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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NWRIC calls on COAG to set clear definitions and realistic timeframes

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on ministers to set clear material definitions and realistic export timeframes at this Friday’s Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting.

According to NWRIC CEO Rose Read, the Prime Minister and Premiers’ decisions on waste export bans will be key to determining Australia’s future capacity to capture and reuse the millions of tonnes of recycled materials currently being lost from the economy.

“The NWRIC supports COAG’s proposed export ban of waste plastics, paper, glass and tyres, and is calling on COAG to extend the ban to unprocessed cars, white goods, unprocessed e-waste and waste machine lubricant oils,” Ms Read said.

“However, COAG must not shut down legitimate overseas markets for secondary resources recovered from recycled materials such as clean paper and cardboard.”

Furthermore, Ms Read said COAG must address the real source of the waste export problem: the lack of recycled resources being used by the manufacturing, packaging and construction industries in Australia.

“This lack of reuse of recycled materials has significantly stymied industry investment and innovation in recycling capacity over the past 10 years,” she said.

“If Australian governments do not require the manufacturing, construction and packing sectors to dramatically ramp up recycled content in infrastructure, products and packaging, then it will not achieve its 80 per cent resource recovery target.”

The NWRIC is calling on COAG to agree and commit to:

— Clear definitions on what waste can’t be exported.

— Realistic timeframes that allow time to build new processing facilities and secondary resource markets to develop.

— Procuring recycled materials for government infrastructure and mandating recycled content in products and packaging through the Product Stewardship Act.

— Fast tracking development application and licensing processes for expanding and building new recycling and processing facilities.

— Joint investment from commonwealth and state governments with industry for new processing equipment and facilities.

— Strong enforcement of the ban, ensuring government agencies are adequately resourced to ensure compliance.

“If COAG gets this decision right and supports it with joint national and state investment, it will create the foundation necessary to move Australia to a country that values its waste as a resource, keeps these resources circulating in the economy, creating less waste and more jobs,” Ms Read said.

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NT Industry Summit to address local market opportunities

The Territory Waste and Recycling Industry Summit, held 1-2 April in Darwin, will provide an opportunity to discuss strategic developments in the Northern Territory’s resource recovery sector.

According to Waste Recycling Industry Association Northern Territory (WRINT) CEO Rick Ralph, the waste management and secondary resources industry, representing both private and local government operations, currently provides more than 1360 jobs for Territorians and turns over more than $152 million annually.

In 2017-18, the industry managed more than 517,800 tonnes of waste and recyclables, Mr Ralph said, ensuring more than one third of those materials escaped landfill.

“On March 13, COAG will meet to discuss how Australia will manage the proposed bans on the exports of glass, tyres, plastics plus paper and cardboard. The Darwin summit provides industry, local government and territory agencies with the opportunity to discuss the COAG meeting outcomes looking to the future,” Mr Ralph said.

The territories future recycling and diversion rates, Mr Ralph said, are directly linked to both the broader Australian secondary market reuse and new local market opportunities.

“The international challenges facing export markets compound this problem, and we need new local solutions and ideas to sustain and grow the industry,” he said.

Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Michael Gunner will lead the summit, with a presentation on insights gained from a GHD analysis into commercial market opportunities.

“We will identify new opportunities for the territory to maintain its recycling systems and enhance landfill diversion, ensuring the waste and recycling industry remains a vibrant contributor to the economy, while supporting ongoing territory jobs,” Mr Gunner said.

According to Mr Gunner, in January, his government engaged consultants GDH to undertake an assessment of future commercial waste industry opportunities that could be developed locally.

“The summit will discuss that business assessment with our top priority being jobs. It will focus on potential new business solutions, as well as discussing how we can improve our local recycling performance,” he said.

As part of the summit Mr Ralph will ask attendees to identify and report on five key opportunities for the territory, which WRINT will present back to government for consideration and future implementation.

“The industry summit in Darwin will bring all stakeholders together, engaging key industry experts, and I am confident the outcomes will present new local opportunities to take advantage of the waste challenges in Australia and more particularly the NT face,” he said.

Northern Territory Environment and Natural Resource Minister Eva Lawler will also address the summit at a breakfast event on day two.

“Presentations throughout the summit will provide information from industry leaders on how business and government can continue to deliver innovative secondary resource recovery solutions and maintain community confidence in recycling,” Mr Ralph said.

