Australia’s Environment Ministers have resolved to consider new laws to require battery manufacturers to collect and recycle used batteries.
It comes after recommendations from the industry-led Australian Battery Recycling Initiative Industry Working Group, who proposed the establishment of a national recycling program for rechargeable batteries under 5 kgs.
State ministers agreed to consider stewardship approaches at their next meeting, with potential regulatory options to underpin a voluntary scheme and other options as states see fit.
Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles welcomed the support of other states for Queensland’s work towards increasing recycling rates.
“This is the first time ministers have agreed they may need to consider a legal response to low rates of battery recycling,” Mr Miles said.
“Queensland has led separate recycling trials for power tools and rechargeable batteries and partnered with Lighting Council Australia to pilot a program for emergency and exit lighting batteries.
Mr Miles said an estimated 400 million batteries (or 17,500 tonnes) are sold each year in Australia and about 14, 750 tonnes reach their end-of-life every year.
“Many batteries are recyclable and for some such as lead acid car batteries the recycling rate is about 90 per cent. But the current recycling rate for the rest of the batteries is very low, with fewer than three per cent returned for recycling,” he said.
“Queensland has led the national effort to increase recycling, but its increasingly clear a voluntary scheme may not be enough. The collection trials showed that people want to recycle their batteries they just need a way to do this.
“We want to start with rechargeable batteries such as those found in power tools and other products like laptops and mobile phones as these are the ones that contain some of the harmful chemicals and are able to be more easily recycled.”
The annual Meeting of Environment Ministers also discussed plastic bag bans, container refund schemes and climate change.
Ministers endorsed the National Market Development Strategy for Used Tyres, which outlines actions for the next five years to increase the uptake of tyre-derived products in road, rail and civil engineering applications.
State and territory ministers also agreed to work with retailers to look at options to reduce thicker plastic shopping bags, possibly under a voluntary code of practice.
Cleanaway will partner with reverse vending machine company TOMRA to help implement the New South Wales Container Deposit Scheme (CDS).
The joint venture between Cleanaway and TOMRA will provide handling, transport, processing, recycling and data services from reverse vending machines as part of the CDS in NSW. The CDS is scheduled to commence on 1 December 2017.
The reverse vending machines to be provided by the joint venture allow consumers to return their containers and to collect an electronic refund, to donate the refund to a charity, or to obtain a voucher from one of the ‘redemption partners’ which can be used as credit in store or redeem for cash.
Collected containers will be processed through a counting and sorting centre in western Sydney. The containers collected will be recycled and sold into both domestic and export markets.
“The NSW government should be applauded in developing and bringing to fruition a world class container deposit scheme,” said Vik Bansal, CEO and Managing Director of Cleanaway.
“As leaders in logistics and resource recovery, Cleanaway are proud to be involved in the CDS for NSW, and help them achieve their environmental and sustainability goals.
“By partnering with an innovative leader like TOMRA, we’re leveraging the experience of the global leader in reverse vending technology to deliver these services in New South Wales.
Environment Minister Upton said the CDS was thebiggest initiative to tackle litter in the state’s history.
“It will also provide a fundraising opportunity for charities, schools, community and sporting groups, which share in millions of dollars every year, through similar schemes elsewhere that have been running for decades.”
“With TOMRA we remain keen to work with other states of Australia that are currently considering implementation of similar schemes,” Mr Bansal added.
“At Cleanaway our mission is to make a sustainable future possible and there is no better example of sustainability than a CDS scheme. NSW CDS is an excellent illustration of how governments can work with industry to implement policies that drive behaviour change and environmental benefits for generations to come.”
A waste water treatment plant has officially opened in the Far North Queensland town of Mareeba.
State Development Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the almost $16 million upgrade had generated an estimated 45 jobs during construction Mareeba.
“This is the kind of infrastructure that this government’s Building our Regions program is all about,” he said.
“Our $1.5 million contribution has helped create jobs, provide critical infrastructure and improve liveability in and around Mareeba.”
