry.

It identified four key objectives that needed to be addressed as part of the long term solutions the state government should explore, which include contractural models for waste and resource recover, unlocking the sustainability fund, stimulating local markets through state and local government procurement and community education.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said recycling is one of the easiest things Victorians can do to support the environment and the economy.

“Engagement with the community about how to recycle correctly is important and a shared responsibility. The private sector shares that responsibility but we need consistency and commitment to messaging that we’ve had a part in shaping,” Mr Smith said.

“The Victorian Government’s $37 million investment shows commitment and long-term thinking. However, we must maintain an open and ongoing dialogue on these challenges to ensure public confidence is restored.”

“The waste and recycling sector has suffered a lot of damaging publicity over the last 12 months. Further discussion with the sector will be required to target public engagement to help rebuild public confidence back into this essential service,” he said.

The government has released an overview about recycling and what it is being done to respond to international market changes here.