NWRIC raises concerns over export ban viability

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has raised concern’s over COAG’s proposed export ban, suggesting the regulatory measure will fail if not supported by markets for recovered plastics and paper.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the Meeting of Environment Minister’s (MEM) announcement is in urgent need of adjustment to ensure the timelines are realistic.

“Its intent is noteworthy, however its achievability is seriously constrained unless markets and infrastructure are established in parallel,” Ms Read said.

“Perverse impacts from the ban must be avoided as Australia seeks to address its waste and recycling challenges.”

According to Ms Read, NWRIC members are keen to work with all agencies and the packaging and manufacturing industry to support developing markets and regulatory shifts. 

“However, we are very concerned that the regulatory focus is being crudely placed at the end-of-pipe and not at the source of the issue i.e. brands and producers,” Ms Read added. 

“The proposed export bans have the potential to address Australia’s packaging waste and recycling challenges, but only if supported by appropriately targeted product stewardship regulation and effective government procurement policies that create new home markets for used packaging.” 

Ms Read said it was also unrealistic to enforce export bans for plastics by July 2021 and paper by June 2022, when the packaging industry and manufacturers are only working to achieve 30 per cent recycled content and 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. 

“Currently, there is no regulation requiring manufacturers or the packaging industry to achieve these targets or penalties if they don’t.  This is far from being equitable,” Ms Read said.

Despite concerns, Ms Read said NWRIC welcomes the environment ministers commitment to further test the proposed export ban timetable with industry and local government prior to finalisation in early 2020.

“The NWRIC is calling on the federal environment minister to bring together a round table of industry leaders from the manufacturing, packaging, waste and resource recovery sectors, to commit to both minimum recycled content levels in plastic and paper packaging and scaling up reprocessing capacity within mutually agreed and realistic timeframes,” Ms Read said.

“If the environment ministers do not prioritise minimum recycled content levels in plastic and paper packaging, there will be no markets for recovered plastic and paper, stockpiles will grow increasing fire risk, resources will be sent to landfill, people may lose their jobs and currently viable businesses will cease.”

To read further industry responses to the export ban timeline click here.

Related stories:

NSW set to remove asbestos waste levy

The NSW Government is working to remove the asbestos waste levy to facilitate easier and cheaper legal disposal.

The NSW Asbestos Waste Strategy 2019-21, released by Environment Minister Matt Kean earlier this month, aims to reduce the illegal and improper disposal of asbestos waste.

According to Mr Kean, the strategy was developed after findings showed that asbestos waste accounts for up to eight per cent of illegally dumped waste across the state.

“The safe and lawful management of asbestos waste is a priority for this government, and that means making legal disposal of asbestos waste easier and cheaper,” Mr Kean said.

“To do this, we will work to increase the number of facilities which can lawfully receive asbestos waste, and make it cheaper to dispose of asbestos by removing the waste levy on separated, bonded and wrapped asbestos waste up to 250 kilograms.”

Mr Kean said the strategy also sets out plans to disrupt unlawful asbestos dumping by increasing risk for bad operators.

“Illegally dumped asbestos poses a threat to human health and our environment and results in significant clean-up costs,” Mr Kean said.

“We will monitor repeat offenders with GPS trackers to deter illegal dumping and cancel vehicle registration for people caught doing the wrong thing.”

The maximum penalty for illegal dumping of asbestos in NSW is $2 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals.

Related stories:

MEM sets waste ban timeline, but several “missteps”

Waste glass, mixed plastics and whole baled tyres will be banned over the next two years following the final Meeting of Environment Ministers meeting for the year.

The National Meeting of Environment Ministers in Adelaide on Friday reached an agreement to ban the export of particular categories of waste from 1 July 2020 with a phased approach.

Ministers have agreed waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres that have not been processed into a value-add material should be subject to the export ban.

The phase out plans to be completed by the following dates:

  • All waste glass by July 2020
  • Mixed waste plastics by July 2021
  • All whole tyres including baled tyres by December 2021
  • Remaining waste products, including mixed paper and cardboard, by no later than 30 June 2022.

