What happened to MWOO?

One year on from the NSW EPA’s ban on mixed waste organic material, Waste Management Review speaks with key industry stakeholders about resource recovery exemptions.

When the NSW EPA banned the restricted use of mixed waste organic material (MWOO) in October 2018, industry reaction was swift.

The ban’s 24-hour notice period was deemed particularly controversial, with council planning and tender processes instantly altered.

The EPA’s apparent lack of transparency was also criticised, with claims industry had little access to the EPA’s internal research, or knowledge of the decision-making process.

While a Technical Advisory Committee Report was prepared in April 2018, it was withheld from the public for five months. Then Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said withholding the report illustrated poor judgement on the EPA’s behalf.

The report’s eventual release did little to alleviate industry’s concerns. Speaking with Waste Management Review in October, an industry stakeholder, who wished to remain anonymous, said the report lacks reference to data that supports its baseline scientific assertions.

“While the report makes reference to multiple studies, those studies aren’t cited and industry hasn’t been granted access to the EPA’s research,” the stakeholder said.

Additionally, the stakeholder said industry engagement in the lead up to the decision was poor, with no formal consultation period or submissions process.     

The decision was also deemed controversial due to the NSW Government consistently advising that the state had a shortage of alternative waste treatment facilities (AWT).

In a joint letter to Ms Upton, the Waste Management Association of Australia, the Australian Organics Recycling Industry Association, Waste Contractors Association of NSW, Australian Council of Recycling and the Australian Organics Recycling Association said several existing long-term AWT contracts had been compromised by the decision.

RED BIN REPORT

MWOO, which predominantly consists of household waste organics and has traditionally been used as compost, was banned for use on agricultural land, plantation forests and in mining rehabilitation. It is worth noting the ban excludes land application of compost derived from source separated FOGO.

According to a 2006 NSW Environment and Conservation Department Report, titled Recycled Organics in Mine Site Rehabilitation and authored by Georgina Kelly, MWOO improves soil structure, moisture retention and soil aeration. The report also asserts that MWOO is a rich nutrient source that facilitates rapid micro flora and fauna regrowth.

On agricultural land the material serves a similar function, acting as a soil amendment, topsoil substitute and fertiliser.

Despite two decades of widespread use, the EPA’s Technical Advisory Committee Report argued that MWOO had limited agricultural or soil benefits.

“It is clear the current use of MWOO on broadacre agricultural land, with application rates restricted to 10 tonnes per hectare, could not be classified as beneficial reuse in terms of improved crop production or beneficial effects on soil chemical or physical quality,” the report reads.

“Higher and/or repeat application rates are needed for the material to have any significant effects on crop growth and quality and on soil chemical and physical quality.”

The report also suggests that higher MWOO application rates run the risk of greater soil contamination by metals, persistent organic chemicals and physical contaminants.

The report lists one site visit, conducted 22 September 2017, where visible waste streams including nappies, plastic and clothing were found in high proportions – the specific site and/or operator is not named.

According to the anonymous stakeholder, further research should have been conducted, including more site visits and sustained onsite testing.

In laboratory and glasshouse experiments referenced by the report, the effect of MWOO, and specifically ground glass, was examined on earthworm avoidance, rhizobium nodulation and clover and carrot growth.

Ground glass is commonly found in MWOO as processing employs grinding to meet physical contaminant limits.

While no adverse effects were observed for earthworm behaviour, rhizobium nodulation and clover growth, glass particles were seen to adhere to the surface of carrot tubers, at an application rate equivalent to 25 tonnes per hectare.

“While this application rate is above current 10 tonnes per hectare agricultural guidelines, if regulations were to change (to allow the beneficial effects of MWOO to be realised) it is possible that more MWOO would be applied, making this a real concern,” the report reads.

“The fact that glass is permissible in MWOO used on agricultural land requires that this issue be either further considered experimentally, or the risk avoided by more effective glass removal.”

The stakeholder questioned the carrot experiment’s inclusion in the report, given MWOO was already banned around crop harvesting. They also raised concerns over the anonymity of the technical advisory committee, and said industry had a right to know who was consulted on the decision.

When asked what the EPA could do to ease industry concerns, the stakeholder said that at a minimum, the EPA should revoke the material’s ban in mining rehabilitation.

They added that the EPA’s ability to change regulatory standards with a stroke of a pen had caused significant hesitation around private sector investments.

“If I had money to invest in resource recovery, I wouldn’t be spending it in NSW,” the stakeholder said.   

On 16 October, the NSW EPA opened public consultation on the future use of MWOO and a proposed $6.5 million AWT transition package.

In an associated position statement, the EPA reiterated its original MWOO position and stated further research had been undertaken to assess future controls.

Consultation closes 28 November.

RESOURCE RECOVERY EXEMPTIONS

The use of MWOO has been restricted since 2010, including processing and distribution regulations and limits on its use for urban and domestic purposes. Specifically, EPA regulations restrict the material’s use near crops harvested below the soil surface.

Within those restrictions however was a Resource Recovery Exemption Order allowed MWOO in some land applications under specific conditions, based on its then status as beneficial or fit-for-purpose.

In a statement released at the time, then EPA Acting Chair Anissa Levy said the MWOO exemption was made on the basis that the material provided a beneficial reuse solution for waste. The revocation was made in 2018 because the material no longer met those requirements, she said.

Resource Recovery Exemption Orders are made under clauses 91 and 92 of the 2014 Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation Act.

According to Ross Fox, accredited specialist in planning and environmental law and Principal Lawyer Fishburn Watson O’Brien, the act was constructed to ensure orders and exemptions can be made, changed and revoked easily. He says while this has benefits, namely the ability to act swiftly in the face of environmental hazards, it also lends itself to overreach.

“What is arguably one of the act’s strengths is also one of its greatest weaknesses. It’s not clear why there is no specific testing process set out in the act, but it’s certainly a matter of concern for my clients and the industry generally,” Ross says.

He adds that there is no transparent framework for the revocation process when an order or exemption involves the waste industry.

“The sector is also concerned that decisions can be made without public access to the information the EPA has, and without the opportunity to raise concerns,” he says.

While the legislative framework for Resource Recovery Orders and Exemptions hasn’t changed significantly over the past 10 years, Ross says current conversation around the issue are a sign of a maturing waste industry.

He adds that while in some cases there may be cause to revoke or amend exemptions, the EPA should be required to establish, and in some cases publicise, their argument for revocation.

“Those who are operating pursuant to an order are entitled to a fair process, and a clear path to be followed by all parties to minimise the impact of that revocation to the extent that it’s possible.”

Mirroring the view of the anonymous stakeholder, Ross suggests the ease in which Resource Recovery Exemptions can be revoked has created a high degree of risk for investors.

“Operators are thinking: why should I invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a piece of equipment that can produce material up to today’s specifications, when Resource Recovery Exemption legislation allows those specifications to be changed tomorrow?” he says.

“If the degree of risk is too great then it will discourage investment in resource recovery, which will have a negative impact on NSW meeting its resource recovery targets.”

FLOW ON EFFECTS

Christopher Malan, ELB Equipment Managing Director, says the MWOO ban has had a negative effect on organic diversion rates, and increased the amount of material sent to landfill.

“In addition to the direct effects felt by NSW recyclers engaged in mixed waste organics recycling, processors from other states have expressed displeasure over the likelihood of similar measures in their state or territory,” Christopher says.

“This has created uncertainty in the segment and slowed investment in the sector.”

Christopher says that while ELB is committed to organics recycling, the MWOO issue far exceeds the capabilities of efficient processing.

“Given the breadth of the issue caused by the removal of the exemption relates to the source of the waste rather than the recycling methodology or output product, there is little that we have been able to offer from a technical perspective to assist the industry,” he says.

Despite this, Christopher is optimistic and says the NSW Government, EPA and local councils should work together to address the problem.

“All parties can agree that recyclable resources, such as organics, should not be going to landfill,” he says.

“It is our hope that a review of organic waste handling assists in eliminating organic waste sent to landfill.”

Rose Read, National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO, says the MWOO ban has closed markets for five operating mechanical biological treatment facilities in NSW.

“Collectively, these facilities produce in excess of 150,000 tonnes of mixed waste derived organics per year. So far, the NSW EPA has provided landfill levy exemptions for these facilities,” she adds.

Furthermore, Rose says the MWOO ban has created uncertainty and confusion within both the processing industry and users of processed organics.

“It is critical that clear specifications are urgently agreed upon by regulators, processors and the final end users of the material on what is acceptable for the agriculture, forestry and site rehabilitation markets,” she says.

“These specifications should be based on best available science. Without this clarity, industry cannot develop infrastructure and technology to meet the user’s needs, and the state government will not be able to meet its recycling targets.”

According to Rose, industry is asking for an amended Mixed Waste Resource Recovery Order to be reinstated, that clearly defines outputs and applications.

“To deliver on these outputs, industry will need financial assistance to upgrade these facilities to deliver the required resource recovery outcomes,” Rose says.

“Industry will also need to transition these assets in the medium to long term, so they can continue to provide the desired resource recovery outcomes and market specifications for NSW.”

Rose says industry is also requesting that the NSW EPA insert a formal process within its waste regulations that ensures current and future Resource Recovery Orders and Exemptions cannot be amended or revoked without timely consultation and a detailed assessment with all relevant stakeholders.

Charlie Emery, Australian Organics Recycling Association Director and NSW Chair, urged similar action in a submission to the NSW Environment Minister, addressing the state’s proposed 20-year waste and resource recovery strategy.

In the submission, Charlie called for the creation and enforcement of consistent regulatory standards for organics processing.

“Waste cannot always be a waste. At some point after beneficial processing it must become a resource,” the submission reads.

This article was published in the November 2019 issue of Waste Management Review. 

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Looking to 2020 and beyond: APCO

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly provides an overview of some of the collaborative, sector-led projects that are helping to scale up the circular economy for packaging here in Australia.

The Collective Impact Model is at the heart of APCO’s work – a framework that engages a diverse range of participants who share the common interest of finding a new and sustainable approach to packaging.

This year a critical part of our focus has been to apply this approach at the sectoral level, by establishing and delivering a range of industry-led projects that can help highly motivated and willing sectors to address their unique packaging challenges.

APCO’s work with the wine industry began in 2018, with a two-day workshop at the Dorrien Estate to explore the impact of the 2025 targets for people working on the ground in the industry.

Combining site visits to packaging suppliers, retail operations and recycling plants, the session was designed to help participants see first-hand the entire packaging journey. By involving the complete value chain – including packaging suppliers, retailers, and wine producers and distributors – participants were able to recognise their stakeholders’ different needs and challenges, and identify any gaps in their own operations.

The most significant outcome of the day was the commitment to keep working together – and the Wine Industry Sustainable Packaging group has continued to meet regularly to explore the industry’s unique sustainable packaging challenges and potential solutions.

The group also agreed to work towards the delivery of several packaging-focused projects, including a pilot regional waste drop-off facility in the Barossa Valley, and greater data transparency, to help monitor the industry’s progress towards the 2025 Targets.

Also agreed was the plan to develop an industry-specific sustainable packaging guideline, and in October this year APCO and the Wine Industry Working Group launched the new resource together in the Barossa Valley.

Diarmaid O’Mordha, Quality and Sustainability Manager at the Endeavour Drinks Group, has been fundamental to the working group’s success. He explained that collaboration – often between unlikely partners – has been at the heart of the project.

“The idea was to set up a neutral, non-competitive space so we could develop a shared industry vision, with APCO leading,” says Mr O’Mordha.

“Working together, the industry can drive change from within, avoid the duplication of efforts, develop a platform to share information and set baselines to measure progress.”

“APCO were fantastic in connecting everyone – we couldn’t have done it without them. We were working with people in our industry we wouldn’t normally collaborate with because of commercial competition. But, with APCO’s role we were able to see ourselves as one ecosystem that everyone could benefit from – they helped put everyone at ease,” says Mr O’Mordha.

Food Services Industry

The food services sector has been another area of focus for APCO in 2019.

It’s an industry that’s undergoing a system-wide transformation globally, as businesses navigate challenges like growing public awareness around plastic waste. That’s alongside the tide of new packaging materials and operating models disrupting the way consumers engage with food service. At a policy level, many Australian jurisdictions are also considering state-wide bans on single use plastics. Businesses have been scrambling to adapt to the changing landscape, and navigate challenges like misinformation and the risk of greenwash in an effectively unregulated market.

They are all issues APCO has sought to help address with the Food Services Packaging Sustainability Guidelines, a new resource launched in October.

The guidelines were developed following extensive industry consultation, including a workshop hosted at the Qantas Campus in Sydney that brought together industry, government, and community stakeholders from across the country.

Designed through the lens of the waste hierarchy and incorporating practical case studies, the new resource will provide food service businesses with a step-by-step framework for navigating this rapidly changing industry, and support food service providers to begin making the change, while offering informed advice and tips on how to avoid making the wrong choices.

Looking to 2020, APCO has working partnerships in place with two highly motivated sectors within Australia, the dairy industry, represented by Dairy Australia, and the nursery industry, in collaboration with Greenlife Industry Australia.

Engaging sectors that are highly motivated, willing and able to address packaging sustainability will be key to progressing towards the transition to a circular economy for Australian communities.

By working together and combining material volumes, the model helps industry and government to scale up solutions and create economic tipping points to ensure solutions deliver viable interventions that are embedded as part of the institutional approach required.

The Food Services Packaging Sustainability Guidelines is available to download on the APCO website.

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Acquisitions in the spotlight part one: Bingo Industries

Waste Management Review talks to some of Australia’s largest waste management companies about the role of scalability in the future of the waste sector. 

This article is the first in a three part series featuring Bingo Industries, Cleanaway, Corio Waste Management and SUEZ. 

Over the past few years, Australia’s waste management giants have looked to becoming vertically integrated businesses. One of Australia’s largest waste management companies, Cleanaway acquired health and waste disposal giant Toxfree in 2018.

Most recently, building and demolition (B&D) market leader Bingo Industries acquired Dial A Dump Industries (DADI) and set its sights on building a resource recovery park as part of the acquisition.

Cleanaway has also looked to potentially take on SKM Recycling after acquiring its debt for $60 million.

Waste Management Review explores the role of scalability and vertically integrated business models in the waste sector’s future.

BINGO TAKES IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Daniel Tartak, Bingo Industries Managing Director, believes that further market consolidation will support the waste industry during a challenging phase.

“The industry is still very fragmented. We’ve seen consolidation in the last few years, but there still needs to be some more consolidation over the sector across the country,” Daniel tells Waste Management Review.

“It still remains very competitive, even following these acquisitions [DADI and Toxfree]. I don’t think much is changing in the industry.”

Daniel says Bingo’s DADI acquisition allows the company to compete with the multinationals on a greater scale with vertically integrated assets. He says it comes at a critical time for the sector where recycling infrastructure investment is needed at a greater level.

“There’s many small players who don’t invest into their business and the sector, and right now we need that,” he says.

“We’ve done it to a large extent over the last few years. We’ve poured almost $1 billion into acquisitions and key infrastructure so as some of the smaller players start getting amalgamated or consolidated you will see more investment.”

Bingo Industries agreed to divest its recycling facility in Banksmeadow, NSW to ease ACCC competition concerns regarding its $578 million acquisition of DADI. The ACCC required Bingo to divest the facility to maintain competition for B&D processing in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

Following this, the ACCC announced it would not oppose the acquisition after accepting a court-enforceable undertaking from Bingo to divest its Banksmeadow processing facility. CPE Capital was announced as the buyer for $50 million in September.

In announcing the company’s full-year results in August, Daniel noted that the asset base secured through the acquisition would transform the business for many years to come. Some of its most recent redevelopments include Bingo’s first recycling centre in West Melbourne, Victoria, having first entered the market in 2017 through several strategic acquisitions.

Its total network capacity, including contribution from the DADI acquisition, increased from 2.2 million tonnes in financial year 2017-18 to 3.8 million tonnes in 2018-19. It will be closer to 4.4 million tonnes by the end of 2019-20 allowing for Patons Lane and Mortdale redevelopments.

In 2019, Bingo reconfigured its NSW network as part of the DADI integration by rationalising some sites and converting others into transfer stations in a move to attract and aggregate waste volumes for processing at its advanced recycling centres.

Bingo expects solid growth in 2019-20 underpinned by a full-year contribution from its Patons Lane Recycling Centre and Landfill, West Melbourne Recycling Centre and DADI. The business also expects to benefit from the Queensland waste levy and associated pricing increases.

Bingo Industries, through the acquisition of Dial A Dump Industries, has set its sites on building a Resource Ecology Park in the middle of western Sydney.

Through Eastern Creek, Bingo is turning its attentions to building an 82-hectare Recycling Ecology Park in the middle of western Sydney to accept putrescible and non-putrescible waste at a large scale.

Strategically positioned near the Western Sydney Airport and the Sydney CBD, it currently can handle two million tonnes per annum and in the future will comprise a new C&I processing facility, refuse-derived fuel, alternative waste treatment facility and new recycled product manufacturing facility.

Daniel says that the new $60 million C&I processing facility at Eastern Creek, comprising the most sophisticated equipment in the world, should be operational in about 12 months’ time.

He points to the importance of a vertically integrated business model to maintaining a chain of custody on the movement of waste. Likewise, he notes a vertically integrated company allows for scalability.

“When you become a large business, the fact that you have a large quantity of waste can sometimes work to your detriment, so controlling access to collections, transfers, recycling and landfill gives you control over your business,” he says.

On questions of whether one company owning multiple assets is reducing choice for customers, Daniel says that this would only potentially be the case in a duopoly structure.

“You have six large players so there is plenty of choice even if companies control those assets. Even with consolidation over the last few years, the market is very fragmented. There’s still six big players and hundreds of small players.

“Every time you tender, you are facing five big opponents and a heap of different small private companies.”

Daniel says that through Bingo’s five-year plan, the company plans to build multiple recycling facilities. He says these will be able to handle all waste streams in the market from putrescible MSW, C&I waste to non-putrescible, C&I and B&D waste, separating them and then turning most of those individual waste streams into products to sell back to market.

It’s [Eastern Creek] a master integrated asset able to handle all waste streams, with a focus on landfill diversion. It will be one of Sydney’s key infrastructure assets, which the market will rely on to meet state recycling targets going forward,” he says.

As Bingo continues to grow, Daniel says the company intends to maintain its leading position in the B&D sector while at the same time expanding its C&I business.

“We’re five years old in the C&I sector and a relatively small player in NSW and Victoria, so we really want to grow that business in both states, but also geographically around the east coast of Australia,” Daniel says.

“We’ve (the waste sector) been out of sight, out of mind for too long and now is the time for industry to change and improve.”

Next week’s instalment features an interview with Cleanaway CEO Vik Bansal. 

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Fuelling the market

Waste Management Review speaks with key industry stakeholders about the potential tyre-derived fuel flow-on effects of the Council of Australian Governments’ proposed export ban.

In early August, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) released a communique detailing its decision to ban the export of waste materials including plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

Specifics of the ban have not yet been released, with government stating that it would develop a ban timeline and action plan in due course. Despite this, industry responses have been swift and overwhelmingly positive, with particular focus given to the potential waste-to-energy flow-on effects of a ban on tyre exports.

Gayle Sloan, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO, says Australia has a robust and sustainable non-baling tyre recycling industry, which processes roughly 23 million used tyre units per annum.

“A ban on the export of whole-baled tyres will further drive the industry, which will create Australian jobs while ensuring human and environmental health are protected,” she says.

Pete Smigel, Australian Council of Recycling CEO, says consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable end-of-life disposal and recycling of products that offer sustainable environmental and human health outcomes.

“Australia has a great opportunity to develop a strong, sustainable and profitable tyre recycling industry that delivers significant environmental benefits and as well as job creation across the new manufacturing industry,” Pete says.

“It’s imperative this is supported by responsible government policy, and the COAG communique is a great step towards that.”

Tyrecycle, one of Australia’s largest collectors and recyclers of end-of-life tyres, operates numerous collection and processing facilities across the country, including Australia’s largest crumbing plant based at Somerton in Melbourne. It also has full chain-of-custody reporting.

Jim Fairweather, Tyrecycle CEO, says COAG’s signalled intention to ban the export of waste tyres is a win for the environment and the circular economy.

“The proposed ban presents the best opportunity to turn all end-of-life waste tyres in Australia into value-added commodities such as rubber crumb, rubber granule, tyre-derived fuel (TDF) and high-tensile steel, creating more sustainable jobs in Australia,” he says.

“A ban on the export of waste tyres should include both whole-baled tyres, which are sent unprocessed to countries such as India and Malaysia, as well as casings from old truck tyres sent into overseas markets for use as seconds or in retreading.”

Jim says these elements go hand-in-hand, given the ban on whole-baled tyres will require the establishment and growth of new markets for re-purposed tyre-derived products.   

Australia currently exports approximately 70,000 tonnes of whole-baled tyres per annum, which are then used in open burning as a fuel to heat drying kilns and in low-grade pyrolysis plants.

Rob Kelman, Australian Tyre Recyclers Association (ATRA) Executive Officer, says operations like this are controversial, do not comply with environmental, health and worker regulations and are associated with high levels of pollution.

ATRA members agreed to ban the practice of exporting whole-baled tyres in 2014, due to poor environmental outcomes and a direct association with water borne diseases.

“The World Health Organization specifically identifies international movement of whole tyres as a key factor in the increase in Dengue incidence,” Rob says.

Australia’s tyre recycling sector is largely dominated by traditional recycling methods, which use a series of shredders, screens and granulators to separate waste tyres into commodities.

Jim says these commodities, which are valued commensurate with their level of refinement, are used as raw material in the manufacture of new products such as soft fall surfaces and asphalt, as well as civil work applications such as roads and infrastructure.

“Waste tyres are also used in TDF – a globally traded commodity, which fuels sophisticated, high-energy manufacturing environments and power generation plants overseas,” Jim explains.

“The technology is proven, and TDF has excellent environmental credentials that include a reduction in landfill, improved emissions and reduced use of fossil fuels.”

Jim adds that for every tonne of TDF used, one tonne of CO2 is displaced.

“It burns cleaner than coal and has twice the energy value of brown coal,” he explains.

“The global TDF market, which includes South Korea and Japan, is hungry for more and could easily consume all of Australia’s waste tyres as TDF, but there should also be a gradual push to increase the domestic uptake of TDF, most likely in cement kilns.”

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Organics in Awaba: Remondis and ELB Equipment

Waste Management Review speaks with Awaba Green Waste Processing Facility stakeholders about incentivising compost and the impact of high-tech equipment.

Landfill capacity concerns are a common issue for local councils, particularly so for those with steadily growing populations, such as Lake Macquarie City in the NSW Hunter Region.

In 2010, the city’s Awaba Waste Management Facility Landfill was edging towards capacity, landfilling roughly 94,000 tonnes of waste per year.

According to the NSW EPA’s Waste and Resource Recovery Needs Report 2017-21, the state has a known capacity of 31.8 million tonnes of putrescible landfill space per annum. This represents a space gap of 742,000 tonnes, based on the report’s generation figures.

With this mind, Lake Macquarie City Council decided significant infrastructure upgrades were required to prevent future landfill capacity issues and grow resource recovery in the region.

According to a council spokesperson, they found a solution in composting.

Waste Management Review explores the Awaba Green Waste Processing Facility with Lake Macquarie Council, Remondis and ELB Equipment.

In 2010, Lake Macquarie waste audits showed the contents of domestic kerbside garbage bins were roughly 50 per cent compostable organic material, namely food and garden waste.

“These findings presented an opportunity to not only tackle the rising lack of landfill space but also provide a more sustainable waste management solution for the city,” the spokesperson says.

“Timing had never been better to undertake a major resource recovery project that would extend the life of the landfill and save council substantial money in the long term.”

Following the waste audits, council undertook extensive community engagement to develop a new waste strategy. As part of the strategy, council proposed introducing a three-bin kerbside collection system in two phases.

In 2013, Lake Macquarie commenced phase one, introducing fortnightly garden organics collections.

“Introducing a third organics bin helped reduce waste to landfill by 10,700 tonnes at the end of the first year,” the spokesperson says.

Council also partnered with recycling and waste management service provider Remondis to build and operate a 44,000-tonne-per-year composting facility with help from ELB Equipment.

Over 100 contracting firms were engaged to build the facility, which also houses an education centre, where schools and community groups can experience the composting process.

The Awaba Green Waste Processing Facility opened in late July 2018.

Decomposition

According to Gunther Neumann, Remondis Lake Macquarie Organics Resource Recovery Facility Branch Manager, addressing the issue of food waste is the primary function of the Awaba facility.

“Processing green organic waste for mulch or compost is relatively straightforward. However food waste, which presents 40 per cent of Lake Macquarie’s organic material, is more of a challenge,” he says.

As food waste presents several potential risks and health concerns if not handled correctly, Remondis ensures the material is thoroughly pasteurised in a controlled environment before it is composted.

“To address this, we installed five fully automated tunnels at the site which ensure the safety and quality of the output, while also keeping noxious odours to a minimum,” Gunther says.

The facility is a unique hybrid model of in-vessel and mobile aeration flood systems, with a fully automated tunnel composting system capable of pasteurising food waste in two weeks.

Integrating these approaches means the organic material is first subjected to anaerobic digestion before the bioreactor process is switched to composting through forced aeration and material agitation.

Additionally, Awaba features an Australia-first automatic, cashless weighbridge system, giving users access to the facility with the swipe of a card. This incentivise facility use by streamlining the drop-off process, according to the spokesperson.

Hybrid model

To efficiently process the composted material, Remondis engaged long-standing equipment supplier ELB through National Sales Manager Craig Cosgrove.

“Remondis chose to work with ELB due to the company’s after-sales and service credentials,” Gunther says.

He adds that Komptech, which ELB represents in Australia, has a reputation for manufacturing star screens that provide throughput in wet, sticky organics applications.

“With an annual workload of 44,000 tonnes, it’s important for the plant to have high uptimes and consistent throughput,” Gunther says.

ELB was initially asked to supply a Komptech Multistar L3 star screen to separate organics and remove fine particle contaminants following the initial aeration process.

The Multistar L3 star screen provides high throughput across a range of food and organics applications, combined with a patented cleaning system to enhance wet material separation.

According to Craig, the Komptech Multistar separated composted material into three size fractions.

“The large oversize fraction is either returned to the process to provide structure and allow for further breakdowns, or used for daily landfill cover,” he says.

The midsize fraction is used by council on gardens and flowerbeds and sold to the general public as mulch. The fine faction is similarly used as a high-quality nutrient-rich compost for urban amenities, to help facilitate soil health and drought tolerance.

“Council and Remondis sell the compost to landscapers and avocado farmers in the area, and Hunter Valley vineyards,” Craig says.

The performance of the Komptech Multistar L3 caused Gunther to contact ELB again when the facility needed a shredder to process waste after initial decontamination but before pasteurisation.

Craig says Remondis initially tested a few equipment solutions, including a high-speed grinder.

“The high-speed grinder turned any residual plastic contaminants into confetti, making it impossible to separate out,” Craig says.

“High-speed grinders are also known to have a low resistance to contraries, and as a result, high downtime.”

After consulting with Craig, Remondis trialled a Crambo Direct dual-shaft shredder.

The shredder has two slow-running drums, with shredding tools that minimise fine particle noise and dust emissions while resisting contraries.

“The Crambo keeps our output high and consistent,” Gunther says.

“We know we can rely on ELB and Komptech to provide excellent equipment.”

Gunther adds that working with ELB on the Awaba project highlighted the importance of engaging with companies that understand the composting process and provide high-quality equipment.

“We could have the most high-tech automated composting system in Australia, but without reliable and efficient equipment to perform the secondary separation job, it wouldn’t amount to much,” he says.

Craig says ELB is proud to have their equipment employed at the Lake Macquarie facility.

“ELB is an industry partner, first and foremost, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Remondis at the Awaba facility once again,” he says.

“After all, it is one of the most advanced of its kind in Australia.”

The future

According to Craig, the Awaba facility provides an example for other councils hoping to follow in Lake Macquarie’s composting footsteps.

“With more impetus coming from government to recycle, the Awaba facility welcomes a steady stream of visitors from other local councils to assist and educate them on set up cost, approvals and processes,” he says.

“Thanks to the technology employed at the Awaba facility, Lake Macquarie can reduce its landfill rate by as much as 30 per cent.”

While still in its early stages, Lake Macquarie’s spokesperson says Awaba’s impact has been significant.

“Council collected and processed 38,000 tonnes of food and organics material in the facilities first 12 months, with an annual average contamination rate of just over one per cent,” the spokesperson says.

“This is a 17,000-tonne, 80 per cent increase in diversion of organics over the previous year.”

In the same period, council reduced the amount of landfilled waste from its domestic waste collection service by 22,380 tonnes, highlighting the community’s engagement with the facility and wider FOGO collection system.

“Success will be measured over time by tonnages of organic waste received and processed, participation in the kerbside green waste service, low rates of contamination, balanced operating costs and numbers of community and school tours to the on-site education centre,” the spokesperson says.

“While strong rates of participation and low rates of contamination are pleasing, they are not yet perfect, and council will continue to work closely with Remondis and the community of Lake Macquarie to support ongoing improvements in services, and the overall efficiency of the facility.”

Gunther adds that in just over a year of operations, the facility has shifted diversion rates from 41 per cent to 64 per cent. If rates continue to climb, he says the facility will save council an estimated $4 million in waste management costs over 10 years.

“Remondis applauds forward-thinking local government organisations, such as Lake Macquarie City Council, for their dedication to building the vital recycling infrastructure that will create job opportunities, strengthen the Australian economy and reduce our environmental footprint,” he says.

“It’s important to Australia and the waste and recycling industry that more councils adopt source-separated food waste recycling.”

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Prioritising projects: Infrastructure Australia

For the first time, the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit has included waste management in its remit. Waste Management Review speaks to Infrastructure Australia about responding to some of the industry’s infrastructure challenges. 

Since 2008, Infrastructure Australia has advised governments, industry and the community on investments needed to deliver better infrastructure across Australia.

The nation’s independent infrastructure advisor audits nationally significant infrastructure and develops 15-year rolling plans that cover national and state level priorities.

For the first time, the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit has included waste management in its remit.

Released earlier this year, the audit examines challenges faced by Australia’s waste sector, including growing pressure from population growth, export bans and heightened environmental awareness.

The audit identifies Australia as one of the world’s largest waste producers per capital, with waste management often poorly planned. The sector is also under increased pressure as waste generation increases and the capacity of infrastructure declines.

It points out that Australia is poised to take advantage of Asia’s economic development, but needs to ensure supply and freight chains operate efficiently to do so.

Some of the challenges the audit points out are well-known to the waste sector, including a lack of private investment and a reliance on exports. Likewise, residential encroachment and increase in waste generation are also widely understood.

An often undiscussed challenge highlighted is the impact that transporting waste over large distances has on the right network, leading to congestion and road degradation.

One of the key focuses of Infrastructure Australia is to take submissions and develop an Infrastructure Priority List that governments can use to guide decision making.

Peter Colacino, Executive Director – Policy and Research at Infrastructure Australia, says that the decision to include waste in the audit was an important one, as the waste sector makes a significant contribution to the national economy.

He says community sentiment is starting to shift with changing user preferences towards recyclable products. Peter says a greater focus on what we consume will leader to a greater focus in community and planning.

Communities have previously found it undesirable to live next to landfills, he points out. But as the sector becomes more sophisticated and moves from landfill to reprocessing, he says a different appreciation of the value of those sites will hopefully take hold in the community.

While its not within the scope of Infrastructure Australia to identify the gaps in buffer protection, Peter makes the point that Sydney and Melbourne are not the only cities growing at a faster rate than public services can support.

The audit shows that satellite cities such as Wollongong, Newcastle and Geelong have capacity to grow and in turn take pressure off infrastructure in the faster-growing cities.

“Sydney and Melbourne are growing rapidly because of the quality of life in those cities and access to essential services and social infrastructure. If we’re seeing places like Wollongong and Newcastle be attractive for people to settle in and therefore take pressure off our major cities, we need to ensure that people that choose to live there have access to the same sorts of services.”

The audit points out that cities can support growth by leveraging infrastructure off their fast-growing neighbours and smaller capitals. The document outlines a number of challenges surrounding waste management.

One was that a limited number of new waste facilities and landfill sites have been approved and residential development was encroaching on existing facilities. Without further action, waste freight will have to transport their loads further from the generation point.

“Encroachment is a complex issue because it’s not only with those nodes like a landfill site or a recycling facility, but it’s also around the transport links that need to be used by the sector,” Peter says.

One of the challenges acknowledge in the audit is that Australia’s freight task, including waste transport, disposal and recycling is growing rapidly. The domestic freight task is growing by 50 per cent and expected to continue to grow by another 26 per cent between 2016 and 2026.

“You do see moves from councils to restrict access of heavy vehicles to particular communities for communities that would be trafficked if you like by refuse vehicles if they were transferring waste rather than treating it locally.”

Peter says by limiting the access of waste vehicles to communities, they are forced to travel further leading to greater deterioration of the road network, increasing the cost of waste management and undermining the commerciality of the sector.

In addition, he says the provision of additional bins is another discussed that needs to be understood within the context of added pressure to the transport network.

“Interestingly, the electricity sector is performing relatively well there’s reduced emissions from the sector largely because of the role of renewables. The transport sector on the other hand has seen a growth in emissions. For local councils that’s important as large fleet owners both in terms of light vehicles and heavy vehicles like refuse vehicles,” Peter says.

He adds that electric vehicles presents an opportunity for emissions reduction in future as price parity occurs over time with potential to transition to autonomous vehicles and hybrids in the present.

Peter says Infrastructure Australia’s process follows three phases.

The first, he says, is to make sure the audit serves its role that it creates a discussion.

“It’s not a document that we want to sit on shelves it’s a document that we want the sector to engage with and use our submissions process to provide us with feedback,” he says.

“Secondly we’ll be working over the next year or more in developing the plan which will include package of reform that we hope are adopted by government and we’ll continue to engage with industry and government as we develop that document.”

He says the third process is to ensure the Infrastructure Priority List can be updated so people can respond to the challenges and opportunities identified in the audit through submissions to the list.

Peter says investment interventions on the Infrastructure Priority List are needed to ensure domestic supply chains are adequate and it can respond to respond of the imperative of government to reduce waste moving offshore.

He adds that going forward there will need to be more commercial thinking around deriving value from waste, including through new products and waste-to-energy.

“What we need to ensure and what is Infrastructure Australia’s role is that significant investment is well targeted and effective and that is the role of our Infrastructure Priority List,” Peter says.

“We also think there’s an opportunity for greater reflection on lessons learnt through post-completion reviews after projects are reviewed to understand if they’ve fulfilled their ambitions that was set out in their planning, whether or not they’re effective and if there’s lessons that can be taken away and applied elsewhere.”

Submissions to the Infrastructure Australia audit will be open to 31 October, for more information click here.

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Veolia sets WtE benchmark

Veolia Australia and New Zealand is drawing on local and international experts in the lead up to its 25-year operations and maintenance contract on Australia’s first thermal waste-to-energy facility. 

Waste-to-energy (WtE) in Australia has historically been slow to progress, but Veolia recently set a new precedent for the sector.

Earlier this year, construction began on Australia’s first thermal WtE facility. Based in Kwinana, WA, the site will be operated and maintained (O&M) by Veolia Australia and New Zealand post-construction for 25 years.

Leveraging its experience in operating more than 65 WtE plants across the globe, Veolia stands ready to spearhead efficient, effective and economically viable renewable energy solutions.

Avertas Energy was named the supplier and will process 400,000 tonnes of waste, equivalent to a quarter of Perth’s post-recycling residuals. In addition, Avertas Energy will generate and export 36 megawatts of green electricity to the local grid per year, enough to power more than 50,000 households.

As the preferred supplier of baseload renewable energy, Avertas Energy will also support the green energy needs of the Western Australia Local Government Association (WALGA) and its members.

Macquarie Capital and the Dutch Infrastructure Fund (DIF) are co-developing the Kwinana plant, now known as Avertas Energy. Infrastructure company Acciona was appointed to design and construct the facility.

Veolia’s global experience will see it leverage the expertise of international engineers, project and site managers.

Veolia’s Toby Terlet in front of a 25 megawatt generator at its WtE plant in Birmingham, UK.

As the company operates 10 facilities in the UK, these sites served as the perfect methodology to replicate to local conditions.

One of Veolia’s oldest WtE facilities is its Birmingham plant in the UK and it was there that Veolia’s Project Director for Kwinana, Toby Terlet, gained significant experience.

Drawing on previous experience in Australia with Veolia, Toby moved to the UK in 2014.

Toby tells Waste Management Review that around five years ago, thermal treatment was still being discussed in Australia as an emerging technology.

“At the time, I didn’t know much about converting municipal waste into electricity, although I did have some experience with manufacturing waste-derived fuels for cement kilns and clinical incineration,” Toby explains.

Toby saw the UK experience as an eye-opener, with Britain up to 25 years ahead of Australia in WtE.

After Veolia won the O&M contract on the Kwinana project, Toby returned to Australia to a project director role based in the site’s heartland in Perth.

In the lead up to 2021 and over the life of the contract, Veolia’s network of on-call local and international expertise will help anticipate and prevent issues ahead of time.

Toby says that having a general understanding of how WtE facilities operate and the effort needed to maintain a facility will help achieve more than 90 per cent availability.

“The technology works well. However, it’s just as important to have skilled and experienced operations and maintenance teams to run the facilities,” Toby says.

“Education about the treatment of waste can always be improved.  Birmingham is a positive example of how recycling, reuse and WtE can coexist. We need to better educate people on where WtE fits and how it provides an alternative to landfill.”

While WtE will continue to be a better option to utilise stored energy than landfilling, Toby says this needs to be complemented with a strong education program.

“I believe the process will slowly shift towards waste being converted to electricity through WtE rather than sitting in a landfill for the next 100 years,” Toby says.

“Segregating waste at the front end will always be the best option, complemented with the most economically viable technology to pull out things which may have been missed. This is the ongoing challenge for Australia.”

His passion for WtE as a viable solution within a waste hierarchy inspires him to break the stigma surrounding it.

“One of the biggest misconceptions around WtE is that it will burn anything. This is what I thought prior to leaving Australia. It didn’t take long to understand that waste is a fuel and needs to be blended to provide the right consistency based on the calorific value (CV).”

Toby says that obtaining the optimum CV will also be an ongoing challenge to work through. Wastes such as MRF residue have a high CV and this can create spikes in the heat transfer lowering throughput, so it’s about finding the right balance.

To make the project economically viable and provide financial close, supply agreements will start at the minimum amount of waste needed.

“The majority of volumes are contracted for a long period of time and some projects opt for smaller agreements to cover any shortage. I think based on a large number of states currently having issues with a reliable source of electricity, green energy production will be high on the agenda.”

While it’s still early days for the project’s construction and planning, piling recently finished with the civil works with concreting now well under way.

Looking to the future, Toby says stakeholders will identify all design improvements throughout the next 12 months to ensure the Kwinana project is the most efficient not only in Australia, but around the globe when handed over in late 2021.

“I’ll be proud to recruit the best O&M team for the project who will have the utmost dedication to safety and a passion to make a difference and spread the positive energy needed to make more of these facilities possible,” Toby says.

“This is just the start of Veolia’s determination to drive the circular economy approach and resource the world by identifying and developing complementary projects to better utilise resources which are currently going to landfill.”

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Collaborating with confidence: APCO

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation CEO Brooke Donnelly talks about the Collective Action Group and systemic models for action on packaging resource recovery.

A lack of policy centralisation has been a concern for the waste and resource recovery industry since the 2009 National Waste Policy stalemate. In response, following the 2018 Meeting of Environment Ministers, the Federal Government announced it would shift its policy direction by taking an increasing role in waste reduction and recycling policy.

The then-Environment Minister Melissa Price announced that in order to facilitate a unified direction on waste and recycling, a new National Waste Policy would be developed. Current Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans said an action plan would be devised through interjurisdictional collaboration later this year.

As part of this change in direction, the Federal Government also formally committed to the National Packaging Targets.

The National Packaging Targets aim to have 100 per cent of Australian packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier. Its an ambitious goal, given only 56 per cent of Australian packaging was recovered for recycling in 2017-18, according to a UTS Institute of Sustainable Futures study.

Additionally, the study shows of that 56 per cent, 34 per cent was exported overseas.

Endorsed by the Australian Local Government Association in 2018, the targets also seek to achieve a 30 per cent average recycled content rate by 2025, and have 70 per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging be recycled or composted by the same year.

Phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through design, innovation or the introduction of alternatives is the final target.

Despite the bold goals, Australian Packagaing Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly is confident the targets can be meet.

“We’re in a position where we need to drive change while we have the opportunity, hitting the ground running,” Brooke says.

“Australian industry is vibrant, proactive and really driving the activity towards a circular economy transition, which will help us all achieve the targets.”

APCO, which has been tasked with leading the implementation process, has recently established the Collective Action Group (CAG) to oversee strategic delivery of the targets.

The group is comprised of 12 leading representatives from across industry and government, including Coles, Nestle, Coca Cola Amatil, Planet Ark, the Australian Council of Recycling, SUEZ and Visy.

Additionally, representatives from the Queensland Department of Environment and the Federal Department of Environment and Energy are members.

“We have two representatives from each sector of the packaging supply chain, such as brands, community, resource and recovery and retail and manufacturing,” Brooke says.

Managing multiple high-level stakeholders with potentially competing interests can be challenging, which is why APCO employs a best-practice model of governance for all CAG meetings.

“We have a really great chair, Dr Anne Astin, an independent chair with experience in product stewardship and co-regulatory organisations,” Brooke says.

“Dr Astin understands and appreciates getting the best from member diversity and is implementing a very structured approach.”

The first meeting of CAG was officially opened by Trevor Evans, the Federal Government’s Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management in June.

“It was really great to have Minister Evans with us – it’s wonderful to see his appointment and also his energy and engagement with supporting the industry,” Brooke says.

“It’s difficult to get such senior executives in one room at the same time, so it was a really lively and informed discussion, which is fantastic.”

Brooke says CAG’s first job will be developing a set of agreed definitions for key terms such as “problematic” and “unnecessary”.

“While agreeing on definitions might appear simple, it can be quite challenging and is a critical part of the process,” she says.

“Developing a full and shared picture of the packaging landscape is the only way to achieve effective change.”

The CAG will then work to establish baseline metrics for each of the four targets, before developing and endorsing the Sustainable Packaging Pathway white paper.

To create the white paper, Brooke says the CAG will co-design a systemic model for how Australia can transition to an advanced sustainable packaging ecosystem. The white paper will then outline the steps towards making the 2025 packaging targets a reality.

“The CAG will provide advice and guidance to support the outcomes, which are the results of the 22 priority project areas in 2019,” she says.

Project areas include consumption and recycling data, materiality testing, economic analysis of system interventions and sectorial circularity project delivery.

According to Brooke, project areas are managed through six APCO advisory groups that sit under the CAG. She says all APCO research flows up to the advisory groups for analysis, before it again flows up to the CAG.

The CAG will also oversee the results of comprehensive infrastructure mapping of the current resource recovery sector for packaging and explore alternative models.

“By the time we get to the white paper, which builds on the 2018 work APCO did on problematic material issues, we will have worked with over 200 organisations and every level of government,” Brooke says.

“A huge and diverse group of people will have participated in the development of the eventual roadmap.”

Brooke says while the targets are complex and challenging, cooperation is the key to achieving them.

“It’s our job and everybody’s job to contribute. If we all just do a little bit better today we can get there,” Brooke says.

“It’s all about creating a collaborative space so we can get to the targets.”

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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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Facing our waste

A campaign which aims to raise awareness about the amount of waste households produce in WA has been gaining attention throughout Australia.

It’s been featured on the War on Waste and the mainstream press and it was presented at this year’s Waste 2019 Conference.

Face Your Waste has reached two million households – an extraordinary result in a state of just over 2.5 million. The campaign allows households to volunteer as bin ambassadors and use a transparent bin.

Mindarie Regional Council (MRC), one of WA’s largest waste authorities in Perth’s north, devised Face Your Waste two years ago with a view to making its residents more conscious of the waste they were producing. The authority is responsible for member councils that include the cities of Joondalup, Perth, Stirling, Vincent and Wanneroo and the towns of Cambridge and Victoria Park.

Australians generated 13.8 million tonnes of core waste in 2017 (excluding hazardous waste, ash and landfill gas), according to the National Waste Report 2018. In the Perth metro area this was 539 kilograms per capita in 2016-17.

Face Your Waste was spawned off the back of a lack of awareness of what happens to our waste after it leaves the kerbside.

The idea was to confront residents with their waste and inspire better outcomes. Its aims are to reduce contamination, waste to landfill and most importantly, waste creation in the first place.

Face Your Waste provides practical tips on how to reduce/avoid waste as traditional campaigns talk a lot about dealing with waste better as opposed to not creating so much. It is also aiming to be relatable with a comedic campaign spokesperson “Famous Sharron”, who provides simple tips such as taking reusable bags to the store and favouring quality over quantity.

The message supports that of Own Your Impact, a WA Government initiative focused on inspiring Western Australians to take ownership of their waste.

Geoff Atkinson, Education Manager at MRC, says the campaign has exceeded expectations beyond what council could have imagined.

“It actually got tremendous traction within various aspects of the media and since then basically everyone in the Perth metropolitan area has seen the Face Your Waste message,” Geoff explains.

“We wanted to really capture people’s imagination and get them talking about their waste – a little bit different to other campaigns. While they’re important, it can be easy to gloss over the issue and think that’s someone else’s waste.”

The program was first rolled out in April last year at a variety of households over a two-week period, using its 20 clear bins. MRC’s feedback found that a standard bin cycle was not enough to make a change and soon moved to a complete month.

He says that initial tests showed the 240-litre bins were robust enough to withstand side lift and rear loader trucks. The success of the program has seen more than 350 bin ambassadors registered in the first six months.

Geoff says feedback has been overall positive. He says that anecdotally, people taking part in the trial are making conscious decisions to purchase differently.

“From what we gather with the research we’ve done, transparent bins haven’t been used anywhere else and it’s actually quite unique,” Geoff explains.

Although some residents are concerned about people knowing what’s in their bins, the concept is voluntary and therefore would not affect households that don’t want to participate. The program is not intended to penalise householders in any way but rather increase community engagement.

“We’re not looking to roll this out to all households on a permanent basis. I think it has a novelty factor about it. If everyone had clear bins I wonder if it would work as it would become normalised,” he says.

Anecdotally, the project has drawn attention to how much waste households produce each month.

“When you put your bins out, you don’t really know whether what your putting out is a normal amount or how it ranks in terms of what others put out. So with these bins you can make a comparison to your neighbours.”

He adds that this provides a benchmark for others to look to eliminate unnecessary waste while also potentially identifying contamination more easily.

“It provides a bit of community competition where they can share stories and exchange ideas and make decisions on how they can do it better,” Geoff says.

“Some people thought they were doing things right but then go to see what their bin looked like and realised they produced a lot of avoidable waste or recyclables.”

He says where they have been used at events, including business training, they have proved a useful tool in improving contamination education.

He says numerous other councils in Australia and New Zealand have expressed interest in replicating the concept. The idea might also be able to be linked to other initiatives such as food and garden organic rollouts or single-use plastic bag bans to encourage waste reduction.

“The broader idea behind this campaign is that it can reduce contamination and the amount of waste being produced in the first place. It’s putting it back to grassroots and taking ownership that can be dovetailed into other campaigns,” he says.

As to the project’s next steps? Geoff says that MRC will look to measure waste reduction outcomes and provide some data on the longevity of behavioural change.

“It’s important to know if people keep reducing their waste after reverting back to normal bins and it creates a pattern of behavioural change that allows people to keep doing the right thing afterwards.

“It’s not how much waste you’ve got in the bin, but how much you can reduce over time. If you’re producing a bin full because you have a number of people in the household, that is fine. It’s about taking steps to bring that amount down.”

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