TAS Govt discuss waste management strategies

Waste industry experts and stakeholders have come together in Tasmania to discuss current waste management issues at the Tasmanian Waste and Resource Recovery Forum.

The forum aims to give the waste and recycling industry a chance to discuss issues around waste policy following China’s implementation of the National Sword policy.

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Discussions at the forum focus around waste and resource recovery settings for Tasmania, waste avoidance and reduction, innovations in waste management and bringing a circular economy to Tasmania.

Held by the Waste Management Association of Australia, the forum follows consultation by the Tasmanian Government on its new waste strategy – the Tasmanian Waste Action Plan.

The state government has outlined several commitments and targets to reduce packaging waste, boost consumer awareness through industry, increase recycling capacity and boost demand though market development.

Other targets include making Tasmania the tidiest state with the lowest incidence of litter in Australia by 2023 by increasing penalties for illegal dumping, expanding the reporting of litter offences through an illegal rubbish app, providing additional support for Keep Australia Beautiful Tasmania and using Community Service Orders for rubbish removals from public areas.

The draft of the Tasmanian Waste Action Plan is expected to be released for public consultation in early 2019.

NSW EPA to end agricultural use of mixed waste organic material

The NSW EPA is stopping the restricted use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land and is ceasing use on plantation forests and mining rehabilitation land until further controls can be considered.

In a statement, NSW EPA said the decision followed comprehensive independent studies, but the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) is calling for greater involvement in consultations in what it describes a “surprise announcement”.

Mixed waste organic material is predominantly made from organics in general household waste. Application on agricultural land ceased from Friday 26 October and use on plantation forests and mining rehabilitation land will be suspended until further controls can be considered.

NSW EPA Acting Chair and CEO Anissa Levy said there was a robust scientific basis for the EPA’s decision to stop the use of the material.

“The restricted use of the mixed waste organic material had been permitted on the basis that it provided beneficial reuse of waste. Extensive independent research commissioned by the EPA found that it no longer passed that test,” Ms Levy said.

“The research found there were limited agricultural benefits from the application of mixed waste organic material at the regulated maximum levels of application, but there were potential risks to the environment from the presence of some contaminants, such as small pieces of plastic and glass, as well as concerns about soil quality degradation.

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Ms Levy said that as a result, the NSW EPA is revoking the Resource Recovery Exemption and Order – the regulatory instruments that permitted the material to be applied to specific land uses.

“As part of the EPA’s regulatory role, we commissioned an independent assessment of possible health risks related to the use of this product on agricultural land. The assessment used very cautious assumptions to estimate how much exposure a person might have to chemicals present in the material.

“Based on a review of the findings of this health risk assessment the use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land is unlikely to present any health risk to the general public.”

The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health have reviewed the initial findings of the health risk assessment and expert scientific advice, and further work is being done, overseen by an independent panel formed by the Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer. This is expected to be completed in the coming months.

The EPA is contacting all councils affected by the change to their waste management services and all landholders who have previously used the material to let them know, and to support them as they manage these changes.

WMAA in a statement argued that the waste and resource recovery industry was informed some six weeks ago that the EPA had completed research into the impacts of mixed waste organics and the expectation was that the regulator would then release its findings for wider consultation.

“Industry has after all had a long history of transparent and constructive consultation on the issue, dating back to 2008 when Hyder Consulting (now Arcadis) completed an extensive project into the chemical contaminants of alternative waste treatment (AWT) organics – the “AWT DORF” project – that was sponsored by industry, WMAA, and numerous state governments and departments, including the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.”

WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan said that it is imperative that industry is given a chance to review the findings particularly as the EPA has confirmed in today’s statement that the use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land is unlikely to present any health risk to the general public.

She said this is consistent with research and assessments conducted by industry.

“We are calling on government to openly and collaboratively work with industry to ensure that NSW’s resource recovery industry’s future is not undermined and that industry and local government are not adversely impacted by this decision,” said Ms Sloan.

“Industry and local councils have invested significantly in AWT in NSW over many years with the support of the EPA. The EPA itself, in its review of waste and resource recovery infrastructure, noted in 2017 there was in fact a one million tonne shortage of AWT processing capacity across the state.”

WMAA acknowledges that there must be continued leadership by the EPA to drive positive resource recovery outcomes based on robust consultation and said it is looking forward to working with government on the future of recovery in NSW.

“We await the release of the technical report but in the interim, we need to ensure that collections do not cease because of this decision and that we do not lose the community’s confidence in resource recovery in NSW. It is also important that industry does not suffer losses because of this decision,” Ms Sloan said.

