New policy rules out incineration of waste

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government has ruled out any incineration of waste under a new ACT energy policy.

The territory government has released its ACT Waste-to-Energy Policy 2020-25, following ten weeks of community and industry engagement to develop the policy and move towards its 90 per cent resource recovery by 2025, as stated in the ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011-2025.

The Waste Feasibility Study, completed in May 2018, found that the ACT is unlikely to meet the 90 per cent target, or move beyond 80 per cent resource recovery, without some form of waste-to-energy.

“The policy establishes underlying principles and outcomes to guide the transition to a circular economy and provides clear direction about the types of activities that are permitted,” the ACT Waste-to-Energy Policy 2020-25 states.

Resource recovery rates in the ACT have plateaued at around 70 per cent for the last decade, which means that approximately 300,000 tonnes of waste are going to landfill each year.

Shane Rattenbur, ACT Greens Leader and Environment Spokesperson said the policy explicitly bans the “thermal treatment” of waste in the nation’s capital.

According to the policy, new facilities, proposing thermal treatment of waste, by means of incineration, gasification, pyrolysis or variations of these for energy recovery, chemical transformation, volume reduction or destruction will not be permitted in the ACT.

“When it comes to managing our waste, as the nation’s climate action capital, we can – and must – do better. We should be a waste management leader, ” Rattenbury said. 

“The new ACT Government policy starts to lay the foundations for this, by ruling out thermal treatment of waste, but still allowing cool technologies for organic waste treatment, such as anaerobic digestion.”

The policy’s key outcomes include anaerobic digestion of waste is permitted and encouraged, production of, but not burning of RDF is permitted, the waste hierarchy is respected and recycling is not undermined, improved resource recovery rates and existing waste-to-energy operations are not negatively impacted.

“These initiatives will continue the focus on improving avoiding, reusing and recycling waste in line with the waste hierarchy,” the policy states.

“Where waste-to-energy activities are permitted in the ACT, only residual waste will be eligible as a fuel.”

All waste-to-energy facilities will be required to have a licence under the WMRR Act, and any proposal that is not consistent with the policy will be refused a waste licence. 

“New facilities, proposing thermal treatment of waste, by means of incineration, gasification, pyrolysis or variations of these for energy recovery, chemical transformation, volume reduction or destruction will not be permitted in the ACT,” the policy states.

“Existing waste-to-energy activities will be encouraged to improve their environmental impact over time.”

“There are cleaner, greener and more efficient ways of managing our waste, than burning it. The last thing we need are the toxic emissions or greenhouse gases from burning waste in Canberra,” Rattenbury said. 

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ACT appoints new Sustainability and Environment Commissioner

UNSW Canberra climate scientist Sophie Lewis has been appointed as the ACT’s new Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment.

The Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment is responsible for preparing State of the Environment reports every four years, conducting investigations into environment-related matters and raising environmental awareness.

Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Shane Rattenbury said Dr Lewis would bring a strong climate change focus to the position given her research background.

“Dr Lewis has extensive experience in researching Australia’s changing climate extremes, including as a lead author with the International Climate Change Panel assessment reports that are used worldwide to develop policies around climate change,” he said.

“In 2019, Dr Lewis was the ACT Scientist of the Year in recognition of her research, particularly her research on climate extremes and their specific relevance to Canberra.”

Dr Lewis said she was looking forward to working with the community and the government to build on the territory’s success in addressing climate change and environmental protection.

“The ACT is already a world leader in addressing climate change in particular, but there is still a lot to be done to address the challenges and vulnerabilities around our environment and sustainability, and I’m keen to be involved through the Commissioner position,” she said.

“As we have seen with our recent extreme heat, drought and fires, climate change is a huge challenge now and for our future, as it will continue to impact on our environment at local, national and international levels.”

Dr Lewis said she is committed to using her role to promote the involvement of children in finding solutions to environmental challenges.

“There is also much we can do to help children understand climate change and to involve them in taking the essential action we need to achieve zero-net emissions, and have the best possible chance to preserve our environment and their future,” she said.

Mr Rattenbury thanked interim Commissioner Margaret Kitchin for her contributions, initiating and progressing important work over several months.