The upgraded plant has boosted waste water capacity to provide for up to 12,500 people, allowing the town to grow through new residential and commercial developments.
It will also allow for future expansion to up to 16,500 people and reduce council’s operational costs.
The quality of effluent being released into Two Mile Creek has also been improved and the bio-solids will now be able to be utilised as fertiliser by local farmers.
Dr Lynham said under Building our Regions, the Mareeba area has benefitted from a total of $2.88 million for four projects generating more than 50 jobs, ranging from water and sewerage infrastructure to a causeway to improve flood resilience.
Statewide the Building our Regions program has allocated $225 million to 174 critical infrastructure projects from the Torres Strait to Eromanga in the far south-west, generating around 1760 jobs in regional communities across the state.
The City of Melbourne has become one of only two councils in Australia to run a citywide initiative to recycle millions of cigarette butts into industrial products, according to Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.
The City of Melbourne has partnered with Enviropoles, who collect the cigarette waste, and TerraCycle, who convert the butts into plastic products.
“We collect more than 200,000 cigarette butts each week from 367 cigarette butt bins across the city: litter that may otherwise end up being washed down drains and into the Yarra River,” the Lord Mayor Doyle said.
“Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and break down slowly. As part of this project, we will recycle binned cigarette butts into practical items such as shipping pallets and plastic furniture.
“We have collected 1.2 million butts from around Melbourne’s universities and hospitals and busy CBD locations that can be repurposed.”
The project is funded through the Victorian Government’s Litter Hotspots program. The City of Melbourne said studies have shown that of the four disposal routes (recycling, litter, landfill, and incineration) recycling the cigarette butts has the lowest global warming impact.
The City of Melbourne placed a perspex box filled with 200,000 cigarette butts on the banks of the Yarra River to highlight the impact that littering has on our streets and waterways.
Chair of the City of Melbourne’s Environment portfolio Councillor Cathy Oke said the project has been completed in Vancouver and New Orleans before, but Melbourne is leading the charge in Victoria to tackle recycling cigarette waste.
“Cities around the world are looking for new ways to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill and Melbourne is leading the way,” Cr Oke said
“Cigarette butts are the most littered item in Australia. Butts are commonly mistaken for food by marine life and have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, sea turtles and other marine creatures.”
The Perspex box full of cigarette butts was placed in Queensbridge Square, where three solar compaction litter bins are located. Cr Oke said the City of Melbourne is installing more than 360 smart bins in the CBD following a successful trial of 17 bins last year.
“We collect around nine million butts in our litter bins every year. We hope this project will motivate smokers to place their cigarette butts in one of the butt bins located around the CBD.”
Previous surveys have found that around 10,500 cigarette butts from the central city are being deposited on the ground every day. The City of Melbourne spends approximately $13 million on waste services each year (collection and disposal).
SKM Recycling will not accept commercial recycling at its South Geelong site for the foreseeable future, according to Corio Waste Management, which sends mixed recycling to SKM.
It comes after a fire at the Coolaroo recycling plant in Melbourne’s north, which was recently deemed safe after burning for 11 days and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate.
Corio Waste Management, CEO, Mat Dickens said the Coolaroo fire had significant consequences for the waste services industry and businesses in Victoria.
“For example, SKM Recycling’s South Geelong facility is the only facility that can accept and process commingled (mixed) recyclable material from commercial collections in the region,” he said.
“SKM Recycling informed us yesterday afternoon, that it can’t accept recycling from commercial collections in the foreseeable future. This decision does not affect contracts with councils in the region and kerbside recycling materials will continue to be accepted.”
Mr Dickens said Corio Waste Management will work with businesses in the Geelong region to review their current recycling practices.
“It will be necessary to make changes to the way businesses recycle by separating materials into individual streams: cardboard, paper, aluminium, plastics and glass. This will increase the need for additional collection services, which will be more costly to deliver. These program changes will also be complex to implement, but will result in more solid waste being recycled in Geelong, which benefits local industry,” Mr Dickens added.
The Victorian Government is working with manufacturers and producers to identify new opportunities to tackle food waste.
