ACCC re-authorises Tyre Stewardship Scheme

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced that it will grant the Tyre Stewardship Scheme, administered by Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) a new authorisation for a further six years.

Tyre Stewardship Australia was established in 2013 as an industry cooperative scheme, with the support of state and federal governments. The initial five-year ACCC authorisation allowed the Tyre Stewardship Scheme to fund its operations through the application of a 25 cent per equivalent passenger unit consumer levy.

In reaching its determination, the ACCC considered the progress of the voluntary scheme and the impact that TSA has been able to make in education, of both industry and consumers, on the need to sustainably manage the 56 million equivalent passenger units Australia generates each year.

ACCC Commissioner Roger Featherston said that the organisation decided to authorise provisions of this scheme for a further six years, as the scheme is likely to increase the number of tyres being disposed of in an environmentally friendly way and result in a net public benefit.

The potential public benefits offered by the scheme were also specifically addressed in the determination.

In welcoming the ACCC determination, TSA Chairman, David Spear, acknowledged the input of the redetermination process in helping to refine TSA future objectives.

“Tyre Stewardship Australia are pleased by the ACCC determination and new authorisation of the Tyre Stewardship Scheme, which commences from June 15. It recognises the value the Tyre Stewardship Scheme has been able to deliver and the work that TSA has done to set-up future improvements in the sustainable management of end-of-life tyres. We have welcomed and valued the input from the many interested parties and look forward to progressing TSA’s future objectives.”

Dale Gilson, TSA CEO, said the amendments in the reauthorisation, notably the increased flexibility to the structure of the fund program, and the greater capability for managing non-compliance, will both enable TSA to more effectively realise the desired outcomes of the Tyre Stewardship Scheme.

The ACCC’s determination will come into force as a new authorisation on June 15, 2018.

The ACCC’s final determination to reauthorise the scheme can be found here.

EPA VIC to consider waste to energy plant

A large-scale waste to energy plant could be on the way for Victoria, as manufacturing company Australian Paper has lodged a works approval application with Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria.

The facility is proposed to be co-located within the boundaries of the Australian Paper site in Maryvale, Latrobe Valley.

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Australian Paper propose the facility would accept and use an estimated 650,000 tonnes a year of municipal solid waste and commercial and industrial waste from the Melbourne and Gippsland regions. Waste will be collected from the existing waste collection network and transferred to the site via road and rail.

The proposed plant would generate both steam and electricity which can be used in the papermill to power its operations or exported to the grid. The plant would replace two existing gas-fired boilers and produce around 30 megawatts electric and 150 tonnes per hour of steam.

EPA Executive Director Assessments Tim Eaton said the application is the first in Victora for a large-scale energy from waste plant using municipal solid waste.

“EPA invites the community and interested parties to review the application and make submissions which will be considered in EPA’s assessment of the application,” he said.

“EPA’s assessment of the application will consider issues such as use of best practice technology, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, waste fuel composition, compliance with waste hierarchy, environmental management and potential risks to human health and the environment including emissions to air, noise, disposal of fly ash, the wastewater treatment system, and operational contingencies.”

Members of the community have until 27 June to lodge submissions to the EPA.

The application and a summary of it can be found here.

Sustainability Victoria appoints new director

A new director has been appointed to head Sustainability Victoria’s (SV) Resource Recovery Group, with executive experience in government, consulting and product stewardship.

Matt Genever officially joins SV on 2 July and replaces Jonathan Leake who became Director of the Business and Built Environment program last month.

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Stan Krpan said Mr Genever had led a terrific career with a focus on market development, strategy and policy development and delivering effective infrastructure to the resource recovery and waste sectors, in business and government.

“With the resource recovery and waste sectors going through a period of transition, our objective is to reinforce the sector as it stands now, and expand it,” Mr Krpan said.

“Matt has a particular passion for developing new markets for products and materials that can be hard to recycle.”

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“I share his view that Victoria, indeed Australia, has enormous potential to develop new resource recovery capacity for traditional markets like plastic and glass, and new ones like e-waste, food organic and garden organics so we reduce the amount of material that goes to landfill.”

