Rules and Regulations

Hitting the right target

The WA Government has revamped its waste strategy, with shared responsibilities across government, the business sector and community.

After reviewing its waste strategy earlier this year, the WA Government released a draft Waste Strategy 2030. In a WA first, the highly comprehensive document sets mandatory targets and a consistent approach to collection and waste education. 

Developed in consultation with the WA community, industry and government, the document comprises objectives, targets and headline strategies across avoidance, recovery and environment protection. It is currently undergoing a second round of consultation with feedback to be provided to the state’s environment minister,  according to statutory authority the Waste Authority WA. 

In avoidance, the document calls for a 10 per cent reduction in waste generation per capita by 2025 and 20 per cent by 2030. In recovery, it calls to increase material recovery to 70 per cent by 2025 and 75 per cent by 2030, while recovering energy only from residual waste. 

To protect the environment, the target comprises no more than 15 per cent of waste generated in Perth and Peel being landfilled by 2030, while disposing of all waste at better practice facilities. A 10 per cent gap between material recovery and landfilling has been included for energy recovery, as distinct from 75 per cent material recovery. 

In 2014-15, WA generated more waste than people in other Australian states and territories while disposing of the second highest amount of waste to landfill. Furthermore, Western Australians had the equal second lowest rate of resource recovery at 48 per cent, up from 34 per cent in the nine years to 2014-15.

According to the strategy, the poor performance partly reflects some of the unique characteristics of WA such as its geographical size, isolation from markets, vast regional and remote areas and heavy reliance on mineral and resource industries.

The headline target of the new strategy is effectively to deliver a harmonised kerbside collection system that includes food organics and garden organics (FOGO) in all Perth and Peel regions by 2025 provided by local governments with funding support from the state. 

Marcus Geisler, Waste Authority Chairman, highlights in the strategy that the waste management sector is in a transitional phase and will require clear direction and guidance going forward that may include more directive approaches over voluntary ones. 

Speaking with Waste Management Review, Marcus says one of the issues of the previous strategy was it focused heavily on municipal solid waste – which is only 25 per cent of WA’s waste stream. 

Marcus says the current government was able to see the need for a modern strategy which focuses on a shared responsibility between federal, state and local governments, the waste industry, business sector and the community, individuals and households. He says the new strategy has mandatory targets and leads by example with the state government taking action. 

“With the new strategy, we split strategies and actions between the waste generators and the waste managers and I think that’s a first in Australia,” he says.

The strategy divides the various responsibilities up into the community, local and state government and industry. When broken down by stream, the new strategy introduces a target of 70 per cent commercial and industrial (C&I) waste recovery for government and industry by 2020, which increases up to 2025 and 2030. For construction and demolition (C&D) waste, the target is to increase material recovery to 75 per cent by 2020. For municipal solid waste recovery, the community target is to increase it to 65 per cent in Perth and Peel by 2020 and 50 per cent in major regional areas. 

Developing statewide communications to support consistent messaging on waste avoidance, resource recovery and appropriate waste disposal behaviours was another headline strategy. 

“The only way to get consistent messaging is if you have a consistent collection system, because otherwise you have all these various messages out there and it’s just confusing,” Marcus says.

“All the materials recovery facilities for the yellow lid bin have now agreed on an acceptance list, so we’re moving towards a consistent collection system with colour coding for the yellow lid, red lid for residual and lime green for food and garden organics. That has to be in place in metropolitan areas by 2025 and that’s a state government commitment.” 

Community campaigns such as Own Your Impact WA, a statewide education program, will be rolled out to reduce waste generation over the long term, with a goal of influencing the major waste generators such as supermarkets. 

Marcus says that the Waste Authority has also spoken to materials recovery facilities (MRF) operators in collaboration with Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) to use the same list in their local government tenders. 

He adds that this consistency will go a long way to reducing household contamination, while noting that additional funding may be provided to MRFs to upgrade their existing infrastructure. 

“We’re largely aligned here – all the MRFs have optical sorters. There were eight MRFs in WA and now there’s only three left because all the material outside of metro is baled and brought to the Perth MRFs.” 

Marcus says that getting all Perth and Peel councils onto FOGO also supports a consistent approach to waste management in the state. 

According to Lynne Craigie, President of WALGA, to meet all of the targets for municipal solid waste, councils will need effective programs and other support mechanisms. She cites programs such as Love Food Hate Waste as effective at achieving waste avoidance, while noting programs could be funded by greater levy hypothecation.

“For the resource recovery and landfill diversion targets, the association is recommending that, as a priority, the state government models feasible configurations of infrastructure, programs, engagement and service delivery in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas to ensure that the targets in the strategy can be achieved,” she says.

Turning to the headline Perth and Peel FOGO target, Lynne says that while local government is supportive of better practice approaches to kerbside collection, the state government needs to be mindful of existing contractual arrangements. 

