Labor responds to recycling market review

A report commissioned by the Environment Department has highlighted the seriousness of Australia’s waste crisis and the inadequacy of government’s response, according to Shadow Assistant Environment Minister Josh Wilson.

“Global recycling market analysis prepared by consulting firm Sustainable Resource Use has warned the Federal Government that Australia may need to increase local recycling processing capability by 400 per cent,” Mr Wilson said.

“This comes at a time when the scale of plastic recycling in Australia is lower now than it was in 2005, and around the country plastic is being stockpiled, which presents a fire risk.”

According to Mr Wilson, the new analysis shows market demand for recycled materials such as paper and cardboard, plastics and glass remains volatile.

“This only highlights the need for serious action to dramatically increase Australia’s reprocessing capacity and the corresponding demand for such products,” he said.

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NWRIC calls for paper and cardboard export ban exemption

The National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on the Council of Australia Governments (COAG) to ensure clean, high grade paper and cardboard are exempt from waste export bans.

According to NWRIC CEO Rose Read, while industry supports banning waste glass, whole baled tyres, mixed plastic and mixed paper exports, the NWRIC does not support banning clean paper and cardboard exports.

“Australia currently exports close to 1.1 million tonnes of clean, high grade paper and cardboard every year, approximately one third of the material we use. This export market is estimated to be worth more than $230 million,” Ms Read said.

“Without the capacity to export clean paper and cardboard, recycling services could fail, including household kerbside collections.”

Ms Read added that Australia does not currently have the capacity to locally remanufacture all the paper and cardboard it generates.

“Australia’s domestic paper mills that process recycled paper are in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. These mills do not currently have sufficient capacity to take all of the recycled paper and cardboard generated on the east coast. Let alone that generated in SA, NT and WA, who rely on overseas markets,” she said.

“Recycled paper is only purchased by a small number of reprocessors, limiting competition.”

The NWRIC is inviting COAG to work with the waste and resource recovery industry to develop national scrap specifications for metals, plastics, paper, cardboard, e-waste and other recycled materials.

“These would give the waste management and recycling sector clarity and certainty on what can be exported, and manufacturers confidence in the recovered material being supplied,” Ms Read said.

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VIC EPA seeks new chairperson

The Victorian EPA is seeking a new chairperson after Cheryl Batagol announced she would not pursue a term extension in June.

Environment Minister Lily D’ambrosio is now seeking expression of interest for chairperson and EPA Governing Board appointments.

These appointments are expected to commence from 1 July 2020 for a term not exceeding five years, as determined by the minister.

Ms Batagol said it had been a pleasure and privilege to serve as EPA chairperson for more than 10 years.

“I have been privileged to lead the board through a significant period of transition, and I have every confidence EPA is well positioned to deliver on the Victorian Government’s response to the EPA Inquiry and continue on a path of continuous improvement,” Ms Batagol said.

“EPA will be entering an exciting new era with the commencement of Victoria’s new, world-leading environment laws on 1 July, and it is fitting a new chairperson oversee the next chapter.”

Ms Batagol thanked EPA Cheif Executive Cathy Wilkinson and the executive team for their commitment to service.

“Being the inaugural chairperson of EPA’s statutory Governing Board, which was established on 1 July 2018, has been an absolute honour – and I would like to thank my esteemed colleagues for their support and commitment to EPA and its once-in-a-generation reforms,” Ms Batagol said.

“Prior to this, I was a standalone chair and then chairperson of EPA’s Interim Advisory Board. Having a full statutory board has brought stronger governance and greater diversity, which we are now seeing the benefits of.”

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Minute material recovery: Turmec

Waste Management Review speaks with Trevor Smart, Turmec UK Managing Director, about the recovery potential of miniature material recovery facilities.

When the Federal Government launched an inquiry into Australia’s waste management and recycling industries in October, Committee Chair Barnaby Joyce said the committee would examine international best practice.

The inquiry will consider opportunities to better manage domestic waste, as well as current impediments to innovation.

