Victorian State of the Environment report lists recommendations

The Victorian State of the Environment 2018 report says the Victorian Government needs to align its institutional planning and procurement processes to support the delivery of its planned circular economy strategy.

The report, commissioned by Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Dr Gillian Sparkes, says five out of six waste indicators are stable.

Indicators used were total waste generation, generation of municipal waste per capita, total food waste generated, diversion rate, littler and illegal dumping and total hazardous waste managed and reported.

While most indicators are stable, except litter and illegal dumping which is improving, the report says the total amount of waste generated is poor and offers two key recommendations to improve the waste situation in Victoria.

First, in 2019 Sustainability Victoria need to develop indicators and implement a comprehensive monitoring and reporting framework to measure delivery of the statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan against circular-economy design principals.

Recommendations suggest that from July 2020 this progress should be expanded and a reporting framework that tracks progress put in place, with a public report released annually.

Second, the Victorian Government needs to align its institutional planning and procurement processes to support the delivery of the circular economy strategy and clarify which agencies will be responsible for delivering policy, procurement, program, reporting and regulatory roles.

The report says this alignment should be adopted statewide to enable an orderly transition to a circular economy in Victoria by 2030, with the initial focus being reducing consumption and contamination levels in kerbside recycling.

Recommendations also note that the Victorian Government needs to commit to long-term, systemic, statewide community education to support these transitions and improve long-term system outcomes.

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VWMA hosts breakfast briefing

Next week the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) will host its first industry breakfast briefing for the year with partners Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria.

EPA Chief Executive Officer Dr Cathy Wilkinson and Worksafe Director of the High Risk Dangerous Goods Taskforce Michael Eather will speak at the event, providing attendees the opportunity to hear and discuss important issues affecting the sector.

Ms Wilkinson will discuss EPA priorities for 2019 outlining key aspects of the EP Act and business engagement opportunities.

Mr Eather will provide insights into the high risk dangerous goods taskforce and outline the company’s project to clean up eight work sites in Epping and Campbellfield.

The breakfast will take place at the RACV Club on Tuesday 19 March between 7:30 and 9 am.

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Victorian parliamentary inquiry into ‘waste crisis’

The Environment and Planning Committee will inquire into the “crisis” affecting Victoria’s recycling and waste management system following a parliamentary inquiry push from the Greens.

The inquiry was endorsed by the Victorian Parliament’s upper house on Wednesday.

Victorian councils were forced to send recyclables to landfill after the Environment Protection Authority banned a major Melbourne recycler from accepting waste at its Coolaroo and Laverton North plants in February.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio told parliament a third of the councils affected by the ban had found alternative processors and the government was working to help the others.

When operational, the Melbourne recycler receives approximately 50 per cent of Victoria’s kerbside recycling across three facilities.

Victorian Greens deputy leader Ellen Sandell said the inquiry would help develop short-term measures to support councils and limit the amount of recycling ending up in landfill.

The Victorian Greens party is of the view that Victoria has been in the midst of a waste crisis since at least February 2018 and has been calling for solutions to improve market development.

Ms Sandell said she hopes the inquiry will provide direction to develop a state-based recycling industry, highlighting Greens proposals to develop a container deposit scheme and ban on single-use plastics.

“Victorians are doing the right thing and recycling at home, but right now there are no assurances of where it ends up.

“Government support for a state based recycling industry is long overdue and it’s not good enough for Labor to continually push responsibility back onto councils,” she said.

The Environment and Planning Committee plans to report by 13 August.

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1200 tonnes removed in Numurkah tyre stockpile clean-up

About one quarter of a tyre stockpile in the Victorian town of Numurkah has been removed – equating to an estimated tonnes of 1200 tyres.

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) used its powers at the end of last year under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to enter the site, with the assistance of Moira Shire Council and funding from the Victorian Government.

Located in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley Highway, the stockpile on privately-owned land has a stockpile of an estimated 500,000 tyres.

EPA Victoria North East Region Manager Emma Knights said the disposal of the tyres was going well.

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“The project has been carefully planned, and the tyres removed so far have come from the sides of the stockpile where the hazards are most critical,” Ms Knights said.

“Aerial pictures taken by an EPA camera drone late last week show piles of waste tyres have been removed from the eastern side, closest to homes along the Goulburn Valley Highway. The southern side, which faces several business premises, is currently being removed,” she said.

The removal began in mid December with up to eight trucks a day leaving the site, five days a week, and the whole project is estimated to take approximately 10 weeks.

“The work is progressing well and we are on schedule, although the completion date will depend on the weather, including any days of total fire ban,” Ms Knights said.

The stockpile has been a concern to the community for some time.

