NSW seeks industry partner for paper and cardboard processing

The NSW Government is seeking an industry partner to co-develop a funding proposal for new paper/cardboard processing capacity in preparation for the 1 July 2024 COAG export ban on mixed waste paper and cardboard.

Following COAG’s March 2020 agreement to phase out exports of certain waste materials, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Federal Government would co-invest in recycling infrastructure with state and territory governments and industry.

The Federal Government has now invited state and territory governments to submit funding proposals for new paper and cardboard processing.

“These proposals need to be for economically viable projects that best address national pressures, utilise best-practice methodology, know-how and technology, achieve value for money and maximise industry financial contributions,” a NSW Government statement reads.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has welcomed the announcement, and is optimistic about further funding announcements in due course.

“If governments’ ongoing efforts in developing the right policy and funding settings for the impending COAG waste exports bans are anything to go by, then there is much Australia can look forward to in its goal to build domestic recycling capacity and future-proof our essential waste and resource recovery sector,” a WMRR statement reads.

With COVID-19 impeding growth and progress for numerous industries, WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said the association is encouraged by the scale of work being undertaken to ensure Australia has the necessary strategic policies to build a sustainable environment and lay out a roadmap for recovery.

“One of the things we’ve been saying to all governments is that planning for the bans must continue so that Australia can emerge out of COVID-19 with a viable and resilient sector that drives domestic processing of materials and importantly, provides local revenue and jobs – not just during the infrastructure development phase, but also across operations throughout the lifespan of facilities and services,” Ms Sloan said.

“The release of this EOI is proof that the government agrees that there are opportunities in our sector – both in the domestic recovery of materials and the recovery of economies.”

According to Ms Sloan, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for Australia to build a resilient domestic economy.

“The WARR industry stands ready to continue working with governments to capitalise on these opportunities and create remanufacturing jobs and investment throughout Australia,” she said.

“This is a sector where the well will not run dry because where there are people, there are and will be waste (resources) ready to be remanufactured back into the products they once were.”

Applications to the Federal Government are due 31 July, with a decision on successful projects expected at the end of August.

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COAG releases export ban Waste Response Strategy

Appropriately sorted paper and cardboard will be exempt from the Federal Government’s forthcoming waste export ban, as announced by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). 

According to COAG’s Waste Response Strategy, export ban timelines and material definitions were tested with industry between late 2019 and early 2020, following the ban’s initial November 2019 announcement. 

“Through responses to the COAG waste export ban discussion paper and roundtables, stakeholders provided input on their concerns, manufacturing and export practices, and other information which guided the development of specific material definitions,” the strategy reads.

“Paper and cardboard that is sorted to one type with low contamination levels can be exported. This reflects the role that these materials play in supporting kerbside recycling viability and that these do not require further processing to be ready for manufacturing into new products.”

Additional definition changes include removing the requirement that glass cullet for export be washed and colour sorted. This reflects, the strategy notes, industry feedback that glass cullet does not need to be washed and/or of a single colour to be ready for remanufacturing.

Bus, truck, and aviation tyres that are legitimately exported for re-treading can also continue to be exported, “as this practice represents a higher-order end use than destruction via crumbing or shredding.”

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the ban signals a once in a generation transformation of the recycling industry, which could generate $1.5 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years.

“This is about waking up to an issue that has been buried in landfill for too long. Most importantly, it is about Australia saying it is our waste and our responsibility, and it is about industry and government being prepared to invest in change,” she said. 

The strategy highlights the need for system-level changes to Australia’s waste and resource management practices to support the ban.

As such, the Federal Government has committed to supporting upgrades to material recovery facilities, building demand for recycled product through purchasing goods and services at scale and co-investing to support commercially viable waste and recycling facilities.

The Federal Government, in collaboration with state governments and industry, will also consider targeted stewardship interventions for packaging, plastic, paper, tyres and glass products.

“While there is support from the waste and recycling industry for new product stewardship schemes which place mandatory requirements on businesses, groups representing manufacturers have a range of views about mandatory schemes depending on the maturity of their respective schemes,” the strategy reads.

“Finalisation of the review of the Product Stewardship Act in 2020 will provide opportunities to reform stewardship arrangements, including opportunities for mandatory schemes where they support implementation of the export ban.”

Furthermore, the Federal and state governments will investigate opportunities for regional micro-factories, and establish regional recycling hubs in strategic locations across Australia.

Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans said the ban’s confirmation is the result of strong cooperation between states, territories and industry.

“We now have the opportunity to create jobs, grow the economy, transform the waste industry and significantly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill,” he said.

“We know that for every 10,000 tonnes of waste sent to landfill, there are approximately 2.8 direct jobs created. If we recycle the same waste, 9.2 direct jobs are created.”

According to Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan, the strategy shows a recognition of what is needed to build a sustainable waste and recovery industry in Australia.

“It is evident that the Federal Government is prepared to remain at the table and work with all other Australian governments, in order that we can future proof and resource our essential industry as we respond to the waste export bans, and achieve the waste reduction and recycling outcomes that the Australian community rightly expects,” she said.

The strategy not only acknowledges that waste plastic is a significant and complex issue, Ms Sloan said, but also takes positive initial steps in mapping out what all jurisdictions must do to tackle the challenge.

According to Ms Sloan, these range from harmonising policies and programs to phasing out single-use and hard to recycle plastics. The Federal Government is also supporting industry to invest in new plastics processing capacity, Ms Sloan said, through competitive grant funding and commercial and concessional loans.

“Of note however will be the need to fast track infrastructure, because with only two years till the roll-out of the plastics ban and the significant volume of waste plastic that needs to be managed, Australia needs to start building processing facilities now, for them to be up and running ahead of 2022,” Ms Sloan said.

Export ban timeline: 

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Victorian recycling research and development grants now open

Sustainability Victoria has opened applications for Research, Development and Demonstration Grants of up to $200,000 for projects that can increase the quality of recycled products sold in Victoria.

Businesses, local governments and researchers can apply for grants between $50,000 and $200,000 to help stimulate markets for products made from recovered resources.

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Projects that investigate one or more materials which have specific supply or demand side barriers which could be overcome with support from the government are encouraged to apply.

Concrete and brick, electronic waste, glass, organic material, paper and cardboard, plastics, rubber and textiles have all been identified as targeted materials for the grant.

The grants have been designed to support the industry in commercialising new products and processing approaches and to increase the end market uptake and demand for the targeted materials.

Successful applicants will have their projects matched dollar for dollar by the state government.

Previous research projects included alternative uses for glass fines and flexible plastics in construction and manufactured products, such as railway sleepers, plastics in concrete footpaths, glass in non-load bearing concrete and roof tiles made from glass waste.

Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said the grants would increase job creation, develop quality products for end markets and increase investment in products made from recovered resources.

“Recent shifts in the current international recycling in gives Victoria greater impetus to develop local markets for the products we can recycle,” Mr Krpan said.

“It is crucial such markets are developed so the value of recovered resources is realised.

“This funding provides industry the opportunity to develop and trial new or existing products and specifications that use significant and reliable quantities of targeted materials,” he said.

The program will also inform the industry of the possible opportunities to use recovered materials in manufacturing to support using products made from recycled content.

“Recycling is an increasingly important community issue, and we are committed to maximising the opportunities to support new markets that use significant and reliable volumes of priority materials,” Mr Krpan said.

“It’s also an opportunity for universities and industry to work together to develop practical solutions to an important, and costly, community issue, which will benefit us all.

For more information about applying for the grant, click here.

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