It’s a welcome move for Trevor Smart, Turmec UK Managing Director, who says the Australian waste industry could learn a lot from the UK’s approach to resource recovery – notably the uptake of mini material recovery facilities (MRF). He says that a series of events on his recent trip to Australia has him thinking about potential solutions to the country’s current recycling challenges.

Flying from the UK to attend Waste Expo Australia in 2019, Trevor arrived in Melbourne at a time of industry flux. The Council of Australian Government’s waste export ban had just been announced, Victorian councils were dealing with the collapse of SKM Recycling and container deposit scheme discussions were challenging the efficacy of kerbside collection.

Of most interest to Trevor, however, was how the amalgamation of these issues highlighted an opportunity to reshape Australia’s resource recovery and logistics network.

“In Melbourne I met a councillor from a small rural community in Victoria. He explained that the demise of SKM had placed a lot of local authorities under financial and operational pressure,” Trevor says.

“In addition to the loss of this facility, the fact that the council’s recyclates had to travel over 400 kilometres to an MRF meant there were few alternatives.”

This lack of infrastructure capacity, parried with low recyclate tonnages, creates a challenging situation for smaller councils, Trevor says.

Following SKM’s collapse, many rural councils were forced to transport materials further afield, or in some cases, simply revert to landfill.

Trevor adds that the collapse of SKM is a story that’s played out globally numerous times, meaning international approaches can serve as a case study.

Over the course of Waste Expo Australia, Trevor says he had multiple conversations about the applicability of greater kerbside separation in Australia. He adds that the idea was routinely challenged, with many suggesting the economic cost would outweigh recovery benefits.

“We saw the same reaction in the UK when kerbside sorting was introduced. But from our experience, kerbside sorting was a successful move that greatly improved recycling rates and recyclate quality,” he says.

While Trevor admits kerbside separation can be challenging in high-density urban areas, he says suburban and rural implementation is simple.

Referencing urban planner David Gordon’s 2016 analysis of Australian cities, Trevor says 86 per cent of the population live in suburban or exurban neighbourhoods.

“Only 14 per cent of Australians are living in high-density housing, suggesting greater kerbside separation would be well suited to this country. For it to work, however, the system needs to be supported by parallel investment in mini MRF’s.”

Under Trevor’s plan, households separate containers, paper, cardboard and glass. From there, the material is collected by multi-compartment vehicles – eliminating many of the issues associated with kerbside contamination.

“Materials are then delivered to a mini MRF for further sorting, for instance, separating ferrous and aluminium containers from plastic, before baling and onward sale or further processing.”

Trevor adds that paper and cardboard would be baled and stored, ready as a saleable product.

“Glass would also be stored in the yard area for bulk transportation to a reprocessor,” he says.

“This system would not only suit low tonnage, but also give value to the recyclates, whereby semi-sorted clean materials can go directly to a reprocessor or exported for further sorting.”

Trevor says the concept of a mini MRF is simple, with widescale implementation potential across Australia.

He adds that Turmec’s comprehensive engineered recycling solutions cater for a wide range of tonnages and material applications.

“We integrate equipment from market leading suppliers in waste separation technology to produce a high-quality separation process with 99 per cent recovery rates,” he adds.

Trevor says the cost effectiveness of mini MRFs, paired with increased recyclate quality and saleability, has been proved in many UK local authorities.

A 2016 study commissioned by the Welsh Government, for instance, shows switching to source-separated recycling collections could save Welsh councils over one million euros a year.

“Other benefits such as employment, increased householder participation and a reduction of residual waste are also evident in UK studies,” he says.

“While the initial capital expenditure for the vehicles, containers and mini MRFs is going to be higher than refuse collection and transfer vehicles, when compared to MRF gate fees, transportation cost and material quality, the advantages are clear.”

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Bearing the load for mobile recycling equipment

While wheel loaders and excavators are traditionally associated with mining and civil construction industries, such mobile equipment is a central component of any high capacity recycling plant.

Given the often harsh and variable conditions of recycling facilities, equipment in the resource recovery space has a unique set of application requirements.