“Tyre fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish and produce considerable amounts of toxic smoke. With an estimated 5000 tonnes of waste tyres at the site, CFA has already warned of serious consequences if a summer grass or bushfire spreads to the stockpile,” she said.

The clean-up was carefully planned to include fire safety, security and wildlife and vermin management. Firefighting equipment is located on site for the duration of the clean-up, and no snakes have been observed so far during tyre removal.

The waste tyres are going to a licensed facility in Melbourne for recycling. Once they have been shredded, waste tyres can be put to use in the construction, manufacturing and automotive industries, in the form of products such as athletics tracks, brake pads, new tyres or road surfacing.

VIC councils receive $16.5M e-waste infrastructure funding

The Victorian Government has awarded 76 councils a share of $16.5 million to improve the state’s e-waste infrastructure.

Funding will go towards upgrading more than 130 e-waste collection and storage sites and help local councils to safely store and collect increasing amounts of e-waste.

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The funding aims to assist councils prepare for the state’s ban on e-waste which will come into effect in July 2019.

The upgrades aim to ensure 98 per cent of Victorians in metropolitan areas are within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point and 98 per cent of regional Victorians are within a 30-minute drive from a disposal point.

Councils will receive discarded electronics which will then be stripped of components for reprocessing or sold on the second-hand goods market.

Applications will also open in November for a share of $790,000 to deliver local education campaigns, with councils able to apply for up to $10,000 in funding.

E-waste is defined as anything with a plug or a battery that has reached the end of its useful life, including phones, computers, white goods, televisions and air conditioners.

The amount of e-waste generated in Victoria is projected to increase from 109,000 tonnes in 2015 to 256,000 tonnes in 2035.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the funding will ensure the state has one of the best e-waste collection infrastructure networks in Australia.

“We’re delivering on our promise to maximise recycling and minimise the damage e-waste has on our environment,” she said.

Northern QLD councils call for changes to waste levy

North Queensland councils have called on the state government to push back the introduction of the waste levy and to introduce a differential levy rate system.

The North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils (NQROC) has made nine recommendations in a submission to the Queensland Government, calling for the levy to be implemented on 1 July 2019 to align with the new financial year instead of the current set date of 4 March 2019.

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Another recommendation is the implementation of a differential levy rate system to account for differences in rates for metropolitan and regional areas, which the NQROC says is in line with NSW and Victoria. Alternatively, the organisation recommends the implementation of a specific regional subsidy scheme to cover any hidden costs of the waste levy.

NQROC Chairperson and Mayor of Burdekin Shire Council Lyn McLaughlin said it was important for regional councils to raise their concerns about the new waste levy.

“The need to transport waste to distant recycling markets is one of the hidden costs of the waste levy for regional councils,” Cr McLaughlin said.

“It’s less expensive for the larger metropolitan councils who have recycling facilities close to them, however transportation costs are a huge issue for regional and rural communities.

“We need a cheaper levy for the regions or the government must assist with the cost of transporting our waste to other parts of the state,” she said.

Cr McLaughlin said another recommendation related to how the waste levy zone is determined and called for Charters Towers Regional Council and Hinchinbrook Shire Council be removed from the proposed zone.

“Right now, population is the only criteria for determining if you are in the waste levy zone. Regional economies are more complex than that and it is our view other factors like local economic conditions and financial sustainability should also be considered,” Cr McLaughlin said.

NQROC Deputy Chair and Mayor of Charters Towers Liz Schmidt said Charters Towers Regional Council was an example of where a population only approach can be flawed.

“Charters Towers Regional Council is just over the waste levy population threshold, so we are included in the waste levy zone. This ignores the fact that the number of people we provide waste services for is much less than the actual population.  We have a large number of rural properties covering an area the size of Tasmania who deal with their own waste,” Cr Schmidt said.

“Then there are the costs of waste management for townships like Balfes Creek, Homestead, Pentland, Greenvale, Hervey Range, Sellheim, Mingela and Ravenswood. Waste costs for these towns are already heavily subsidised by council and are unlikely to ever be self-sustaining.

“A waste levy just adds a greater financial burden which means more cost for our communities. We aren’t like the larger councils of South East Queensland but the government doesn’t seem to realise that.” she said.

In introducing its bill in September, Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said that Queenslanders will not have to pay more to put out their wheelie bin every week, with $32 million committed in this year’s budget in advance payments to Queensland councils.

“We are providing advance payments to councils that covers 105 per cent of the cost of their municipal waste,” Ms Enoch said.

“This means councils are being paid more than the cost of what they actually send to landfill every year.

“Councils will have no reason to increase rates because of the waste levy – we are giving them more than enough funding to cover this.

