Waste of the nation

Waste Management Review speaks to Australia’s first Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Trevor Evans about his future priorities.

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International specialist to help fight food waste

The Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has partnered with Woolworths and Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) to bring international sustainable food systems specialist Mark Barthel to Australia.

Mark Barthel has 25 years of experience fighting food waste with brands such as Tesco, Amazon, Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Nestle, and international organisations such as WRAP, the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the FAO.

“It is an exciting time to be working with Woolworths, CRC and FIAL to develop a food waste reduction roadmap,” Mr Barthel said.

“Although only three per cent of national food waste is attributed to supermarkets, they still have a critical role to play in engaging with their customers about how they can make the most of the food they buy.”

Mr Barthel said Woolworths was at the forefront in educating customers to minimising food waste via their Food Savers program.

“They have also made commitments themselves, with 100 per cent of their stores now having a food waste diversion program in place,” Mr Barthel said.

“I am excited to be working closely with Woolworths to develop a roadmap that will see them engaging with suppliers, customers and community partners to work together to tackle this issue.”

According to the Australian National Food Waste Baseline report, 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted each year, half of which ends up in landfill.

“Preventing food waste entering landfill in Australia would be the equivalent of taking over 1 million cars off the road in terms of its environmental impact,” Mr Barthel said.

“There is a huge role for businesses to play in reducing food waste along the supply chain, and in addition to working on a roadmap for Woolworths, I’m also going to be working with FIAL to establish a voluntary agreement program with Australian businesses as part of the National Food Waste Strategy.”

FIAL Managing Director Mirjana Prica said the organisation was thrilled to have Mr Barthel working on the implementation of the National Food Waste Strategy.

“His experience in setting up the UK’s Cortauld Agreement, and understanding of sustainable food systems, will provide invaluable insights that will help shape Australia’s efforts to reduce food waste,” Ms Prica said.

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Melbourne backs CDS plan

The City of Melbourne has joined other Victorian councils in calling for the state government to introduce container deposit legislation into parliament.

The campaign was started by the Municipal Association of Victoria, with backing from the City of Frankston, City of Darebin and City of Port Phillip.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said a container deposit scheme (CDS) would help reduce plastic and glass sent to landfill.

“The recycling system is broken and we need to harness community and industry support to fix it,” Ms Capp said.

“We need to reward individuals and community groups who are doing the right thing when it comes to recycling. It’s time to provide an incentive for people who collect bottles and cans and give back to the community.”

Melbourne Environment Chair Cathy Oke said Victoria and Tasmania are the only Australian states yet to commit to a scheme.

The Tasmanian Government announced it would implement a CDS by 2023 in June, but legislation is yet to be enacted.

“South Australian first introduced their scheme in 1977, leading the nation on waste management. They currently offer a 10 cent deposit and refund on beverage containers,” Ms Oke said.

“Introducing a similar scheme in Victoria would help reduce litter while providing a commodity that could be used by our local industry.”

Ms Oke said the scheme could include manually operated or automated reverse vending machines, that would give credit for each item deposited.

“Victorians are looking for answers to the waste crisis, so it’s time we helped people do their bit to help create a stronger recycling sector,” Ms Oke said.

“Along with reducing litter, the scheme would ensure the beverage supplier industry takes greater responsibility for packaging, and rewards individuals, community groups, sporting clubs and charities for picking up littered beverage containers.”

Following SKM’s decision to no longer accept recyclable materials, the City of Melbourne has been forced to send 45 tonnes of recycling to landfill each day.

Ms Oke said SKM sorts 50 per cent of Victoria’s kerbside recycling – close to 300,000 tonnes a year.

“More than $500 million of landfill levy income collected by Victorian Councils is available in the state government’s Sustainability Fund and could be invested to increase capacity in the local recycling sector,” Ms Oke said.

“We need the state government to unlock the funds councils have collected from landfill levies and invest in new technologies to transform our waste and resource recovery sector.”

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V/Line installs recycled plastic sleepers

Recycled plastic railway sleepers have been installed on Victoria’s regional train network for the first time, with funding assistance from Sustainability Victoria.

According to a Sustainability Victoria statement, the recycled sleepers are an innovative replacement for the V/Line’s current concrete sleepers.

“V/Line trains are heavier and tend to run faster than metro trains, so they need incredibly sturdy sleepers. Concrete has always been the most reliable option – until now,” the statement reads.

“Testing shows the recycled plastic sleepers won’t melt, crack or flake off under pressure. They won’t leach into the environment and are much less carbon intensive to make.”

The product was installed near Wyndham Vale train station in late July.

“Made from a mix of polystyrene and agricultural plastic waste, the recycled sleepers are an environmental alternative,” the statement reads.