A wheel loader sorting irregular, heavy and abrasive waste at a  demolition and building materials recycling facility requires a sturdy external structure and durable drivetrain While an excavator handling damp material in the humid confines of a dusty composting facility needs to be capable of withstanding the effects of high temperature and contaminant laden environments.

Ross Lee, CBC Technical Manager Strategic Partnerships- Bearings, says that in addition to placing strain on external structure, recycling facility conditions can stress the internal function of mobile equipment. He adds that this include engines, hydraulic pumps and motors, transmissions, and the bearings associated with these modules.

To counteract harsh conditions and associated maintenance costs, Ross says operators can invest in direct equivalent specification bearings. He adds that sustainable and proactive maintenance is critical to ensuring the economic viability of resource recovery operations.

“High quality bearings are necessary in all recycling facility sectors. At a metal recycling facility for instance, operators are likely to run material handling equipment equipped with grabs or magnets that pick-up steel and dump it into shredders,” Ross says.

“Like the Shredder, the key equipment feeding it requires anti-friction bearings to perform to their design capabilities, and beyond in some cases.”

When dealing with mobile equipment, Ross says facility operators have two options.

“Operators can either lease or purchase the machines and rely on the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to provide the preventative maintenance servicing and parts.” he explains.

“Or, if equipment is  purchased  outright, beyond warranty period they may elect to manage their own maintenance and spare parts process.”

In the latter case, Ross says operators can engage organisations such as CBC for bearing supply. He adds that once engaged, CBC works via a three-step process: identification, cataloguing and  agreed delivery.

“We accurately identify the bearing’s OEM material number, catalogue the information and determine what the deliveries are,  whether the bearing stock is overseas or local, and if applicable, what the initial  production lead time is,” he says.

In the case of long-term MRO customers, Ross says CBC will have all necessary information catalogued, priced and contracted to facilitate process efficiency. With new clients, a CBC technical representative will conduct a site visit and bearing needs assessment.

“While of course some operators look to budget parts or alternatives, we think it’s important to work with direct equivalent specifications to ensure machine operations are not  compromised,” he says.

“The name of the game for us is maintaining the reliability and durability of all mobile equipment.”

Ross adds that  equipment is often equipped with require non-standard bearings to satisfy the demands of application and reliability that differ  from standard l execution catalogue ball or roller bearings.

“We won’t always have the required bearings sitting on a shelf, but given our large suite of offerings and significant manufacturing supplier relationships, it’s unlikely that we won’t be able to satisfy the client’s needs” he says.

One supplier with which CBC has a long-term strategic partnership is NTN, a global bearing manufacturer of Japan origin that has been in operation since 1918.

According to Ross, NTN is one of the world’s leading bearing manufacturers, with OEM customers that include Caterpillar, Komatsu, John Deere, Hitachi and Kawasaki.

For example, with excavators, NTN produce bearings for splitter gearboxes, hydraulic pumps, slewing transmissions, travel transmissions and tumblers.

For wheel loaders, NTN manufacture tapered roller bearings, deep groove ball bearings, cylindrical roller bearings and needle roller bearings.

Ross says NTN’s comprehensive product lines are engineered to serve any industry where lower friction coefficients and higher energy efficiency are required.

Moreover, where operators determine a bearing is not achieving the required service interval before failure, NTN have developed unique bearing material technologies that can extend bearing fatigue life, avoiding the need to increase bearing envelope size and related machine modifications.

He adds that when dealing with high-value equipment such as wheel loaders and excavators, operators can’t take risks that compromise their componentry.

“We have significant application and catalogue knowledge and are able to positively identify where a particular bearing specification applies,” he says.

“Working together, NTN and CBC are fully equipped to provide value added bearing solutions to suit the often harsh conditions of recycling plants and waste transfer stations.”

For more articles like this go to: www.lets-roll.com.au

                               

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Research council asks if technology can address waste ‘crisis’

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) is calling on waste and resource recovery stakeholders to share their thoughts on how technology can best address Australia’s waste ‘crisis.’