In response to the move, the Victorian Government urged the Federal Government to provide capital investment in waste and recycling infrastructure to ensure the fast approaching ban does not result in stockpiling.

The Queensland Government is similarly calling on the Federal Government to increase their investment in the recycling and resource recovery industry.

Commenting on the ban of exporting waste tyres, Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA), urged all governments to advocate for increasing tyre-derived products in Australia.

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) said MEM’s decisions on the COAG ban on waste exports and the National Waste Policy Action Plan are several good steps forward, but there were some missteps too.

Among the other decisions from the MEM meeting are the adoption of broader waste minimisation targets in the National Waste Action Plan such as 80 per cent resource recovery and halving organic waste by 2030.

Likewise, the meeting committed to a greater commitment to recycled roads as an important solution, with the Commonwealth to play a leading role.

Additionally, it was recognised that brands and packaging supply chain members need to make clear their ‘buy recycled’ commitments. The meeting committed to harmonising container deposit schemes and recognising the need for infrastructure investment for domestic sustainability, decisions all welcomed by ACOR.

ACOR noted it was concerned with a failure to enact an immediate ban on baled tyre exports as there are readily available markets for the material and serious environmental impacts from its continued export for two more years.

It is also concerned with further indecision on funding for time-critical infrastructure especially for mixed paper decontamination and plastics reprocessing capacity, as well as a continued lack of substantive progress on the product stewardship agenda, including batteries.

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said it’s hard to understand why banning baled tyres has not been prioritised as ample evidence was produced on the environmental impact of exports, the existing domestic capacity for reprocessing, and the legal avenues available.

“If one or two jurisdictions blocked this, they need to state their reasons so they can be addressed, and so the ban date can be revisited and expedited at COAG itself. Otherwise, other jurisdictions should just start now via regulations as there is minimal risk in doing so,” Mr Shmigel said.

“On the other hand, it’s good to see more commitment to recycled roads as a practical, no/low cost solution for domestic sustainability. There is evidence that specifying recycled content in even 12 major projects around the country can double our plastics recycling rate, and we should move forward faster on that front, including at COAG where we look forward to the Prime Minister’s continued leadership on recycling,”
he said.

Ministers also agreed to write to the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) to set out their expectations with respect to new packaging targets.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly, tasked with supporting the delivery of the National 2025 Packaging Targets, applauded the ministers for agreeing on the National Waste Policy: Action Plan 2019.

“APCO was involved closely during the consultation and evolution of this approach and is proud to be identified as a key delivery partner for a range of actions moving forward. In particular, we look forward to working with Planet Ark to develop and launch the Circular Economy Hub online platform and marketplace,” Ms Donnelly said.

“We acknowledge the support of ministers as we strive to be more ambitious, and in particular work with industry and key stakeholders to develop a revised target for the use of recycled content in all packaging. In practical terms, today’s announcement reinforces the collective efforts of the entire supply chain, including APCO’s Members, to deliver a truly sustainable packaging system for Australia, as we continue the transition to a circular economy.”

Related stories:

QLD releases Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan

The Queensland Government has released a statewide Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, which features a proposal to ban single-use plastics.

According to Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch, to effectively tackle plastic pollution, Queensland needs to reduce plastic through the design, manufacturing and packaging of products and their ultimate disposal.

“As part of Queensland’s transition to a circular economy, where waste is avoided, reused and recycled to the greatest possible extent, a fundamental shift in the way that we design, use, reuse and process plastics is needed,” Ms Enoch said.

“The majority of Queenslanders, seven out of ten, already take steps to reduce their use of single-use plastics, but there is always more we can do to tackle pollution.”

Ms Enoch said the state government has undertaken extensive consultation with industry and the community.

“This plan is an Australian first in its scope and structure, and takes a holistic approach to the complex nature and impacts of plastic throughout its supply chain, and identifies actions that can be taken,” Ms Enoch said.

