One year on from National Sword, regulators shared their policy response at Waste 2019, while industry leaders discussed the critical steps to move the sector forward.
Stockpiling regulations, organics diversion programs, education programs and legislative impediments were just a few of the topics covered at this year’s Waste 2019 Conference.
Around 640 delegates across Australia and overseas landed in Coffs Harbour, NSW from May 14-16. The three-day conference saw delegates highlight the latest legislative developments and innovative business models across the waste industry, showcase new products and services and network with likeminded professionals.
While the long-running conference is particularly prominent among councils, the conference featured private industry leaders, suppliers across resource recovery and transport and government regulators from around the country.
On day one, Rupert Saville, Unit Head Litter Prevention Unit at the NSW EPA, explained the success stories in working towards the Premier’s Litter Prevention target to reduce the volume of litter in the state by 40 per cent by 2020. This included six education and awareness campaigns, 13 litter prevention grants and the Return and Earn Container Deposit Scheme all helping to achieve a 37 per cent reduction in litter volume.
Day two’s keynote speaker Rozalina Petrova, Policy Officer at the European Commission, provided a European perspective on waste management and a circular economy. As part of this, all member states will have separate collection of paper, metal, plastic, glass and biowaste by the end of 2023.
On day two, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan hosted a panel featuring Re.Group’s Garth Lamb, Cleanaway’s David Clancy, Veolia’s Christine Hodgkiss, SUEZ’s Tony Grebenshikoff and Bingo Industries’ Daniel Tartak. The panel covered a broad spectrum of issues, including the pressures faced by National Sword, regulatory challenges and market development.
Mr Clancy told the panel that the expectations of the general public in the face of National Sword have never been higher. Ms Hodgkiss said now is the opportunity to take back control of local recycling markets.
Throughout the panel, waste to energy and finding solutions to end markets were key points of discussion. Ms Hodgkiss highlighted that waste to energy could help tackle problematic waste streams and add value to the industry.
The NSW EPA’s ban on mixed waste organic outputs also emerged as a topical point of discussion during the panel. One panellist reinforced the importance of policy certainty and a sensible transparent process towards alternatives.
When it came to discussing the circular economy, Mr Grebenshikoff mentioned that over the years, there had been a big focus on measuring the success of recycling through diversion from landfill metrics. He explained that this is only part of the story and we should instead be measuring recycling outcomes in manufacturing.
During the discussion, WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said that the waste industry should consider changing the waste management hierarchy to the resource management hierarchy.
As glass emerged as one of the missing links to increasing recycling market development, Mr Tartak explained that Bingo will get involved in processing the waste stream only when the market signals are there.
In the evening, the annual cocktail dinner saw a night of dancing and fun – with a nautical theme.
On day three, the state and territory regulators chaired a panel hosted by MRA Consulting’s Mike Ritchie on each of their regulatory barriers and policies to address this.
The panel included ACT NoWaste’s Alex Taylor, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Angela Hoefnagels (Victoria), the Department of Environment and Science’s Kylie Hughes (QLD), WA Waste Authority’s Marcus Geisler, NSW EPA’s Molly Tregoning and EPA SA’s Steven Sergi.
Each panellist elaborated on what their regulatory authority was doing to stimulate kerbside collection and recycling markets.
Mr Geisler spoke of all councils in Perth and Peel transitioning to FOGO by 2025. During the panel, he encouraged regional WA councils without kerbside recycling to look at a green bin first, as transforming material to quality compost could reduce transport barriers. He said that funding was available through the Better Bins Kerbside Collection Program.
Ms Tregoning pointed to the NSW circular economy policy statement. A day prior, Ms Tregoning had provided her own presentation about the NSW 20-year waste strategy. She said that consultation was already underway on the strategy. In reponse to feedback in the early consultation, the EPA has decided to extend the time for developing the strategy and is aiming for completion in early 2020.
Ms Hughes highlighted QLD’s vision for a “zero-waste” society by 2050. Along with a looming landfill levy, QLD currently looking at a waste strategy with a goal of 10 per cent avoidable waste to landfill by 2040. Notable policy planning includes a new waste to energy discussion paper on its way and an organics recycling plan.
Ms Hoefnagels touched on Victoria’s circular economy policy, statewide infrastructure plan, market development strategy and changes to the Environment Protection Act coming 1 July 2020.
In SA, Green Industries SA is looking at banning single-use plastics and reviewing its waste strategy. Mr Sergi highlighted financial assurance policies in SA can reduce the profitability of stockpiling and disincentivise unauthorised stockpiling. Advanced technologies such as drones to profile stockpiles, material type and the likelihood it will get back into the market are being looked at.
Mr Taylor highlighted that in the ACT, all waste facilities, regardless of size and type, must be licensed provided they meet the appropriate site definitions.
Speaking to Waste Management Review, Amanda Kane, EPA NSW Manager Organics, said the conference offered the opportunity to talk to each and every player in the waste industry.
“From the government perspective it’s actually listening to what the industry, local government and people are saying so that we can keep supporting them,” Ms Kane said.
“We hear about the incredible work already achieved or underway, and what specific support we can offer to ensure this sector continues to improve.”
On increasing FOGO collection and compost, she highlighted the importance of the $100 million Waste Less, Recycle More fund, supporting collection grants and FOGO trials in multi-unit dwellings tounderstand the barriers to entry.