Fed Govt announces second stimulus package worth $66B

The Federal Government has released the second stage of its plan to cushion the economic impacts of COVID-19, with a total of $189 billion injected into the economy by all arms of government.

According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Federal Government will provide up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium sized businesses and not-for-profits that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000.

“Under the enhanced scheme from the first package, employers will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld (up from 50 per cent), with the maximum payment being increased from $25,000 to $50,000,” he said.

Additionally, the minimum payment is being increased from $2,000 to $10,000, and will be available from 28 April.

By linking the payments to staff wage tax withholdings, Mr Morrison said businesses will be incentivised to hold on to more of their workers.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister highlighted that the payments are tax free, flowing automatically through the Australian Tax Office.

“We want to help businesses keep going as best they can and for as long as they can, or to pause instead of winding up their business. We want to ensure that when this crisis has passed, Australian businesses can bounce back,” Mr Morrison said.

“We know this will be temporary. That’s why all our actions are geared towards building a bridge, keeping more people in work, enhancing the safety net for those that aren’t and keeping businesses alive so they can get to the other side and stand up their workforce as quickly as possible. We know Australia’s more than three million small and medium businesses are the engine room of our economy. When they hurt, we all hurt.”

The measure is expected to benefit an estimated 690,000 businesses that employ over 7.8 million people. Small and medium business entities with aggregated annual turnovers under $50 million are eligible.

An additional payment will also be made from 28 July, with eligible entities receiving a payment equal to the total of all of the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payments received.

“This measure is expected to cost $31.9 billion over the forward estimates period, including the value of the measure announced in the first stimulus package,” Mr Morrison said.

For regulatory protection and financial support, the Federal Government will also establish the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, designed to grant small and medium enterprises (SMEs) access to working capital.

Under the scheme, the government will guarantee 50 per cent of new loans issued by eligible lenders to SMEs.

“The government’s support will enhance lenders’ willingness and ability to provide credit to SMEs, with the scheme able to support $40 billion of lending to SMEs,” Mr Morrison said.

“The scheme will complement the announcement the government has made to cut red-tape to allow SMEs to get access to credit faster. It also complements announcements made by Australian banks to support small businesses with their existing loans.”

According to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the $189 billion economic support package represents the equivalent of 9.7 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product.

“The government is taking unprecedented action to strengthen the safety net available to Australians that are stood down or lose their jobs and increasing support for small businesses that do it tough over the next six months,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“These extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.”

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WMRR outlines COVID-19 clinical waste guidance

The National Biohazard Waste Industry (BWI) committee, a division of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), has developed guidance to assist health care providers managing COVID-19 affected materials.

According to a WMRR statement, in the wake of the World Health Organisation’s pandemic declaration, stakeholders are considering additional measures to ensure the appropriate management of waste from patients, confirmed or suspected, to be infected with COVID-19.

“Under AS 3816:2018 Management of Clinical and Related Wastes, clinical waste is defined as any waste that has the potential to cause injury, infection, or offence, arising but not limited to medical, dental, podiatry, health care services and so forth,” the statement reads.

“At this time, we are not aware of any evidence that direct, unprotected human contact during the handling of healthcare waste has resulted in the transmission of COVID-19, nor is COVID-19 regarded as a Category A infectious disease.”

BWI understands that the World Health Organisation, and some Australian health officials, have declared that clinical waste from infected patients should be treated as normal clinical waste, “this however, may not be a uniform stance.”

“In light of the dynamic and evolving nature of the COVID-19 situation, along with the growing body of knowledge including the significant range of unknown characteristics, such as survival on surfaces, BWI feels it is prudent to suggest the adoption of additional measures,” the statement reads.

As governments evaluate the transmissibility and severity of COVID-19, BWI is aiming to offer a degree of precaution and assistance to staff who will be responsible for the management of higher than normal, and potentially more hazardous, clinical waste volumes.

“Additionally, it is hoped that these measures will also afford a greater level of protection to healthcare facility staff and waste handlers, both within and external to the facility, responsible for the management of clinical waste,” the statement reads.

Additional measures include: 

Health care workers are being urged to implement “double bagging” of waste from COVID-19 confirmed patients. According to the statement, this can be achieved by lining all clinical waste mobile garbage bins (MGBs) with clinical waste bin liners.