“It is vital that we maintain public confidence in our industry particularly given the challenges of late. Industry and government have a shared responsibility to work together to find long-term sustainable solutions. We appreciate government is willing to look into financial relief packages for industry and local government that may be severely impacted by the revocation of this exemption and order.”

NSW launches draft of its Circular Economy Policy

The NSW Government has revealed its draft of its Circular Economy Policy as part of the state government’s plan to improve its resource recovery methods.

The policy draft defines the state government’s role in implementing circular economy principles across NSW and how it can commit to achieving long term objectives.

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Minimising the consumption of finite resources by replacing raw materials with recovered and recycled products is one of the main principles of the policy.

Additionally, the policy aims to decouple economic growth from resource consumption by maximising the value of resources through keeping materials in use for as long as possible.

Product design will also play a role to implement a circular economy with an aim of creating long lasting products that are able to be easily re-used, remanufactured and repaired.

The draft aims to extend the life of existing landfills to reduce the demand for new landfills along with a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Local market for high quality post-consumer recycled materials will be developed to keep them materials use for longer to reduce dependency on international markets. It also aims to improve the quality of collected materials through better sorting.

To move away from the “take, make and dispose” status quo, the policy recommends innovating technologies that increase resource recovery efficiency and referencing higher value re-use opportunities.

Creating new jobs in manufacturing, service and resource recovery sectors is listed as a main principle behind the delivery of a circular economy.

The draft sets out certain focus areas to guide future government action which involve supporting innovation, encouraging sustainable procurement practices for businesses and government, improving recycling systems and making the most of organic resources through food donation or composting.

Mainstream product stewardship will also aim to provide incentives for producers to take responsibility for the management of products at the end of their lives.

To establish this framework, the NSW Government aims to incorporate circular economy principles in the revision of the NSW Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy in 2019. A Circular Economy Implementation Plan to be developed by 2020 will also aim to provide timing and direction for the implementation of circular economy principles.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the policy draft is the beginning of a better way for NSW to manage its waste and resources.

“Achieving a circular economy will minimise our waste, reduce our impact on the environment and is an opportunity to boost the NSW economy,” Ms Upton said.

“It’s an antidote to the current “linear economy”, where we make things, use them and then throw them away. Instead, we can use items for as long as possible, through repair, re-use and recycling, rather than being thrown away.

“At the same time NSW is working with the Federal Government on the development of national circular economy principles,” she said.

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) has welcomed the release of the draft, however it says there is more work to be done on the policy.

The association has urged the NSW Government to set up an organisation similar to Sustainability Victoria or Green Industries South Australia to implement in the final policy.

WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan said that all states are preparing or implementing similar strategies, so it is vital that they align and work together.

“WMAA supports the paper’s proposal that the NSW Government will investigate opportunities to incorporate circular economy principles into the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy as part of the five-yearly review process,” Ms Sloan said.

“WMAA commends the government for its support for broadening and strengthening stewardship schemes. This has been discussed time and again and it is pleasing to see that industry’s feedback has been heard,” she said.

“We are also calling on government to consider how the waste levy should look like in a circular economy environment, including how collected monies are re-invested in industry to further boost processing and jobs.

Queensland waste levy introduced into parliament

Queensland’s waste levy is one step closer as the legislation has been introduced into parliament.

It aims to stop trucks from New South Wales dumping waste in Queensland and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill while also encouraging more recycling jobs.

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A levy existed in Queensland until 2012, when it was removed, making it the only mainland state without a levy.

The new levy will begin on 4 March 2019 at a rate of $70 per tonne for general waste.

In the 2018-2019 state budget, the Queensland Government committed $32 million in advance payments to councils to ensure residents would not have to pay more for their waste.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the Waste Reduction and Recycling (Waste Levy) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 will allow the government to invest in waste management and recycling.

“We are providing advance payments to councils that covers 105% 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,” she said.

Ms Enoch said that for every 10,000 tonnes of waste that go to landfill, less than three jobs are supported, compared with nine if that amount was recycled.

Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) Chief Executive Officer Gayle Sloan said that WMAA sees this as a great opportunity to grow and develop the resource recovery sector in Queensland, creating jobs and investment in the state.

“This will bring Queensland back in line with the majority of Australian states, and it is a step towards creating a level playing field across the country that industry so desperately needs,” Ms Sloan said.

Waste Recycling Industry Queensland Chief Executive Officer Rick Ralph said  industry and all levels of government have a critical role in delivering the objectives of Queensland’s new waste strategy.

“We are committed to realising council and the State Government’s future direction on waste, and to reshape Queensland to become Australia’s leading secondary resources and recycling state,” Mr Ralph said.

