Two companies working to tackle plastic waste in Australia

Two Australian companies are working together to tackle the small amount of plastic waste that is processed in Australia.

The Guardian reported Replas and RED Group are collecting and processing soft plastic packaging.

In Australia, 300,000 tonnes of plastic waste is collected for recycling each year, according to the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association of Australia.

About 50 percent of the waste is sent overseas for processing and approximately 20 percent is reprocessed into pellets to be made into new products to also be sent overseas.

A recent report by the World Economic Forum estimated that the weight of plastics in the oceans will match that of fish by 2050.

Mark Jacobsen, director of marketing at recycling firm Replas told The Guardian technical challenges are not the main bottleneck for plastics recycling.

“Recycling in Australia is dead in the water,” he said.

“Unless people are willing to buy products made of their own waste.”

He said the whole economy has to change. Currently people still view plastic primarily as a waste product.

As a result, the company reportedly only accepts plastic waste from organisations willing to buy back the recycled products they make.

He said large supermarket chains, such as Coles and Woolworths, are some of those leading by example.

Some city councils are also incorporating recycled plastic into their operations, he said.

Replas partnered with RED Group some years ago, a Melbourne-based company that collect soft plastics for recycling through its REDcycle program.

The program collects and processes packaging separately, before sending it onto Replas for incorporation into their products.



Tassal to install ‘world-first’ waste collection system

A nationally renowned salmon producer will trial a world-first waste collection system.

ABC News reported in May the waste collection system would be trialled by Tasmania-based company Tassal at a cost of about $500,000, before being rolled out across all overstocked pens.

Tasmania’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) will as a result reduce fish stock numbers in Western Tasmania’s Macquarie Harbour, but will allow Tassal to exceed its limit.

The EPA will reduce the overall cap on production from 14,000 to 12,000 tonnes for the 12 months from June.

But companies can exceed the new limit if an approved waste collection system is installed under fish cages.

EPA director Wes Ford told ABC News if Tassal did not adopt the waste management system it would have to remove an extra 4,000 tonnes of fish, as it would exceed the limit.

“In economic terms that is more than $60 million of fish that is currently in the harbour that had I not allowed them to grow through it would obviously impact on the economy of the state, the economy of the west coast and the community,” he said.

“So Tassal has a choice, Tassal can either put fish waste collection systems in or they can remove fish from the harbour.

“The way the draft determination is written is the companies can’t grow more than 13 tonnes per hectare without collecting the fish waste.”

Mr Ford said the EPA would work with any of the companies that explore fish waste collection systems.

“This technique is not used anywhere else in the world, so it is novel, It has a risk associated with it but that’s what trials are about,” he said.

In a statement, Tassal said it respected the EPA’s decision which balanced “environmental, economic and social needs of the Strahan and wider Tasmanian community”.

ABC News reported it has agreed to install waste capture liners under pens to further minimise environmental impacts in the harbour.

Environment Tasmania’s Laura Kelly told ABC News there was no evidence that the fish waste collection system would work.

“This should not be allowed to progress as a so-called trial until there is an environmental impact assessment,” she said.

“There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that faecal mounds on top of a tarp will be any less damaging to oxygen levels in the harbour than faecal mounds on the sea floor.

“This is not the time to be trialling capturing of thousands of tonnes of faeces using a tarp. This is time to implement the law.”

Regional town looks to waste industry for growth

A Western Australian town is lobbying the state government to become a hub for large-scale waste management developments.

ABC News reported the bid comes amid other towns in the state fighting against such projects, while the Shire of Dandaragan says it is open to such developments to raise money and create jobs in its community.

The town is planning to locate a regional refuse site at the Badgingarra Research Station, more than 200 kilometres north of Perth.

The shire leases the farm, about 162 hectares in size, which is used for local agricultural research projects and community cropping programs.

“Currently we have our partners the West Midlands Group doing local agricultural research here, we could establish a composting facility here,” Councillor Dahlia Richardson told ABC News.

