NCTCE webinar to explore investment and cleantech capital

Raising capital and securing investment for cleantech innovation in today’s market will be the focus of the latest instalment of the National Cleantech Conference & Exhibition’s (NCTCE) webinar series.

According to NCTCE Director Peta Moore, the webinar series, Cleantech Conversations, has been well received to date, with over 100 registrations for each event.

“Next week we have an excellent panel of investment heavy hitters discussing the expectations of private equity, capital markets and governments for investment in cleantech in 2020,” she said.

Providence Asset Group’s Matthew Muller will facilitate the discussion with a panel of industry leaders explaining how they navigate the investment landscape, the opportunities in public-private funding and the core tenants of good investment.

Panelists include: The Table Club CEO James Burkitt, NERA GM Innovation and Stakeholder Engagement and NCTCE Advisory Panel Member Paul Hodgson, UNSW Knowledge Exchange Director Warwick Dawson and Societe Generale Australia Managing Director Energy & Natural Resources Stephen Craen.

Date: Thursday 2 July

Time: 12:30 – 1:30pm

Click here to register.

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EPA Victoria welcomes new Chair

Victorian Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has appointed a new Chair of EPA Victoria, with Kate Auty to assume the role form 1 July.

According to D’Ambrosio, Auty brings significant experience in the fields of public sector governance and administration, law, regulation and the environment.

Auty previously served as the Victorian Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, and more recently held the role of Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment in the ACT.

“Prof Auty’s expertise, leadership, insights and skills will ensure strong leadership and governance of the EPA during this period of transition and major reform,” D’Ambrosio said.

Auty will act as Chair for a five year period.

“During this time, Prof Auty will support the government’s commitment to build a stronger, modern EPA to better protect Victoria’s environment and community from the harmful effects of pollution and waste,” D’Ambrosio said.

D’Ambrosio explained that the EPA is working hard on the implementation of the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018, which will come into effect in 2021.

The new legislation has a key focus on preventing risks of harm from pollution and waste rather than managing harms after they have occurred and is modelled on occupational health and safety legislation.

Some of the most significant changes include a general environmental duty, which requires all Victorians undertaking an activity with risks of harm to the environment and human health to identify and implement reasonably practical means to eliminate or minimise these risks.

This covers risks from waste management activities, from generation, right through to disposal.

Under the new legislation, licences will also be subject to regular reviews and a risk-based environmental audit regime introduced. 

“The EPA also has a major role to play in the delivery of the government’s overhaul of waste and recycling,” she said.

“The EPA will also work closely with industry and businesses so they can operate in a way that’s safe for the community and environment.”

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SA launches new Which Bin campaign and draft waste strategies

The South Australian Government has launched a new Which Bin campaign to encourage South Australians to improve their household waste management.

According to Environment Minister David Speirs, the new statewide Which Bin campaign builds on the award-winning 2019 education program, which follows Vin and his family in their quest to recycle more effectively.

“The amount of household waste being produced during the COVID-19 pandemic has spiked, with local councils seeing a more than 10 per cent rise in waste sent to landfill compared with this time last year – similar to amounts produced during the Christmas period,” Speirs said.

The new campaign aims to improve the state’s recycling levels by educating people on which bin is best for different items of household waste.

Food waste is the state’s biggest area for improvement, Speirs said, representing as much as 40 per cent of the material in South Australian household waste bins sent to landfill.

“There are simple things families can do help the situation, such as getting a kitchen caddy to put food scraps in or just educating yourself on what products can go in each bin,” he said.

“By using our three kerbside bins more effectively local councils will save money by reducing landfill costs, and for business the biggest savings are made by avoiding food waste in the first place. The cost of wasted materials, energy and labour is up to 10 times the cost of disposal.”

The state government has also released two draft waste strategies for consultation; South Australia’s Food Waste Strategy and the South Australia’s Waste Strategy for 2020-25.

“South Australia has always been a nation-leader when it comes to waste management and South Australia’s Food Waste Strategy – Valuing our Food Waste is Australia’s first comprehensive blueprint for reducing and preventing food waste being sent to landfill,” Speirs said.

South Australia’s Waste Strategy for 2020-25 seeks to achieve zero avoidable wast to landfill by 2030.

It proposes targets, objectives and actions to continue the state’s efforts to achieve positive environmental outcomes, while building the local industry and creating business opportunities locally and overseas.

