SUEZ, ACOR, SV respond to Environment Minister meeting

Stakeholders have largely welcomed the commitments made on Friday by state and territory ministers at April’s Meeting of Environment Ministers – with some suggestions.

Federal Government, state and territory ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association met on Friday to set a sustainable path for Australia’s recyclable waste, in the seventh Meeting of Environment Ministers. Taking action on recycled waste in the wake of China’s restrictions on imports was the focus of the meeting. Australia is one of over 100 countries affected by China’s new restrictions, affecting around 1.3 million tonnes of our recycled waste. Read the story on the outcomes of the meeting here.

Australia’s National Waste Policy will be updated by the end of this year to include circular economy principles, along with a target endorsed of 100 per cent Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.

They pledged for new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic solar panels and batteries, while also agreeing to explore waste to energy further and advocate using recycled materials in government procurement.

While making a number of pledges, ministers agreed to have a teleconference in mid-June to discuss progress on recycling, and to meet in late 2018 to further progress delivery of the commitments on Friday.

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SUEZ Australia & New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Mark Venhoek welcomed the government’s focus on making 100 per cent of products recyclable and re-useable by 2025. He noted that swift action and investment needs to be made to ensure that this goal is met.

“As a waste industry, we are falling behind globally and we require fast action to stimulate the local market for recycled and recovered products,” Mr Venhoek said.

“We support the government’s 100 per cent recycled packaging goal which will create a sustainable demand for these products, but believe that it should be mandatory that packaged products can be re-used.

“Collaboration to achieving this is key and without investment from government and a commitment from packaging manufacturers and industry working together, we will not achieve this goal.”

Mr Venhoek also welcomed the commitment from different levels of government to explore waste to energy projects and the support for the technology from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

“Energy from waste technology is the missing link in the waste management hierarchy and waste infrastructure in Australia. After reduction, re-use and recycling, there is a crucial element: to recover the energetic value from waste,” he said.

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Stan Krpan said leadership is crucial to ensuring we have a sustainable recycling industry that Australians can be proud of.

Mr Krpan said yesterday’s commitments align with the Victorian Government’s suite of waste strategies and programs that move the state toward a circular economy.

“Supporting our local recycling industry to move towards a circular economy is reflected in the ministers’ commitment to increasing our recycling capacity, advocating for the increased use of recycled material and creating targets for the use of recycled content in packaging,” he said.

“We are also encouraged the strong support of product stewardship schemes and the increasing in the procurement of recycled goods government and industry buy,” he said.

“Large procurements by government and companies can influence upstream design to reduce waste and packaging and trigger other innovations.”

ACOR Chief Executive Officer Pete Shmigel said the right chords have been struck by ministers about investing in recycling’s future, but we did not hear two very important sounds: implementation details and dollars in the till.

“The recycling industry welcomes commitments about ensuring recyclability of packaging products, buying recycled content products by governments, expanding domestic reprocessing capacity and developing a new national plan,” he said.

“However, today’s ministerial announcement lacks comprehensive targets for all measures, and consequences for underperformance, that make practice from theory.”

Mr Shmigel said pro-recycling policy principles are welcome, but pro-recycling positive action and investment is now to be expected.

“As ACOR, we look forward to working directly with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to identify and facilitate a strengthened investment presence in resource recovery – including in an expedited timeframe. There are good projects that merit backing among our members.”

“As ACOR, we strongly question the timeframe given for products’ recyclability as packaging is getting more complex each day and resulting in greater contamination and community cost each day that passes. By 2025, millions of tonnes of potential contamination would have passed through the system without the producers of packaging taking greater responsibility for their decisions.

Mr Shmigel said similar commitments were given in the 2009 National Waste Policy and, on current timeframes, it will be 16 years by the time they have been realised, describing it as “truly mediocre”.

“Finally, further work is urgently needed at state levels to ensure that recyclate does not need to be disposed to landfill in the short-term.”

Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) Chief Executive Officer Gayle Sloan said it is extremely pleasing that the National Waste Strategy will be updated by the end of this year and WMAA looks forward to participating in this.

“The endorsement by Ministers of a target of 100 percent of Australian packaging being recyclable or reusable by 2025 is heartening, and we look forward to working with government to develop meaningful targets from at least 2020 to ensure that this actually achieved,” Ms Sloan said.