“One of these actions is to introduce legislation next year, subject to consultation through a Regulatory Impact Statement, to ban the supply of plastic products including plastic straws, cutlery, plates and stirrers.”

Other actions include expanding on the Plastic Free Places in Queensland program, excluding specific single-use plastic from Queensland Government sponsored events from 2020 onwards, using government purchasing power to reduce plastic use and providing $3 million in community grants for projects geared towards long-term behavioural change.

“We will also identify and develop new businesses and markets to transform the way plastic is recovered, reused and recycled—creating new jobs and industries for Queensland,” Ms Enoch said.

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly said APCO commended Minister Enoch and the entire Queensland Government on the plan.

“It’s been fantastic for APCO to have been closely involved with the consultation and evolution of this approach, driven by the wonderful team at the Queensland Government,” Ms Donnelly said.

“It is vital that we continue to see such strong leadership from our state governments on this critical issue, and it’s been a pleasure to actively work with solution-orientated and collaborative stakeholders in Queensland to address our collective plastics issue and drive long term, sustainable change.”

Ms Donnelly said a key consideration for the state government should be identifying opportunities for leadership in the Asia-Pacific region, with a focus on improved plastic packaging design, collection and processing systems and innovation.

Ms Donnelly said APCO is working in partnership with the Queensland Government, industry and stakeholders to delver a number initiatives identified in the plan.

Initiatives include developing a voluntary sustainable shopping bag code of practice, and working towards the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“The Queensland Government is committed to supporting APCO meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets, and has played an important national leadership role in areas including work on more sustainable options for heavyweight plastic shopping bags and stewardship for agricultural plastic packaging,” Ms Donnelly said.

SUEZ-ResourceCo hits one million tonnes of PEF

SUEZ-ResourceCo’s South Australian Wingfield facility has officially produced one million tonnes of alternative fuel.

SUEZ-ResourceCo Chairman Mark Venhoek said the facility uses technology to harnesses the energy value found in construction and demolition and commercial and industrial waste.

According to Mr Venhoek, the energy is then used to produce process engineered fuel (PEF) for Adelaide Brighton Cement.

“The partnership has seen both a huge reduction in reliance on fossil fuels and significant diversion from landfill.,” Mr Venhoek said.

“PEF presents a cost-effective, sustainable solution to the generation of baseload energy, while helping address the complex issues of waste management – it’s a win/win.”

According to a SUEZ-ResourceCO statement, the plant was the first of its kind commissioned in Australia, and has helped diverted two million tonnes of waste from landfill.

“The multi-million-dollar resource recovery and alternative fuels plant has been a leader in Australia’s efforts to move away from a make, use and dispose model, to the recovery, recycling and re-use of products to extract their maximum value,” the statement reads.

Adelaide Brighton Limited CEO Nick Miller said PEF has helped reduce the company’s reliance on natural resources.

“Through the use of this alternative fuel, Adelaide Brighton Cement has achieved a reduction of approximately 500,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions since project inception,” Mr Miller said.

“The cement produced by Adelaide Brighton is used in a host of major infrastructure projects across South Australia, including the recent redevelopment at Adelaide Oval.”

Related stories:

NSW councils sign recycling target MOU

Leveraging collaborative purchasing power, the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) has set a new annual target of recycling 45 million glass bottles.

According to a SSROC statement, 11 member councils have unanimously signed a memorandum of understanding, which sets out how they will work together to develop a framework for regional procurement of recycled material in infrastructure.

“Australia’s current domestic markets for recycled materials and the infrastructure needed to process them into a clean, usable form is woefully inadequate,” the statement reads. 

“With the Council of Australian Governments set to ban the export of recyclable materials – following restrictions on Australian exports due to high levels of contamination – developing domestic markets for these materials is crucial to avoid stockpiling and landfilling of valuable resources.”

SSROC General Manager Namoi Dougall said SSROC’s approach to joint regional procurement will create sufficient demand to influence market development, beyond what individual councils can achieve. 