For register click here.

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Bans at the border

With the first wave of export bans set to commence in July, Waste Management Review speaks with industry stakeholders about investment expectations and the globalised waste economy. 

When the Federal Government announced it would ban waste exports in August 2019, China’s National Sword was old news for most in the resource recovery sector.

While its consequences were still being felt, many industry stakeholders had grown tired of government platitudes about the circular economy.

The Council of Australian Government’s announcement therefore functioned as a jolt – a suggestion to industry that government was finally listening to calls for state intervention.

Praise was quick, with both the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) and the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association (WMRR) releasing statements highlighting the ban as a step towards a sustainable domestic recycling industry.

Despite widespread support for the ban as a concept, many, including ACOR and WMRR, cautioned that for it to be successful, it would need to be backed up by analogous infrastructure investment.

Rose Read, National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO, for example, suggests the regulatory measure will fail if not supported by market investment for plastics and paper. Rose adds that while the export ban’s intent is noteworthy, its achievability is seriously constrained without parallel support.

Similar concerns have been expressed by multiple stakeholders, highlighting a schism between regulatory measures and industry viability.

Mike Ritchie, MRA Consulting, for instance, argued that the Federal Government should introduce recycled content rules for domestic manufacturing. Likewise, Gayle Sloan, WMRR CEO, said the ban should be supported with mandated government procurement.

Following the Meeting of Environment Ministers in November, the Federal Government announced a nationwide timeline agreement.

Ministers agreed on a phased approach, with glass banned by July 2020, mixed waste plastics by July 2021 and whole tyres, including baled tyres, by December 2021.

Additionally, remaining waste products, including mixed paper and cardboard, will be banned by no later than 30 June 2022.

Of the timeline, Rose says the plastics and paper enforcement dates are unrealistic, particularly given the packaging industry is only working to achieve 30 per cent recycled content by 2025.

“We are very concerned that the regulatory focus is being crudely placed at the end-of-pipe, and not at the source of the issue, i.e. brands and producers,” she says.

“Currently, there is no regulation requiring manufacturers or the packaging industry to achieve these targets or penalties if they don’t. This is far from equitable.”

According to Rose, APCO’s packaging targets need to be brought forward to 2022 and mandated under the Product Stewardship Act – as proposed under senator Whish-Wilson’s Product Stewardship Amendment (Packaging and Plastics) Bill 2019.

“This is essential to ensure all packaging manufacturers, brands and retailers meet their producer responsibilities,” she says.

“It will create markets for locally recovered plastics, glass and paper and will remove problematic packaging, including plastics and composite materials, that can’t be recycled due to lack of technology or markets.”

Rose adds that given the ban’s intent, to prevent environmental and human harm, the Federal Government should consider banning whole crushed car bodies, white goods and waste motor oils exports.

“The NWRIC believes the current export of these materials is having substantial impacts on the environment and human health overseas, due to poor recycling and uncontrolled practices similar to that for whole baled tyres,” she says.

“These wastes are being harvested or burnt, with many of the by-products dumped or emitted, polluting the environment and putting human health at risk.”

Rose adds that Australia has the capacity to process these materials locally.

“Currently in NSW, steel mills are importing scrap from interstate and New Zealand to meet their feedstock needs, while whole car bodies are being exported to the Middle East and Asia,” she says.

Alternatively, the NWRIC does not support the banning of single resin/polymer plastics that have been processed, nor the banning of baled paper and cardboard.

“Both these recyclates have legitimate overseas markets, clearly demonstrating they are value added products that will not have a negative impact on human health or the environment,” Rose says.

FREE TRADE?

While concerns over implementation are common, the ban as a concept has been largely well received.

John B Cook, from John B Cook & Associates, however, suggests a blanket ban on exports is counterproductive. He adds that much of the material domestic materials recovery facilities receive is packaging produced from overseas.

“We’re in a situation now where glass bottles are being imported from Singapore. If we are importing packaging from overseas, we shouldn’t say, well you can’t send the packaging back and complete the loop,” he explains.

John admits that while recovered resources are a credible commodity, waste is a difficult industry.

“The market has failed in relation to waste. It [was] thought landfill was an inexpensive, easy option, and we’ve been dealing with that ever since.

“That said, we’re now moving away from a disposal culture. People want a circular economy, they want recycling, plus they don’t want to live next to landfills. So the market failed, and the reality is government intervention is required.”

