National Cleantech Conference seeks EOIs

The National Cleantech Conference and Exhibition (NCTCE) is seeking expressions of interest from event sponsors and exhibitors looking to showcase clean technology innovations.

In its second year, NCTCE will take place at the Brisbane Conference and Exhibition Centre on the 3-4 August.

Cleantech’s 2020 theme is fast tracking sustainable growth, with a program covering all sectors including water, energy, waste, mobility, agriculture, manufacturing and built environment.

According NCTCE Event Director Peta Moore, developing clean technologies is key to mitigating the impact of climate change, while creating new economic opportunities.

“I, like so many, am filled with horror as I watch the fires destroy so much of our country. While I am one of the lucky people not personally affected by the flames and smoke, it has still been an emotional time, a time of despair and frustration,” she said.

Ms Moore said after years working in the cleantech sector, she knows of multiple organisations, businesses, start-ups and innovators developing sustainable solutions around the country.

“As a team of conference organisers, my business, Nectar Creative Communications, is doing what we know how to do best. We are putting on NCTCE and are determined to make a positive impact on this issue by supporting the sector’s growth and commercial implementation,” she said.

The two-day program will focus on cleantech as an instigator of innovation, economic development, creative collaborations and inclusive prosperity.

Program Director Tiffany Bower said the national platform will bring all the major players from the cleantech sector together.

“NCTCE is not focussed on just one solution – it’s a multi-sector event – because it will take a holistic approach, across technologies, behaviours and policies,” she said.

“The conversations at the event will encompass energy, water, waste, built environment, transport, agriculture and manufacturing, because these days, projects aren’t just an ‘energy’ project or a ‘water’ project – they are often across all of these sectors.”

Ms Bower said a key topic of the 2020 event will be investment opportunities and access to funding.

“Many people don’t realise there are government agencies at all levels already doing great work in this area. There is funding available and resources they can access to help build their cleantech innovation and business,” she said.

“Our speaker program aims to spotlight the best-practice case studies, the innovative partnerships and new business models to help delegates navigate their way through the implementation process.”

NCTCE is working in partnership with industry groups such as Climate-KIC, EnergyLab, Cities Power Partnership, Brisbane’s CitySmart and the Australian Electric Vehicle Association.

“It’s really important to us that this conference is accessible to the small businesses and start-ups that comprise the majority of the cleantech industry,” Ms Moore said.

“We have kept ticket prices as low as possible, while ensuring a world-class education and professional development program.”

Tickets go on sale mid-February. For more information click here.

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WA announces CDS operators

Refund point operators have been announced for Western Australia’s new container deposit scheme, ahead of its 2 June launch.

According to Premier Mark McGowan, sixty-five entities have been selected to deliver 145 refund points.

“WA’s first container deposit scheme, Containers for Change, is taking shape, and it’s pleasing to see so many organisations from all sectors of the community getting on board,” Mr McGowan said.

“Around 40 per cent of refund points will be operated by social enterprises, including charities, disability sector organisations, Aboriginal corporations and sporting and community groups.”

Mr McGowan said refund points will be established in every region across the state, from the Kimberley to the Great Southern.

“Today’s announcement is just the starting point for the Containers for Change network, which will grow significantly in coming months and years,” he said.

“The number of refund points across the state will grow to at least 172 by June, and to 229 by the end of the scheme’s first year.”

Logistics and processing applicants have also been selected, with state-of-the-art compacting trucks and on-site compacting to be used for the first time in an Australian container deposit scheme.

“This will mean less heavy vehicle movements on Western Australian roads – the equivalent of one truck instead of five,” Mr McGowan said.

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Lithium Australia seeks international recovery patent

The International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organisation has published two patent applications from Lithium Australia.

The applications detail Lithium Australia’s lithium phosphate recovery process, which extracts the material from lithium-bearing silicates and solutions.

According to a Lithium Australia statement, the patents seek to protect intellectual property derived from the company’s research and development activities.

“Intellectual property is managed by way of formal patent processes to retain ‘know-how’ as trade secrets, with the support of specialist legal practitioners,” the statement reads.

Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin said the technology improves the sustainability of, and reduces the environmental impacts associated with, the manufacture, use and disposal of lithium-ion batteries.

“Importantly, these technologies can facilitate vertical integration within the battery supply chain, potentially reducing the number of process steps involved, and lowering costs for consumers,” Mr Griffin said.

“The ability to integrate metal recovery from lithium-ion batteries and regenerate cathode materials represents a major advance for the battery industry as a whole.”

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QLD proposes local government waste reform

The Queensland Government is reviewing waste regulations after a Queensland Treasury Corporation review highlighted anti-competition concerns and a lack of regulatory harmonisation.

The state government’s Local Government Waste Management Reforms Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) is now open for public comment.

“Local government stakeholders have raised concerns about their ability to administer waste management in the absence of a state level regulatory framework for the administration of waste management, and the need for all councils to develop local laws for waste administration,” the RIS reads.