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio will next month host an industry round table to hear from those already taking innovative approaches to tackling food waste and examine its impact on Victorian businesses and communities.
The event is a chance for key players in Victoria’s food industry supply chain to discuss barriers and opportunities to addressing this issue, and inform Victoria’s contribution to a National Food Waste Strategy.
The national strategy supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of a 50 per cent reduction in food waste by 2030.
The round table will also inform future Victorian initiatives on food waste reduction to complement the work already underway to create less food waste and better manage the waste we generate.
Sustainability Victoria’s Love Food, Hate Waste campaign, which provides tools and tips to help Victorians reduce food waste, has reached almost half a million Victorians and is providing grants to help local councils reach even more people through cooking demonstrations, food events and training courses.
One in four regional Victorians also now have access to organic waste collection services, helping them keep food and garden waste out of landfill, thanks to Labor Government funding.
The government hopes connecting with food producers and manufacturers will identify more new and creative opportunities to tackle this growing issue.
“Victorian households throw away 250,000 tonnes of food waste per year. This is a great chance to address this issue and identify new opportunities to grow our economy and create new jobs,” Minister D’Ambrosio said.
“Food waste costs the average family around $2,200 a year and if food waste was a country, it would be the world’s third biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Bringing communities, business and all levels of government together will help identify how to reduce the impacts of food waste on our environment and make better use of a valuable resource.”
Weight-based billing may be a disruptive technology, but just how far away is it from shaking up the waste industry in Australia?
When Garrett Camp co-founded Uber in 2009, the Canadian digital entrepreneur had a clear goal in mind – to provide an alternative solution to standard cab services.
According to media reports, the idea emerged from an exorbitant New Year’s Eve trip with a private driver. A US$800 private driver service convinced Camp that there had to be a better way, and he devised a plan shortly thereafter to split the cost of transport through a ride sharing model.
While the service took several years to take off, it’s now well and truly exploded, with 40 million riders using the service in a single month in 2016. The snowball effect of this continues to disrupt the taxi industry, with the state of Victoria recently introducing a $2 levy for all commercial passenger vehicle trips in order to create a level playing field.
Now almost 10 years down the track, the term ‘disruption’ has become somewhat of a buzzword, as numerous industries undergo periods of change. Deloitte’s Digital disruption – Harnessing the ‘bang’ report has identified 13 industries – comprising 65 per cent of the Australian economy – potentially facing significant disruption in 2017.
One industry yet to experience significant disruption is Australia’s waste industry. From driverless waste vehicles to Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, there are a few technologies which could disrupt the market. One technology closing in is (WBB) weight-based billing. The concept provides real-time data on the billing of waste management services for front and rear loader bins in the commercial and industrial sector. This is a stark contrast to the industry trend of having a sales person provide an assessment on the cost of disposal every six to 12 months. The idea is to incentivise recycling by discouraging landfill through clearer price signals and improve profitability with accurate measurements of waste. Its proponents believe that if waste generators know the full price of disposal to landfill in real time, they may be more likely to recycle.
While it’s been around in Europe for quite some time, the billing system, which comprises commercial and industrial waste bins (shops, schools and buildings), has only recently gained traction in Australia. Recently, a study was undertaken by MRA Consulting Group (MRA), with support from the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). Mike Ritchie, MRA Director, says the early results of the trial between MRA, waste management company REMONDIS, truck manufacturer Bucher Municipal, and weighing systems company Diverseco are “promising”. While we could be at least three to five years away from the service becoming mainstream, Mike says he sees enormous potential for WBB – provided there is support from state and territory governments to conduct trials, test the technology and ensure the market is fairly regulated. This is because there are a number of unregulated weighing systems already in the market and these are cheaper and easier to install.
“The results of the trial, based in the Hunter Valley of NSW, are in line with what we expected. Although the sample size of 300 businesses, including the control groups, is very small, the trend is as expected. Weight-based billing sends a price signal to business waste generators, and as a result encourages recycling and discourages waste to landfill,” Mike says.