John says however that the devil is in the detail. He adds that while there should be a ban on exporting “garbage”, completely closing the borders is unsustainable.

“Contracts need to be developed that ensure we are adding value and recovering resources instead of exporting dirty plastics, which we seem to have been doing,” he says.

“We should be washing and processing the material here and exporting bales or pallets at low contamination levels.”

The Federal Government also needs to facilitate market development, John says. He adds that while those markets are developing, exports need to occur to a specification that is adhered to.

The idea of sustainable exports, John says, works in tandem with developing domestic recycling markets. He suggests investment in the infrastructure and technology required to produce high-grade pure materials for exports has a flow-on effect.

That said, lack of federal investment is a central industry complaint surrounding the ban.

While it’s too soon to tell, the Federal Government’s recently opened $100 million Australian Recycling Investment Fund might alleviate these concerns.

Speaking with Waste Management Review in June last year, Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans said the fund was designed to support recycled content product manufacturing.

Administered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Minister Evans said the government will provide guidance about the mandate and how to best invest in new industry.

While the fund was announced in May 2019, applications didn’t open until December. This followed criticism from Labor Assistant Environment Spokesperson Josh Wilson, who said the Federal Government was not doing enough to support the export ban or build the National Waste Strategy.

“We know the so-called recycling investment plan is predominantly bulked out with prepackaged or repackaged funds,” Mr Wilson said.

“The hundred million dollars in the Australian Recycling Investment Fund consists of nothing more than a fresh label on existing clean energy finance moneys.”

Rose says while the NWRIC welcomes the Australian Recycling Investment Fund, its investment criteria means it will only be capable of supporting a few major infrastructure projects.

“Smaller projects, for example those less than $10 million, won’t have access to the fund directly, but will have to seek loans through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s aggregate programs,” she says.

A GLOBAL PROBLEM

Despite ban conversations understandably centring on Australian markets, Michele Acuto, Melbourne University Global Urban Politics Professor, says industry and government need a global perspective.

Drawing on research from the World Economic Forum, Michele says retreating into an export ban is paradoxical to the notion of a circular economy.

“The problem with the ban is that it’s similar to immediate conversations after China’s restrictions. The rhetoric is quite nationalist, and more explicitly, about domestic solutions to an international problem,” he says.

“I want to be very clear that I’m not saying Australia doesn’t require strong infrastructure investment – but we do need to be thinking in terms of a global circular economy.”

The ban, he says, is diametrically opposed to this approach, and a recognition of waste as a global series of networks and industries.

The World Economic Forum suggests to create a global circular economy, system change needs to enable blended financing models, particularly in developing countries, policy framework adjustments and public-private collaboration.

For instance, Michele suggests a more collegial and strategic relationship between Australia and its neighbours could move global networks in the right direction.

He adds that while there is little agreement on waste definitions between Australian states, let alone sovereign bodies, the Federal Government should attempt to work in tandem with Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“We’ve turned another opportunity for leadership into a statement of inward policy. It’s very tit for tat and smells like 1980s Cold War policy. There’s an ocean of difference between the ban and a strategically based national plan,” he says.

The World Economic Forum suggests similar, albeit more controversial, solutions. Recycling is linear, the NGO argues, and out of touch with the extended lifecycle goals of a circular economy.

Reusing, redistributing and/or remanufacturing strategies are the preferred approach, it argues.

Additional points include moving away from activities that devalue materials, relocalising and resizing activities closer to consumers, and developing strategic partnerships with service providers.

While it’s hard to argue against future-focused attempts to restructure our approach to waste and consumption, the challenges of today still require action.

At a recent meeting with Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the NWRIC members discussed how to build local demand for recovered materials for packaging, products and infrastructure.

According to Rose, new obligations must extend beyond the waste and resource recovery sector to include organisations importing products to Australia.

“A circular economy requires all parts of the supply chain participate,” she says.

This article was published in the February edition of Waste Management Review. 

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NWRIC calls for paper and cardboard export ban exemption

The National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on the Council of Australia Governments (COAG) to ensure clean, high grade paper and cardboard are exempt from waste export bans.

According to NWRIC CEO Rose Read, while industry supports banning waste glass, whole baled tyres, mixed plastic and mixed paper exports, the NWRIC does not support banning clean paper and cardboard exports.

