Plastic bag litter drops 30 per cent in WA

The amount of plastic bag litter in Western Australia has fallen by 29.9 per cent, according to the latest National Litter Index Report.

The drop follows the state’s introduction of a lightweight plastic bag ban in July last year.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the National Litter Index also indicates that the total volume and number of items littered in Western Australia has fallen by 15.7 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively.

According to Mr Dawson, the state also saw a 18.3 per cent reduction in glass litter, and a 7.1 per cent reduction in paper litter.

“The latest index also found less litter at West Australian beaches with a 58.6 per cent drop, retail precincts falling 46.9 per cent, shopping centres down 9.3 per cent, major roads and highways dropping 8.2 per cent and recreational parks down 1.5 per cent, compared to the previous report,” Mr Dawson said.

“Higher levels of litter were counted on residential streets, rising 4.7 per cent, industrial precincts 3.5 per cent and at car parks, increasing by more than 27 per cent.”

Mr Dawson said cigarette butts and cigarette packaging continue to be the most littered item, making up almost one third of the states litter.

“It is never ok to litter your cigarette butts. There is a serious risk of bushfire caused by disposing of lit cigarettes, as well as being harmful to our wildlife,” Mr Dawson said.

“To raise awareness of this major problem, Keep Australia Beautiful WA has launched a campaign highlighting the effects of cigarette butts on the environment and remind smokers they face fines of up to $500 for littering cigarette butts.”

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Environment Minister discusses export ban with industry

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has hosted a waste and resource recovery roundtable in Sydney, with Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

According to a WMRR statement, executives from Australia’s leading waste, recycling, and resource recovery firms shared their insight with Ms Ley on current barriers to growth and success, including the lack of a nationally consistent and harmonised policy and regulatory framework.

“The minister was keen to hear about the current challenges and opportunities, and importantly, the key elements that would give the export ban, announced at the COAG meeting in August, the greatest chance at success,” the statement reads.

The roundtable was attended by executives from SUEZ, Cleanaway, Veolia, JJ Richards, ResourceCo, Tyrecycle, Visy Industries, Re.Group, Bingo Industries, Alex Fraser, and O-I.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said industry certainty is lacking in Australia, due to different policies, strategies, regulations and specifications across jurisdictions, and the lack of markets.

“The goal posts are constantly changing and often, our industry is a political football which exacerbates the challenges because it causes greater instability and uncertainty,” Ms Sloan said.

“The minister listened intently and said she had a clear idea of the current landscape and need for greater harmonisation, which we appreciated.”

Ms Sloan said Ms Ley advised that the forthcoming export ban on waste paper, plastic, glass and tyres would be on the agenda at the 8 November Meeting of Environment Ministers.

According to the WMRR statement, industry leaders said they would applaud the ban if it was coupled with the expansion of reprocessing and recycling, and the development of domestic remanufacturing.

“Sure, we can stop shipping these materials, and industry does not want to export – we absolutely want to reprocess and recycle right here in Australia – but if there’s no buyback or take up of the recycled products, where does that leave us?” Ms Sloan said.

“The ban must be supported first and foremost by sustainable and mandated procurement at all levels of government, with the Commonwealth leading the way.”

In a separate statement, Ms Ley said the Federal Government would work with Australia’s leading recyclers to achieve the earliest possible export ban time frame.

“The Prime Minister has agreed with all state and territory governments that a ban will be put in place, and we want to establish a clear timetable and clear strategic priorities by working with both industry and the state environment ministers,” Ms Ley said.

“A ban on plastic exports should not lead to higher levels of stockpiling in Australia, and I will be challenging all parties, the states, the industry participants and the community to embark on genuine change in tackling waste.”

Of her meeting with WMRR, Ms Ley said it was clear that policy consistency was needed across the states.

“We need to give industry the confidence to invest in recycling and remanufacturing, and an assurance that markets are being created for their products,” Ms Ley said.