“As indicated by all the studies around the world, if people get a transparent price signal, their behaviour is influenced.”
One research paper looking at WBB, published in the peer-reviewed journal the American Economic Review by Fullerton and Kinnaman (1996) , gathered data on 75 households in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, using a unit-pricing system to measure and bill household waste. Households reduced their volume of garbage by 37 per cent and increased the weight of their recyclables by 16 per cent. Another Environmental Protection Agency study conducted by consulting firm STRIVE from 2007-13 found that weight-based charges were the most effective system of pay-by-use, when compared to a flat fee, tag-based charges (pay-by-lift/tags) and weight-based charges. It showed weight-based charges prompted the highest per household recycling levels, which were between 27 and 32 per cent. Mike notes that MRA’s interest in WBB is to improve business recycling. He believes it has more application and utility in the commercial sector rather than the household sector, where recycling rates are already high.
Mike explains MRA’s Hunter Valley trial involved three groups of businesses: a control group that remained on their usual volume-based service, another that received only education on recycling, and the third which received WBB with education. The groups of businesses were monitored before the program in 2016, and for six months after the introduction of the program, ending earlier this year.
Brenton Cunningham, Chief Executive Officer of the DiverseCo group of companies, has entered the market with AccuOnboard’s BinWeigh system. He says it is Australia’s only NMI-approved in-motion weighing trade system and the company has invested up to $250,000 in the technology. Brenton says companies typically use strain gauge technology – which is a type of load cell (a transducer used to send weighing signals) of the weighing system. Instead of using strain gauge technology, AccuOnboard engineers opted for force-coil technology, as testing in Europe showed more accurate readings. Brenton maintains that the most important variable the team considered was that WBB technology was scientifically accurate and fulfilled a need within the waste transport industry.
“When I viewed the technology in use in New Zealand with Stuart Knight, General Manager AccuOnboard, we asked ourselves, what’s so different about this? That’s when the penny dropped I discovered there was a different type of cell,” Brenton explains.
“The field of metrology is a science. It’s a precision weighing instrument at the end of the day, so there are factors we needed to consider when developing the BinWeigh system, such as how long do drivers generally stop for at a site and how easy is it for them to operate without affecting their normal duties? Another factor we considered is maintaining and lifting the bin without damaging the precision-weighing technology. Our reliable technology ensures the driver doesn’t have to focus on learning to be in a stable position. It just works.”
“The main thing we became aware of on this journey, and we already had an approved underbody system, was that while the NMI approval is most important, the critical thing is to make the system suitable for the ‘bash and crash’ waste sector. This is as opposed to trying and teaching drivers how to be measurement people. We have managed to bring measurement to the waste sector, rather than vice versa.”
Yet despite the significant investment, Brenton concedes that the challenge is getting the industry to comply.
“Because it is a new technology, there’s probably a 25 per cent price differential than other sorts of non-legal or static on-board products in the market.”
The challenges will be to adapt to the various configurations of a variety of vehicles, he adds.
“There will be ongoing engineering to suit the different lifters and trucks that we will come across.”
“We’re now in a position where we’ve had some trials done and we’ve got companies like REMONDIS saying it’s going to use our systems, so that’s a rubber stamp of approval for me.”
Gerard Kissane, AMCS Group Head of ANZ Region, says the push towards WBB in Europe has been largely driven by the exorbitant cost of disposing of waste – affected by landfill levies. The company is currently working through the process of gaining NMI-approval within the Australian market.
AMCS Group has been involved in WBB since the company was founded in 2004. It has implemented WBB technology in its Ireland, Europe and US operations. Gerard argues its point of difference is processing both the bill sent out to the customer and weighing system used on the truck. “The guidelines here are similar to those in Europe, so we’re 100 per cent confident we’ll get an NMI approval soon,” Gerard says.
One hurdle the company sees is the manpower required to process WBB technology. In Ireland, there are no council contracts for residential waste collections. The market is fully privatised with each household having a subscription with a private collector.
“WBB is going to bring an additional administrative layer and I’m not sure all the companies looking at the technology are aware of it. The government is actually looking at making WBB a mandatory requirement in Ireland.”