“Australia currently exports close to 1.1 million tonnes of clean, high grade paper and cardboard every year, approximately one third of the material we use. This export market is estimated to be worth more than $230 million,” Ms Read said.

“Without the capacity to export clean paper and cardboard, recycling services could fail, including household kerbside collections.”

Ms Read added that Australia does not currently have the capacity to locally remanufacture all the paper and cardboard it generates.

“Australia’s domestic paper mills that process recycled paper are in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. These mills do not currently have sufficient capacity to take all of the recycled paper and cardboard generated on the east coast. Let alone that generated in SA, NT and WA, who rely on overseas markets,” she said.

“Recycled paper is only purchased by a small number of reprocessors, limiting competition.”

The NWRIC is inviting COAG to work with the waste and resource recovery industry to develop national scrap specifications for metals, plastics, paper, cardboard, e-waste and other recycled materials.

“These would give the waste management and recycling sector clarity and certainty on what can be exported, and manufacturers confidence in the recovered material being supplied,” Ms Read said.

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Boosting tyre supply chain visibility: Tyre Stewardship Australia

Lina Goodman, Tyre Stewardship Australia CEO, speaks with Waste Management Review about its world-first foreign end market verification program that will significantly increase waste tyre supply chain visibility in local and international markets.

When Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) was formed in 2014, its initial guidelines called for market development activities to focus on early stage research and development.

One year later, TSA launched its key investment mechanism, the Tyre Stewardship Research Fund.

In an ever-evolving space, the fund has to date directed $4.9 million to 34 research and development projects.

As TSA’s goal is to reduce the environmental, health and safety impacts of the 56 million equivalent passenger units generated annually, it’s an agenda the voluntary product stewardship scheme does not take lightly.

With research and development into tyre-derived product well and truly proven, TSA needed to change tack, enhancing its strategic focus as it underwent Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reauthorisation.

Last year, it broadened the original guidelines of its Tyre Stewardship Scheme, allowing it to drive a more immediate consumption of Australian generated tyre-derived product.

In doing so, TSA launched a demonstration and infrastructure stream, which proved to revolutionise its existing remit through practical outcomes, approving new products consuming almost a million tyres per year.

The stream ensures TSA can support an array of sectors, including in roads, advanced manufacturing, civil infrastructure, rail, building construction and more.

It generated an additional $3.2 million in new sales for the Australian recycling market annually, but importantly led to critical sustainable outcomes.

One of these many projects was the announcement of a test of new mixes of crumb rubber asphalt on a 335-metre stretch of road in the South Australian City of Mitcham.

In another innovative initiative, the Victorian Department of Transport is now conducting the first large-scale crumb rubber asphalt trial on an arterial road, in a two-year trial with the Australian Road Research Board.

To support TSA’s next evolution, TSA also welcomed a new CEO in Lina Goodman, who brings extensive experience in delivering commercial and environmental outcomes.

Mahdi Disfani, Lina Goodman and Heather Holmes-Ross test crumb rubber asphalt in the City of Mitcham.

Lina’s breadth of experience comes as a paradigm shift is occurring in the waste sector, with increased commitments from federal, state, territory and local governments to procure recycled materials, including in major road projects.

She joined TSA in January 2019 after a long career in sustainability including roles at VISY, Honeywell and TIC Group.

To that end, she tells Waste Management Review auditing and verifying downstream international venders is one of TSA’s current focuses.

“With a significant volume of Australian end-of-life tyres exported for processing in foreign end markets, verifying environmentally sustainable and ethical management of exported tyres is central to the integrity of the Tyre Stewardship Scheme,” Lina says.

In 2018/19, Australia produced 450,569 tonnes of tyre waste. Over this time, approximately 43 per cent of all end-of-life tyres were exported as either casings, tyre-derived fuel shred, baled whole, or off-the-road tyres exported for crumbing, with the largest portion being shred at 29 per cent.

Given the scale of exports and well-known consequences of unsustainable management, TSA has developed a world-first foreign end market verification program for end-of-life tyres.

Despite an international ban on whole baled tyres in the works, verifications of final destinations is paramount, as tyre products are still sent offshore for further processing.

“We are taking new steps and are a lot more agile, dynamic and creative about how we want to function in the industry and wider marketplace. I like to call it next generation TSA,” Lina says.

“Our aim is to support initiatives that bring together strong partnerships across the supply chain, crossing research institutions and industry partners, to demonstrate both the technical and financial viability of products.”