“We could have more people living and working here, we have have lots of ideas, we just need the land.”

The scale of the development could also allow the community farm to process, store and recycle the household, commercial and industrial waste within the Wheatbelt region and Perth.

Shire of Dandaragan president Leslee Holmes told ABC News the community of Badgingarra is largely in favour of the plan that will create dozens during construct and ongoing local employment.

“The level of support is fantastic,” Ms Holmes said.

“Badgingarra like all small communities are looking for something to ensure the future of their town.

“They have a great deal of faith in this plan, they think it’s a wonderful idea and they trust us.

“They know that there will be jobs, and they know that we will turn part of this site into a best practice regional refuse site.”

Councillor Dahlia Richardson said the proposed regional refuse site would have great benefits to the community.

“We look at the proposal as an opportunity to expand our population and then local business and the school will benefit,” Councillor Richardson said.

“Badgingarra is a wonderful place to live, I want it to be wonderful well into the future… this plan will give us that future.”

The shire hopes to move ahead with the formal approval process as soon as possible if it proves successful.

“Like everyone, we are making new friends in the recently elected State Government, finding out who we can talk to, [and] hopefully impressing them with our ideas,” Ms Holmes said.

Ms Holmes said there have been some preliminary discussions with Labor parliamentary secretary Darren West and is hopeful of speaking with Minister MacTiernan soon.

“Personally I think the plan will appeal to government and our locals too.”

The shire is waiting for State Government to respond to their offer to buy the land.

Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is encouraging businesses and government organisations active in environmental protection to enter the 2017 Premier’s Sustainability Awards.

EPA sponsors the Environmental Protection award which acknowledges leadership and excellence by an organisation in the conservation and protection of the environment.

EPA Chief Executive Officer Nial Finegan said the award category recognises projects that have delivered positive outcomes for conserving and protecting the environmental quality or health of a local Victorian environment.

“The Environment Protection category helps us to tell the story of Victorians who are doing something new, positive or creative for our environment,” Mr Finegan said.

“Protecting Victoria’s environment is a shared responsibility and we want to acknowledge and support businesses who are leading the way in environmental citizenship.”

Last year’s winner of the Environmental Protection category was the Geelong Cemeteries Trust. Their site, known as the Moonah Memorial Walk at Queenscliff Cemetery, has been developed into a natural habitat for endangered woodland that offers unique burial and cremation memorials following extensive community consultation, botanical assessment and environmental planning.

Chief Executive Officer, Darryl Thomas said the walk is the first of its kind internationally and shows how cemeteries can protect the environment while also providing their local communities with unique memorial and burial options.

“Developing the Moonah Memorial Walk was a great challenge, but saving the endangered coastal woodland and offering the residents of Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale with a treasured place was always our focus,” Mr Thomas said.

“We were honoured to be recognised for our work and encourage others who have taken steps to preserve or protect their local environment to enter the awards and share their success. A project doesn’t need to be a huge development, but needs to demonstrate how it’s provided a good outcome for the environment and the Victorian community.”

Entries are open for small to medium enterprises, large businesses and state and local government organisations and close at 5pm on Wednesday 21 June. Finalists will be announced in late August and invited to attend the awards event on Thursday 26 October.

Entrants have the opportunity to be profiled as a sustainability leader, enhance their reputation and share their achievements with the wider community.

EPA encourages prospective applicants to learn more about the selection criteria for the Environmental Protection award at an information session. To register your attendance, or for more information on the 2017 Premier’s Sustainability Awards, visit

Paint recycling initiative looks to grow

An industry supported paint recycling program is aiming to divert more than 45 kilograms of paint and packaging from landfill within four years.

Paintback chief executive Karen Gomez told News Corp the world-first initiative has saved more than 1 million kilograms of unwanted paint, or the equivalent of 100,000 cans of paint, since commencing a year ago.