Q&A War on Waste episode to feature WMAA

Q&A War on Waste episode to feature WMAA

ABC’s current affairs program Q&A will feature waste management leaders as it discusses the current issues facing Australia’s waste and recycling industry.

It will be a special War on Waste episode, and will feature a diverse range of panellists, including the Waste Management Association of Australia CEO Gayle Sloan.

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Joining them will be Craig Reucassel, host of the ABC’s War on Waste program and Tony Jones, the host of Q&A.

Ms Sloan will also appear in episode three of the second season of the War on Waste, which begins on Tuesday 24 July.

The panel will also include Ronni Kahn, an Australian entrepreneur who started the food rescue charity Oz Harvest. The charity partners with the United Nations Environment Programme to raise awareness on the issue of food waste and works with governments and key stakeholders with a goal to halve waste by 2030.

Nature’s Organics CEO Jo Taranto will also be part of the panel. She is also the director of social enterprise start up “Good for the Hood”, whose mission is to inspire communities around the country to reduce waste.

Rounding out the panel is the President of the Australian Local Government Association David O’Loughlin. He has held executive positions across the public and private sectors of the construction industry for more than 27 years and now represents local government, including at Ministerial Councils and the Council of Australian Governments.

The Q&A episode will broadcast on Monday 23 June at 9:35pm (AEST). To ask a question of the panel, click here. To register to join the audience, click here.

New additions to WMAA’s Board of Directors

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) has announced four new directors for the board.

It follows an announcement earlier in 2018 that the WMAA would be undergoing a period of board renewal.

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The following members will be affirmed as directors at the 11 May 2018 annual general meeting and commence their two-year term:

  • Adam Faulkner – Adam has previously served on the WMAA Board and is an active member of the company’s SA branch. He is currently the acting CEO of the Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority.
  • Georgina Davis – Georgina has extensive experience in waste innovation in government and academia.
  • Jade Barnaby – Jade is the most recent recipient of the WMAA Women in the Environment Award. Currently she is the National Accreditation and Compliance Manager for Tyre Stewardship Australia and has been the Program Manager for Victoria’s household battery recycling system in WA.
  • Tim Youe – Tim has experience in Local Government and is currently the CEO of the Southern Metropolitan Regional Council managing a significant resource recovery system in WA.

Eligible members are now being called by the WMAA to apply for the role of Vice President and elected director.

WMAA responds to China waste ban

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) has responded to China’s intention to ban imports of 24 categories of solid waste to the country (including plastics, paper and textiles waste).

The last World Trade Organization (WTO) report indicates that the ban will take place at the end of 2017. WTO reports China representatives said the measure is aimed at addressing risks of pollution from solid waste, and seeks to protect the environment and human health. A six month transition period has been provided, and China said it had further clarified the scope of the measure based on comments from WTO members.

The European Union, Japan, the United States, Australia and Canada have questioned the broad scope of the measure, and whether it applied to domestic operators in the same way as foreign operators. They asked China for a longer transition period of up to five years.

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In a statement, WMAA said industry had signalled to government for a long time that relying on the export markets for recyclables was dangerous and now it find itself, with the change in China’s legislation, walking towards this inevitability.

“Whilst stockpiling is a legitimate business practice, we know that the community is not happy with simply stockpiling recyclable materials, they rightly want this material to be used in making other products in Australia – reducing reliance on natural material,” said WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan.

WMAA’s statement said Australia needs to act now to ensure that the circular economy is real.

“It is not enough that products we purchase in Australia are capable of being recycled, we need to ensure that they are also made from recycled material,” Ms Sloan, said.

“In this way we can create real demand for commodities like those that households put in their yellow bins.”

“This is simply too important an issue for the Federal Environment and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, to continue to repeat his mantra ‘it is up to the states’ this is one that the Federal Government actually needs to step up to the plate on,” Ms Sloan said.

WMAA said all levels of government, including national, need to put policies in place that support the development of sustainable secondary markets for recycled materials.

“The best first step would be sustainable procurement being introduced nationally by all, allowing government to actually walk the talk and model these behaviours,” Ms Sloan said.

WMAA noted investment in new recycling infrastructure creates construction jobs and economic activity that provides a real boost to local economies. While the change in China’s legislation can be seen as a short-term crisis, WMAA argued in reality the change to a circular economy will not only bring long term employment, through green-collar manufacturing, but also sustainable economic growth.

“We have seen the change that programs like War on Waste have had on supermarkets. Let’s get the changes we need to ensure that packagers are using recycled products as an input in all they do – but we cannot do this without the support of government,” Ms Sloan said.

