Eye into the past invokes opportunity

In part three of Waste Management Review’s COVID-19 challenges and opportunities series, retired waste industry leader Max Spedding recalls how he overcame challenges in the past. He eyes opportunities for the future on the other side of the crisis.

While Australia and the globe as a whole are undoubtedly facing one of the worst collective economic and health crises since the Great Depression, there are always lessons we can gleam from the past.

So far the response from Australian federal, state and territory governments to the health crisis has been swift. At the time of writing, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia was less than 7000, with more than 4000 recovered. The health crisis is very much intertwined with the economic one.

That said, there are always stories of resilience that can shed some light into how we can deal with future challenges. To that end, Waste Management Review explores how waste industry stalwarts got through challenging times in the past and their thoughts on what lies ahead for recycling.

While the International Monetary Fund expects real gross domestic product (GDP) to shrunk by 6.2 per cent this year, the 1980’s drought-related recession saw a 2.2 per cent decrease throughout 1982. Likewise, the 1990’s recession infamously referred to by former Prime Minister Paul Keating as the “recession we had to have” saw a fall of 1.7 per cent. All of these instances were linked to global pressures.

The characterisation of the current economic situation has been compared by many commentators to the Great Depression, where GDP fell by 10 per cent between 1929-31. The Great Depression of the 1930s led to a revaluation of the country’s understanding and implementation of macroeconomic policies, with Keynesian economics being developed during and after the period.

According to a speech by the Australian Treasury Macroeconomic Group in 2009, the key elements of the modern monetary policy framework has over time provided capacity for flexibility and a rapid and aggressive response to macroeconomic shocks. It cites rapid easing of Australian monetary policy in late 2008 to 2009 as an example of this flexibility. The lessons proved useful in staving off the significant impacts of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

The unknown territory Australia now faces itself in is how to deal with the re-build, and the three stimulus packages, valued at a collective $213.6 billion, is only one step of the way. The Federal Government has flagged that policies discussed pre-election will now be re-visited. This means tax cuts, deregulation and industrial relations reform may be a few areas looked at on the other side.

Those who have lived through multiple crises will understand that there are opportunities at the other end, and resilience is important.

Max Spedding started his career in ready mixed concrete and finished it with the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, leading the influence of federal government policy reform on waste and resource recovery. He’s lived through multiple economic crises, including the 1973 oil crisis and 1987 stock market crash.

Spedding started his career more than 50 years ago in 1970 in the Shire of Korong north of Bendigo. After working in local government for a year, he joined Pioneer Concrete – now Hanson – in Australia and in 1971 went to the UK followed by Italy in 1973-74. He immersed himself in concrete and quarries for the next decade, focusing on managing profit and loss in his various divisions.

“In fifty years, we’ve never seen anything quite like this, but it is interesting when you reflect on problems of the past,” Spedding says.

He recalls working in Italy under 30 per cent inflation and fuel price changes. The 1973 oil crisis began after the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting countries proclaimed an oil embargo targeted at nations perceived as supporting Israel during the Yom Kuppur War.

While the US, UK and Canada were targeted, an article published by the Università del Salento indicates Italy was highly affected due to its lack of primary sources of oil.

Spedding says conditions were also challenging while the terrorist and guerrilla organisation Red Brigade remained active – a group responsible for kidnappings and robbing’s throughout Italy.

“You just couldn’t keep up with inflation, but the interesting thing was that although it took a year or so to get through it, but we did, we got there.

“Of course it was economic rather than medical, but you’ve just got to live by the day and wait for new opportunities arise.”

“It’s surprising how you have a period of intense inflation and it sort of clears the deck and establishes a new platform on the value of your investments and you can then go forward again. It’s a matter of being able to batten down the hatches and hold on and then look at the new reality that comes out and take advantage of the difficulties.”

Fast forward to 1984 and Spedding returns to Sydney to manage Pioneer’s concrete division. Things get tricker as the company becomes vertically integrated and begins to lose thousands each month, he says.

“What Pioneer taught me is to make sure you have all the information on the table and you remain focused on what the intent of it is. If you’re intent is to make money, you have to make money – overall as a group – not just one aspect of it.”

In 1987, he decided to put his learnings to greater use joining a company called Hooker Corporation in a newly formed resources division.