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Capital compost: ELB Equipment and Corkhill Bros

Phil Corkhill, of Corkhill Bros, explains the process and equipment requirements essential to managing Canberra’s green waste collection service.

When the Canberra Business Chamber sought to find the territory’s oldest surviving business in 2019, Corkhill Bros was among a handful of those recognised.

Operating in multiple capacities since 1954, Corkhill Bros has been running a public green organic drop-off facility in the nation’s capital for more than 35 years.

While the drop-off facility always received a steady flow of material, its intake jumped in April 2017. The surge in material followed the introduction of separate green organics kerbside collection in the ACT.

The ACT Government subsequently tasked Corkhill Bros with collection and processing via a government contract. As Canberra does not have individual councils, this means Corkhill Bros manage the entire territory.

By July 2019, all Canberra residents had access to separate organics collection after the service was rolled out progressively over three-years.

As a result, Phil Corkhill, of Corkhill Bros, says the family-run business now deals with an average of 350,000 tonnes of green waste each year.

“As a company, we’re committed to a circular economy waste management and resource recovery approach. This means it’s very important that we achieve high recovery rates and nutrient-rich feedstock,” he says.

According to Phil, all organic waste processed at the facility is reused for the benefit of the community, with the resulting material turned into high-quality landscaping supplies and compost.

“We grind our green organics daily, before allowing the product to sit for three months to achieve quality pasteurisation and composting,”
he says.

“This allows the particles to break down before additives are introduced and turned into the piles for mixing.”

To manage the process efficiently with minimal downtown, Corkhill Bros work closely with machinery supplier ELB Equipment.

“When dealing with that level of material, operators can’t afford equipment breakdowns or to work with suppliers that don’t remain significantly engaged in the business,” Phil says.

“We manage and process all of Canberra’s green waste, and as such, require efficiencies of scale. ELB can provide those efficiencies, which is why we continue to work with them.”

Phil says Corkhill Bros currently operates a Topturn X55 Compost Turner, Multistar L3 recycling screen and four Nemus 2700 screens all supplied by ELB at its Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre.

“ELB calls us at least once a month, not just to check in on existing equipment, but to enquire about future needs and maintenance requirements. They are always on the front foot,” he says.

“I consider them more of a partner than a supplier – they’re a very proactive company.”

Corkhill Bros uses the Multistar L3 and Nemus mobile machines for screening and mixing. Phil says both recycling screens facilitate consistent operations, particularly in contrast to drum screens or flatbeds.

“Drum and flatbed screens often suffer significant blockages, which in turn creates inefficiencies,” he says.

“The technical makeup of star screens circumnavigates that problem through curvature, to create a reliable piece of equipment capable of processing organics in all weather conditions.”

The core of the Multistar L3 screen consists of one or two screen decks, with the rotating shafts of the coarse screen deck moving the material horizontally. Phil says particle size can be controlled by varying the rotation of the star shafts.

“The particle size of the material can be changed within seconds using frequency converters on the operator console, within the range determined by the star geometry,” he says.

All functions are monitored by a central control unit, which reports on the current operational status to streamline site operations.

In regard to Corkhill Bros’ four Nemus screens, Phil says he uses the barrels for final screening and blending. “Nemus 2700s are very high production machines, with some great improvements on the previous mustang model,” he says.

With a large steep-walled hopper and high-performance discharge system, the Nemus 2700’s material flow enables 10 per cent more throughput than predecessors,
he adds.

“The clearance between the drum and sidewall also allows for a wide range of material inputs, with hole sizes up to 100 millimetres,” he says.

Fine particles are discharged by a cross belt and profiled discharge belt, with the Komtech design preventing material trickle at transfer points to facilitate high capacity.

Corkhill Bros’ Topturn X55 Compost Turner runs in a separate part of the Mugga Lane facility to facilitate open air windrowing,
Phil says.

As one of the most widely used compost turners in the world, the Topturn’s frame is designed for heavy-duty applications, namely varied and unpredictable municipal green waste.