“New directions are included to boost the economy and for positive environmental outcomes covering food waste, single-use plastics, regulatory reforms, education and behaviour change and market development through infrastructure investment and other measures,” Speirs said.

Additional sector targets include a 75 per cent diversion rate for municipal solid waste, 90 per cent for commercial and industrial waste and 95 per cent diversion of construction and demolition waste.

Consultation closes 14 August.

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CSIRO finds cheaper way to track outbreaks in wastewater

Tracking community outbreaks of COVID-19 through wastewater can happen faster, using more cost-effective tests, according to new research published by Australian national science agency CSIRO.

The new research builds on the world’s first peer-reviewed proof-of-concept trial run in Brisbane by CSIRO and the University of Queensland, which tested untreated wastewater and found fragments of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Scientists have now refined their methods of concentrating and recovering the virus from wastewater samples, which can indicate the presence of COVID-19 carriers in the community, regardless of whether they show symptoms.

According to a CSIRO statement, seven methods were tested in the latest study, confirming the most cost-effective and rapid virus recovery process which extracts virus information from wastewater, so it can be tested, with each sample now taking between 15 to 30 minutes to process.

“Worldwide wastewater monitoring could save up to USD$1 billion for national monitoring programs depending on frequency of sampling and population, according to research,” the statement reads.

“Wastewater monitoring has been shown to be significantly cheaper and faster than clinical screening for COVID-19, but would be used as an added diagnostic measure.”

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall said science has found a way to help individual communities avoid a second wave of the pandemic.

“This unique monitoring breakthrough will ensure each suburb gets the medical support it needs so all of us, as a nation, can stay healthier,” he said.

CSIRO researcher Warish Ahmed led the findings, published in The Science of the Total Environment, which evaluated the concentration, recovery and detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA (its genetic code).

“We will keep refining the virus concentration and detection methods to provide more sensitive and accurate results of the viral load in wastewater,” Ahmed said.

“This will provide information on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community so public health officials can have as much information as possible to manage an outbreak in a timely manner.”

The results will be shared with a new global scientific collaboration, COVID-19 WBE Collaborative, which brings together more than 50 global experts in water-based epidemiology to share testing methods and data on wastewater-based surveillance for the current and future disease outbreaks.

The wastewater testing is conducted on untreated sewage, collected as it enters a wastewater treatment plant to provide community-level results.

“Based on our knowledge of the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, drinking water is very well protected against all viruses, including the new coronavirus,” the statement reads.

Pictured: CSIRO researcher Dr Warish Ahmed. 

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Marine debris costs APEC nations $15.7B

A new report to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) shows marine debris cost countries in the region $15.7 billion in 2015.

The Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) at the University of Wollongong produced the report for APEC’s Oceans and Fisheries Working Group, funded by the US Department of State.

“While many APEC countries have enjoyed strong economic growth over the past three decades, an unfortunate by-product has been an increase in marine debris along the coastlines and in the seas of the Asia-Pacific region,” a University of Wollongong statement reads.

The report found that between 2009 and 2015, the estimated economic cost of debris per annum rose eight-fold, from $1.83 billion to $15.7 billion.

“This includes the costs to industries including fisheries and aquaculture, shipping and transport and tourism, but does not include money spent on cleaning up the debris or the costs to the environment, which are unknown,” the statement reads.

The report calculated that marine debris cost the region’s tourism industry $9.29 billion, shipping and transport $4.26 billion and fishing and aquaculture $2.13 billion.

“At current estimated leakage rates of debris into the oceans, the projected value of damage to these industries to 2050 is $313 billion,” the statement reads.

“If the volume of marine debris entering the ocean accelerates (and global plastic production is predicted to triple by 2050), then this number would increase.”

ANCORS marine economist Alistair McIlgorm, who led the research, said the report showed “business as usual is not acceptable.”

“The cost of marine debris – to individuals, to communities and to national economies – is significant and is growing,” he explained.

“It is a $200 billion hit to the economies of the 21 APEC countries from now to 2050, so we can’t sit back and do nothing.”

The report counts the indirect costs as well as the direct costs of marine debris.

“You wouldn’t believe how many outboards all over the APEC region run over fishing monofilament and plastic, which causes all sorts of damage,” Prof McIlgorm said.

“The cost of that damage is not only the fact you’ve got to go and get the motor seals fixed, but also that you’re not actually doing what you want to do – it’s the cost of opportunities forgone as well.”

In addition to laying out the size of the problem, the report proposes a range of policy and legislative responses including implementing technical litter traps, national waste strategies and action plans and adopting extended producer responsibility schemes with consumer involvement.