“Industry recalls targets set previously under the National Packaging Covenant that were never monitored or achieved, and once this failure was recognised it was just too late.”

Ms Sloan said while there was no new funding for recycling in Friday’s announcement, one thing WMAA will advocate to start immediately is government at all levels spending existing funds differently.

“Ministers must go much further than simply advocating for increased use of recycled materials in the goods that government and industry buy.

“With over 90 per cent of the community supporting recycling and the purchase of recycled products by government, government needs to hold itself to account and if it does not prioritise the use of recycled material, to report to the community why it does not, this should be the norm going forward, not the exception,” she said.

WMAA in a statement said the federal government must show leadership in this space and act now to grow demand for recycled products that can develop markets and jobs in both metropolitan and regional areas. For example, it said Commonwealth Federal Assistance Grants to local government should be predicated on councils using more recycled glass sand and not virgin sand.

“Industry absolutely recognises that there is a place for waste to energy in Australia as an alternate to landfill, and we support this technology. However, it cannot replace recycling and remanufacturing.”

Director of Boomerang Alliance Jeff Angel, which looks after 47 national, state and local groups, described the voluntary approach to recycled products as “weak.”

“Mandatory rules, as in Europe, are the only assured way to establish a stable and growing market to justify the investment into new manufacturing,” Mr Angel said.

“If we can have an enforceable renewable energy target, then we can have a similar system for recycled content. A lot of questions remain to be answered about the 100 per cent recyclable, compostable or reusable target including collection capacity – it’s not just about labels.”

Federal Government Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg on Friday said finding a solution to the 1.3 million tonnes of recyclable waste is an urgent and important issue which requires a coordinated approach from supply right through to demand.

“It is also an opportunity for Australia to develop its capabilities and capacity in recycling through effective cooperation and collaboration among the three levels of government,” he said.

APCO welcomes packaging commitment

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has welcomed the Meeting of Environment Ministers commitment to see 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025.

State and territory governments will work with APCO, representing over 900 companies to deliver this target. Ministers endorsed the development of targets for the use of recycled content in packaging and this will be closely monitored.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said the China issue presents a significant opportunity for Australia to shift to the next level in packaging resource recovery, recycling and end use.

“Today’s announcement is a monumental call to action and one of the most ambitious and decisive environmental targets to be supported in Australia. We applaud the federal, state and territory governments for stepping up as key players in the global movement to create sustainable packaging solutions that drive accountability, transparency and shared value for consumers, industry and government,” she said.

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“We will support more innovative packaging design, enhance consumer education, as well as bolster the reuse and incorporation of recycled content within end markets.

“Across these initiatives, it’s essential that we take a consistent national approach. One that will promote domestic recycling and resource recovery to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill and deliver a smaller, cleaner waste stream in Australia.”

Nestlé Australia CEO Sandra Martinez said the company recognises businesses must step up and find improved solutions to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“Nestlé is proud to be a member of APCO and is working collectively alongside industry to achieve 100 per cent recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025,” she said.

 

Meeting of Environment Ministers revives National Waste Policy

Australia’s National Waste Policy will be updated by the end of this year to include circular economy principles, along with a target endorsed of 100 per cent Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.

Federal Government, state and territory ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association met on Friday to set a sustainable path for Australia’s recyclable waste, in the seventh meeting of environment ministers.

They pledged for new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic solar panels and batteries, while also agreeing to explore waste to energy further and advocate using recycled materials in government procurement.

While making a number of pledges, ministers agreed to have a teleconference in mid-June to discuss progress on recycling, and to meet in late 2018 to further progress delivery of the commitments on Friday.

Taking action on recycled waste in the wake of China’s restrictions on imports was the focus of the meeting. Australia is one of over 100 countries affected by China’s new restrictions, affecting around 1.3 million tonnes of our recycled waste.

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This accounts for four per cent of Australia’s recyclable waste, but 35 per cent of recyclable plastics and 30 per cent of recyclable paper and cardboard. The ministers agreed statement said the restrictions include new limits on contamination for recycled material which much of Australia’s recycling does not meet.

On recycling waste, ministers agreed to reduce the amount of waste generated and to make it easier for products to be recycled. Ministers endorsed a target of 100 percent of Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025 or earlier. The governments will work with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), representing over 900 companies to deliver this target. Ministers endorsed the development of targets for the use of recycled content in packaging and to monitor this closely.