DOWNSTREAM VERIFICATION

In 2019, TSA engaged third-party quality assurance company Intertek to develop a platform and process to audit downstream vendor behaviour. According to Lina, the program will verify sustainable outcomes, ensure exporting processor accountability and educate operators both domestically and offshore.

“Intertek audits the sites based on a set of criteria including modern slavery, occupational health and safety, technology and hub and spoke,” Lina says.

“In terms of technology, auditors assess whether the technology is fit for purpose, and with hub and spoke they ensure the material is being processed at the collection site and not transferred to other unverified locations.”

During the first round of audits, there were some issues to work through. One of these saw Intertek identify staff working inside buildings that were locked from the outside, which created a fire hazard.

“We also came across sites engaged in environmentally unsound practices, and some that wouldn’t allow our auditor to enter,” Lina says.

“In that instance, the auditor took photos around the perimeter of the site and spoke to people living and working in the area – it’s quite an investigative process.”

Under the verification program, for foreign end-markets to accept material from TSA accredited participants, they too require will TSA verification.

To receive verification, Lina says operators first run through an education program to understand TSA’s expectations. From there, operators conduct self-assessment questionnaires, providing photographs and procedural details.

“Intertek and TSA will then verify that information, and if we identify any red flags, we will send an auditor to the site,” Lina says.

“The whole idea is to ensure overseas operators are not causing any environmental or social harm. That’s the bottom line.”

According to Lina, TSA has recently conducted a number of audits in Malaysia and India, with many ticking all the relevant boxes.

“The program enables us to ensure the material is being recycled in an appropriate manner, and also guarantees that Australian recyclers are informed about where they are sending their material,” she says.

“We need greater overall visibility of the reverse supply chain of waste tyres. We can’t really be sure that materials are being appropriately managed if we don’t have them verified by a third-party organisation.”

In addition to the downstream verification process, Lina says TSA is enhancing its international relationships through associations with groups such as the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG).

The IRSG is an inter-governmental organisation comprising rubber producing and consuming stakeholders, with 36 member countries and over 100 members covering the entire natural and synthetic rubber value chain.

“The IRSG has traditionally worked within the new tyre and rubber segment of the market,” Lina says.

“However, they recently recognised the need to include sustainability and end-of-life tyres into their discourse.”

As part of the partnership, TSA is hoping to join the IRSG’s sustainability committee, which Lina says will help facilitate connections with international governments.

“Joining the IRSG will create a direct line to governments in places that currently receive our material, such as Cameroon and India,” Lina says.

SUSTAINABLE OUTCOMES

To facilitate greater market transparency, TSA is also working on a new suitable outcomes indicator, which Lina says models the good, better and best of tyre recycling.

“One recycler is not the same as another recycler, there are various levels of measurable environmental outcomes,” she says.

Lina says TSA has begun identifying its participants against good, better and best outcomes, with recyclers judged on process, and retailers judged on their choice of recycler.

“We have thousands of consumers who visit our green tyres website and want to do the right thing for end-of-life tyres. They ask, who can I buy tyres from? Who provides sustainable outcomes?” Lina explains.

“We really need to shine a light on organisations that have invested locally and are making an effort to transform tyres into products for local use, and I think the sustainable outcomes indicator will help that.”

EXPORT BAN AND THE PSA

The recent Meeting of Environment Minister’s confirmed a phased approach timeline for the ban on waste exports, as announced by the Australian Council of Government’s (COAG) earlier this year.

All whole tyres, including baled tyres, will be banned from export by December 2021. While Lina says whole tyres represent only a small percentage of what is exported, TSA is supportive of government putting regulatory levers in place.

“Of the 223,000 tonnes of end-of-life tyres recovered in 2018/19, 84 per cent was exported and 16 per cent remained in Australia for use within local applications. Of the volume exported, 25 per cent was whole-baled tyres and 68 per cent was exported as shred,” she says.

“That said, the ban has led to increased conversation locally about investment in new facilities and upgrades, and because of the ban, the market conditions are now right.”

Lina adds however that for the ban to really change the state of end-of-life tyre processing, it needs to come hand in hand with a strengthened Product Stewardship Act.

“It’s wonderful to have the COAG statement, but we need the act reviewed to provide us with more opportunity for market development and to keep all tyre importers accountable for the products they bring into the country, not just a select few,” she says.