“By placing infected waste into a primary clinical waste bag and tying this bag up prior to disposal in the lined MGB – the bag lining the MGB must also be tied up – a significant increase in protection can be achieved,” the statement reads.

“For bins or containers that have been used in isolation rooms or in close proximity to patients confirmed as infected with COVID-19, the exterior surface should be wiped clean in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines prior to collection.”

Discreet notification and identification of any bins carrying infected waste is also suggested, as clearly agreed upon with waste management providers.

“Understandably, there may be a reluctance to overtly label bins containing COVID-19 waste, therefore this could be as simple as the addition of a simple mark or sticker as clearly agreed and documented between the facility and your waste management provider,” the statement reads.

BWI recommends these measures be adopted alongside personal protective equipment and other relevant practices.

“BWI would like to reiterate the importance of all facilities continuing to work and engage with their waste management providers on the recommended additional measures,” the statement reads.

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FIAL releases roadmap to halve food waste by 2030

Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) has released its Roadmap for Reducing Australia’s Food Waste by Half by 2030, as required under the 2017 National Food Waste Strategy.

Each year, over seven million tonnes of food is wasted in Australia, costing the economy an estimated $20 billion, according to the roadmap.

The National Food Waste Strategy seeks to half this tonnage by 2030, with FIAL engaged by the Federal Government to work with stakeholders across the food value chain to identify appropriate actions.

According to FIAL Chair Michele Allan, the roadmap provides a clear path forward, documenting the steps and initiatives required to tackle Australia’s food waste.

“While work is already underway in many sectors, there are opportunities to improve coordination through robust governance, reporting against a balanced scorecard and better understanding the overall feasibility of achieving a 50 per cent reduction by 2030,” Dr Allan said.

Strategies include a Voluntary Commitment Program, which the roadmap highlights as a “powerful vehicle for reducing food waste across the supply chain.”

“An effective Voluntary Commitment Program that has been implemented internationally has been found to reduce food waste by up to 28 per cent. FIAL is currently developing a Voluntary Commitment Program for Australia,” Dr Allan said.

The program will look at ways to find innovative uses for waste and surplus food, embed new criteria into design, buying and sourcing and change commercial supply practices.

Further actions include scaling-up food rescue and relief, launching an ongoing national behaviour change program and mainstreaming Fight Food Waste CRC research findings.

Additionally, a number of targeted sector action plans have been drafted, with more scheduled in 2020.

“These plans take a ‘whole-of-sector’ systems perspective to identify opportunities and target interventions that maximise food recovery, reduce waste and create multiple benefits,” Dr Allan said.

“Everyone has a role to play in reducing food waste and now is the time to take action. We hope you will join us on the path to halving food waste by 2030.”

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Expanding kerbside in Macedon

Shane Walden, Macedon Ranges Shire Council Director of assets and operations, explains the process that led to council’s 2020 introduction of kerbside glass and organics collections.

Q. What are some of the challenges surrounding collection and recycling in the Macedon Ranges?

A. Macedon Ranges Shire Council has experienced the same challenges faced by many Victorian councils during the current recycling crisis. The reduced capacity for processing of commingled recycling and fluctuating commodities markets have made it difficult to find a long-term, sustainable solution for managing the shire’s kerbside recycling material. Community sentiment towards recycling has been low, which has made it particularly challenging to keep bin contamination down, particularly in the recycling stream. It is more important than ever to continue to educate the community and reinforce the message that, with their help, we can continue to recycle.

Q. How is council going to manage the expansion of its kerbside organics collection to include food organics?

A. Council will be implementing the FOGO service in several stages. The first stage involves expanding the existing garden waste service to include food organics. The service will start in February 2020, and cover the major townships of Gisborne, Kyneton, Romsey, Riddells Creek, Macedon, Woodend and Lancefield.

In January 2020, FOGO bins, kitchen caddies, compostable liners and information packs were delivered to all shire residents receiving the service. The second stage will see the remaining townships of Malmsbury, Tylden, Monegeeta, Bullengarook and Darraweit Guim receive the FOGO service in 2021. The third stage will see the introduction the service to the remaining areas of the shire by 2025.