Mr Genever said it was an exciting time to re-join Sustainability Victoria.

“Every industry has been through the same challenges that the recycling sector is experiencing now. It is difficult, but the right investments and improvements should ultimately build resilience and a more sustainable sector,” Mr Genever said.

“Rather than just throwing away waste left over from industrial, commercial or domestic settings, we need to encourage its reuse so more value is obtained as it moves through the economy.”

Mr Krpan said Mr Genever’s executive experience in government, consulting and product stewardship, his collaborative leadership approach and proven ability to deliver results would help to further build SV’s stakeholder relationships across industry and government.

“Matt is a recognised leader in the waste and resource recovery sector and led many of SV’s key strategies, waste and recycling programs for six years between 2008 and 2014.”

Mr Genever is currently Managing Director of the strategic environmental consultancy, Reincarnate, and was inaugural Chief Executive Officer of Tyre Stewardship Australia.

He also worked as Business Leader, Waste and Resource Use at Arcadis Asia Pacific.

Mr Genever holds a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Geography & Environmental Science and is a member of the Waste Management Association of Australia.

 

Downer partners with Close the Loop for Australian-first project

Soft plastics from plastic bags and packaging and glass bottle equivalents will be diverted from landfill to construct a Victorian road in an Australian-first trial.

Integrated infrastructure organisation Downer and Hume City Council have partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop and RED Group to set a new benchmark in sustainability.

The trial will comprise approximately 200,000 bags and packaging and 63,000 glass bottle equivalents. The initiative is supported by the Victorian Government’s Resource Recovery Market Development Fund, more information on that here. 

Along with soft plastics and glass, toner from more than 4500 used printer cartridges and 50 tonnes of recycled asphalt were also repurposed to create 250 tonnes of asphalt that will be used to construct a road in and around Rayfield Avenue, Craigieburn, located in Melbourne’s north.

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Downer’s Executive General Manager Road Services, Dante Cremasco said the milestone event showed that partnerships with other thought leaders can create economic, social and environmental value for products. He added these are products that would more than likely end up in landfill, stockpiled, or as a pollutant in our natural environments.

Mr Cremasco said that together with its customer Hume City Council and partners, Downer has set a new benchmark in the construction industry.

“What is also pleasing to see is that this sustainable, cost competitive road has a 65 per cent improvement in fatigue life and a superior resistance to deformation making the road last longer, and allowing it to better handle heavy vehicle traffic,” Mr Cremasco said

Hume Mayor Geoff Porter said the council was proud to join Downer and its partners in the Australian-first trial.

“Hume City Council is very proud to be home to Australia’s first road which sees soft plastics and glass diverted from landfills and repurposed to create local roads,” Cr Porter said.

“We look forward to monitoring the trial of this recycled asphalt and how the new surface performs over time.”

Cr Porter said sustainability is a key priority for the council and its community.

“This is just one way we are working in partnership to respond to recycling industry concerns and highlights the importance of residents and businesses recycling materials, particularly soft plastics and glass, properly,” Cr Porter said.

Downer partnered with Close the Loop and RED Group to tailor waste products such as soft plastics to suit a road construction application.

Close the Loop Australia General Manager Nerida Mortlock said its partnership with Downer and RED Group has allowed the company to work collaboratively to improve the way it designs and manufactures sustainable outcomes for waste that can be reused.

“We are very pleased to set yet another industry benchmark, seeing soft plastics used for the first time in an Australian road,” Ms Mortlock said.

RED Group Elizabeth Kasell said it demonstrates a great step toward a circular system, where soft plastic packaging recovered through the REDcycle Program and other materials previously destined for landfill can be used as a resource for Australian roads.

EU to ban single-use plastics

The European Commission is proposing new EU-wide rules to ban 10 single-use plastic products which form 70 per cent of all marine litter items.

The proposal focuses on those items most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.

The ban will apply to plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons which will all have to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials instead. Single-use drinks containers made with plastic will only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached.