Phil says the turner’s large hydraulically driven drum, with efficient conveyor and throwing blades, accelerates the turning and rotating process. This, he adds, means all material is mixed before passing through the drum. Since purchasing the machine in 2017, Phil says he has noticed a rise in material quality.

“I’ve been nothing but happy with ELB’s compost turner. It really helps us maintain workflow and product excellence,” he says.

While Corkhill Bros works with multiple manufacturers and suppliers, Phil says ELB’s commitment to service, including spare parts and process maintenance, is a standout in the industry.

“I’m always impressed with their methodology and business model, as it’s very customer focused. We deal with multiple manufacturers and suppliers, and I’d like to think some of them could aspire to the ELB model.

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CDS collection app launches in ACT

A pick up app for the ACT’s Container Deposit Scheme is now available across the state, following successful trials in Kingston and Gordon.

According to Recycling and Waste Minister Chris Steel, Return-It Collect is a mobile service that allows users to book collections of eligible beverage containers from their business or home.

Mr Steel said containers can be handed over in person or left in a safe place for the driver to collect.

“We want to increase the number of containers deposited, and we recognise that getting local business involved and making it easier for them to return large amounts of containers is the most logical way of doing this,” Mr Steel said.

“Having a collection service is a great way for business to return containers without the hassle of their staff driving potentially thousands of containers to the return points each week.”

Mr Steel said Return-It Collect will charge a fee of four cents per container for the cost of providing the service.

“The app operates a similar way to ride sharing services, so users get real-time updates on when the driver will be arriving, when their containers have been collected, and when they’ve been counted,” Mr Steel said.

Return-It Collect will also allow users to track their environmental impact in terms of energy and greenhouse gas savings, as well as reducing waste to landfill.

“Canberrans really care about our environment and have been early adopters of new technology, such as Uber, which is why the ACT is a natural place for Return-It to launch this innovative new service,” Mr Steel said.

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Canberra’s sustainability strategy tackles waste

A new sustainability strategy for Canberra has been released that set targets for waste reduction, increased recycling and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

It is part of Canberra’s City Renewal Authority’s goal to become a world class sustainable capital city as part of its built environment and design.

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Targets identified in the strategy for 2025 include waste and recycling management plans aim to target 95 per cent of construction resource recovery and increasing the onsite capture and reuse of organics, recyclables and bulky waste by 20 per cent over the 2015 level.

To hit these targets, the strategy plans to deliver exemplars of waste resource recovery in construction and operation phases of Canberran projects.

The City Renewal Authority’s sustainability program uses sustainability policies from across the ACT Government to form the strategy for the City Renewal Precinct.

City Renewal Authority CEO Malcolm Snow said Canberrans have a high expectation that their city be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

“We want a city that will still support future generations, so we need to create a city now where sustainable living is a part of everyday life. This responds to the community’s expectation for government leadership on sustainable development and access to green space,” Mr Snow said.

“Social and environmental sustainability are vital elements of our program as we implement the design-led and people-focused renewal of our city precinct.

“We will make Canberra an even more liveable city by reducing its environmental footprint and setting a high standard of social sustainability,” he said.

Mr Snow said the Authority has set these targets to influence outcomes across the precinct as new development proposals are submitted.

“Achieving these outcomes will require collective urban leadership from government, the community and the private sector. It is in all our interests that the city grows in a way that improves the lives of current and future generations,” he said.

“We can’t do this alone and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to help make the City Renewal Precinct an even better place for people to work, live and visit.”

Community consultation open for Canberra WtE

The ACT Government has begun community consultation on waste to energy (WtE) to help develop policy and provide information for stakeholders.

It follows the results of the ACT’s Waste Feasibility Study which found Canberra was unlikely to achieve a recovery rate of more than 80 per cent without some form of WtE leaving 200,000 to be sent to landfill.

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The ACT Government has launched a survey to gather community feedback and provide information on the different types of WtE to clearly outline the territory’s position on energy recovery. It has also launched an information paper to outline the challenges and opportunities for the technology in the ACT’s context.

The consultation will inform the ACT Government’s consideration of WtE in the territory.

Currently the ACT has a target to divert 90 per cent of waste from landfill by 2025 and has implemented a container deposit scheme to also improve the territory’s waste diversion rates.