She said the aim is to boost this to 45 million kilograms by 2021 and to expand the number of recycling depots to more than 100 within a year.

“It’s estimated Australians throw away 7.3 million litres of unused paint every year — enough to fill three Olympic swimming pools,” she said.

“In our first year, we’ve been able to collect about 17 per cent of that amount for safe disposal.”

Ms Gomez said Paintback, which is supported via industry through a 15c-a-litre levy on paint products, has rolled out across 50 sites nationally with around 60 per cent of the population within 20 kilometres of a recycling depot.

“There’s been a very good response from councils we have talked to, we’ve targeted big population areas first because obviously we want to get as big as bang for the buck as possible, but we’re in stage two now, we’re rolling to more regional sites,” she said.

Ms Gomez said 97 per cent of the paint products deposited at Paintback sites are recycled, with solvent paint used as a fossil fuel replacement in the cement industry and water from water-based paint used in industrial processes.

“We want to get 100 per cent reuse, this year we will be initiating our R & D program, our aim is to find a new way of dealing with paint that will one day fund this whole scheme itself, create a new product, make a new paint from old or a completely new product,” she said.

News Corp reported Dulux Group, PPG Industries, Valspar, Haymes, Resene and Rust-Oleum support the scheme through an ACCC approved levy providing Paintback coverage to nearly 95 per cent of architectural and decorative paint sold in Australia.

Volvo tests autonomous garbage trucks

Volvo Trucks is testing and researching how automated vehicles can improve safety.

DPCcars reported the company is working with Swedish waste management organisation Renova using similar systems to those fitted in the Kristineberg Mine in northern Sweden since autumn 2016.

The devices uses a GPS and lidar-based system, which is said to allow for mapping, positioning and scanning of the area around the vehicle.

The automated refuse truck also features automatic control of steering, gear changing and speed and an automatic stop if an obstacle on the road appears suddenly.

“Driving a heavy commercial vehicle in an urban residential area with narrow streets and vulnerable road users naturally imposes major demands on safety, even when the vehicle’s speed doesn’t exceed a normal walking pace,” said Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic & Product Safety Director, Volvo Trucks.

“The refuse truck we are now testing continuously monitors its surroundings and immediately stops if an obstacle suddenly appears on the road. At the same time, the automated system creates better prerequisites for the driver to keep a watchful eye on everything that happens near the truck.”

The automated refuse truck is driven manually the first time it is in a new area, while the on-board system constantly monitors and maps the route with the help of sensors and GPS technology. The truck knows which route to follow and at which bins it has to stop the next time it enters the area.

At the first stop, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and empties it in a standard process.

Once completed, the truck automatically reverses to the next bin after receiving the driver’s command. The driver takes the same route as the truck to maintain full view in front of him.

“By reversing the truck, the driver can constantly remain close to the compactor unit instead of having to repeatedly walk between the rear and the cab every time the truck is on the move. And since the driver doesn’t have to climb in and out of the cab at every start and stop, there’s less risk of work related injuries such as strain on the knees and other joints,” said Hans Zachrisson, Strategic Development Manager at Renova.

Reversing is otherwise a risky manoeuvre since the driver may find it difficult to see who or what is moving behind the vehicle, even if it is fitted with a camera. In certain areas, it is not allowed to reverse with a heavy commercial vehicle for safety reasons, in others it is a requirement that a co-driver must stand behind the truck to ensure that the road is clear before the vehicle is allowed to reverse. DPCcars reported the solution being tested has been designed to eliminate these issues. Sensors monitor the area all around the refuse truck, ensuring driving is equally safe no matter the direction in which the vehicle is travelling. If the street is blocked by a parked car, the refuse truck can automatically drive around the obstruction provided there is sufficient space alongside.

DPCcars reported that although the technical scope already exists, a lot of research, testing and development remains before self-driving refuse trucks can become a reality. The current joint project will continue until the end of 2017 and will be followed by a thorough evaluation of functionality, safety and community and driver consultation. Vehicles with varying degrees of automation will be introduced earlier in other applications, where transport assignments take place within strictly confined areas such as mines and cargo terminals.