WA school students place food scraps in a composting bin as part of a Waste Free Wednesday initiative.

“Local governments that have entered into waste to energy contracts have questioned if and how the adoption of a FOGO system is to be enforced, and how this will then impact on their existing tonnage commitments and contractual obligations,” Lynne says.  

“The business case and end markets for FOGO systems need to be identified and communicated. From discussion with the sector, it is suggested that the target for FOGO should include the Bunbury Harvey region, as the majority of those local governments already have this system in place.”   

The strategy also focuses on implementing sustainable government procurement practices that encourage greater use of recycled products and support local market development. 

Funding will be provided to promote the recovery of more value and resources with an emphasis on focus materials, while reviewing the scope and application of the waste levy to ensure it meets the objectives of the Waste Strategy 2030. Marcus says that more news on the levy evaluation will be expected shortly, with the environment minister currently receiving advice on a future pricing structure. 

The new strategy also looks to review and update data collection and reporting systems to allow waste generation, recovery and disposal performance to be assessed in a timely manner. 

To improve planning, the government will undertake a strategic review of WA’s waste infrastructure, including landfills by 2020, to guide future infrastructure development.

“We want to adopt a needs-based approach and how we can make sure there’s land close to where waste is generated, with buffers available there then industry can work the rest out,” Marcus says.

Lynne says that WALGA supports sustainable procurement in local government, including the use of recycled construction materials in civil works and will continue to encourage local governments to support reuse and reprocessing of recycled materials. 

The waste strategy will be supported by an action plan that will outline specific actions to be implemented to achieve its objectives. The strategy will be reviewed in five years while the action plan will be reviewed on a more regular basis. Local governments will also be required to implement their waste plans to align with the strategies. 

“Under the WARR Act 2007, part four division three, local government waste plans have to align with the strategy, which, for example, has FOGO as a policy, and approved by the CEO of the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation. If the waste plan doesn’t align with the strategy, the CEO can knock it back,” Marcus says.

Lynne says the association is recommending the state government actively engages stakeholders in the development of the supporting documentation for the strategy, including but not limited to an action plan, better practice guidance, waste infrastructure plan, data strategy and investment strategy. 

Adam Johnson, WA State President at the Waste Management Association of Australia, welcomes the clarity in the strategy and clear expectation across all stakeholders in the supply chain. 

“It doesn’t push all the responsibility onto the industry or local government. It shares it well and is not particularly contentious,” he says.

According to Adam, one of the challenges of long-term planning for waste processing and recycling facilities in WA is the fact that current infrastructure is consolidated to the south of Perth, with that in the north reaching its end of life.

“The growth of Perth is to the north, so there does need to be some work in that space. It’s not too difficult to resolve because the councils to the north are much larger, so we are dealing with a small number of councils,” Adam says. 

“There’s also a need to look outside the metropolitan Perth and Peel area to look at how we step up regional centres, as there are only a handful of facilities in the towns and we need to look at what infrastructure they require.”

Adam adds that this will likely mean more FOGO recycling so it’s about introducing a third bin. 

In terms of energy recovery, the policy states that it is preferable to landfill disposal but should only be applied to residual waste and defined as waste which remains following the application of better practice source separation and recycling systems.

Marcus says that best practice is subject to change as it reflects the government of the day, with FOGO currently the signature policy of best practice. For example, waste to energy facilities, he says, should have in their contracts that they can only receive material from best practice source separation, which must also be adhered to by local governments.

He says he is keen to learn from Europe’s experiences and not end in a position where waste to energy facilities create perverse outcomes regarding the potential for material recovery or an undersupply of recyclate volumes.

“A lot of governments will be in a position if they don’t manage their processing plans carefully where they cannot move to a FOGO system because they’ve committed their volume to a 20-year contract and we’ve tried to overcome that. However that risk is currently low [in WA] because if there’s only one waste to energy facility, we can always coordinate waste from other residual waste sources to ensure true residual waste feeds only,” Marcus says.

Marcus notes that local and state governments are huge buyers of waste-derived materials and have to lead by example. He says specific targets for recycled content and materials in government contracts will be included in the action plan for year one. 

“For example, Main Roads will have a target of using 200,000 tonnes of recycled material next year. Government procurement departments will have specific commitments.” 

Marcus says that mandatory data reporting will be introduced with the legislation being updated by the state government.

Lynne says that it is important to avoid duplication in developing the waste data strategy as local governments have indicated reporting essentially the same data sections to different sections within the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation. 

“The association supports the suggested approach, in the previous consultation, to develop ‘approved methods’ of reporting with training to assist prior to implementation,” she says. 

While the waste strategy will be reviewed in the future, Marcus notes that it’s important to set a clear agenda while, at the same time, not being too stringent.

“This is a 10-year strategy in a very fluid market, which is why we are in a transitional phase. You want to have something that gives good guidance but not too rigid, because you need flexibility and innovation,” he says.

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