“For every kilometre installed, the sleepers use 64 tonnes of plastic waste that would’ve otherwise gone to landfill.”

The result of two years of development and testing at the Monash Institute of Railway Technology and Integrated Recycling, the sleepers were partly funded though Sustainability Victoria’s Research, Development and Demonstration grants and the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund.

The product will last up to 50 years, with low maintenance requirements meaning fewer servicing closures on V/Line services.

“The sleepers can be recycled once it’s time to replace them – a great example of how a circular economy can work,” the statement reads.

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NSW Circular to host stakeholder event

NSW Circular has partnered with the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre to help Central Coast businesses map and identify opportunities to reduce waste, enhance sustainability and boost industry.

The event, held 7 August, will bring stakeholders together from across governments, industry, universities and not-for-profit groups to discuss transitioning to a circular economy.

University of New South Wales Professor and NSW Circular Economy Innovation Network Director Veena Sahajwalla will present the keynote address.

“We are aiming to facilitate market-based solutions to the opportunities and challenges faced in efficiently managing our materials, supplies and waste, and will be looking for pilot projects to create new pathways and outcomes,” Ms Sahajwalla said.

Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre National Director of Industry Michael Sharpe will facilitate a discussion to identify new local circular economy solutions.

“Hunter and Central Coast businesses are already some of the most innovative in Australia, and with this event we hope to share some of those examples to develop more circular economy solutions,” Mr Sharpe said.

“The manufacturing sector plays a critical role in this area, which is resulting in more efficient business operations and economic growth.”

Mr Sharpe said attendees will learn how a circular approach can be incorporated into local supply chains and deliver greater economic, social and environmental benefits.

Panellists include:

Professor Veena Sahajwalla – NSW Circular Director

Ashley Brinson – NSW Circular Co-director

Debbie Hambly – Milk Bottle Collective Project Manager

Ian Hudson – Industry Capability Network Deputy Director

Tim Askew – Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils Regional Project Manager

Marta Fernandes – Nespresso Technical and Quality Manager

Brooke Donnelly – Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation CEO

Paul Klymenko – Planet Ark CEO

Nishi Vissamraju – Downer Group National Environmental Sustainability Advisor Transport and Infrastructure

Jodi Boylan – The War of Waste Executive Producer

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Melbourne fast-tracks waste strategy

The City of Melbourne will fast-track the delivery of its Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy and bring investment in infrastructure forward.

Following SKM’s decision to no longer accept waste material, the city has been forced to send 45 tonnes of recycling to landfill each day.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the city, and its subsidiary Citywide, will run an independent feasibility study into establishing a large-scale recycling centre in Greater Melbourne.

“As a matter of urgency, our waste collection business Citywide will work with independent experts to look at the best way to create a specialised recycling facility in Victoria that will be stable and sustainable,” Ms Capp said.

“The study will consider the potential size and location for a new facility, as well as the number of municipalities it could service. It would also consider the level of recycled material required for it to be viable and potential markets for recycled materials.”

Ms Capp said the city would also investigate new ways to reduce contamination throughout the municipality.

“We want to stop recyclables going to landfill as soon as possible and deliver long-term improvements for our residents and businesses,” Ms Capp said.

“We are going to increase the number of shared waste hubs for businesses in the central city.”

Ms Capp said the city is also examining international best practices and will run an expression of interest period for technology usable in Melbourne’s inner city laneways.

“This could include using everything from mini-compactor bins, specialised vehicles and collection of source separated materials such as glass, organics, paper and cardboard,” Ms Capp said.

“Ultimately we need to work towards the model used by many European countries where recycling streams are collected and processed separately.”

According to Ms Capp, the issue cannot be tackled by individual municipalities.

“The City of Melbourne will be working with other councils, the Victorian Government and the community to achieve long-term change,” Ms Capp said.

City of Melbourne Environment Chair Cathy Oke said local residents and businesses also needed to play their part to reduce contamination in waste streams.

“Rather than send our recycling overseas, we will examine the feasibility and cost of preparing materials for manufacturing use here in Victoria,” Ms Oke said.

“We need to provide a cleaner product for our recycling industry to return to a more sustainable and stable footing.”

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Coles donates unsold food waste

Food charity SecondBite has received a $500,000 grant from the Coles Nurture Fund, facilitating the purchase of four new refrigerated trucks.

The grant follows a new five-year agreement between Coles and SecondBite that will increase food collections from Coles’ metropolitan supermarkets from three to five days a week.

The trucks will collect unsold, edible food in bulk from Coles’ distribution centres and redistribute it to charities.