“That was all doing well but unfortunately George Herscu invested heavily in America in supermarkets and they went belly up and the holding company went into bankruptcy.

“That left our little resources division which was quite profitable with positive cash flow hanging out there.”

He says all team divisions were brought into the corporation under a negative pledge arrangement which saw him presented with a request for $340 million despite the division having a value of around $20 million.

“At the same time we had the 1987 crash and all of my options I had negotiated in taking on this new role went out the window.”

“But the net result was we sold off the resources division and only one bit of it failed, all the rest of it continued and is now in the hands of others.”

He says going through a liquidation and the 1987 crisis, amid incredibly high interest rates, was extremely difficult to manage but he emerged in 1989 with a role with Browning Ferris Industries (BFI) – now owned by SUEZ in Australia – running the development of new landfills in Australia and New Zealand. He developed the Lyndhurst Landfill in Taylor’s Road, one of the first lined landfill in Australia which is still in existence today.

In 1992, he took on  managing waste-to-energy market developments for BFI in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Two years later, he took over as Managing Director of the BFI in Australia.

“That got me into the international waste industry. The interesting thing there was we had the Asian share market economy meltdown in 1996/97. My response to our American owners at that time was our caution in developing WtE in Asia proved to be successful. Because when the crunch came although the projects/companies we were involved in failed, we virtually had no exposure.”

“That’s one crisis that was avoided because we were probably a bit too conservative, but sometimes you have to be.”

He recalls attending a larger conference in 1996 with BFI with over 500 managers from around the world. Every third person was asked to stand up.

“The CEO says just imagine you all just lost your jobs: that’s how much the industry is going to go to recycling and unless we embrace recycling, all you guys will be out of work.”

More than 20 years’ later, he says recycling is still a real challenge for the industry.

He says we need to keep it simple and the three RRRs – reduce, reuse and recycle showed what practically can be done. He says that while metals work in the global economy and fibre works locally plastics have always been a challenge.

“Throughout my life I’ve always targeted the 80 per cent solution as this gives you the highest amount of efficiency and return and sustainability. As soon as you start to focus on the top one or two per cent, you get in trouble.”

But recycling really changed around a decade ago when organisations found a reliable outlet in China. At that point, Spedding was doing some consulting work and CEO of the Australian Landfill Owners Association until 2015.

“This model was basically to do the minimum amount of sorting and produce a bulk product with five per cent contamination or less. You offloaded it to China which had very cheap labour and poor environmental condition,” he says.

“The interesting thing that most people don’t think about is that it’s not only the cheap labour. So much material is coming to Australia as a major market for the Chinese manufacturing sector. All of the containers had to be taken back to China and they all went back empty so basically you got almost free backloading in those containers of this material.

“So using China as a low labour but also as a low cost destination because of the empty container. It was a perfect marriage, if you like. The only problem was that it wasn’t sustainable.”

He officially formed the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council in early 2017 with the backing of its national members – Alex Fraser Group, Cleanaway, J. J. Richards and Sons, Solo Resource Recovery, Suez, Toxfree, Remondis, ResourceCo and Veolia.

In mid 2017, China announced to the World Trade Organization an intention to ban the import of waste products from US, Japan, Australia and other source countries, to take full effect by the end of 2017.

He says councils went from paying $40 a tonne to offload their recyclables to suddenly being paid $10 a tonne for the material.

Spedding says that while industry was concerned, the Federal Government seemed to have little understanding about the implications.

“This was the public perception that recyclables had a value. There’s no doubt they do, but where is the value positive is the issue,” he says.

“It doesn’t start positive, it’s positive somewhere along the line from sorting and processing  down into a producing a raw material again.”

He believes the value of waste doesn’t begin at a household level, it begins at stages of sorting and processing across the supply chain and back down into a raw material.

“The issue [now] is COVID-19 has disrupted the economy totally. But the biggest thing, is that I think coronavirus has spelt the end of globalisation as we previously knew it,” he says.

“Through the 90’s globalisation was a concept being pushed by everyone by countries, companies and individuals. We had the beginnings of a truly global economy.”

He adds that COVID-19 has exposed the weakness of globalisation and our dependence on supply lines and cheaply produced components overseas.

“As we come out of the coronavirus and look at all of these policies, recycling in particular, we are going to have to re-consider the world and the approach to globalisation.”