War on Waste focuses on scale of food waste

Chaser comedian Craig Reucassel has focused his new documentary War on Waste on the growing influx of waste generation in Australia.

Reucassel told News Corp Australia used to be a world-leading nation when it came to kerbside recycling, but has now fallen behind.

While politicians have to play a role in changing legislation, Reucassel said it was also up to supermarkets and consumers to create change.

The new documentary reveals up to 40 per cent of bananas are thrown away by farmers as they don’t meet standards set by supermarkets, including being too bent, straight, long or short.

“I was shocked by the waste,” Reucassel told News Corp.

“These bananas are highly edible but they don’t fit the cosmetic look. If they are too curved they are thrown out, if they are not curvy enough they are thrown out.

“It’s really hard being a banana these days.”

Reucassel said the thing that surprised him most was the sheer volume of fruit and vegetables that were simply tossed out, despite the months of work that goes into growing them.

“It’s very hard to make fruit or vegetables come out in a perfect way,” he said. “I saw a zucchini that was too big to be sold, because of one extra day’s rain, it’s crazy.

“I think it’s particularly sad when you think about how many people struggle to get food in Australia (and the world) that so much edible food is just chucked.”

Reucassel found that on average shoppers threw out the equivalent of one in five shopping bags worth of food at home, which is generally food that people buy but don’t get a chance to eat.

On the program he fills a Melbourne tram with disposable coffee cups (which generally cannot be recycled) to get people thinking about the staggering amount of rubbish that goes to landfill.

“I think a lot of people either don’t think about it or don’t know how to deal with it,” Reucassel said.

“We have a coffee culture in Australia built around takeaway coffee cups, but it’s not like that in all countries, this is a new waste stream that we are not dealing with.”


NSW Premier unaware of Dial A Dump Industries project

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says plans for the State Government to back Dial A Dump Industries’ bid for the world’s largest incinerator is “news to her”.

In March, Dial A Dump Industries’ chief executive Ian Malouf said the $700 million energy-from-waste plant at Eastern Creek would proceed because the State Government wanted the project.

Last week, Ms Berejiklian told News Corp she was not aware of that and suggested Mr Malouf email details for The Next Generation plant to her office. She said she had confidence in the Environmental Protection Authority’s guidelines.

“A lot of proposals like that have not been approved and the EPA guidelines are very strict,’’ she said.

Mr Malouf said in 2014 the State Government introduced an energy-from-waste policy with the EPA.

He said the policy recognised “the recovery of energy and resources from the thermal processing of waste has the potential … to deliver positive outcomes for the community and the environment”.

In April, the company told Waste Management World the Next Generation facility will be built to the latest European and Australian engineering and environmental standards. This would include technology that captures any particulate matter and adsorbs heavy metals and dioxins, while cleaning any gases before they reach the atmosphere.

The company said that this would mean that outputs would be below the limits set out by the New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency and the very strict European directives, and in many cases would not even be detectable. The facility’s pollution controls will be monitored by the EPA 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Emissions from the facility will have less impact than a person holding a burning sparkler at a birthday party, emitting less chloride, dust and nitrous oxides,” Mr Malouf said.

“By converting residual waste into power, the facility will prevent the release of 3 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and divert over 1 million tonnes of waste from landfill each year”.


Record number of print cartridges recycled

Australians have recycled a record 13,500 used printer cartridges every working day, according to Planet Ark.

The data shows since the launch of their Cartridges 4 Planet Ark program, more than 3.5 million cartridges have been returned for recycling or remanufacture.

Ryan Collins, Recycling Programs Manager at Planet Ark, said a key factor in this success is the industry’s willingness to participate in this voluntary product stewardship scheme, which ensures the environmental impact of their products is responsibly managed at the end of their useful life.