“We are a voluntary scheme – we have eight tyre importers now contributing to the levy and one automotive brand, but we really need all of them participating.”

While questions remain over the long-awaited Product Stewardship Act review’s outcomes, Lina says she is heartened by the progress made by TSA over the past 12 months.

“If the Product Stewardship Act review can address the issue of free riders, or as I have heard them to referred to as “environmental pirates”, we will have more funds to redirect to organisations that want to address end-of-life tyres commercially,” she says.

“That said, there is already a whole range of support programs in place. We are excited by the opportunities that will arise from the export ban and our market development strategy, which is already delivering significant outcomes. The next generation of TSA is looking bright.”

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Tackling waste together: Matt Kean

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean lays out the government’s objectives for its 20-year waste strategy.

The origin of the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” may be lost to time, but its meaning has never been more relevant than today.

Australians treasure the concept of recycling and rightfully demand a recycling system that is effective, affordable and sustainable.

The readers of Waste Management Review are at the cutting edge of one of the biggest environmental challenges facing New South Wales and our country.

I’m committed to working with the industry to build a truly sustainable sector which enjoys public trust and confidence.

Our state is vast and the economics, infrastructure and issues of regional New South Wales pose different challenges to the ones we face in the city.

But people in the city and the bush are united in their clear expectation that when we say we are recycling, that is what we are doing.

They are united in expecting us to keep our word when we say we are protecting the environment and human health.

And they expect that the management of waste be efficient and effective, so the bins are collected on time and their local environment is protected.

The NSW Government is fully engaged with the Commonwealth and the other states as we work to meet the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreement to ban waste exports while building up the domestic recycling industry.

To make sure we do our part to create a truly national plan, and to get our response right to the challenges we face here in NSW, we are developing a 20-year waste strategy.

We are ending the cycle of knee-jerk policy that leads to poor outcomes.

To get the strategy right for the short and long term, we’re going to consult intensively with local government, the waste, manufacturing and remanufacturing industries, the charitable sector, waste and recycling experts and local communities around the state.

We have three objectives for the strategy and all our state waste policies: sustainability, reliability and affordability.

Sustainability means the NSW waste industry is self-sustaining, delivers improved environmental outcomes and avoids the human health impacts associated with poorly managed waste.

Reliability means putting consumers at the centre of the strategy. It means making sure that the bins are always collected and our waste is managed in accordance with community expectations, so if we say something is going to be recycled, it is actually recycled.

Affordability means ensuring that waste services are delivered at a reasonable cost and with the customer in mind.

The government must enable industry to extract value and support them through developing policies and creating markets through our commitment to a circular economy.

In February this year we published the Circular Economy Policy.

Moving to a circular economy will provide long-term economic, social and environmental benefits for NSW.

The policy specifies real action and timing and provides a roadmap on how we will transition to a circular economy.

It will inform the development of another key priority – the Plastics Plan, an ambitious, nation-leading comprehensive plan to deal with the issue of plastic waste in NSW.

The plan will look at options to reduce single-use plastics, prevent plastic litter, address the impact of microplastics and support plastics reuse in a circular economy.

Work on the plan is underway and community consultation will begin later this year.

If you want to see a model for how the government sees the future of waste management, you should take a look at the Return and Earn Scheme.

It’s the most comprehensive litter reduction scheme in the state’s history, and it delivers for the environment, the community and the industry.

More than two billion cans, bottles and plastic containers have been collected – waste that is definitely not going into our lakes, waterways, bushland or parkland.

More than $440,000 has been raised for important community work in New South Wales directly through Return and Earn.

And Return and Earn ensures high quality recyclables with low levels of contamination enters the recycling stream.

Many of these plastic, glass and aluminium containers collected under the scheme are processed for reuse within Australia.

The scheme is a benchmark of how industry, government and the community can work together to achieve great waste outcomes.

When we look at municipal solid waste – the everyday items we use and throw away – each person in NSW produces about 0.53 tonnes of waste. Across NSW, we produce around 21.4 million tonnes of waste per year.

Waste management is a huge environmental challenge. But it comes with enormous opportunity to innovate and do things differently, looking at new technologies to reduce the total impact of waste on our environment.

I am looking forward to working with industry, local government and our communities to deliver this ambitious agenda. We have an opportunity to deliver great outcomes for the people of NSW.