Q. How will food organics collection improve resource recovery in the shire?

A. Audits of residents’ kerbside bins were conducted and found that almost one third of the content of the general waste bins was food waste. This highlighted a significant improvement opportunity and helped to build a strong case for a full food organics collection service. The new FOGO service will divert more than 2300 tonnes of food waste and 3000 tonnes of garden waste from landfill. Food and garden waste will be composted for use in agriculture and local parks and gardens.

Q. Council is also introducing a separate, glass-only bin collection service: why did you choose to endorse this?

A. Following the 2018 recycling crisis, council began to investigate possible solutions to improve the value and ongoing stability of its commingled recycling service. A major opportunity highlighted by council was the potential separation of glass from the commingled recycling.

The closure of SKM’s recycling facilities in 2019 put further pressure on council to take action to ensure the long-term sustainability of its recycling service. Discussions were held with council’s collection contractor Four Seasons Waste and recycling company Australian Paper Recovery (APR), which operates a glassless materials recovery facility in Truganina, Melbourne. APR’s materials recovery process separates commingled recycling into separate materials streams for reprocessing locally in Victoria; however, they do not accept glass.

A glass collection trial was also undertaken in the town of Lancefield between August 2019 and January 2020 to assess the viability of a separate, glass-only collection service. Council staff audited both the recycling and glass-only material at regular intervals throughout the trial to assess the uptake of the glass-only bin and to track the progress of the trial. The audit results showed that the provision of a kerbside glass service in Lancefield saw 98.8 per cent of glass diverted from the commingled recycling bin into the glass-only bin. Consequently, the glass content of the commingled recycling bins reduced from more than 30 per cent down to approximately one per cent by weight over the six-month trial. Council conducted an options analysis and impact assessment informed by the successful findings from the trial and market capability analysis, and the decision was confirmed to introduce a shire-wide glass-only collection service.

Q. How will glass kerbside collections be rolled out?

A. Glass-only bins (purple lid) were delivered to shire residents in January 2020, concurrently with FOGO bin deliveries. There will be a collection every four weeks from February 2020.

A continued communication and education campaign has been a key part of the rollout, to ensure the community is aware of the service changes and understands the reasons for the changes. The reaction of the community to the glass-only and FOGO services has been largely positive, with many residents pleased that council is taking positive steps to address the recycling issues we are currently facing.

This article was published in the March edition of Waste Management Review. 

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NWRIC calls for levy relief to support waste sector

The National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on state governments to provide waste and landfill levy relief to the sector.

According to NWRIC CEO Rose Read, levy relief is an obvious and necessary measure that can be implemented quickly.

“Specifically, we are asking state governments to waiver landfill levy doubtful debts, put on hold all planned levy increases for at least six months and where appropriate consider waiving current waste and landfill levies for the next three months,” she said.

“We are also asking state and local governments to be more flexible on certain facility license conditions so that social distancing to protect staff can be maintained, and collection time curfews be lifted so that bins can continue to be collected.”

Ms Read said waste and recycling companies are doing everything possible to ensure bins continue to be collected and waste and recycling safely processed during these extreme times.

“With the shutdown of some non-essential services over the next 24 hours Australia-wide, the waste and recycling industry will increase efforts to ensure it can maintain an essential service to the community,” she said.

According to Ms Read, NWRIC members and state affiliates have been actively adopting measures over the past few weeks to protect their staff and maintain services to local communities, businesses and the health sector.

Ms Read recognised that like all businesses, the waste and recycling sector was experiencing disruption.

“The NWRIC acknowledges the substantial support the Commonwealth and State governments have announced so far for businesses,” she said.

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Out and about with Costa: Penrith City Council

International Compost Awareness Week is coming up in the first week of May and Costa is excited, writes Mia Ecob, Resource Recovery Education Officer at Penrith City Council. 

Penrith City Council had the privilege of giving Costa and his team from Gardening Australia a sneak peek into what makes Penrith a recognised leader in sustainable waste management.

For over 10 years, Penrith City Council has diverted a significant amount of organic material from being sent to landfill, resulting in great environmental benefits and financial savings. In ensuring all residents are sorting their waste correctly, Penrith City Council’s Resource Recovery Field Team engages with residents daily to educate on the importance of sorting waste.