They also agreed to work together on expanding and developing the local recycling industry. Ministers pledged to advocate for increased use of recycled materials in the goods that government and industry purchase, including paper, road materials, and construction materials and to collaborate on creating new markets for recycled materials.

Waste to energy was also on the agenda, with a pledge to explore it and other waste to biofuels projects, as part of a broader suite of industry growth initiatives. The agreed statement said ministers would continue to recognise the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste a a priority, consistent with the waste hierarchy. This will include support from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

On microbeads, ministers announced the voluntary phase-out of microbeads, which Ministers initiated in 2016, is on track with 94 per cent of cosmetic and personal care products now microbead-free. The agreed statement said ministers remain committed to eliminating the final six per cent and examining options to broaden the phase out to other products.

On food waste, ministers reaffirmed their commitment to halving Australia’s food waste by 2050. They agreed to align their community education efforts to cut food waste and to encourage residual food waste to be composted.

On product waste, ministers agreed to fast-track the development of new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic solar panels and batteries. This builds on existing successful industry-led product stewardship approaches that manage products such as televisions and computers, tyres and oil.

Ministers also agreed to take action on a range of other nationally significant matters including: guidelines to manage chemical contamination from fire-fighting foams (known as PFAS), opportunities to grow the carbon farming industry, progressing the National Clean Air Agreement, collaboration on the management of flying foxes and their commitment to the recently agreed approach to national environmental-economic accounting.

Ministers also acknowledged action taken on climate change. South Australia raised its proposal to nominate the Flinders Ranges to Australia’s World Heritage Tentative list.

 

 

Microbeads being phased out of Australian cosmetics

Microbeads are being phased out of cosmetics and personal care products in Australia, according to an independent assessment.

The federal government commissioned the assessment which found that out of approximately 4400 relevant supermarket and pharmacy products inspected, only six per cent contained microbeads.

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This follows the challenge set by Australia’s environmental ministers to voluntarily phase out microbeads in cosmetic and personal use products.

The independent assessment found no shampoos, conditioners, body washes or hand cleaners containing microbeads, the remaining six per cent were not “rinse off” products and posed a smaller risk to the environment.

Microbeads are plastic particles of around one millimetres in diameter and are often found in exfoliants. They can have a damaging effect on marine life and the environment because of their ability to attract toxins, pollute waterways and transfer up the food chain.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the best solution is to prevent them from entering marine environments in the first place.

“Governments have been working with industry to do just this since the Meeting of Environment Ministers in 2016,” he said.

“While our original target was 90 per cent, we will continue the good work done to date until 100 per cent of cosmetics and personal care products are microbead-free,”

“I thank industry for their cooperation and look forward to continuing to work with them until we reach 100 per cent.”

Assistant Minister for the Environment Melissa Price said she was pleased with how well the phase out had gone, considering it was an optional phase out of products by the industry.

“I am really pleased to see such a strong industry response, given the damage that microbeads can do to our marine ecosystems,” Assistant Minister Price said.

“This is further proof that industry is capable of making the right choices when it comes to environmental protection.”

The Federal Government will commission a further assessment on late 2018 to provide an additional level of assurance of the success of the phase out.

Australia’s first lithium battery recycling plant opens

Australia’s first lithium battery recycling plant has opened in Victoria in the lead up to the state’s ban on sending e-waste to landfill.

Envirostream Australia has opened its $2 million facility at New Gisborne, north of Melbourne and recycled 240,000 kilograms of batteries last year.

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Before the facility was opened, most lithium batteries were sent overseas for recycling. Victoria’s e-waste is projected to rise from 109,000 tonnes in 2015 to about 256,000 tonnes by 2035.

The Victorian government announced an election commitment to enact a ban on sending e-waste to landfill, which takes effect on 1 July 2019. More on the government announcement here.

Sustainability Victoria is rolling out $16.5 million e-waste infrastructure development and awareness program to prepare for the ban.

This includes $15 million in grants to Victorian councils and state government entities to upgrade infrastructure at more than 130 collection sites and a $1.5 million awareness campaign to educate Victorians about how to properly dispose of e-waste.

The upgrades aim to ensure 98 per cent of Melburnians are within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point, and regional Victorians are within a 30-minute drive of one.

Envirostream received $40,000 from Sustainability Victoria to buy equipment to increase the recovery of valuable materials in batteries.