He points out that while everyone has been talking about a circular economy, that was practical up until China closed its doors on waste exports.

“While China was producing and was part of the circular economy, that was fine, but as soon as they closed the doors and wouldn’t take the waste back, the circular economy couldn’t include them.

“Therefore, it’s no good talking about circular economy in a global situation. But now we have a situation where globalisation will certainly be on the table for review and our circular economy that we’ll be talking can be geographically smaller.”

He says that as supply chains are broken by COVID-19, Australia can consider looking a more local specialised manufacturing including from recycled materials. Additionally, it can prompt a re-think of sustainable local services, whether it be closer food supplies, medicine or equipment, improving the climate in the process.

“I’m hopeful one of the positives that will come out of this is a refocus in Australia on manufacturing and product sustainability.”

“There is an opportunity for a new approach and a greater focus on a resilient, self-reliant Australia as a result.”

“There can be a lot of positives that will come out of this as long as we return to work not thinking it’s all the same and try to go back to where we were. We need to be looking at where we can be, and how it can be better.”

Close the Loop Founder Steve Morris says the company’s brands take a long-term view in its licence to operate.

“I’ve always found that resource recovery, product stewardship and circular economy…all of that seems to be growing independent of market ups and downs,” he says.

“Right now we are expecting some big decisions coming out of government like the Recycling Victoria policy, NSW EPA and incentive work on our road products.”

He says there were many scenarios in which circumstances looked uncertain over the years, including the development of its TonerPlas product.

“Our biggest challenge there is getting a government procurement professionals to actually buy the product, to specify the product.”

He says fortunately the company has received extensive support from agencies such as Sustainability Victoria. This has helped drive the product forward and the company has worked towards long-term sustainable outputs.

“It’s certainly been risky but we’ve been 100 per cent committed all the way,” he says.

Steve says Close the Loop, which has been value-adding on-shore, was reasonably insulated from National Sword, if not feeling bullish about the policy.

“National Sword to us was a risk we became aware of two or three years before it really hit. We were feeling fairly safe because of the value-add we give the polymers here before they go through brokers into other countries.”

He agrees the way forward in a post COVID-19 world is a renewed interest local manufacturing in Australia and an increase in regional supply chains. This should be supported by state, territory and national circular economy policies.

This is the second part of a four part series on challenges and opportunities during COVID-19. You can read part one by clicking here. Part two can also be read here.

To subscribe to Waste Management Review with free home delivery click here

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ACOR’s recycling reboot

Waste Management Review speaks to the Australian Council of Recycling about how its new board reflects the new reality of recycling.  

Read moreACOR’s recycling reboot

First SA road built with plastic bags and glass

The first South Australian road built with soft plastics and glass at Happy Valley in the City of Onkaparinga will utilise plastic from approximately 139,000 plastic bags and packaging and 39,750 glass bottle equivalents.

Downer and City of Onkaparinga have partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop and RED Group for the project, following similar projects in NSW and Victoria.

Along with soft plastics and glass, toner from about 3200 used printer cartridges and more than 50 tonnes of recycled asphalt were also repurposed to create 265 tonnes of asphalt used to construct the road along Caribbean Crescent in Happy Valley.

Downer Executive General Manager Road Services Dante Cremasco said the milestone event demonstrated the importance of partnerships with other thought leaders to create economic, social and environmental value for products that would more than likely end up in landfill, stockpiled, or as a pollutant in natural environments.

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“Together with City of Onkaparinga and our partners, we have proven that with thought leadership and the tenacity to make a positive difference, we have set a new benchmark in the state when it comes to sustainability by creating new avenues to recycle and repurpose waste materials into new streams of use. It’s all about pulling products, not pushing waste,” Mr Cremasco said.

“Further to the direct sustainability benefits, this cost competitive road product called Reconophalt has enhanced properties of improved strength and resistance to deformation making the road last longer, andallowing it to better handle heavy vehicle traffic,” Mr Cremasco added.

City of Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson said this is an exciting South Australian first and demonstrates council’s commitment to working with industry on innovative and cost-effective solutions to a changing operating environment.

“The City of Onkaparinga manages and maintains over 1350 kilometres of sealed roads and works hard to ensure they’re well maintained as cost effectively as possible and in line with leading asset management principles,” Mayor Thompson said.