Ms Ley also meet with industry leaders at the Australian Council of Recycling in Melbourne, including senior executives from Visy, Veolia, Orora, 0-I, PACT, Sims Metal Management, Reconomy-Downer, Close the Loop and Tyrecycle.

“The clear message from this and my previous meetings is that the re-cycling industry is in no doubt about the opportunities for re-manufactured products or the ability to generate future investment for expansion,” Ms Ley said.

“Concerns remain, however, about excessive or inconsistent planning regulations that could hamper that growth and the disparate range of collection strategies across local government.”

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Yarra City Council: crushing contamination

Waste Management Review speaks with Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council City Works and Assets Director, about the council’s ongoing trial of kerbside glass separation.

In the beginning of June of this year, 1300 Abbottsford households were greeted with new crates for their glass waste.

The crates were delivered to the inner north suburb of Melbourne as part of a kerbside glass collection trial, developed by the Yarra City Council.

The problem of crushed glass and contamination has been discussed at length in the resource recovery sector. However, as Waste Management Review reported in May, government action on the issue has been slow.

With funding from Sustainability Victoria, Yarra City Council is attempting to buck this trend by taking tangible steps to reduce contamination in the densely populated municipality. Another motivating issue is the lack of available landfill space in Victoria, particularly in metropolitan Melbourne.

Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council Director City Works and Assets, says recycling rates across Yarra are high, with the majority of residents being active recyclers. Despite this, Chris says recent changes to the recycling industry have promoted a proactive response from the council in an attempt to get ahead of potential future problems.

“Recent challenges in the waste and recycling industry will have an impact on all councils. A reduction in recycling processing in Melbourne will see additional pressures on the remaining processors,” Chris says.

“Making sure we minimise the amount of waste we send to landfill and improve the quality of recycling will ensure we continue to have a sustainable waste collection service into the future.”

The Yarra trial will run for 12 months and builds on a successful 2018 food and garden organics (FOGO) separation trial.

“The initial FOGO trial provided extremely useful data and information about the collection process and user behaviour, and identified that Yarra residents were willing to trial new ways and methods for kerbside recycling,” Chris says.

“This was very heartening for us and encouraged us to combine FOGO and glass separation in a larger trial area.”

Chris says results from the FOGO trial saw a 40 per cent diversion of waste from landfill, with current FOGO contamination rates now averaging less than one per cent.

The trial has been named the Yarra Waste Revolution and includes a targeted education and communications program.

“Recycling contamination is an ongoing issue for all councils, partly because, generally speaking, people do not have a good grasp on what is considered contamination when it comes to the kerbside recycling bin,” Chris says.

“We saw a great opportunity to make our recycled materials cleaner and more valuable, which ensures they get a new life, while also sending less waste to landfill.

“The improved quality of the material will lead to higher value, increased market demand, market diversity and the development of domestic markets for recycled products.”

According to Chris, public response to the trial has been positive, with most residents supportive of the new service and the city’s efforts to reduce waste sent to landfill.

“In only a few short weeks, there has already been a dramatic improvement in the quality of the material being presented in glass recycling bins,” he says.

“The Yarra Waste Revolution is a major change for residents, so this is a phenomenal achievement by the community in a very short amount of time.”

To implement the trial, Yarra City Council has enlisted the support of the state government, Sustainability Victoria, RMIT University, Australian Paper Recovery, Four Seasons Waste and the Alex Fraser Group.   

“Partnerships with industry and government agencies are critical to the success of this trial. We all need to work together to find solutions to the current recycling crisis,” Chris says.

“Our collection contractors, processors and industry partners share our vision to find solutions to the recycling crisis, and are helping us collect and sort the materials here in Victoria.”

Chris says research partners have also helped council understand the lifecycle analysis of the city’s new collection model, and what that will mean for environmental outcomes.

“We couldn’t implement a trial without their participation and of course, the financial and technical support provided by our government partners,” he says.

“We are actively seeking out opportunities to work with all levels of government, and the waste industry, to deliver on a new circular economy approach to waste management.”