WtE processing facilities are already in use in the ACT with methane gas captured at the Mugga Lane and West Belconnen landfill facilities used to power around 3000 homes.

The ACT has also set a range of targets to 2020 for secure and affordable energy which involves using clean energy technology.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said in the information paper that a serious conversation about what to do to reach the ACT’s landfill diversion targets is needed and should explore whether WtE is part of the solution.

“WtE technologies sit on a spectrum – not all of these involve burning or heating and some technologies are already in use in the ACT, for example through landfill gas capture at our Mugga Landfill site,” Mr Steel said.

“One of the key recommendations of the Waste Feasibility Study was the development of a WtE policy in the ACT to provide certainty to industry and the community about whether WtE has a role in the nation’s capital.

“As the Minister for City Services I want our community and industry to be partners in co-designing a long-term, informed and evidence-based policy vision for WtE in the ACT.”

The community consultation period will close on 29 November 2018.

ECU to phase out single-use plastics

Edith Cowan University (ECU) will begin phasing out single-use plastic water bottles and straws across all of its campuses from the start of semester two.

It follows initiatives on the east coast from the Universities of Canberra, Melbourne, Sunshine Coast and Monash University.

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ECU said it believes it is the first Western Australian University to limit the use of plastic water bottles on campus.

The phase out will be done as part of a staged approach to restrict single-use plastic water bottles. Beginning with around 40 events it holds on its campuses, ECU will instead provide water refill stations.

The university is also investigating solutions including an increase to the number of water fountains on campus, offering free or discounted multi-use water bottles on campus and discussing with commercial tenants for alternatives to single-use bottles.

ECU Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Chapman said it was a big step forward for the University.

“With around 30,000 students and 1800 staff, we can make a huge difference by taking this first step to limit single-use plastic water bottles at our campus events,” Professor Chapman said.

“It’s also financially responsible. More than 90 per cent of the cost of bottled water can be traced back to the bottle, lid and label.

“This is not a ban. This is about education and providing alternatives. By offering high quality, convenient options to students, staff and visitors, we are confident we can reduce the demand for single-use plastic water bottles on our campuses.

ACT container deposit scheme start date announced

The ACT Government has announced that Canberra’s container deposit scheme will start on 30 June.

Contract agreements have been signed with the scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator Re.Turn-it.

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Residents will be able to return eligible beverage containers at registered collection points to receive a 10-cent refund.

The scheme is similar to the legislation in SA, NT and NSW, which use the refund to encourage consumers to dispose of drink containers properly to decrease litter.

Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris said the ACT has always said it would introduce a scheme as quickly as possible to align with NSW but took time to make sure the scheme it was done right.

“I’m excited to announce that the ACT’s Container Deposit Scheme will start on 30 June 2018, which I’m sure will be good news for local sporting groups and kids who have already started stockpiling cans and bottles,” Ms Fitzharris said.

“The scheme will provide opportunities for container refunds to be donated to charities and offer increased economic and employment opportunities for participating collection points,” she said.

“We also want to make sure industry are supported through this process, and this week we will introduce legislation to allow beverage manufacturers up to two years before they have to introduce ACT specific refund marking on their containers.”

Examining similar schemes around Australia alongside community consultation, discussions with industry, social research and waste audits were performed to inform the scheme.

Re.Turn-It is responsible for establishing a series of collection points where people will be able to return their containers once the scheme begins.

Managing Director of Re.Group David Singh said the company’s approach will be to maximise customer convenience, which includes delivering a range of collection point formats across ACT, designed to suit the needs of different members of the community.

Collection points will include depots where containers are counted on the spot for immediate cash refunds, as well as express collection points where customers are able to drop off containers and have the refund automatically credited to their account within a few days. Reverse vending machines are also a possibility at some sites in the ACT.

“By working with charities and disability employers, our aim is to ensure that the ACT CDS provides real benefits to the wider community, as well as to individual customers,” he said.

“We are committed to ensuring that, from Day 1, the people of the ACT have options on where to take their containers. We’ll also work with the Territory to expand the collection network over time, taking account of customer feedback and demand,” said Mr Singh.

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