According to ATSE Executive Policy Director Matt Wenham, the academy has launched a project to investigate the readiness of the waste and resource recovery sector to adapt, adopt or develop technologies that will enable it to address the challenges and opportunities of the next decade.

“Fires at rubbish stockpiles, the collapse of a major recycling company, shrinking export markets, and public concern over plastic litter’s effects on wildlife are all contributing to a growing sense of urgency around how to tackle rubbish problems,” he said.

Mr Wenham said businesses in the sector are being asked to give their opinions and ideas through an online survey.

“Technology has already transformed recycling in Australia. For example, glass bottles were once sorted by hand. Then from 2014, optical sorting facilities started sorting glass automatically using light to identify the glass type and colour,” he said.

“This investigation is part of a wider three-year research project funded by the Australian Research Council, examining the technology readiness of different industry sectors. The report generated following the consultation will provide a blueprint for waste management planning to 2030.”

ATSE has identified four technology-based solutions that could help the sector make the most of these opportunities over the next decade:

— Improved product stewardship, where the consumer, manufacturers and the waste sector work together to reduce waste. This might involve manufacturers extending the useful life of their products with platforms that enable hiring, sharing or second-hand sales.

— Design for disassembly, which makes products easier to repair, repurpose, and recycle.

— Smart waste management systems, which use advanced technologies to sort and process materials, or technologies that make it easier for consumers to play their part, such as “pay as you throw” automated levies.

— Advanced resource recovery solutions that use technologies to recover energy to produce electricity, heat, gas and fuels from waste.

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WMRR challenges export ban timeline

In a recently released statement, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) argues that export ban intentions will not be met under current proposed timelines.

“Developing necessary infrastructure alone will take years – and if this lack of emphasis on, and intervention in, the rest of the supply chain continues, the concern is that the bans will very likely result in perverse outcomes, including increasing volumes of materials sent to landfill,” the statement reads.

According to the statement, while the association recognises the Federal Government is working hard to understand the reality of the Australian market ahead of the ban, it queries the purpose of “yet another report” that does not offer new economic analysis.

“While WMRR agrees with some of the observations made in the recently released Recycling market situation summary review, these are neither new nor surprising, and have been widely advocated by WMRR and industry over the years,” the statement reads.

“Also, while the association acknowledges the intent behind the research, it is important that we move beyond consultants reviewing the work of other consultants, and instead talk with those at the coalface – the operators of the waste and resource recovery industry who manage these materials daily and directly, and will directly bear the impact (cost and market access) of the ban.”

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said a lack of emphasis on product design by manufacturers in the lead up to the ban was disappointing.

“These are major barriers to the effective operating of the waste export bans and overall success of any circular economy. Urgent government action is required not just to ban, but to develop robust policy, regulation and funding frameworks that address these market failures and create demand for recycled materials in Australia,” Ms Sloan said.

“We need real funded solutions that close the loop.”

According to Ms Sloan, solutions include interventions by way of national standards for design and specifications, incentives, taxation reform, mandatory extended producer responsibility schemes and enforceable targets including the use of recycled material.

“Importantly, the Federal Government needs to take the lead by committing to procurement of recycled material now. Without these levers, there will continue to be a lack of market demand, which begs the question, where do you think materials will end up,” she said.

Ms Sloan added that now is not the time to start adding low value material such as soft plastics to yellow recycling bins.

“Rather, we need to standardise nationally what can go in the yellow bin, and if producers wish to produce packaging outside of this standard and accepted suite, they need to meet the costs of collecting and recycling those materials,” Ms Sloan said.

“That said, now is absolutely the time to have an open conversation about who should be funding these systems, as we cannot continue to expect councils and householders to continue to go it alone; those who produce these materials must be required to contribute as they already do overseas.”

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The largest collection network: MobileMuster

Spyro Kalos, MobileMuster General Manager, speaks with Waste Management Review about the product stewardship scheme’s 21st anniversary and shifting approaches to sustainability.

While Australians are early adopters of technology, the length of mobile phone ownership remains relatively stable, with half the population using their mobile phone for two or more years, according to MobileMuster research.