Following the trial, Chris says Yarra will consider expanding the service throughout the city.

“We have had the courage to explore alternative methods and innovate in order to develop a more sustainable kerbside model that transitions away from the current system which relies heavily on export markets,” Chris says.

“Our long-term ambition is to move our community towards producing zero waste by supporting circular economies and minimising the amount of waste produced.”

Chris adds that making sure Yarra residents are confident in the sustainability of their waste and recycling service is key to achieving viable and environmental outcomes.

“We recognise the changes we are implementing at a local level require buy-in and commitment from our residents, but are confident that we have the support of our community, who are very focused on sustainability,” he says.

“Our Yarra Waste Revolution trial to separate glass and food and organic waste only started in June this year, and while it is a bit premature to provide solid data or analysis, the early signs are very positive.”

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Lion Group partners with REDcycle

Lion Group has become the first major brewer in Australia to partner with REDcycle, a national soft plastic recycling initiatives.

REDcycle collects and reuses soft plastics unsuitable for kerbside recycling, with 2000 drops-off points at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets throughout Australia.

According to Lion CEO Stuart Irvine, over 2.75 tonnes of Lion packaging was returned by consumers between July and December 2018.

“For more than 20 years, Lion has invested in reducing litter, improving recyclability and increasing the use of recycled content in our packaging,” Mr Irvine said.

“In the beer industry, plastic rings have been a real focal point in the war on plastic, and Lion was well and truly ahead of the curve in phasing out these rings 10 years ago, with the last plastic rings removed from Lion-owned products over three years ago. This is something we are very proud of.”

The partnership with will see Lion add the REDcycle logo to its soft plastic packaging over the next 18 months.

Mr Irvine said Lion is also evaluating alternative packaging technologies to further reduce the company’s reliance on single-use plastics.

“We are also working with industry partners, such as the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, to develop broader industry solutions that minimise the impact of our packaging and promote the circular economy to minimise waste in the environment,” Mr Irvine said.

“While we work our way through these big supply chain changes, actively supporting programs such as REDcycle helps raise awareness and encourages our consumers to ramp up their recycling efforts.”

Australia’s largest LoraWan smart waste network launched

The City of Canada Bay and Smart Sensor Technologies have launched Australia’s largest Long Range Wide Area Network (LoraWan) enabled smart waste network.

The pilot program will see 95 smart sensors installed in Sydney’s Inner West.

City of Canada Bay Mayor Angelo Tsirekas said the sensors will provide council with critical operations data, such as when a bin is overflowing.

“We’re committed to being at the cutting edge when it comes to smart city technologies like our bin-sensor pilot program,” Mr Tsirekas said.

“With our population only continuing to grow, the program will enable us to respond to increased demand and use our resources wisely, deploying bins and collection staff when and where they are needed most.”

Real-time data from the bin-sensors will be delivered via the City of Canada Bay’s new LoraWan, managed by internet of things integrator Meshed.

Smart Sensor Technologies Managing Director Leon Hayes said the wireless network enables information to be shared across long distances with minimal energy use, and is free for community use as part of the City of Canada Bay’s Smart City Plan.

“We’ve been working with the City of Canada Bay to implement smart city technologies since 2015, starting with our Bigbelly Solar Compactors and now our world first LoRaWAN ultrasonic and laser sensors,” Mr Hayes said.

“We look forward to our continued partnership with the City of Canada Bay and assisting them in maintaining an optimised, smart waste management system for many years to come.”

The pilot program will be evaluated after 12 months, with a view to installing further bin sensors throughout the city.

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ACT appoints new landfill gas manager

Green energy supplier LGI Limited will deliver gas infrastructure services to all ACT Government landfill sites, under a new 15 year contract with the state government.

Recycling and Waste Reduction Minister Chris Steel said the contract would see an estimated 34,900 megawatt hours captured each year, enough to power 5370 homes.

