MRA’s Mike Ritchie speaks to Waste Management Review about the waste sector’s contribution to national emissions and its role in meeting Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.
International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) will see global organisations band together to build awareness of the benefits of compost.
Activities and celebrations will take place in Australia, the United States, Canada, Europe, Ireland and the Czech Republic in the first full week of May.
Starting in Canada in 1995, ICAW has grown into an annual international event as more people, businesses, municipalities, schools and organisations begin to recognise the importance of compost and the long-term benefits of organics recycling.
Australian Organics Recycling Association National Executive Officer Diana De Hulsters said the goal of the program is to raise public awareness of how the use of compost can improve and maintain high quality soil, grow healthy plants, reduce the use of fertiliser and pesticides, improve water quality and protect the environment.
“Globally we have seen that innovative programs and successful efforts have improved organics recycling and sustainability,” Ms Hulsters said.
“International partners are coming together to broaden the understanding of compost use and promote awareness of the recycling of organic residuals.”
Ms Hulsters said while details vary amongst countries, a number of the facts about organics recycling and compost use transcend political and cultural boundaries.
“Soil health and productivity are dependent on organic matter in the form of compost or humus to provide the sustenance for biological diversity in the soil,” Ms Hulsters said.
“Plants depend on this to convert materials into plant-available nutrients and to keep the soil well-aerated. Additional benefits include the reduced need for pesticide usage to ward off soil-borne and other plant diseases.”
Ms Hulsters also highlighted the climate change mitigation benefits of composting by explaining how compost soil returns serve as a carbon bank.
“Diverting food and yard waste from landfills reduces the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas twenty-five times more powerful than carbon dioxide,” Ms Hulsters said.
“The use of landfill space and incineration can be reduced by at least one-third when organics are recycled. Focused attention on recycling organic residuals is key to achieving high diversion rates.”
The ICAW program includes tours of compost facilities, school gardening programs, compost workshops, lectures by gardening experts and compost give-away days.
The Queensland Government has announced it will host representatives from across Australia and Asia-Pacific at Queensland’s first Climate Week from 2-8 June.
At the Circular Economy: It’s Our Future forum this week, Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the state government was committed to driving conversations about tackling climate change and improving waste management.
“Climate Week Queensland is an opportunity for our state to showcase its credentials in the climate change policy space both domestically and internationally,” Ms Enoch said.
“The Queensland Government has committed to a target of zero net emissions by 2050, with an interim target of reducing emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030.”
Ms Enoch said the event would provide an example of what needs to be done across the globe.
“We know we need to move to a more circular way of thinking when it comes to waste management — where waste is considered a valuable resource instead of the current method where we ‘take, make and dispose,’ Ms Enoch said.
“Share knowledge, discuss how a circular economy can combat climate change, and examine ways to make this happen.”
Ms Enoch said the state government’s draft Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy will help put Queensland on the path towards a circular economy.
“This long-term strategy includes initiatives such as the container refund scheme and the ban on single-use plastic bags, and focuses on shifting attitudes to encourage more recycling and a re-use mindset,” Ms Enoch said.
“Our strategy, which is underpinned by a waste levy on landfill that will come into effect on 1 July, will grow the recycling and resource recovery sector, while reducing the amount of waste ending up in landfill.”
Ms Enoch said this shift towards a circular economy is key to combating climate change and aligns with state government plans for a more sustainable, low carbon economy.
“It was great to hear at the forum how entrepreneurs, start-ups and researchers have been contributing to the development of a circular economy in Queensland,” Ms Enoch said.
“Important initiatives that change how we think about, better use, and manage materials, resources and waste are critical to a future that supports new industries and creates more jobs.”
Climate week activities will include a public program of arts, music, and panel discussions, a First Nations summit and climate leadership training with Al Gore.
The Queensland Government has announced a $100 million resource recovery fund, more information on the waste levy and a plan to reduce plastic pollution in its state budget.
The government revealed a further $2 million will go towards implementing a Container Refund Scheme, along with its ban on single-use plastic bags.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said that by funding initiatives and programs that push for positive environmental change, the government is delivering a budget firmly focused on the future.
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“To help transition to a low carbon, clean growth economy, there will be $5.6 million in this coming budget to help Queensland adapt to the impacts of a changing climate,” Ms Enoch said.
“These major plastic-reducing initiatives are not far away, with the ban on plastic bags coming into effect in less than a month, and Container Refund Scheme coming into effect in November.”
The budget also revealed the already announced waste disposal levy, more information on that here, which will begin in the first quarter of 2019 and apply to 38 local government areas, covering more than 80 per cent of the state’s population. It will be set at $70 a tonne for general waste and increase by $5 per annum, with the process going to waste programs, environmental priorities and community purposes.
There will also be $100 million allocated over three years to support the resource recovery and recycling industry through its Resource Recovery Industry Development Program.
An annual advance will be provided on levy charges to local governments disposing of municipal waste in the levy zone, with $32 million in 2018-19 for this.
The budget also includes $5 million to go to waste to energy and $5 million over two years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities to remove metal waste and vehicle stockpiles in areas which comprise the Torres Strait Island Regional Council, Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council and Torres Shire Council.
It will also offer $3.9 million over for years to continue to deliver its ecoBiz program, that helps small to medium-sized businesses identify and achieve financial savings and eco-efficiency in energy, water and waste.