Gerard explains that the waste collection system in Ireland is either by volume or weight-based, but a majority of customers are running a hybrid system. A heavy lifters allowance of up to 25kg protects the collector from losing money, taking into account the cost of running the service.
“Some people run a purely per kg charge, but there’s a service portion – there’s the cost of providing the bin itself, a vehicle to go visit your business and there’s the disposal of the waste itself. Some people run purely on a per kg charge, based on whatever is presented,” Gerard says.
“What we’ve seen is the most successful is a flat charge per lift that covers you up to a certain weight and per kg charge for any additional weight after that. The majority of our customers in the European market run such a system.”
Gerard says AMCS uses an advanced extensometer technology for front lift bins and certified load cell technology on its rear loader.
“There’s a variety of technologies out there, but at the end of the day it all comes down to reliability and accuracy over the lifetime of the installation based on the nature of the truck.
“I think the problem I see is the technology is there, but the solutions are based across a wide range of businesses. You’ve got one company doing the weighing and another doing the invoicing. The integration between the various systems is crucial to ensuring your billing is accurate.”
He says he’s been working with Superior Pak and Bucher Municipal to review lifter configurations to ensure the best accuracy possible.
Luke Aitken, National Sales Manager – Truck Mounted Equipment at Bucher Municipal, explains that WBB billing requires a high level of weighing accuracy and collaboration between the body and weighing system manufacturer. This is critical to ensuring a seamless integration between the two systems.
“We work very closely with the weighing system suppliers to ensure their systems are fully integrated into our bodies rather than being a ‘bolt-on’ extra. This minimises the amount of manual intervention required by the driver for the weighing system to function while operating our body, making it more intuitive,” Luke says.
“Integration is important not only from a physical point of view by ensuring drivers aren’t picking up overly bulky items, but for control. It’s about making sure there’s minimal additional screens and controllers in the cab and ensuring drivers are picking up bins as they normally would, but the weighing system is working.”
He says the company’s sales and aftersales team is on hand to ensure drivers understand the maintenance and functionality requirements of their new vehicle.
The biggest lesson, Bucher has learnt, is that accuracy depends greatly on the strength and stiffness of the compactor body it is mounted to. To achieve this, Bucher Municipal constructs its refuse bodies from strong, quality materials, critical to ensuring WBB requirements can be maintained throughout the vehicle’s working life.
“Some weighing systems are quite heavy so the design process is very much a balance between strength of components for weighing accuracy and the tare weight of the body for maximum payload capacity and efficiency. Our engineers use Finite Element Analysis software during the design, as well as real world testing of prototype units to ensure the accuracy of the weighing systems, and validate the strength of components to make certain they are safe for operators and the general public.”
Luke says the company is working with AMCS, Loadrite Scales, AccuOnboard and Botek to install their various systems onto Bucher rear loaders and front loaders.
The first PRONAR MPB 20.55g (Tracked) Trommel has arrived into Australia and available through exclusive distributor Lincom Group.
The 20.55g features a 5.5m long X 2m diameter drum which allows for increased throughput. Lincom Group says the transport length of 10.7m, width of 2.8m and weight of approximately 20,000kg means the machine can be easily moved interstate.
Standard inclusions on the MPB 20.55g are the robust and long-lasting CAT engine, Clean-Fix system fitted to the engine radiator and hydraulic cooler, Danfoss hydraulic components and Lincoln central greasing system. The Clean-Fix system alters the blade angle of the cooling fan fitted to both the engine radiator and hydraulic cooler at set times. When the blade angle is altered, the air flow is reversed and any contamination, such as plastics, grasses and dust drawn into the radiator/cooler, is blown away. This results in the engine and hydraulic cooling systems running at lower temperatures, and in the long term, gives better engine and hydraulic component life.