Furthermore, the report suggests introducing regulations to reduce waste, applying economic instruments to promote recycling and economic incentives to engage the private sector.

“Several Asian economies have been identified as having the highest levels of marine debris. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the 30-year “economic miracle” that has lifted a billion people out of poverty,” Prof McIlgorm said.

“The good news is, if you look at the costs and benefits of marine debris, many of the actions we can take have reasonably low cost to deliver a high benefit.

“For example, there are a lot of major urban marine debris hot spots, particularly in the Southeast Asian area, where targeted interventions really would make sense.”

The report recommends bringing governments together with the private sector and communities to address the challenge.

According to Prof McIlgorm, all sectors of the community can be involved in the solution.

“Producers can improve product design and labelling to assist the sorting of waste for economically viable recycling. Consumers can use product choice and be part of pay and recovery schemes to reduce waste through recycling,” he said.

“A little bit of effort and awareness can go a long way.”

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VIC essential services commences stage two of waste review

The Victorian essential services commission has commenced stage two of its waste and recycling services review, and is now undertaking targeted stakeholder consultation.

Last year, the Victorian Government asked the commission to provide advice on how to address issues of competition, system-level resilience, service quality and greater transparency in the waste and resource recovery sector.

In October 2019, the commission provided initial confidential high-level options for the design of a regulatory regime for the sector.

“In response, the government has asked us to provide further advice on legislative options and explore potential governance arrangements,” a statement from the commission reads.

According to the statement, the commission’s advice will consider the full costs and benefits of options to make waste and resource recovery more transparent, and ensure councils provide these services to expected standards.

Additionally, the commission will assess how a new statutory framework could address identified inadequacies in the sector, and how the government should regulate it.

“We will undertake targeted consultation with stakeholders over the coming months before providing our final advice to the government in August 2020,” the statement reads.

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Infrastructure Partnerships Australia calls for EfW investment

New research from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia suggests the “looming waste crisis” is a once in a generation opportunity to embrace energy recovery as an effective way to manage waste and provide baseload power.

With COAG’s waste export bans fast approaching, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Chief Executive Officer Adrian Dwyer said time is running out for governments to avoid a waste crisis.

“Greater energy recovery from waste could help divert 13.7 million tonnes of landfill each year by 2030 and reduce emissions by up to 5.2 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent each year,” Dwyer said.

The report, Putting waste to work: Developing a role for Energy From Waste (EfW), suggests appetite among community and industry stakeholders to reform the waste sector is growing, in response to a decreasing tolerance for landfill and increasing social awareness of related issues.

“This is occurring in conjunction with large infrastructure operators and investors providing significant capital and expertise to meet Australia’s waste challenges,” the report reads.

“With the right policy settings, these factors could be leveraged to create enduring change within Australia’s waste sector.”

Putting waste to work outlines a series of key recommendations to support the roll out of energy recovery facilities and unlock close to $14 billion in private investment by 2030.

“EfW has been used for decades around the world to divert non-recyclable waste from landfill, reduce emissions and produce energy, yet Australia has been slow off the mark in harnessing a role for technology,” Dwyer said.

“Energy recovery is the missing piece in both the waste and energy puzzles, and it needs greater consideration by governments.”

According to Dwyer, a lack of scale, social licence and impetus for change has lead to EfW and other forms of advanced waste processing being underutilised in Australia.

“As we emerge from the COVID crisis and look for ways to stimulate jobs and output, the EfW sector offers a major opportunity to reduce emissions and drive investment,” he said.

The report calls on Australia’s governments to implement five main actions:

Recommendation 1: Governments should define a role for EfW through their recycling and waste management plans and strategies. These documents should openly address energy recovery and the potential role it can play in improving waste management outcomes in Australia.

Recommendation 2: Governments of all levels should help to establish social licence for EfW – broadly and locally – be engaging communities openly on the benefits of advanced forms of waste processing and addressing any concerns.

Recommendation 3: Governments, through the National Federation Reform Council (NFRC), should develop nationally consistent guidelines for the development of EfW projects and other waste management technologies.

Recommendation 4: Governments, through the NFRC, should adopt EU emissions standards for EfW facilities, applied through nationally consistent regulation.

Recommendation 5: Governments, through the NFRC, should seek to establish a national market for EfW, including nationally consistent regulations in relation to feedstock and the development of market opportunities for by-products.

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