The 2017 Commodity Research Book Battery Raw Material Review says global consumption of lithium carbonate is expected to grow from 184,000 tonnes in 2015 to 534,000 tonnes in 2025, chiefly through the rapid adoption of electric vehicles, e-bikes and energy storage systems.

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Stan Kpran said Envirostream Australia is one of the country’s trailblazers in reprocessing electronic waste and is helping to keep valuable resources out of landfills.

“Envirostream is showing how opportunities can be developed in Australia’s resource recovery sector, create jobs in regional communities and capture valuable chemicals, copper, steel, nickel, lithium, other metals and graphene captured so they can be sent to South Korea to be used in new batteries,” Mr Kpran said.

“Only three per cent of Australian batteries are currently recovered. It’s the lowest rate in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”

Envirostream Director Andrew McKenzie said recycling batteries at New Gisborne would create five new jobs over the next year and help build Victoria’s recycling capacity.

“We have a nationally coordinated partnership to increase Australia’s low recovery rates of batteries and mobile phones and want to make sure these recoverable resources are not just thrown away or sent offshore for recycling,” Mr McKenzie said.

“We’re working with Planet Ark and MobileMuster to increase used mobile phone and battery recovery and to educate the community about the need to recycle electronic waste onshore.”

“We’re in an increasingly mobile world. Lithium batteries are now the dominant mode of energy storage for domestic and industrial uses, and like other e-waste, their use is growing fast,” he said.

Pictured: Sean O’Malley from Planet Ark, Spiro Kalos from Mobile Muster, Andrew McKenzie and John Polhill from Envirostream and Sustainability Victoria’s Shannon Smyth.

Victorian Government announces $16.5 million e-waste investment

The Victorian Government has announced a $16.5 million investment to help upgrade more than 130 e‑waste collection and storage sites across Victoria.

It comes as the Victorian Government seeks to implement its ban on e-waste to landfill. The government released a policy impact statement for consultation last October. It is now responding to feedback to develop a preferred policy package. Non-regulatory measures will be implemented until June 2019, with a legislative process to occur between now and June. Regulatory measures are scheduled to be implemented from July 2018, with a commencement date of 1 July, 2019.

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Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Member for Macedon Mary-Anne Thomas this week visited Australia’s first lithium and hand-held battery recycling facility at Envirostream Australia in Gisborne.

Sustainability Victoria is rolling out a state government $16.5 million program which includes $15 million to help councils and state government entities upgrade e-waste collection facilities and a $1.5 million awareness campaign to educate Victorians about e-waste.

Starting the ban mid next year aims to allow extra time for new infrastructure to be in place, for the statewide education campaign to reach more people, and for those managing e-waste – particularly local councils – to prepare for the new arrangements.

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

The upgrades will ensure 98 per cent of Victorians in metropolitan areas will be within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point, and 98 per cent of Victorians in regional areas will be within a 30-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point.

Long term national waste solution must be prioritised: QLD forum

Queensland Government Environment Minister Leanne Enoch has called for a national solution for the waste and recycling industry at the Queensland Secondary Resources Forum.

Ms Enoch said that the state’s domestic recycling capabilities were under pressure following China’s decision on waste imports.

The Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ) is hosting the two-day Queensland Secondary Resources Forum to address issues impacting kerbside recycling and international challenges.

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Queensland Forum to discuss China waste ban

“Today I am meeting with representatives from local government and the waste industry in Bundaberg to discuss practical opportunities in local communities.

“I want to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and group dialogue on smarter, innovative options to better manage, reuse and recycle waste.”

Ms Enoch said Thursday’s meeting provided an opportunity for stakeholders to share local challenges when it comes to waste, and discuss improved systems and processes.

“While there are many challenges to overcome, there is also an opportunity to facilitate local solutions and growing domestic markets that reduce our reliance on exports.”

She said improvements at a local level could help the federal government in their work towards a national long-term solution.

“I look forward to taking local feedback from the Bundaberg forum to my meeting with state and serritory environment ministers tomorrow, and I also look forward to hearing what the Federal Government has to say about the best way forward for the recycling industry,” Ms Enoch said.

Last month the Queensland Government announced it would develop a new resource recovery and waste management strategy, underpinned by a waste levy, following recommendations from the report from Justice Peter Lyons.