“We also collect approximately 14,000 tonnes of recyclables every year. Major disruptions in international markets for recyclables over the last 12 months present significant challenges, as well as emerging opportunities.”

“Creating local demand for recyclables products is one such opportunity and this is a fantastic example of what can be achieved by government working with industry.”

Downer partnered closely with Close the Loop to tailor waste products such as soft plastics to suit a road construction application.

“Our close partnership with Downer, along with our collaborative partnership with RED Group has allowed us to design, develop and manufacture sustainable products using problematic waste streams. We are very pleased to see soft plastics used for the first time in a SA road,” said Nerida Mortlock, General Manager of Close the Loop Australia.

Close the Loop unveils new soft plastics manufacturing line

Close the Loop has unveiled a new manufacturing line in Melbourne capable of converting 200,000 tonnes of soft plastic and toner waste into an asphalt additive for roads.

The new facility has the potential to divert two thirds of Australia’s total 300,000 tonnes of soft plastic waste from landfill annually. The TonerPlas asphalt additive comprises the equivalent of 530,000 recycled plastic bags, 168,000 glass bottles and 12,000 recycled toner cartridges per every kilometre of two-lane road.

The company’s product has already been laid on roads in major Melbourne and Sydney hubs in conjunction with integrated services company Downer, with the line opening to commercial scale during National Recycling Week.

Close the Loop Chairman Craig Devlin said the company has been at the forefront of the circular economy for more than 17 years.

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“Our goal of zero waste to landfill has seen us partner with manufacturers through take-back programs across multiple sectors, including printer cartridges, cosmetics and batteries,” Mr Devlin said.

Mr Devlin said its TonerPlas asphalt additive is a great example of how valuable materials can be recycled to not just create new products, but better-quality products.

“The addition of TonerPlas improves the fatigue life of traditional asphalt by 65 per cent, meaning longer lasting roads at a cost-competitive price.

“It also offers superior resistance to deformation over standard conventional asphalt for withstanding heavy vehicular traffic.”

He said that policy changes in China had highlighted the importance of a local recycling industry and improved energy use across the design, use and reuse of products through a circular economy.

Mr Devlin said Australia’s recycling industry needs to invest in future waste solutions with greater infrastructure research to meet problematic landfill demands.

“Our new manufacturing capacity to reuse soft plastics and toner into TonerPlas is a great example of what local companies can do. However, Australia needs to coordinate and invest in infrastructure to build a viable recycling industry,” Mr Delvin said.

“Banning plastic bags is a start, but it doesn’t solve the challenge”.

Scrunching the issue of soft plastics

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has compiled a comprehensive gap analysis on the market barriers to recovering soft plastics. Waste Management Review sat down with APCO’s Brooke Donnelly to discuss how it fits into the broader plastics issue.

Read moreScrunching the issue of soft plastics

New national targets set within 2025 packaging plan

New targets within the 2025 plan have been outlined alongside the launch of the Australasian Recycling Label.

The new targets aim to aim to increase the average recycled content within all packaging by 30 per cent and phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through design, innovation or the introduction of alternatives.

Additionally, the targets aim to ensure 70 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled or composted.

These build on the previous announcement of a target to achieve 100 per cent of Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.

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The targets build on commitments made by federal, state and territory environment ministers and the President for the Australian Local Government Association earlier in April this year.

Industry representatives and environmental groups support the targets including Aldi, ALGA, Amcor, Australia Post, Boomerang Alliance, Chep, Close the Loop, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coles, Detmold, Goodman Fielder, Lion, Metcash, Nestlé, Orora, Pact Group, Planet Ark, Redcycle, Simplot, Suez, Tetra Pak, Unilever, Veolia, Visy and Woolworths.

Woolworths General Manager, Quality and Sustainability Alex Holt highlighted the importance of this collaboration.

“We’re really pleased to see such a wide range of industry players come together in support of such a worthy goal. Moving towards a circular economy won’t be easy, but we have the right mix of organisations on board to help make it a reality,” Mr Holt said.

Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price congratulated the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the initial working group of businesses that are supporting the targets.

Minister Price has also officially launched the Australasian recycling Label to help achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets, developed by Planet Ark, PREP Design and APCO to help consumers better understand how to recycle packaging.