Costa, Penrith’s Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy Ambassador, is very enthusiastic about the positive sustainability and environmental behaviours Penrith has instilled into its management of waste over the years. One of these practices includes council’s implementation the food and garden organics (FOGO) service back in 2009. 

As Costa loves composting, he wanted to see how it can be done on a large scale. Two members from Penrith City Council’s Resource Recovery Field Team, Kate Bradshaw and Drew Turner, detailed to Costa how this could be achieved, while also educating residents on how to minimise the amount of contamination found within the organics bin. The benefits of having our field officers out and about in the community demonstrates the friendly and helpful education approach to waste.

Having a holistic approach to getting everyone across the community involved in composting through the FOGO bin service enables positive results to be achieved. Simple things such as placing food waste into the council provided green compostable bags and removing food waste from packaging are just some of the ways to improve sorting behaviours.

The commitment Penrith’s Waste and Resource Recovery Department has in achieving 70 per cent diversion of waste from landfill by 2021 is well on track. By continuing to focus on educating and supporting the community with their sorting habits, highlights the benefits of providing long-term social, economic and environmental value in moving towards a circular economy of reducing waste.

Catch Penrith City Council’s Resource Recovery Field Team talking all things waste with Costa on ABC’s Gardening Australia 1 May. 

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What can businesses learn from Recycling Victoria?

With landfill down by 80 per cent – what can businesses learn from the Victorian Government’s Recycling Victoria Strategy? Melanie Barstow of Source Separation Systems explains. 

The Victorian Government has introduced a new waste and recycling program, aiming to reduce their waste to landfill by 80 per cent over ten years. It’s an ambitious goal compared to those being set by many commercial organisations, so what can we in business learn, and potentially leverage, from their strategy?

There are two key initiatives which underpin Victoria’s new recycling program. Firstly, the introduction of a new purple glass jars and bottles kerbside bin for residents, which will see household waste source separated into four streams: organics (for composting), plastic/metal/paper and glass (both for recycling) and landfill. The second initiative is the future introduction of a container deposit scheme, which at its core, further source separates waste into cleaner streams, albeit with an incentive.

Source separation into single uncontaminated streams is the key to reducing landfill. It transforms mixed ‘waste’ into a single resource, which can be more cost effectively processed, enabling the commercial scale recycling we are striving for. The new purple bin introduced in Victoria ensures that glass bottles and jars can be accepted as a cleaner single stream resource and so more cost effectively recycled into products such as road base.

The key to achieving best practice resource recovery for business often lies in the landfill bin! Waste is obviously site specific, so the content of landfill bins, once key waste streams are removed, provides further opportunities for recovery.

For many organisations looking to move forward from a traditional two stream program, an organics stream will have the greatest impact. The good news is that such organics can be easily ‘recycled’ through composting, just as nature intended.

For organisations with more advanced source separation already in place, single streams such as coffee cups are becoming more prevalent. These single stream units ensure not only can the wax coated cups be recycled through specific technology, but equally importantly, reduce contamination in the recycling stream, which can see entire recycling bins end up in landfill.

Towards the end of the source separation journey, as effective resource recovery increases and landfill volumes drop, often what remains is dry waste with high calorific properties. Innovative organisations, and indeed even full precincts such as Barangaroo, are introducing ‘dry waste’ streams, which coupled with their single recovery streams, actually eliminate landfill. Such dry waste is processed into briquettes, which are then used in power stations as an alternative to fossil fuels.

As new streams are introduced, consistent with all change programs, effective communication is key. Best practice recycling streams, with Australian standard colours, differentiated apertures, text and graphic labels can play a key role in communication.

The future of resource recovery in Australia, leveraging these single source streams, is looking increasingly positive. We at Source Separation Systems look forward to continuing to partner with more businesses to eliminate landfill, with rainbows of resource recovery solutions customised to each location.

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LGNSW calls on state govt to fast-track funding

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) is calling on the state government to fast-track its commitment to fund constructive and future-focused recycling measures in this year’s budget.

LGNSW President Linda Scott said the sector welcomed the government’s long-term proposals to tackle the use of plastics, reduce waste and increase recycling, but increased investment “must start now.”