Waste Recycling Industry Queensland Chief Executive Officer Rick Ralph said a national approach was needed and that there was an opportunity for Australia to re-focus on how we manage waste.

“We need to re-set our position when it comes to waste management and recycling across Australia, particularly when it comes to re-manufacturing,” he said.

“Today’s meeting in Bundaberg is important as it allows us to open up the discussion even further.

“We need to rebuild community confidence when it comes to recycling, and we also need to hear from other stakeholders about how we can work together towards a solution for the short, medium and long term.”

 

ACCC will not oppose waste industry Toxfree acquisition

The ACCC has announced that it will not oppose the proposed acquisition of Tox Free Solutions Ltd (Tox Free) (ASX: TOX) by Cleanaway Waste Management Limited (Cleanaway) (ASX: CWY).

It comes after Cleanaway agreed to acquire Tox Free Solutions (Toxfree) for about $671 million at the end of last year.

“This was a complex matter for the ACCC. We consulted extensively with over 70 interested parties including customers, competitors, regulators and industry bodies. There was a mix of views on the competitive impacts, with some expecting little change, and others highlighting concerns,” ACCC Commissioner Roger Featherston said.

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The ACCC’s investigation focused on waste streams and regions where the parties’ operations overlap, and the competitive implications of Cleanaway’s overall growth and increased vertical integration. Some of the key areas of focus were:

  • Hazardous waste processing, particularly in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, SA and WA, and hazardous waste collection (including household hazardous waste collection)
  • Non-hazardous liquid waste processing, particularly in NSW/ACT and Queensland
  • Medical waste collection, particularly in Victoria, and medical waste processing,particularly in NSW, and
  • Used lubricating oil collection, particularly in WA.

“Although there may be a lessening of competition in some waste streams, such as hazardous waste collection and processing, and used lubricating oil collection, we considered that, in this case, the proposed acquisition is unlikely to meet the threshold of a substantial lessening of competition,” Mr Featherston said.

“We concluded that the threat of customers switching to competitors would constrain Cleanaway from increasing prices or decreasing service levels to a significant extent in any waste stream or geographic area.”

“Competitors include major global waste companies such as Veolia, Suez and Remondis, as well as smaller local and regional operators,” Mr Featherston said.

The ACCC has noted the growing consolidation in the waste industry and any future merger or acquisition involving any large suppliers of waste management services will be closely investigated.

“Increased vertical integration, particularly between waste collection and waste processing, was also an issue raised by industry participants. We considered, however, that the increased vertical integration arising from this transaction would be unlikely to substantially lessen competition because of competitive constraints imposed by alternative suppliers.”

Greens launch plan to reboot recycling

The Greens have launched a policy platform to address the recycling crisis ahead of Friday’s meeting of environment ministers.

Waste & Recycling and Healthy Oceans portfolio holder Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the system is failing and the industry is in crisis. He said the Greens are calling on the federal government to adopt the plan.

“This problem has been a long time coming and the Chinese restriction on importing waste has tipped it over the edge. Big packaging companies have avoided responsibility,” Mr Whish-Wilson said.

“Industry is crying out for national leadership. There needs to be a comprehensive federal government plan to solve the crisis. We can either turn towards opportunity or turn towards a meltdown in kerbside recycling. This policy is a blueprint to seize that opportunity.”

Mr Whish-Wilson said China’s restriction on importing our recycling waste is an opportunity to reboot Australia’s recycling industry with an approach that is  good for jobs and the environment.

“With a bit of help, industry can retool to use that plastic and paper waste that once went to China, here in Australia. And we can build a substantive manufacturing sector providing more environmentally sustainable products.”

The Greens plan to reboot recycling involves:

  • Investing $500 million over five years into infrastructure and programs to improve the quality of recycling. This will administered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and will require matching funding, dollar-for-dollar, from state governments.
  • Introduce mandatory product stewardship schemes, including a national container deposit scheme.
  • Distributing $10 million in grants to community groups and social enterprises to run high quality reuse and recycling centres.
  • Establish mandatory targets for the procurement of recycled material at all levels of government.
  • Recommit to and reinvigorate the National Waste Policy.

The Greens also released a plan to tackle marine pollution with the following strategy:

  • Work towards a phase-out of single use plastics.
  • Introduce an immediate national ban on microbeads and single-use plastic bags.
  • Allocate $50 million to establish a Plastic Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to help clean up our oceans and improve plastic recycling.