“Not only will it allow councils to procure safe, affordable, and high-quality materials, but this model can be rolled out across the Sydney metropolitan area and indeed the entire state,” Ms Dougall said. 

Member councils will initially focus on introducing more glass and reclaimed asphalt pavement into road construction. Following which, they will begin investigating other materials such as plastic, tyre crumb and textiles.

“Since 2018, SSROC has led a series of workshops and collaborations with engineers, procurement experts and specification bodies, to develop the recognised performance standards for adopting a range of recycled materials in civil works,” the statement reads.

“This has enabled this innovative process to be done in a safe and cost-effective way.”

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean praised the SSROC for their commitment to tackling waste in NSW.

“We need all levels of government and industry working together and embracing initiatives like this,” Mr Kean said.

We look forward to working closely with councils and industry so that together we safeguard the future of NSW.”

The 11 member councils include Bayside, Burwood, Canada Bay, Canterbury Bankstown, City of Sydney, Georges River, Inner West, Randwick, Sutherland, Waverley, and Woollahra.

Related stories:

One billion returns in first year of QLD CDS

In its first year of operations, Queensland’s container deposit scheme Containers for Change has seen one billion containers returned.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the return rate is a third higher than predicted.

“On average, we’re currently seeing more than 3.4 million containers a day being returned across the state,” Ms Enoch said.

“These containers were the second most littered item in our state, but since the scheme started there has been a greater than 35 per cent reduction in containers ending up as litter.”

Ms Enoch said the scheme has also seen $100 million returned to Queenslanders and community groups.

“More and more small businesses are getting involved in running refund points, and charities and community groups are also seeing the benefits through fundraising activities,” Ms Enoch said.

“Ten cents per container adds up; and in the last 12 months more than $100 million has gone back to individuals, families, community groups and charities, including RSPCA Queensland who have raised about $3500 in donated refunds.”

Ms Enoch also announced that the state government is offering funding to more than 100 not-for-profit and community organisations to help the scheme grow, and provide a boost to fundraising efforts.

“The state government is committed to boosting recycling with well over 100 infrastructure grants being offered to not-for-profit organisations,” Ms Enoch said.

“These grants of up to $10,000 will help community groups, charities and not-for-profit organisations purchase the equipment necessary to be donation points, the refunds from these donated containers going directly back to the community group.”

Container Exchange CEO Ken Noye said the scheme is supporting economic and job growth, with more than 700 jobs created across Queensland.

“One of the biggest benefits of the scheme has been the employment opportunities provided to young job-seekers, individuals with a disability, people re-entering the workforce and the long-term unemployed,” Mr Noye said.

“The economic benefits have also reached families, community groups, schools and sporting clubs, as a whole new revenue stream has been created.”

Related stories:

MWRRG plans new C&I strategy

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group’s (MWRRG) 2018-19 Annual Report, tabled in parliament November 1, examines progress against the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan.

According to the report, MWRRG is developing a new strategy for commercial and industrial (C&I) waste and advanced waste processing (AWP).

“This year we began developing the evidence base to inform a C&I waste strategy, including 180 waste audits and industry workshops,” the report reads.

“The strategy will initially focus on reducing the volume of plastics and food waste going to landfill.”

Other implementation plan objectives include reducing waste sent to landfill, increasing organic waste recovered, delivering community, environmental and economic benefits and developing a plan for Melbourne’s growing population.

MWRRG’s 2018-21 business plan outlined 45 Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan deliverables, with the 2018-19 report listing 19 completed, a further 19 ongoing and 15 continued.

The highest level of deliverables was achieved in the reducing waste sent to landfill objective, with 6 completed, 9 ongoing and 2 continued.

According to the report’s Message from the Chair and CEO, MWRRG continues to support local government through capacity building, collaborative contracts procurement and education.

“Reducing waste sent to landfill continues to be a priority for us,” the report reads.