Different measures will be applied to different products. Member States will have to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups. They can do so by setting national reduction targets, making alternative products available at the point of sale, or ensuring that single-use plastic products cannot be provided free of charge. Producers will help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness raising measures for food containers, packets and wrappers (such as for crisps and sweets), drinks containers and cups, tobacco products with filters (such as cigarette butts), wet wipes, balloons, and lightweight plastic bags. The industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products.

Member states will be obliged to collect 90 per cent of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, for example through deposit refund schemes.

Certain products will require a clear and standardised labelling which indicates how waste should be disposed, the negative environmental impact of the product, and the presence of plastics in the products. This will apply to sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons.

Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market. For products without straight-forward alternatives, the focus will be on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption, design and labelling requirements and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers.

The commission’s proposals will now go to the European Parliament and council for adoption. The Commission urged the other institutions to treat this as a priority file, and to deliver tangible results for Europeans before the elections in May 2019. More information is available here. 

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Australian experts reacted to the news below.

Dr Paul Harvey, of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Macquarie University, said the proposed ban, notably plastic straws and cotton buds, is welcome and very promising news.

“Single-use plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of this generation,” he said.

“We see single-use plastics distributed ubiquitously throughout the global environments, even to the darkest depths of our oceans. These single use plastics do not readily degrade so we will have these plastics in our environment for thousands of years to come.”

“Australia, given its precious natural assets such as the Great Barrier Reef, would benefit greatly from following the lead set by the EU on single-use plastics.”

Dr Belinda Christie, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban Transitions at Swinburne University, said that while the EU plans to ban single-use plastic, we need to be careful that we don’t just replace one problem with another.

“Greener ‘biodegradable’ plastics are often marketed as the solution to our plastic problems on land and in our oceans, but we need to look deeper. These biodegradable plastics still require energy to create even if made from natural materials such as corn starch, and therefore still contribute to climate change,” she said.

“A lot of plastics labelled as biodegradable will only break down at higher temperatures, around 50 degrees celsius and if exposed to UV directly. So if they end up in the ocean, or even in landfill, they still can’t break down. While under artificial conditions they do break down eventually, they end up as microplastics in the meantime.

“Studies show that there is no significant difference between how biodegradable bags and plastic bags break down when eaten by marine life – meaning our biodegradable plastics ending up in the ocean can do just as much damage as a regular plastic bag.”

 

Vict Govt launches Resource Recovery Market Development Fund

The Victorian Government has announced a new $2.5 million fund to help develop markets for Victoria’s recyclable waste, and boost research and development into recycling.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio on Tuesday launched the Resource Recovery Market Development Fund in Craigieburn, Melbourne where major road builder Downer is trialling an asphalt mix containing recycled plastic bags, printer cartridges and glass in road surfacing.

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Downer received $67,000 from the fund, which will be managed by Sustainability Victoria and support researchers and industry in finding new ways to use recovered resources.

Downer estimates that up to 15 per cent of asphalt could contain soft plastics and that up to 10 million tonnes of recyclable waste could be diverted from landfill every year using their new approach.

Sustainability Victoria provided Close the Loop with $40,000 for equipment to develop the plastic additive used in the asphalt mix.

The fund builds on $80 million over four years invested by the Victorian Government into waste and resource recovery.

Applications for the Resource Recovery Market Development Fund will open in July.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the new fund will help support new industries and stimulate a circular economy for recyclable material.

 

Return and Earn donates to Tathra Bushfire recovery

Return and Earn has donated more than $10,000 to the people of Tathra, a town in NSW’s South Coast, to help with their bushfire recovery.

After bushfires tore through the town in March this year, devastating the community and causing millions of dollars of damage, EPA NSW worked with Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton and TOMRA Cleanaway to champion the campaign to make the Tathra Bushfire Appeal the nominated charity for Return and Earn.

The people of NSW rallied behind the cause, donating $8400 worth of their 10 cent refunds through the reverse vending machines across the state. An extra $2000 was then donated by the Return and Earn network operator Tomra Cleanaway at the Tathra Bushfire Relief concert on Saturday.

Since the bushfire, EPA NSW has continued to manage much of the clean-up work as Chair of the Government’s Infrastructure, Waste and Environmental Recovery Sub-Committee, overseeing the waste management, clean up and environmental rehabilitation work.