“The Australasian Recycling Label provides people with easy to understand recycling information when they need it most, in those few seconds when they are deciding what bin the package goes in. The label removes confusion and reduces waste,” Ms Price said.

With more than 200 recycling labels currently being used in Australia, the new system aims to reduce confusion and contamination in the waste stream.

Nestlé Head of Corporate and External Relations Oceania Margaret Stuart said the inclusion of the label on Netslé’s packaging was a demonstration of the company’s commitment to sustainability.

“More and more people who buy our products want to know how to manage packing waste, so we have committed to implementing the Australasian Recycling Label across all our locally controlled products by 2020,” Ms Stuart said.

Unilever ANZ CEO Clive Stiff has said the announcements are a critical step towards greater collective action on increasing the nationals recycling capability.

“Plastic packaging waste represents an $80 billion loss to the global economy every year. The benefits of the circular economy approach are clear for business and the environment – the more effective use of materials means lower costs and less waste,” Mr Stiff said.

“We are proud to have recently announced that bottles of popular Unilever products like OMO, Dove, Sunsilk, Surf and TRESemmé will soon be made with at least 25% Australian recycled plastic.

“This is just the start for us and no business can create a circular economy in isolation. Heavy lifting is needed from all players involved – suppliers, packaging converters, brand owners, policy makers and retailers, collectors, sorters and recyclers. We need a complete shift in how we think about and use resources.”

AFIA waste winner announced

Close to 700 members of the Australian freight and logistics industry gathered in Melbourne Saturday evening to celebrate the achievements of winners and finalists of the Victorian Transport Association’s (VTA) Australian Freight Industry Awards (AFIA).

The annual awards recognise excellence from transport operator and supplier companies and individuals across a range of categories and celebrate the enormous contribution the industry makes to the national economy.

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Seven award winners were recognised at the AFIAs this year, which were proudly sponsored by TWUSUPER and Viva Energy Australia and held in the Palladium Ballroom at Crown Melbourne.

This year’s AFIAs acknowledged the importance of the waste and recycling sector through the Waste and Recycling Award.

Four finalists were announced on the night, with waste company Alex Fraser winning the coveted award.

Alex Fraser has developed a recycling process to convert waste glass into sand to be used in construction of new roads and infrastructure, harnessing the valuable resource needed to fulfil Victoria’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure pipeline.

More than 850,000 tonnes of waste glass have been diverted from landfill to be recycled into high-quality construction sand and sold on to Victoria’s councils and developers.

Other finalists include the Melbourne International RoRo Automotive Terminal (MIRRAT), which will allow for the number of vehicles handled by the Port of Melbourne to rise from 370,000 in 2013 to one million by 2035.

Cleanaway’s South East Melbourne Transfer Station saw the company announced as a finalist, with the facility to be a critical part of the state’s waste and recycling network.

Resource recovery company Close the Loop was also announced as a finalist for the award, in part due to the company’s collaboration with construction company Downer.

The winners of the night were:

  • Paul Retter AM, National Transport Commission, Personality of the Year Award – sponsored Transport for Victoria
  • Jacquelene Brotherton, Oxford Cold Storage & Transport Women Australia, Female Leadership in Transport – sponsored by Viva Energy Australia
  • Katrina Burns, SCT Logistics, Young Achiever of the Year Award – sponsored by Daimler Truck & Bus
  • Alex Fraser Group, Waste & Recycling Award – sponsored by National Transport Insurance
  • L. Fraumano Transport, Application of Technology Award – sponsored by Transport Certification Australia
  • Transking Innovations, Best Practice Safety Award – sponsored by CMV Truck & Bus
  • Barker Trailers, Investment in People Award – sponsored by Logical Staffing Solutions

VTA CEO Peter Anderson announced the winners, who were presented with their award by VTA President Cameron Dunn and Victorian Minister for Roads Luke Donnellan, representing the Victorian Government and Transport for Victoria.

“The Australian Freight Industry Awards showcase the very best our industry has to offer and with dozens of high-quality applications received across the various categories it’s clear the transport industry is committed to innovation, improvement and best practice,” said Mr Anderson.

(Image L-R: VTA CEO, Peter Anderson, Victorian Roads Minister, Luke Donellan, Victorian Women’s Minister, Natalie Hutchins, Female Leadership in Transport Award Winner, Jacquelene Brotherton, VTA President, Cameron Dunn.)