“The success of ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ is a direct result of the commitment demonstrated by our program partners. With their participation the program has been able to build an extensive collection and processing infrastructure that makes it easy for households and workplaces to recycle their cartridges, which is clearly reflected in the previous year’s results,” Mr Collins said.

Collectively, the participating cartridge manufacturers Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Konica Minolta and Kyocera have helped Australians divert 34 million cartridges from landfill, which is equivalent to more than 14,500 tonnes of materials, since the program began in 2003.

“Working within a closed loop or circular process, like the ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ program, which allows us to recover and reuse valuable materials and keep them circulating, is essential.

“It doesn’t make good business sense to send useful and valuable materials to landfill, when they can be salvaged and directed back into the economy. We’re particularly proud of the fact that the program has consistently achieved zero waste to landfill every year.”

Printer cartridges can take between 450 and 1,000 years to break down in landfill, and e-waste is the fastest-growing form of waste. Rapid innovation, decrease in product lifespan and declining prices of both electronics and raw materials have led to more and more items being discarded.

Planet Ark data shows that Australian consumers are by and large supportive of responsible waste management and recycling. In a recent study, 82 per cent of participants stated that they will recycle even if it takes more effort.

Once they are collected, used printer cartridges are sorted and, depending on their type, returned to the manufacturer for remanufacturing, or dismantled, with plastics, metals, toner and ink collected for recycling by resource recovery partner Close the Loop®. Bags and ties that help transport the cartridges once the collection box is full get recycled.

Grants to boost household food scrap recycling

Ten local government organisations will receive more than $745,000 in funding from the South Australian Government to encourage food waste recycling.

The funding is part of a Green Industries SA programme which aims to divert more kitchen scraps from household waste bins.

Councils will receive a subsidy for the cost of bench-top containers, compostable bags and production of householder education material.

Ian Hunter, Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister, said too much food waste was still ending up in landfill.

“An average household throws out about 3.3 kg of food scraps every week which is a criminal loss of a valuable resource,” Mr Hunter said.

“Everything – from dairy, shell fish and meat scraps and bones – can be thrown into the bench-top container then turfed into the garden organics bin for fortnightly collection.

“This food waste is then sent off for reprocessing into compost and used in South Australia’s vineyards, farms, parks and gardens.”

Councils that have been awarded funding include Fleurieu Regional Waste Authority, which received up to $62,796 to introduce and maintain a food waste diversion system using a ventilated basket and compostable bags for 3,107 dwellings.

Councils maintaining an area wide food waste diversion system using a ventilated basket and compostable bags include:

  • City of Burnside – up to $44,688 per annum over two years for 18,620 dwellings
  • City of Holdfast Bay – up to $39,444 per annum over two years for 18,783 dwellings
  • City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters – up to $40,416 per annum over two years for 16,923 dwellings
  • City of Port Adelaide Enfield – up to $112,854 per annum over two years for 53,740 dwellings
  • City of Prospect – up to $26,952 per annum over two years for 8,984 dwellings

• Councils with opt-in (optional) food waste diversion system using a ventilated basket and compostable bags:

  • City of Mount Gambier – $8,824.50 for 2,000 dwellings
  • City of Marion – $8,749.30 for 2,000 dwellings (plus 150 compost bins)
  • Fleurieu Regional Waste Authority (on behalf of the Kangaroo Island Council) – $2,335 for 240 dwellings
  • City of Tea Tree Gully – $45,200 for 5,000 dwellings

Green Industries SA’s Kerbside Performance Plus (Food Organics) Incentives programme encourages councils to implement systems which assist with the diversion of food waste from landfill.

Since 2010, some 150,000 households have introduced food waste recycling systems with the support of State Government funding.

Blending food scraps with kerbside green organic material improves the quality and nutrient value of the processed compost.

Compost applied to soils improves plant growth, increases plant vigour, improves soil conditions and reduces soil moisture loss.