Container Deposit Schemes are being introduced nationally, and WMAA said the key is that the recycled product made in Australia is re-used by the beverage companies that participate in this scheme.

WMAA said it has discussed the circular economy with the industry, generators, and the community, with their support offered.

Waste Management Association of Australia QLD outlines priorities

The Waste Management Association of Australia’s Queensland branch (WMAA) has produced its policy priorities for the state government to consider ahead of the election.

The 2017 Queensland state election will be held on 25 November 2017, and WMAA made a series of recommendations in a statement last week, with a focus on adhering to the waste hierarchy and supporting a circular economy.

In the statement, WMAA described Queensland as one of the largest generators and poorest diverters of waste from landfill. The absence of a comprehensive strategy has resulted in Queensland maintaining a ‘take, make, and dispose’ approach to waste and resource recovery, WMAA argued.

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“There is a real opportunity for Queensland to introduce policy settings that will support the return of materials back to the economy instead of to landfill,” said Gayle Sloan, WMAA CEO.

“The current linear approach adversely impacts Queensland in making it difficult for resource recovery industries to invest, depriving Queensland of the opportunity to create new jobs.”

WMAA Queensland outlined a number of key policy positions, including to comprehensively review the state’s Waste Avoidance and Resource Productivity Strategy 2014, and implement a strategy that supports the waste hierarchy. The Queensland branch also called to develop a comprehensive waste and resource recovery infrastructure strategy.

Among the recommendations was a call for a “reinvestment into landfill levy” from the government to avoid the unnecessary transportation of waste.

The statement called on the government to mandate sustainable state and local government procurement policies which prioritises the purchase of goods with recycled content.

In the area of landfilling, WMAA called for the development and implementation of best practice guidelines. It also recommended more opportunities for food waste and green waste recycling from the municipal solid waste stream through financial assistance to councils and a host of other measures.

Read the full statement on WMAA’s website.

 

 

SUEZ signs up to Waste of Origin Pledge

SUEZ, one of Australia’s largest waste and water management companies, has become one of two companies to commit to the newly-established Waste of Origin Pledge.

The pledge was launched by the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) on Friday to challenge the waste industry to join the fight against irresponsible, dangerous and environmentally damaging practices in the sector.

According to WMAA’s website, SUEZ has joined REMONDIS in making the pledge.

In the pledge, WMAA says its members wish to see improved standards across the sector, including waste reduction and recycling, with disposal to landfill considered a last resort.

WMAA said it supports the application of a waste hierarchy and the development of an economy in Australia that promotes the best use of our resources.

“However, this development is being undermined by the lack of harmonisation of waste management regulation and enforcement between Australian states and territories,” the pledge reads.

“WMAA calls for shared responsibility between government, industry and the community to solve this issue. The WMAA recognises that attempts are being made by state governments to address the issue of interstate transportation of waste. But it is simply taking too long.”

WMAA is challenging waste generators and all those within the waste management sector associated with landfill levy avoidance through long distance waste transport to immediately sign the pledge.

In Australia and around the world, SUEZ said that it is committed to and provides sustainable resource management. This includes investing in a circular economy, and making significant efforts to recycle waste materials, leading to lower resource costs and less greenhouse gas emissions.

SUEZ believes that Australian companies which produce substantial amounts of waste should have confidence that their waste is being reduced and recycled, with landfill disposed achieved at the lowest environmental impact where possible.

Mark Venhoek, CEO of SUEZ in Australia and New Zealand said transporting waste unnecessarily over many hundreds of kilometres was simply an absurd outcome.

SUEZ said it believes the sole motivation for moving all of this waste by road and rail is profit, rather than assisting the environment.

“There are 20,000 additional and unnecessary heavy truck movements on the Pacific Highway due to some organisations sending waste to Queensland to avoid the NSW waste levy.  That means increased emissions, congestion, and increased chances of spills. It also undermines investment in waste and recycling services in New South Wales,” Mr Venhoek said.

“We encourage others in the waste management sector to sign the Waste of Origin Pledge and encourage waste generators to ask where their waste is going and also consider their role in the responsible management of waste.”

“We also call on state and federal governments to work with the industry and harmonise laws across Australia to remove the perverse incentives to transport waste interstate.

“The Waste of Origin Pledge is about encouraging waste disposal as close to its point of origin and putting waste to good use,” Mr Venhoek added.

The pledge is open to all industry participants and stakeholders and will stay in force until 31 December, 2017. Read more about the Waste of Origin pledge on WMAA’s website.