“Some stakeholders expressed the view that some local governments are acting in an anticompetitive manner while implementing local government waste management provisions.”

The RIS examines two regulatory mechanisms, section seven of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulation 2011, and chapter 5A of the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008.

According to the RIS, both sections provide a regulatory framework for local governments to administer waste management activities within a local government area.

Section seven allows local governments to designate areas for general and green waste collection, and to determine the frequency of those collections. Chapter 5A gives local governments the ability to impose obligations and requirements on premises outside designated areas.

The RIS suggests that when paired with powers granted under the Local Government Act 2009, section seven and chapter 5A give local governments the ability to stifle competition.

“The Local Government Act 2009 provides for local governments to make local laws, including anti-competitive laws, where the benefit to the community is considered to outweigh the cost,” the RIS reads.

Alternatively, the RIS highlights local government concerns that without these powers, commercial operators will only collect from profitable segments of the market, thereby undermining the economies of scale that come from mandating all services.

The RIS proposes two options: no change to current regulations, and amendments that will retain local government’s ability to mandate domestic waste collection, but only allow local governments to designate areas for council commercial waste collection when strict criteria are met.

The Local Government Association Queensland is supporting the retention of present regulations, suggesting changes will lead to a clear cost shift to local communities for the sole benefit of the private sector.

Additionally, the association suggests changes could reduce service certainty, reduce the ability to control and regulate collection activities and impact contract arrangements and negotiations.

Submissions close 31 February.

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Landfill levy waived for bushfire victims

Landfill levies have been waived for residents in bushfire affected areas across Victoria, following an announcement from state Premier Daniel Andrews.

“As Victorians begin returning to their homes and land following the recent bushfires, the state government will make sure people can dispose of their bushfire waste without paying the landfill levy,” Mr Andrews said.

“This is practical and immediate support for people who are undertaking the heartbreaking task of cleaning up their homes and properties.”

According to Mr Andrews, bushfire waste includes debris from homes, businesses, sheds, stock, fencing and equipment that has been damaged.

“The levy waiver will also make it easier for people to dispose of dead livestock,” he said.

The Victorian EPA will work with landfill operators and councils in fire-affected areas to apply for the exemption.

“If residents or business owners have any questions or concerns about bushfire waste clean up and disposal, they can contact EPA for further information,” Mr Andrews said.

The exemption follows similar measures in NSW, with the state government waiving the levy in bushfire natural disaster areas in November 2019.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said thousands of people across NSW are reeling from the effects of the November bushfires, which are still burning.

“We know that the effects of these bushfires will be felt for months, and even years to come, and we hope that this streamlined waste process can provide a little relief for those coping with the effects of these horrible bushfires,” he said.

The NSW exemption will apply until 29 February 2020.

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Macedon Ranges to roll out seperate kerbside glass collections

Macedon Ranges Shire Council in Victoria is rolling out seperate kerbside glass collections, following a successful 2019 trial.

According to a council statment, the decision comes after Macedon Ranges was one of 33 Victorian councils affected by the closure of recycling processor SKM Recycling.

“A new recycling processor has been identified, but only if glass is removed from the household recycling bins,” the statement reads.

In a 2019 statement, Acting Assets and Operations Director Anne-Louise Lindner said residents needed to work with council to find alternatives to landfill.

“We really hope the community will come on board and help us to remove glass from [general] recycling bins,” Ms Lindner said.

“Shards and small pieces of glass can become embedded in paper and cardboard in recycling bins, and contaminate the other recyclables.”

Macedon’s new 140 litre glass-only bins will be collected every four weeks and have purple lids.

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VIC EPA extends battery plant consultation period

The Victorian EPA has extended its consultation period for a battery recycling plant works approval, due to a high level of local interest.

The consultation period has been extended to 52 days, with two extra information sessions held in January.

The development proposal, received from Chunxing Corporation, seeks to recycle the material into 28,000 tonnes of refined lead each year.

The proposal estimates 98 per cent of the lead, plastic and electrolyte (sulfuric acid) in batteries will be recycled.

According to the Chunxing Corporation application, Australia generates roughly 150,000 tonnes of used lead acid batteries a year, most of which is sent to four existing facilities.

The application highlights that of the four facilities, only one conducts secondary lead smelting to produce lead product.

“We believe such incomplete ‘recycling’ is unsustainable, and vulnerable to overseas demand and policy changes, similar to the export of kerbside recycling, which collapsed after China introduced its China National Sword Policy,” the application reads.

“We also see this low penetration of ‘full recycling’ in the market as an opportunity.”

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Exchange for Change announces new CEO

NSW and ACT container deposit scheme coordinator Exchange for Change has announced the appointment of new CEO Danielle Smalley.

According to Exchange for Change Chair Tracy McLeod Howe, Ms Smalley was chosen after an extensive and competitive selection process.

“Ms Smalley is an outstanding choice, bringing a wealth of experience building and leading high performing teams in the public sector, and working in senior stakeholder engagement, media, issues and project management roles,” she said.