Reuse and repair rates are also rising, as the circular economy concept continues to take root.

Aside from shifting supply chains, one of the most important circular economy outcomes is changing the public’s attitudes when it comes to reuse, repair and recycling. People are realising that an out-of-date phone doesn’t need to become waste. It can be reused through sale or passed on to family and friends.

Spyro Kalos, MobileMuster General Manager, says to support the growing reuse and repair market, MobileMuster has developed education resources and partnered with several leading commercial reuse programs.

“Traditionally, refurbished devices were shipped to developing markets overseas, but there is a growing demand for refurbished devices locally,” he says.

“When a device has no commercial resale value however, consumers are encouraged to recycle them with MobileMuster.”

Spyro says MobileMuster’s expansion into reuse and repair education is typical for the program, which since 1998, has continued to adapt and grow in line with advancing technology and consumer expectations.

Celebrating its 21st birthday earlier this year, Spyro says MobileMuster began as a standard take-back program.

“Since it began, MobileMuster has collected over 1500 tonnes of mobile phone components, and now operates the most extensive drop off network of any stewardship program in the country,” he says.

At an anniversary event at Sydney’s The Mint in early November, Spyro highlighted the importance of collaboration and building strong relationships with collection network stakeholders.

“Our collection partners are critical to the success of the program. They are motivated and actively engage in supporting our work, including raising awareness to get more people recycling,” he says.

“We have also seen a significant growth in the number of repair stores joining the program, with over 220 stores now participating as a collection point,” he says.

The event was attended by Telstra Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs and Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association Chair Jane van Beelen and Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister Trevor Evans. Spyro says the event highlights how far the scheme has grown.

MobileMuster collected and recycled 84.1 tonnes of mobile phone components in 2019, including 1.2 million handsets and batteries. Spyro adds that one in three Australians have recycled a mobile phone since the program began.

“The success of our scheme relies on raising awareness through promotions, and addressing barriers to recycling through education,”
he says.

“We are committed to continuing to invest in the next generation of mobile phone users, educating them about the impact of their mobiles and how to act for a sustainable future.”

In addition to behavioural and awareness changes, Spyro says MobileMuster is committed to a high recovery rate through its recycling process, and notes that the design of mobiles phones has changed over the programs 21 years

“The material make-up of mobiles is always changing. Manufacturers are using more glass and metals than ever before – material that is highly recyclable and also in demand,”
he says.

With public scrutiny increasingly focused on the recycling industry, Spyro says MobileMuster is committed to total process transparency.

“The program only uses a single recycling partner, which helps us understand their end to end operations. We also audit their recycling processes yearly,” he says.

“Additionally, our recycling partner has experience working under Basel Convention rules, along with the importing and exporting of hazardous waste.”

Looking to the future, Spyro says MobileMuster will work closely with its members, stakeholders and the government to ensure the program’s continued success.

“Over the past five years, collections have remained high with MobileMuster meeting its targets and key performance indicators under the Product Stewardship Act’s voluntary accreditation,” he says.

“That said, there is always room for improvement. We need more consumers participating because, without them, we have a fundamental flaw in the circular economy concept.”

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Registrations open for AORA Annual Conference

The Australian Organics Recycling Association’s (AORA) annual conference is open for attendee registration.

This year’s conference, held 1 to 3 April at the Crowne Plaza in the Hunter Valley, NSW, will feature a line up of national and international organics experts.

Each plenary session will focus on one aspect of the organics industry, seeking out differing views and options for the future.

AORA National Chair Peter Wadewitz said the conference will be a prime opportunity to network with industry leaders and gain insights into the latest opportunities in the organics recycling industry.

“The AORA Conference is a forum for education, discussion and networking related to organics recycling. It is also an opportunity to celebrate outstanding achievements in the industry,” Mr Wadewitz said.

“I look forward to catching up with many friends and colleagues, and hearing the best ideas for our industry from across Australia and around the world.”

The event will feature keynote presentations from Teaming series author Jeff Lowenfels and Aurel Lübke of Compost Systems Austria.

For more information click here.

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Are you going to Ballarat?

