Opportunities and challenges in regional waste management was the theme of the recent WasteQ conference.
Around 120 Queensland-based waste and recycling industry professionals gathered in Cairns for the three-day WMAA-hosted event between 9 and 11 September.
The program started on Wednesday 9 September with a technical tour of industry facilities in Cairns. The WMAA WasteQ party visited Cairns Regional Council’s MRF, Portsmith Landfill & Gas Flare site and Transfer Station, and Buy Back Shop, finishing up at the SUEZ Advanced Resource Recovery Facility.
It was noted on the Portsmith site section that very few landfill managers need to worry about crocodiles when travelling around a site perimeter.
The Tanks Arts Centre in Cairns – itself a based in repurposed oil tanks – was the venue for conference seminars, information sharing and networking events. The delegates were surrounded in the conference hall by sculptures made from recovered resources, and asked to vote on a winner.
After the official conference welcome speeches on day 2, Queensland Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles delivered the opening address. He strongly signalled his department’s commitment to supporting genuine waste and recycling industry professionals in the state.
Dr Miles discussed the government/industry taskforce, WICIT, which has been convened to deal with non-compliant and unregulated operators. He said his team were looking at “enforceable undertakings” as an alternative to prosecution, but that there was a “binding commitment” to crack down on illegal waste disposal activities.
The sessions on day one included presentations and informed debate on regional strategic planning, led by the Queensland Government’s Principal Policy Officer, Ariane Milinovich. Mandalay Technologies Director Simon Kalinowski joined with DKSH Business Manager Eric Paulsen and Anne Prince of APrince Consulting to facilitate a workshop on good data to support decision making.
The challenges of regional and rural landfills, including planning of additional waste infrastructure and consolidation of facilities, was the focus of the afternoon session.
Industry stalwart Rick Ralph, the CEO of WRIQ, kicked off the second day’s sessions. Mr Ralph provided insights into waste industry policy in Queensland. He discussed the five-point action plans WRIQ submitted to the Queensland Government on state waste policy.
Rick encouraged his peers to review the documents, which are available on the WRIQ website. These plans provide structure and ideas with the aim of: reducing where possible and recovering waste produced by significant generators across all sectors; making the best use of waste materials through the adoption of ‘secondary-resource’ thinking; minimising the risks of environmental pollution and harm to human health; and increasing the proportion of waste managed by the options further up the hierarchy.
The session was supported by Arup’s Joyanne Manning and Dan Dixon, Cairns Regional Council’s Waste Operations Coordinator, on the upgrading of its MRF; DKSH’s Eric Paulsen on waste to energy technology developments, and ASK Waste Management’s founder and principal consultant, Giles Perryman, on collaboration of landfills in the Kimberley.
Joyanne then facilitated a workshop on exploring the future of waste and resource recovery, which stimulated debate about how this could look in 50 years’ time.
The final session covered alternatives to landfill. Adam Connell, Environment Manager at James Cook University, shared his experience of launching a Bio-Regan system to use food waste at the university’s canteens to produce liquid bio-fertiliser.
The 120 delegates took every opportunity to network and share experiences, leaving with a shared enthusiasm for the next conference in 2016.
Image credit: Kumar Kannan