“The government’s proposed review of the waste levy is great news, but the national waste ban targets designed to reduce waste start on 1 July. There is no time to lose,” she said.

“For two years, councils have been asking for the waste levy (estimated at $800 million this year) to be reinvested for the purposes it is collected.”

According to Ms Scott, this year’s $800 million waste levy should be immediately invested in maintaining and improving kerbside recycling options throughout the state.

“Communities cannot be expected to continue to underwrite the increasing costs associated with our growing waste problems, including increased stockpiles of recyclable waste,” she said.

“The levy needs to be spent on local resource recovery and reprocessing infrastructure projects that can be put in place in this year’s budget to reduce the prospect of stockpiles of rubbish in our streets.”

Ms Scott said a well-funded and coordinated plan that leverages the buying power of all levels of government is a good first step, and long overdue.

“It’s time to rewrite existing regulations and procurement policies, which we know continue to stymy innovation and the development of new recycled products and markets,” she said.

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TSA and Logan City Council trial crumb rubber road

Logan City Council has teamed up with Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) to trial a new eco-friendly road surface.

The surface is a combination of old tyres and reclaimed asphalt, and will be installed on Lagoon Road, Carbrook over the next month.

TSA has committed $150,000 to the trial and additional lab testing, which aims to prove the new surface will be as good as, or better than, standard road sealing.

Logan City Council Road Water Infrastructure Director Daryl Ross said council is always looking at innovative ways to deliver better roads.

“Council wants to build a road network that is suitable for our growing region,” he said.

“This partnership with TSA aims to enhance road quality for users in a cost-effective way.”

According to TSA CEO Lina Goodman, the trial is about creating a recycled road product that saves money, while delivering a safe and reliable product.

“It also has a huge environmental benefit to the community because it is using recycled tyres,” she said.

Crumb rubber is produced by reducing scrap tyres down to their basic materials and removing steel and fibre, along with any other contaminants such as dust, glass or rock. Reclaimed asphalt consists of old, damaged pavement materials milled and crushed into a new mixture.

According to a TSA statement, Australia generated the equivalent of 56 million used car tyres in the last financial year.

“Eighty-nine percent of them were recovered for reuse or processed into tyre derived products. The rest ended up in landfill or were stockpiled,” the statement reads.

“In Queensland, the equivalent of 12.7 million car tyres were generated with a similar recovery rate of 69 per cent. Around 14 per cent of the recovered tyres were locally recycled into crumb rubber and granules.”

The trial will begin in May, with initial results expected in August. Queensland civil infrastructure firm Fulton Hogan will construct the road.

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New CRC initiative seeks 80 per cent reduction in construction waste

Building 4.0 CRC, a collaborative initiative that seeks to reduce waste and emissions from building projects, has received a $28 million Cooperative Research Centre grant from the Federal Government. 

Monash University, Lendlease, The University of Melbourne, Donovan Group, BlueScope, Sumitomo Forestry and CSR, along with 23 other partners, have been successful in securing the funding to establish Building 4.0 CRC – an initiative seeking to transform how buildings are designed and manufactured in Australia.

Announced by Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews, the $28 million grant will leverage a combined $103 million from industry, government and research partners – bringing the combined research budget to $131 million over seven years.

According to a Monash University statement, the Building 4.0 CRC research initiative is focused on using digital solutions, new products and processes to transform Australia’s building industry to a tech-enabled, collaborative future.

“Some of the outcomes this initiative hopes to achieve include: an 80 per cent reduction in construction waste and a 50 per cent reduction in Co2 emissions for more sustainable buildings,” the statement reads.

Building 4.0 CRC Chair and Engineers Australia CEO Bronwyn Evans said the initiative will bring together expertise in the fields of architecture, design, planning, construction, engineering, business, information technology and law to develop industry-wide practices and protocols intended to transform the entire sector.

“It will also leverage the latest technologies, data science and artificial intelligence to enable the application of robotics and digital fabrication to optimise all phases of building delivery – including development, design, production, assembly, operation, maintenance and end-of-life,” she said.

“The Building 4.0 CRC is going to be a really important factor in making sure we have a competitive future and we are addressing those broad sector needs.”

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