LGI Limited will deliver infrastructure upgrades at Mugga Lane landfill, including at least four power generators at Mugga Lane, each with the capacity to produce 1.06 megawatts of energy per hour.

Mr Steel said LGI Limited would also install an enclosed flare at the West Belconnen landfill to manage the safe destruction of gas onsite, as the volumes are not enough to provide a commercially viable quantity for sale.

According to Mr Steel, the ACT Government has been capturing landfill site methane emissions since 1997.

“Methane gas is generated when organic waste in landfill decomposes,” Mr Steel said.

“If properly managed, gas can be extracted and used to generate electricity, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.”

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Waste export bans are one part of the solution

The Prime Minister’s August announcement to ban the export several waste types is a welcomed development. It has the potential to reboot local reprocessing and markets for recovered materials, writes Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council. 

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Construction commences on $7M Veolia transfer station

Construction has commenced on Veolia’s $7 million purpose-built Whyalla Waste and Resources Transfer Station in South Australia.

Green Industries SA awarded the company a $250,000 grant to help develop the community resource recovery and re-use facility.

The sod-turning ceremony, held 25 Sept, was attended by council and community stakeholders including Whyalla City Council’s Mayor Clare McLaughlin and CEO Chris Cowley.

Veolia Group General Manager for South Australia and the Northern Territory Mark Taylor said Veolia was pleased to be delivering a new facility that would provide reliable, ongoing waste management services for the City of Whyalla and its residents.

“The Whyalla Waste and Resources Transfer Station will be operational by late May 2020, and is designed to improve material segregation and landfill diversion by recovering materials more efficiently,” Mr Taylor said.

“Veolia has operated in Whyalla for over 20 years, and looks forward to an exciting future working in partnership with Whyalla City Council and the community.”

Whyalla City Council Mayor Clare McLaughlin said the first day of construction was a significant milestone for Whyalla and an exciting major development for the city.

“Not only is this an environmental win for Whyalla and our region, it’s another major project that signifies we are continuing on the upward economic and city development curve,” Ms McLaughlin said.

“Veolia’s new waste transfer station is going to revolutionise the way we manage waste in Whyalla, with everyone benefiting as it promotes recycling and sensible landfill practices.”

Pictured: Council Acting Manager Environmental Health and Regulatory Services Jodie Perone, Veolia Projects Engineering and Asset Manager Stephen Cook, Veolia Commercial Services Manager Mark Inglis, Whyalla Mayor Clare McLaughlin, Whyalla Councillor Phill Stone, Council CEO Chris Cowley, Pascale Construction Managing Director Richard Zanchetta amd Pascale Site Manager Joe Franze.

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EU signatories commit to using recycled plastic

More than 100 signatories from across the plastics supply chain have signed a declaration that commits to using 10 million tonnes of recycled plastic in European Union manufacturing by 2025.

The declaration falls under the Circular Plastics Alliance, which was launched by the European Commission in December 2018 to promote a sustainable recycled plastics market, via voluntary actions.

The declaration outlines how the alliance will reach the 10 million-tonne target, as set by the European Commission’s 2018 Plastics Strategy.

Strategy action points include improving the design of plastic products to make them more recyclable, and identifying investment gaps and untapped potential for plastic waste collection, sorting and recycling.

Additionally, signatories will work towards building a research and development agenda for circular plastics, and establish a transparent and reliable monitoring systems to track the flow of plastic waste.

Circular Plastics Alliance First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for sustainable development, said he welcomed industry’s commitment to rethinking the way it produces and uses plastic.

“By efficiently recycling plastics, we will clean up the planet and fight climate change, by substituting fossil fuels with plastic waste in the production cycle,” Mr Timmermans said.

Circular Plastics Alliance Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, who is responsible for internal market, industry and entrepreneurship, said there was potential to make European industry a world leader in recycled plastics.

“We should fully seize it to protect the environment, create new jobs in this sector and remain competitive,” Mr Timmermans said.

The declaration will remain open for more signatories to join over time.

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