Downer and Close the Loop build NSW road from recycled plastics

Plastic from around 176,000 plastic bags and packaging and glass from around 55,000 bottles has been diverted from landfill to build New South Wales’ first road made from soft plastics and glass.

Downer and Sutherland Shire Council have partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop, RED Group and Plastic Police to build the road in the Sydney suburb of Engadine.

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Toner from approximately 4000 used printer cartridges with more than 60 tonnes of recycled asphalt were also repurposed to create 220 tonnes of asphalt used in the construction of the road along Old Princes Highway between Cooper Street and Engadine Road.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said this achievement demonstrates how committed organisations can find innovative solutions to waste reduction.

“The NSW Government has a comprehensive funding program designed to find more ways to make sure waste is taken out of landfill and put to good use,” said Ms Upton.

“In particular, the Product Improvement Co-investment program and the Circulate program together provide $10 million in funding to help find creative ways to reduce the amount of waste and find better uses than simply throwing it away.”

Sutherland Shire Mayor Carmelo Pesce said Council is committed to showing leadership in sustainability and the use of recycled products.

“Sutherland Shire Council collects over 25 thousand tonnes of recycling in the yellow top bins every year,” Councillor Pesce said.

“Using recycled plastic and glass in asphalt to create new road surfaces is just one of the innovative ways Council can reduce its environmental footprint through the use of recyclable material.”

Downer General Manager Pavements Stuart Billing said the milestone event demonstrated the importance of partnerships with other thought leaders to create economic, social and environmental value for products that would more than likely end up in landfill, stockpiled, or as a pollutant in our natural environments.

“Through our partnerships and desire to make a difference, we’ve shown how to recycle and repurpose waste materials into new streams of use. It’s all about pulling products, not pushing waste.”

“Further to the direct sustainability benefits, this cost competitive road product, called Plastiphalt, has a 65 per cent improvement in fatigue life and a superior resistance to deformation making the road last longer, and allowing it to better handle heavy vehicle traffic,” Mr Billing said.

The project is co-funded through the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative funded from the waste levy.

“Our close partnership with Downer, along with our collaborative partnerships with RedCycle and Plastic Police has allowed us to design, develop and manufacture sustainable products using problematic waste streams. We are very pleased to see soft plastics used for the first time in a NSW road,” said Nerida Mortlock, General Manager of Close the Loop Australia.

Industry, government and community tackle plastic waste

Industry giants, community groups and government bodies came together to tackle the issue of plastic packaging waste in Australia.

Consumer goods manufacturers Coca Cola, Danone, Unilever and Kellogg’s, tech companies Fuji Xerox and Dell, supermarkets Coles and Aldi and senior figures from the NSW Environment Protection Authority met with local community groups to discuss the future of plastic packaging in consumer goods.

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The event was hosted by the Boomerang Alliance with the support of Bloomberg Australia, and examined the infrastructure holes that need to be filled in order to improve Australia’s capacity for waste collection, processing and recycling.

Representatives from Clean Up Australia, Responsible Cafes, Bye Bye Plastic, Planet Ark, Close the Loop and the local Sydney councils of Randwick, Waverly and Inner West Councils also added to the discussion.

A guest panel of speakers shared their expertise and included Australian Packaging Covenant CEO Brooke Donnelly, Waste Management Association Australia CEO Gayle Sloan, Founder of BioPak Richard Fine, and Nature’s Organics CEO Jo Taranto.

Ms Sloan said every council’s waste management has the same definition in their contracts regarding what’s recyclable.

“We have conveyors and depending on the money and infrastructure available, they’ll use infrareds to split out the different types of plastics,” she said.

Most material recovery facilities do this but at a cost and we don’t have enough people buying back [the recycled material]. That’s the problem.”

Mr Fine said it is important that companies are marketing their products as compostable get certified to a recognised standard.

“There’s a lot of greenwashing out there providing vague claims of ‘biodegradable’ which is confusing the consumer and damaging the industry as a lot of these products will simply break down and fragment into small pieces,” he said.

Pictured left to right: Richard Fine, Brooke Donnelly, Justin Dowel, Jo Toranto, Gayle Sloan, Jayne Paramor.

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