“We are achieving this in a number of ways, including recycling more green and food waste, a new strategy for commercial and industrial waste and AWP.”

The report lists AWP as a core element of MWRRG’s strategic and integrated approach to reducing waste sent to landfill, alongside recycling, composting green and food waste, and continuing landfill contracts for waste that can’t otherwise by recovered.

“Our work this year has continued to build resilience and strengthen the operation of the waste and resource recovery sector – helping to ensure regular services for the community and a lower environmental impact,” the report reads.

“For the longer term, we have laid the foundations – to reduce waste to landfill, increase organic recovery and recycling – for investment, transparency and diversity in the sector.”

MWRRG 2018-19 highlights include:

Effectively managing $100 million in council contracts annually including four landfill contracts on behalf of 26 councils, one recycling processing contact on behalf of five councils and three organics processing contracts on behalf of 21 councils.

Reducing commercial and industrial waste through 180 commercial and industrial waste audits.

Promoting green waste recycling through the Back to Earth Initiative eastern garden competition, which attracted 58 nominated projects, 18,400 votes from residents and reached 109,000 residents on Facebook.

Empowering councils to deliver effective food waste recycling through a new food and green waste collection guide.

Developing an evidence base to take action through three new social research reports on food waste recycling, advanced waste processing and illegal dumping.

Protecting communities and the environment through three plans for waste and resource recovery hubs, and leading a memorandum of understanding between key state agencies to implement a whole of government approach to land buffer protection.

Related stories:

Government launches review of Environment Protection Act

The Federal Government has launched a once in a decade review of Australia’s environmental law.

The decision aims to deliver greater certainty to business groups, farmers and environmental organisations.

Led by Monash University Professorial Fellow Graeme Samuel, the statutory review will examine whether the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) remains fit for purpose, and fit for the future within the context of a changing environment.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Professor Samuel will lead an expert panel including Bruce Martin, Wendy Craik, Erica Smyth and Andrew Macintosh.

“This review is not about ideology,” Ms Ley said.

“The one thing all sides of the environmental debate concede is that the complexities of the act are leading to unnecessary delays in reaching decisions, and to an increased focus on process rather than outcomes.”

Ms Ley said decision making delays are estimated to cost the economy roughly $300 million a year, which frustrates business and environmental groups.

“The act has been a world benchmark in environmental protection, but needs to be adapted to changes in the environment and economy,” Ms Ley said.

“I’ve asked Professor Samuel to look at how we can improve efficiency, and make clear and simple decisions that deliver strong, clear and focused environmental protection.”

Ms Ley said Professor Samuel will be releasing a discussion paper in November and begin initial stakeholder meetings shortly thereafter.

Under the review’s terms of reference, the independent reviewer must provide a report to the environment minister within 12 months of the review’s commencement.

Terms of reference include examining the act’s current operations and the extent to which objectives are being achieved. Furthermore, the reference aims to make recommendations to modernise the act, including considerations of Australia’s international environmental responsibilities and the implementation of relevant agreements between the Commonwealth, states and territories.

Related stories:

Victoria’s single-use plastic ban begins

Single-use plastic shopping bags have been banned across Victoria, under new legislation introduced to parliament in June.

The ban, which commenced November 1, applies to bags with a thickness of 35 microns or less, including bags made from degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the ban follows extensive community consultation on tackling plastic pollution, with 96 per cent in favour of the ban.

“The plastic bag ban is part of a suite of government measures designed to reduce the impact of plastic pollution, reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and strengthen Victoria’s recycling industry,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“To support the community in moving to reusable bags, Sustainability Victoria is running a Better Bag Habits campaign – helping Victorian households to remember their phone, wallet, keys and bag before leaving home.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the EPA is also is working with retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers to support them in understanding their obligations, as well as monitoring industry performance.

“The government engaged the National Retail Association to conduct over 180 tours of shopping centres and precincts throughout Victoria to assist retailers transitioning away from banned bags,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

Related stories:

X