Coles CEO Steven Cain said food donations to SecondBite rose 25 per cent in 2018-19, with Coles expecting those volumes to increase further this year.

“We have an opportunity and responsibility to help fight hunger in Australia by donating our unsold, edible food to people who are vulnerable and facing tough times,” Mr Cain said.

“Everyone deserves to have regular meals and our SecondBite partnership is one of the ways in which we hope to sustainably feed Australians to lead healthier, happier lives.”

Coles diverted 36,392 tonnes of food waste from landfill in 2018-19 through donations to food charities, farmers for animal feed and to be recycled for compost, organic waste and energy.

SecondBite CEO Jim Mullan said the new trucks would allow SecondBite to significantly increase the volume and range of food that could be delivered to charities.

“These trucks – each with a 4.5 tonne capacity and space for eight pallets of food – will make a huge difference to SecondBite’s efficiencies,” Mr Mullan said.

“Rather than making several trips in a van, we will now be able to collect bulk amounts of stock in a single visit.”

According to Mr Mullan, the trucks will also allow SecondBite to transport a greater variety of stock.

“Historically we have been largely confined to collecting fruit and vegetables from Coles distribution centres, but the new refrigerated trucks allow bulk collections of yoghurts, cheese, butter, milk, juice, and other high-risk foods, as well as frozen products.”

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ARRB reviews the use of vehicle tyres in bitumen

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) is recommending further research into the use of passenger vehicle tyres in bitumen production.

ARRB Senior Professional Leader Guy Hand said Victoria’s Transport Department, formerly VicRoads, engaged ARRB to undertake a literature review on the subject.

“Using more end-of-life tyres in road construction is a known way to curb significant environmental challenge for Australia. The question is, how do we make that happen?,” Mr Hand said.

“One possibility is to engage the use of end-of-life car tyres.”

Most crumb rubber repurposed into Australian road construction currently comes from end-of-life truck tyres.

According to Mr Hand, truck tyres are predominantly composed of natural rubber, whereas car tyres contain a high proportion of synthetic rubber, as well as a nylon component.

“It is not well understood whether synthetic rubber will behave in bitumen in the same nature that natural rubber does,” Mr Hand said.

“No data from an Australian context is available to establish the compatibility and performance of synthetic rubber in bitumen.”

Mr Hand said the key objective of the review is to understand the current specifications of crumb rubber sourced by other road agencies, and the market availability and processing requirements of passenger vehicle tyres.

ARRB were additionally asked to identify the benefits and limitations of using passenger vehicle tyre crumb rubber as a road material in asphalt and sprayed seals.

“There are also barriers for recycling car tyres to be considered, such as economic, environmental and processing challenges,” Mr Hand said.

“With the Victorian Government’s focus on increasing the use of recycled materials in road construction, this literature review will help inform all stakeholders on the issues associated with the use of passenger vehicle tyres in bitumen.”

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EOI’s to open following SKM shut down

Victoria’s Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) has announced that expression of interest for recycling services will open this month, following the temporary closure of SKM Recycling facilities.

SKM, which has contracts with 33 Victorian councils, announced it would not accept material from 26 July, following EPA regulation and compliance issues.

According to a media statement, MWRRG has been in daily contact with affected councils, state government, the Municipal Association of Victoria and other recycling service providers to assess their capacity to take extra recyclables.

MWRRG is now progressing plans for new collaborative procurements for recycling services, working with 11 council clusters comprising more than 60 councils across the state.

“By councils working together, larger contracts will be offered to the industry to encourage investment in recycling infrastructure and technology, and to attract new candidates to the Victorian recycling sector,” the statement reads.

“Industry will be asked to provide an expression of interest on the collaborative procurements in August, with detailed submissions expected by the end of the year. Contracts are expected to be in place by June 2020.”

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Melbourne to award waste minimisation grants

The City of Melbourne’s Small Business and Social Enterprise Grants are this year offering an extra $100,000 to businesses with a waste minimisation proposal.

The funding is part of council’s plan to transition to a 90 per cent waste diversion rate, under the Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the grants have a long history of helping local businesses grow into well-known brands, including Keep Cup, which was awarded funding in 2008.

“We’re incredibly proud that past recipients of these grants have gone on to enjoy huge success, while also contributing to our city’s rich and diverse hospitality, innovation, sustainability and tourism sectors,” Ms Capp said.

Round one was awarded earlier this week, with Small Business Chair Susan Riley announcing Unpackaged Eco as among the recipients.

“There’s a huge variety of grant recipients this year for businesses doing amazing things. Helping the environment is Unpackaged Eco which uses smart technology to reduce packing in retail.”

Waste minimisation funding will be available in round two of the program, which opens 5 August.

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