Albert Toal, General Manager Lincom Group, says the MBP range uses the best components and latest manufacturing techniques. Albert says the design and build means the PRONAR range of mobile trommel screens are perfectly suited to work in various materials such as soil, compost, municipal waste, coal, aggregate and biomass. The trommel can be set up according to industry requirements, with the addition of any of the optional equipment such as electric drive in lieu of diesel engine, air separators, magnetic head drums and extra hydraulic pumps.
The Victorian Transport Association (ATA), the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) and the Transport Workers Union are among industry groups concerned about a recent Australian Taxation Office (ATO) Determination that will reduce the amount drivers can claim for travel on their tax returns.
ATO Determination TD 2017/19, issued 3 July, has reduced the ‘reasonable amount’ that an owner-driver may claim for travel expenses without substantiation by $42.10, which translates to a 43 per cent reduction.
VTA CEO Peter Anderson, in his capacity as Secretary and Treasurer of ARTIO, has written to the ATO to express concern about the lack of consultation with industry about the Determination, along with the impact such a significant reduction will have on the individual drivers and their income.
“We are amazed the ATO has made such a far-reaching Determination that will leave drivers and their families so significantly out-of-pocket without bothering to inform the industry,” Anderson said.
“Equally concerning are flow-on effects the Determination will have on Enterprise Bargaining Agreements that had already factored in the previous rate. We have highlighted to the ATO that employers, who have had EBAs specifying amounts payable in these circumstances approved by the Fair Work Commission, could now be in breach of legal obligations because of the change.
“Regrettably, the impact of the ATO changing its view on what is a ‘reasonable amount’ for a driver to claim for a meal will be on their health and wellbeing because there is less money for them to spend on healthier foods, which usually cost more.”
ARTIO has requested an urgent meeting with the ATO to discuss the Determination, which it feels requires immediate review and amendment.
A spokesperson for the ATO told transport publication Big Rigs industry groups consulted included the ATA, NatRoad, Owner Drivers Association and a number of state groups.
“This paper provided an opportunity for all interested parties to respond to us with their feedback, opinions and suggestions,” an ATO spokesman said.
“As part of the consultation process, emails were sent directly to more than 60 industry groups requesting feedback on the consultation paper.
“Almost half of these emails were sent to federal and state-based organisations and associations within the transport industry.”
The ATO also noted a driver may still claim a higher amount of deductions for their meals if they kept a receipt.
“Also, they should ensure that the right meal rate (breakfast, lunch or dinner) is used for the relevant meal consumed while travelling if they have not kept receipts to show how they have worked out their claim.
“Drivers should not claim for meals not consumed while travelling,” the statement read.
“They can claim a higher amount (than the Commissioner’s reasonable amounts) of deductions for their meals if they actually spent more; they just need to have receipts to evidence their expenditure.”
The Australian Road Transport Industry Organisation will be meeting with the ATO later this month.
Read more about this year’s Tax Time guide on the ATO website.
The ACT planning and land authority will soon begin an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for a proposed centre for recycling, resource recovery and renewable energy in Fyshwick.
Fyshwick is a retail and light industry suburb in Canberra, and the proposed facility would sort waste from the ACT and NSW. Material would be sorted into recyclable streams and the remaining waste would be converted into electricity through a thermal combustion technology.
The planning and land authority has prepared a scoping document for the proposal which outlines matters to be considered by the proponent in preparing a draft EIS. An EIS is used to identify the potential impacts associated with a development proposal and helps to consider whether it is appropriate for that proposal to go ahead.
Feedback during the scoping stage was received from various stakeholders and ACT Government agencies, including the requirement to prepare a health impact assessment and air quality report. It will also need to include extensive consultation with the community and require an independent assessment of the proposal by suitably qualified experts.
The draft EIS will now be prepared by the proponent and will then be submitted to the planning and land authority for assessment, consultation with entities and publicised through the public notification process.
The proposal is different from the recent FOY Group proposal as it plans to convert waste into baseload power, while FOY’s proposal was to produce diesel and LPG fuels using less established technology.
The project’s proponent is Capital Recycling Solutions Pty Limited. It is intended that ActewAGL Retail will partner with them in the generation of baseload renewable electricity for the ACT grid.