Ahead of the Australian Waste to Energy Forum, Barry Sullivan, Committee Chair, discusses the developing national sector.

A waste-to-energy (WtE) facility in Creswick, Victoria is exploring how to inject clear, filtered green gas into the state’s gas network. Diverting 2000 tonnes of organic waste via bio-digestion each year, the facility will serve as a case study, with replication potential highlighted by the state government.

With news of green gas and a number of high-profile WtE projects, public WtE perceptions appear to be shifting. Images of smoke and burning plastics have been replaced by productive conversations about landfill diversion and the future of renewable energy.

It’s welcome news for the team at the Australian Waste to Energy Forum, which returns to the Mercure in Ballarat this year from 18-20 February.

In its fifth consecutive year, the forum aims to provide a platform for all interested parties to discuss developments in Australia’s growing WtE sector. This year’s theme, “On the road to recovery”, has been selected to address two key areas: the application of waste hierarchy fundamentals, and changing perceptions about WtE facilities and their role within an integrated waste management strategy.

According to Barry Sullivan, Forum Chair, one of the biggest WtE challenges is lack of access to information necessary to make informed and considered investment decisions.

“We are finding there is a lot of misinformation in the public arena that inhibits project development,” Barry says.

“The issue with going to a technology vendor without basic knowledge is they will often say, don’t worry, we can make this work. In other words, when you sell hammers, everything looks like a nail.”

He adds that before looking to technologies, people need to understand their waste stream, moisture levels, quantity and calorific value, as well as the type of offtakes they hope to produce.

“The committee, and conference host, the Australian Industrial Ecology Network, intend to foster that understanding with our event,” Barry explains.

The two-and-a-half-day conference will feature a range of informative thought leader driven discussions.

“It has always been a priority of the committee to seek out presentations that will address key themes through the program, instead of just grouping abstracts into sessions,” Barry says.

“The committee has closely monitored WtE projects and changing technology over the past seven years, and we want to highlight those developments to our audience.”

Nurturing community engagement and education is also the driver behind the committee’s decision to run with a single stream.

“As WtE is still in early phases, many don’t know if they need thermal or non-thermal solutions for example, so we decided to cover all WtE elements in the one stream,” he says.

“You don’t know what you don’t know, so it makes sense for all delegates to attend each presentation.”

The program features a range of range of speakers including Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Blue Environment Director Bill Grant and a keynote from Veolia Kwinana Project Director Toby Terlet.

Toby’s presentation, Energy Recovery Facilities: What’s not written on the tin, will detail challenges faced by a WtE facility in Tyseley, UK, including major upgrade works at the same time as industrial action, heavy snow and a declining national public sector budget. This presentation will discuss how Veolia worked proactively through the challenges with City of Birmingham to further cement the successful long-standing partnership and resulting in a five-year contract extension.

To develop a thriving national industry, Barry says it’s important to not only showcase success, but share challenges openly.

“Last year we had a technology company present on their biggest failure, which provided a valuable lesson for everyone in the room,”
he says.

Other discussion topics include WtE in a circular economy, anaerobic digestion, licence to operate, current project updates, project development considerations and future opportunities and developments.

“We are hosting a session where local governments can talk about future plans. It won’t feature cities with official requests for a proposal in place, but rather those that want the WtE community to know they are thinking about it,” Barry says.

Another will be how to develop technologies that provide return on investment, in spite of small tonnages.

“While WtE in Australia is certainly advancing, progress has been slow, as government agencies tend to rely on standards from Europe and North America,” Barry says.

“But Australia is a different animal with different requirements. We simply don’t have the tonnages other countries do and it’s important to develop technology around that.”

According to Barry, hosting the forum in Ballarat creates a sense of occasion.

“Not only is Ballarat accessible, with trains running every hour from Melbourne, but having a group of likeminded individuals converge on one place creates a real sense of community, and with everyone in town, the evenings are known for networking,” he says.

“We’ve now gained quite a reputation – people aren’t asking ‘are you going to the WtE forum?’ They’re asking, ‘are you going to Ballarat?’

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