“In fact, councils could choose to use the extra funds to increase their waste management services.”

 

Community comments called for Australian Paper WtE facility

EPA Victoria has called for further community consultation on Australian Paper’s proposal to develop a large-scale waste to energy facility.

The company has provided the EPA with a health impact assessment to support its application to develop the facility within the boundaries of its site in Maryvale, Latrobe Valley.

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The proposed plant would generate both steam and electricity which can be directly in the paper mill or exported to the grid. It would replace two gas-fired boilers and would produce around 30 megawatts of electricity and 150 tonnes of steam per hour.

The EPA’s assessment of the applications will consider issues such as best practice technology, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, waste fuel composition, compliance with waste hierarchy, potential risks to human health and the environment from air, noise, disposal of fly ash, wastewater treatment and operational contingencies.

It follows a community public meeting held earlier in July, which found there was significant support for the proposals, with many submitters commenting the technology is already operating safely overseas, there are environmental benefits of less waste going to landfill and economic benefits of local job creation.

EPA Development Assessments Director Tim Faragher said the works approval application was originally open for public comment in June and EPA received 115 submissions.

“EPA also ran a community conference in July to hear concerns from those that made submissions. This further consultation period allows interested community members to make further comments on the new information that Australian Paper has submitted,” Mr Faragher said.

When making a final determination, the EPA will also consider all public submissions and the outcomes of the community conference.

Reusable bag campaign launches ahead of VIC plastic bag ban

The Victorian Government has launched a campaign to encourage the use of reusable shopping bags ahead of the state’s 2019 ban on lightweight, single-use plastic bags.

The Better Bag Habits campaign urges Victorians to remember their bag, wallet, keys and phone when leaving the house. The campaign will run on social media and radio.

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Some tips the campaign will encourage will be to store reusable bags in the car, at home, work to ensure customers are always ready to shop. It also encourages the use of foldable bags that can easily fit into a pocket, handbag or backpack.

Research commissioned by Sustainability Victoria found around three quarters of Victorians already carry reusable bags when food shopping.

Younger Victorians and those on higher incomes have been the slowest to say no to single-use bags, particularly when shopping for non-food items.

The ban on single-use plastic bags will come apply to shopping bags less than 35 microns tick after community consultation found a 96 per cent of the 8000 submissions were for the ban.

The state government is also working with other states and territories to phase out thick plastic bags to further reduce plastic pollution.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said Victorians are already saying no to plastic bags, but this campaign will encourage it to become a habit.

“We’re stopping plastic pollution and ensuring Victorians are ready to live without single-use, lightweight plastic bags.”

Recycling company wins Governor of Victoria export award

Lithium battery processing company Envirostream Australia has won the Regional Exporter Award in the 2018 Governor of Victoria Export Awards (GOVEA).

The awards are open to a range of industry sectors, including the waste and recycling industry and showcase some of the state’s most successful and innovative exporters.

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The company recovers 95 per cent of the materials contained in energy storage battery and sells the steel, copper and aluminium into national markets to be manufactured into new projects.

It began operating recycling facility in the Melbourne suburb of Campbellfield which is able to recover 40 tonnes of batteries per month on each processing line.

Envirostream has partnered with Planet Ark and other stakeholders to develop a battery collection and recycling program that uses battery recycling  and high material recovery.

“We believe this model will challenge the status quo in the recycling industry by adding value in Australia before exporting. This model creates jobs, decreases the cost to recycle and increases the recycling rate of batteries,” Envirostream Australia Director Andrew Mackenzie said.

The GOVEA are open to all Victorian exporters, regardless of size or total export sales.

Winners of the awards are automatically placed as finalists in the national Australian Export Awards.

The Winners:

  • Exporter of the Year – Leica Biosystems
  • Export Award for Innovation Excellence – Sealite
  • Emerging Exporter Award – FitMyCar
  • Victorian Women in International Business Award – Dr Ewa Douroux, Business Services Manager from Leica Biosystems
  • Agribusiness Award – Hussey and Company
  • Business Services Award – OMC International
  • Creative Industries Award – FanHubMedia
  • eCommerce Award – DPP Pharmaceuticals
  • Education and Training Award – IDP Education
  • Environmental Solutions Award – GeoFabrics Australasia
  • Digital Technologies Award – Catapult
  • Health and Biotechnology Award – Leica Biosystems
  • Manufacturing Award – Bosch Australia
  • Minerals, Energy, and Related Services Award – Business For Millennium Development
  • Regional Exporter Award – Envirostream Australia
  • Small Business Award – Cornerstone Solutions

Pictured Left to Right: Victorian Trade Minister Philip Dalidakis, Envirostream National Development Manager John Polhill, Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau.