Australia’s annual food waste bill hits $10B

Australians spent a total of $10.1 billion on food that went to waste in 2019, up from $8.9 billion in 2018.

The Rabobank Food Waste Report, released 26 November, shows Australian are now wasting an average of 13 per cent of their weekly grocery spend, equating to $1026 each year.

Rabobank Australia Head of Client Experience Glenn Wealands said food waste is one of the most significant challenges facing Australia.

“According to the Food Sustainability Index, developed by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, Australia is the fourth highest food waster in the world,” Mr Wealands said.

“Given the increasing pressure on the planet to provide for a growing population, there is an urgent need for greater action across governments, industry, retailers, and consumers to drive real change.”

According to the report, consumers are the biggest offenders, with household waste making up 34 per cent of food waste nationally.

Primary production represents 31 per cent, with manufacturing contributing 25 per cent.

Mr Wealands said every individual has a role to play in minimising food waste.

“We know from this research that more than three quarters of us care about reducing food waste and are annoyed by it,” Mr Wealands said.

“However, it is alarming that less than three out of 10 of us recognise the impact our food waste has on the environment.”

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Over 2.7 billion containers returned in NSW

Over 2.7 billion containers have been returned through NSW’s container deposit scheme Return and Earn, as the program celebrates its second birthday.

Parliamentary Environment Secretary James Griffin said Return and Earn now has over five million drink containers returned everyday, with a current redemption rate of 67 per cent of eligible drink containers supplied into NSW.

“This time last year we were celebrating one billion containers returned on the first anniversary of Return and Earn. The growth of the scheme has seen us knocking on the door of three billion a year later,” Mr Griffin said.

“There’s no doubt Return and Earn has been a great success and has fundamentally changed people’s thinking and behavior around litter.”

This summer, users can opt to donate their 10 cent refund to Bottles for the Bush to support fire and drought affected communities, according to Mr Griffin.

“Return and Earn was launched with the aim of reducing litter and it’s doing that. Other flow on benefits have been revealed as people find new ways to utilise the fundraising benefits of the scheme,” Mr Griffin said.

“Alongside scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator TOMRA Cleanaway, we look forward to continuing to work closely with industry to find new and innovative ways to make ‘Returning and Earning’ even easier and continue to grow.”

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VIC EPA increases occupation of glass recycling facility

The Victoria EPA has increased its occupation of a glass recycling facility in Coolaroo, after stepping in to remove stockpile hotspots in October.

The action comes after a spot fire demonstrated that an industrial waste stockpile was not being appropriately managed to protect community and environment.

According to an EPA statement, recent stockpile monitoring has detected an increase in temperatures across areas that remain a concern to the EPA.

Since 25 October, the EPA has removed over 1100 truckloads of waste from the site, representing 10 per cent of the contaminated waste where hotspots are occurring.

“Works to remove hotspots and contaminated glass will continue for some months, with an estimated volume of 50,000 cubic metres of waste to remove,” the statement reads.

EPA Taskforce Manager Danny Childs said the EPA would continue to use all regulatory powers available to ensure hotspots are removed from the site as soon as possible.

“EPA will continue to undertake this work to reduce the risk to local communities and the environment,” Mr Childs said.

A regulatory oversight group consisting of EPA, MFB, WorkSafe and Hume City Council will continue a coordinated, multi-agency approach to drive compliance across the site.

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Veolia and AORA make Back to Earth Initiative pledge

To mark World Soils Day, industry and councils are renewing their commitment to the Back to Earth Initiative.

The Back to Earth Initiative is run by the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) in partnership with 24 metropolitan councils in Melbourne, and four regional Victorian councils.

According to a Back to Earth Initiative statement, World Soils Day serves as a reminder for the importance of soil health, and how compost made from household food and green waste is nourishing Victorian soils.

As part of the Back to Earth Initiative pledge, industry and councils commit to support the successful operation of organics processing facilities and community education.

Veolia and the Australian Organics Recycling Association have made the pledge.

“We commit to supporting the Back to Earth Initiative which promotes food and green waste recycling to the community,” the statement reads.

“We will continue to work with the community, councils and MWRRG to help the community correctly recycle food and green waste.”

The Back to Earth Initiative aims to show how food and green waste is turned into valuable compost.

“By working collaboratively to promote food and/or green waste collection services, councils—supported by MWRRG and industry—can provide clear and consistent information to the community,” the statement reads.

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VIC EPA to assess WtE proposal

The Victorian EPA is assessing a works approval application for a waste to energy facility in Dandenong South.

The proposed facility, to be operated by Great Southern Waste Technologies, seeks to utilise gasification technology to process 100,000 tonnes of municipal solid and commercial and industrial waste each year.

According to an EPA statement, if built, the facility will deliver approximately 7.9 mega watts of electricity to the grid.

“EPA will assess the proposal against all relevant environmental policies and guidelines and look at any potential environmental and human health impacts that could result from the proposed development, including, but not limited to, air emissions, odour, noise, greenhouse gas emissions, wastewater treatment and discharge and reuse of wastewater or residual ash,” the statement reads.

In its works approval application, Great Southern Waste Technologies states that the facility will use proven technology to recover energy and export it into the grid as base load power, available to both commercial and residential customers.

“Utilising this valuable resource through recovery of the energy offers a sustainable improvement to waste management services currently being provided in Dandenong South, whilst reducing the overall greenhouse gas emissions and the potential environmental impacts associated with landfilling,” the application reads.

Submissions are open until 8 January 2020.

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APCO releases packaging progress data

Of the 5.45 million tonnes of post-consumer packaging placed on the Australian market in 2017-18, 2.67 million tonnes was recovered, according to a new report from the Australia Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO).

The report also reveals that Australia has exceeded the 30 per cent average recycled content National Packaging Target.

“Today’s benchmark data has confirmed post-consumer recycled content across all packaging was 1.9 million tonnes, or 35 per cent of total packaging,” the report reads.

“With the 30 per cent recycled content target now exceeded, APCO will deliver a consultation process with industry to develop a new, more ambitious target.”

According to an APCO statement, the Australian Packaging Consumption and Resource Recovery Data report maps the complete packaging ecosystem in granular detail, highlighting the performance of key areas within the system.

“The significant research project combines data from packaging manufacturers, packaging reprocessors, material recovery facilities, container deposit scheme operators, and includes analysis of Australian import and export data,” the statement reads.

Of Australia’s 5.45 million tonnes of packaging, more than half was paper and paperboard at 53.2 per cent, followed by glass packaging at 23.3 per cent, plastic packaging at 19.6 per cent and metal packaging at 3.9 per cent.

The report reveals that paper and paperboard have the highest recovery rate at 63 per cent, followed by metal packaging at 48 per cent, glass packaging at 46 per cent and plastic packaging at 16 per cent.

Additionally, the report details how Australia is tracking on the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets – with new benchmark data in areas of packaging recyclability, recycled content uptake and plastic packaging recycling.

The targets aim for 100 per cent of all Australia’s packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier. The report shows that as of 2018, 86 per cent, or 4.7 million tonnes of all packaging in the market is recyclable.

According to APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly, the single biggest challenge identified in the data is the recycling rate of plastic packaging.

The National Packaging Targets set the target for 70 per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging to be recycled or composted by 2025.

APCO’s data reveals that currently, only 16 per cent of plastic packaging is being recycled or composted for future use.

“Comprehensive and robust benchmarking data is one of the critical milestones in our delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets – a process that shows how Australia is performing currently and, most importantly, what needs to change in order to make the 2025 Targets a reality,” Ms Donnelly said. 

“It’s encouraging to see such a significant majority of packaging – 86 per cent – is able to be recycled in the current system. However, what the data confirms for us is that plastic is the critical issue that needs to be addressed.” 

Ms Donnelly said APCO will release its 2025 strategic document in February 2020, which sets out a series of key strategies to support Australia’s delivery of the targets.

“Plastics will be a central focus for this plan, along with a range of interventions and recommendations designed to close the gap between recyclable (86 per cent) and recycled (49 per cent) packaging in Australia,” Ms Donnelly said. 

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Veolia signs waste management contract with City of Darwin

Veolia has signed a $50 million contract with the City of Darwin to manage and operate the region’s Shoal Bay Waste Management Facility for seven years.

According to City of Darwin CEO Scott Waters, the contract is the largest ever signed by the council.

Major environmental and operational improvements are expected over the course of the contract, including increased waste to landfill diversion, commercial production of organic compost for local markets and cost minimisation through international best practice management.

Mr Waters said the contract demonstrates the city’s commitment to action on climate change, with emissions produced by Shoal Bay set to reduce under new management.

“The awarding of this contract to Veolia, who are recognised as world leaders in waste management and environmental services, hails a new era in waste management in the greater Darwin region, and highlights the importance council is placing on reducing emissions,” Mr Waters said.

“By increasing diversionary activities at the site, council is looking to promote efficiencies and encourage recycling and reuse of materials within our local economy.”

Veolia Australia & New Zealand CEO and Managing Director Danny Conlon said the company has been operating in the territory for over 40 years and currently employs over 80 staff.

“We have worldwide experience gained over decades managing waste management facilities with similar environmental and operational challenges,” Mr Conlon said.

“We look forward to working with council on helping them achieve improved environmental outcomes.”

The management contract will commence 31 March 2020.

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NWRIC calls on VIC Premier to intervene in Alex Fraser decision

The National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to intervene in the City of Kingston’s decision to deny the extension of Alex Fraser’s Clarinda recycling facility.

Earlier this year, Alex Fraser called on Kingston City Council to extend its operating permit for its glass and construction and demolition recycling site, as one million tonnes of recyclables risks going to landfill. Kingston Council rejected the extension earlier this month.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the Clarinda facility is a site of state significance.

“It’s capacity to recycle up to one million tonnes of construction materials represents approximately 25 per cent of Melbourne’s recycled material each year,” Ms Read said.

“To lose this site will have significant ramifications for resource recovery in Victoria and the population of Melbourne.”

According to an NWRIC statement, the City of Kingston decision contrasts with Sustainability Victoria’s Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan, which identifies the Alex Fraser site as one of Melbourne’s key resource recovery hubs.

“This illustrates another major weakness in the Victorian Government’s ability to manage waste and recycling, where clearly they have failed to integrate their infrastructure planning with local and state government planning regulations,” the statement reads.

The statement suggests that if Victorian’s want best practise recycling, it’s important that significant recovery hubs are protected and not overridden by local decisions.

“Moving these sites is not a simple matter, there are significant impacts not just on the recycler and its commercial operations, but on the whole of Victoria’s economy, employment and the environment,” the statement reads.

“If the Victorian government is serious about getting recycling back on track in Victoria, the premier needs to step up and mediate a more realistic solution for the future of the Alex Fraser Clarinda site as a matter of urgency.”

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Tasmanian council ceases kerbside recycling

A Tasmanian council will cease kerbside recycling operations from 2020, as part of an overhaul of the region’s waste management strategy.

According to West Coast Council General Manager David Midson, there is limited uptake of recycling bins in the area, with an average 10 per cent of households using the service.

“Recycling collected is often so contaminated that council must expend significant funds to have it sorted and cleaned or allow it to be sent to landfill,” Mr Midson said.

“To resolve these issues in 2020-2021, council aims to move away from kerbside collection and instead provide central separated recycling bins where residents will be able to dispose of recyclables free of charge.”

Other changes to council’s waste management strategy include proactively monitoring illegal dumping and trialling green waste collection at transfer stations for 12 months.

“Currently, green waste deposited at the transfer stations is highly contaminated, resulting in significant council expenditure,” Mr Midson said.

“If this continues, council will move green waste collection to the landfill only, and assess the potential for green waste collection bins.”

Additionally, waste transfer stations will only accept limited categories of waste including domestic waste, oil and green waste from 2020.

Items such as asbestos, tyres, car bodies, concrete, rock rubble and soil will only be accepted at landfill.

Mr Midson said waste management on the West Coast cannot continue as business as usual.

“Current practices do not meet our environmental obligations, our obligations to provide a safe workplace, or the expectations of the community,” Mr Midson said.

“If we continue down the current path, the cost of waste management to ratepayers will increase dramatically.”

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NWRIC discusses export ban with Minister Ley

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has asked Environment Minister Sussan Ley to bring the ban on whole bale tyre exports forward to July 2020, in parallel with glass.

According to an NWRIC statement, the potential harm to humans and the environment by exporting whole baled tyres is significant, with ample capacity to process the material into value added products domestically.

NWRIC members made the request at their quarterly meeting in Canberra this week, which Ms Ley attended to discuss export ban execution and the implications of the proposed timetable.

At the meeting, council members indicated their support for the intent of the ban, and welcomed the strong leadership of the Federal Government, according to an NWRIC statement.

In reference to mixed plastics, NWRIC advised Ms Ley that more time is required for industry to purchase equipment and scale processing capacity. The council also argued for the need to fast track local plastic demand through packaging.

Additionally, NWRIC called the export ban on baled paper and cardboard “illogical,” given local demand is limited and strong existing markets exist overseas.

“This also applies to the export of single resin polymer plastics, such as clean bales of PET and HDPE. The vast majority of this resource is going to legitimate licensed overseas manufacturers,” the statement reads.

How to build local demand for recovered materials for packaging, products and infrastructure was another topic of conversation.

“The minister emphasised the government’s commitment to increase the uptake of recovered materials by changing their procurement practices,” the statement reads.

“She also stressed that businesses must step up too, especially the packaging industry, manufacturers and retailers, by ramping up the use of recycled materials. This program is especially needed in plastic packaging and products.”

NWRIC also argued that for the ban to be successful, new obligations must extend beyond the waste and resource recovery sector, to include organisations importing products to Australia.

“A circular economy requires all parts of the supply chain participate. This also includes consumers who must buy recycled, along with households plus businesses sorting recycling better,” the statement reads.

“Importantly, the minister acknowledged that Australia is a net importer of plastics and paper, so this needs to be considered in implementing the export ban.”

NWRIC members also requested Ms Ley consider banning the export of whole crushed car bodies, white good and waste motor oils.

“All of these products, when exported unprocessed, are causing serious harm to human health and the environment in locations across Asia,” the statement reads.

In addition to the export ban, Ms Ley and NWRIC members discussed the challenges of diverting organics from landfill, and the need for nationally consistent landfill levies.

According to the statement, NWRIC told Ms Ley that there needs to be greater transparency and investment of levies back into developing recovered materials markets, community education, compliance activities, research and data collection. NWRIC members also highlighted the importance of state investment being matched by the Commonwealth.

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