Ms Smalley previously served as Chief Operating Officer with the Greater Sydney Commission and held senior roles with Sydney Metro and Manidis Roberts.

“This appointment marks an exciting new chapter for Exchange for Change, and the board is looking forward to working with Danielle to ensure Exchange for Change continues to deliver on its remit to realise a sustainable future without waste,” Ms Howe said.

Ms Smalley said she was excited to be taking on the role.

“Building further on our success is a challenge I accept with confidence, determination and fierce ambition for the organisation,” Ms Smalley said.

“I am passionately committed to placing our suppliers, partners and the community at the absolute centre of everything we do.”

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UNSW students develop plastic reprocessing start-up

Local councils and community centres could soon be able to reprocess their recycled plastic through a subscription based service.

UNSW business school students have won the 2019 Big Idea competition’s postgraduate category with their start-up idea Closed Loop – a local-level plastic waste recycling business.

Closed Loop aims to address plastic waste by renting plastic reprocessing machines to community centres and councils, giving the public an opportunity to upcycle their plastic.

According to UNSW graduate student Lauren Hayes, the team acquired an open-source reprocessing machine from Precious Plastics, a global community for plastic waste.

“The greatest way to have impact is to reach out to community centres and the government,” Ms Hayes said.

“We are working to place a reprocessing machine in every community centre in Sydney. We are also in discussion with numerous councils and looking to put a machine in their space as well.”

Ms Hayes said rather than recycling plastic, the machine reprocesses it into new products.

“In terms of what the processing machine actually does, is it different to a recycle bin. Reprocessing is when recycled plastic re-enters the world as new materials – rather than being just re-used, reduced, recycled,” she said.

“We take recycled plastic and it goes into the reprocessing machine. What it does is that it can produce new products such as bowls, iPhone cases, pot plants and coasters – depending on which moulds are used in the machine.”

The process requires uncontaminated plastic that’s been cleaned and sorted, depending on various factors such as grade and colour. The material is then shredded into chips and transferred to a 3D printer.

“The community centre will decide what customised moulds they would want to create out of the reprocessed plastic,” Ms Hayes said.

“As part of the subscription service, the community centre can request up to three customised moulds. That’s where our consulting service comes in.”

Ms Hayes said the next step for the project is to raise capital funding.

“We’ve pitched our idea and are looking to raise funds through a GoFundMe campaign. We might also join an incubator to raise capital, as we want to ultimately expand Australia-wide,” she said.

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Federal Government opens export ban consultation

As required by COAG Regulation Impact Guidelines, the Federal Environment Department is seeking consultation on its export ban Regulation Impact Statement (RIS).

The department aims to determine the relative costs and benefits of regulatory options under consideration. The RIS highlights two options, one non-regulatory and one regulatory.

Option one, status quo with consumer education and work on standards, suggests waste exports could continue between countries party to the Basel Convention Hazardous Waste Act.

Under option one, government would encourage improved outcomes through non-regulatory initiatives such as household education campaigns, targets under the National Waste Action Plan and increased use of recyclable material in procurement.

“Under the status quo approach, current laws would continue to operate. As this option is non-regulatory, it is not expected to increase compliance costs,” the RIS reads.

“Businesses will be able to continue to determine whether to export waste materials in accordance with the Hazardous Waste Act framework and the laws of the importing country.”

Problems with this approach, as highlighted by the RIS, include disruptions to international markets, unregulated international standards and poor environmental outcomes.

“The status quo will not fully address interrelated systemic challenges in Australia’s recycling sector that limit domestic resource recovery,” the RIS reads.

“Without addressing these challenges, the imposition of import restrictions by other countries could result in a range of health, environmental and financial impacts.”

Listed impacts include increased landfilling, recyclable mismanagement, stockpiling and illegal dumping.

As an alternative, the RIS highlights a regulatory approach: prohibit or restrict plastic, paper, tyre and glass exports.

“Under this option, affected waste would need to be processed domestically,” the RIS reads.

“The material could be restricted from export until it had been re-processed into materials that are ready for further use, and should not harm human health or the environment in the importing country.”

According to the RIS, option two could be implemented through commonwealth legislation, or alternatively, through export restrictions such as permit systems and accreditation or supply chain assurance.

Exemptions could be considered, the RIS suggests, where continued export promotes circular economy principals.

“These could include exemption for materials that meet established industrial uses and have established markets,” the RIS reads.

The RIS also suggests exemptions could be considered for material that originates from clean well-sorted systems, such as container deposit schemes or single source collection, with demonstrated low contamination levels.

Option two contains two variants: under option two (a) government would not undertake targeted interventions or provide financial assistance to support implementation. While under option two (b), regulation would be supported by targeted government interventions to improve material standards and build markets and associated demand.

Listed targeted interventions include developing technical standards to encourage increased recyclable material use, changes to landfill levies and regulatory standards, product stewardship schemes, transitional industry assistance and changes to government procurement policies.

Benefits to this approach include providing future assurance to industry and all levels of government, and encouraging innovation and investment.

Submissions close 12 February.

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