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Waste export bans alone won’t drive resource recovery

Waste export bans won’t deliver the National Waste Policy Action Plan resource recovery targets unless recycled materials are used in packaging, products and infrastructure, writes Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council.

Led by the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, state and territory environment ministers agreed at their recent meeting on a timeline for COAG’s waste export bans and signed off on the National Waste Policy Action Plan.

The proposed waste export bans in large are being introduced to reduce harm to human health and the environment overseas. But the likelihood of them delivering the 80 per cent resource recovery target by 2030, or the 70 per cent plastics recovery rate by 2025 on their own is low.

To achieve these resource recovery targets, the demand to use recovered materials locally needs to be fast tracked.

The environment ministers commitment on the 8th November to identify significant procurement opportunities such as major road projects that could use recycled material is a good start. As is prioritising work to develop specifications and standards for the use of recycled materials in building, construction and infrastructure development.

However, this will only increase demand for glass and crumbed tyres. It won’t increase the demand for recovered plastic, paper and cardboard locally.

What is needed to create markets for plastics, paper and cardboard is legally requiring packaging companies, manufacturers and retailers to increase the proportion of recovered materials in packaging put onto the Australian market, including imports, as most of these materials come from overseas.

Some may say that manufacturers have already committed to this. But evidence to date suggests this is limited to one or two global brands that cover less than 40 per cent of the packaging market.

Likewise, none of the major supermarkets have committed to increase the proportion of recycled content in the packaged products they sell. Nor is there any commitment to indicate the level of recycled content on packaging to give consumers the choice to buy recycled.

On the phased timings proposed to implement the export ban:

The NWRIC considers the timeline for mixed plastics is insufficient for industry to purchase and install equipment, especially as there are limited markets.

The timeframe should be extended to match the 2025 APCO recycle content target. If the government wants this to progress more quickly, manufacturers should be required to meet specific plastic recycled content targets sooner.

The NWRIC also does not support the banning of single resin/polymer plastics that have not been processed (e.g. cleaned and baled PET), nor the banning of baled paper and cardboard. Both these recyclates have legitimate overseas markets, clearly demonstrating they are value added products that will not have a negative impact on human health or the environment.

To give government confidence that there will be no harm to human health and the environment overseas, exporters should be able to verify their downstream pathways and material recovery rates with the aid of third-party audits.

Submissions in response to the government’s discussion paper on implementing the banning exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres discussion paper are due by 3 December 2019.

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MEM sets waste ban timeline, but several “missteps”

Waste glass, mixed plastics and whole baled tyres will be banned over the next two years following the final Meeting of Environment Ministers meeting for the year.

The National Meeting of Environment Ministers in Adelaide on Friday reached an agreement to ban the export of particular categories of waste from 1 July 2020 with a phased approach.

Ministers have agreed waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres that have not been processed into a value-add material should be subject to the export ban.

The phase out plans to be completed by the following dates:

  • All waste glass by July 2020
  • Mixed waste plastics by July 2021
  • All whole tyres including baled tyres by December 2021
  • Remaining waste products, including mixed paper and cardboard, by no later than 30 June 2022.

In response to the move, the Victorian Government urged the Federal Government to provide capital investment in waste and recycling infrastructure to ensure the fast approaching ban does not result in stockpiling.

The Queensland Government is similarly calling on the Federal Government to increase their investment in the recycling and resource recovery industry.

Commenting on the ban of exporting waste tyres, Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA), urged all governments to advocate for increasing tyre-derived products in Australia.

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) said MEM’s decisions on the COAG ban on waste exports and the National Waste Policy Action Plan are several good steps forward, but there were some missteps too.

Among the other decisions from the MEM meeting are the adoption of broader waste minimisation targets in the National Waste Action Plan such as 80 per cent resource recovery and halving organic waste by 2030.

Likewise, the meeting committed to a greater commitment to recycled roads as an important solution, with the Commonwealth to play a leading role.

Additionally, it was recognised that brands and packaging supply chain members need to make clear their ‘buy recycled’ commitments. The meeting committed to harmonising container deposit schemes and recognising the need for infrastructure investment for domestic sustainability, decisions all welcomed by ACOR.

ACOR noted it was concerned with a failure to enact an immediate ban on baled tyre exports as there are readily available markets for the material and serious environmental impacts from its continued export for two more years.

It is also concerned with further indecision on funding for time-critical infrastructure especially for mixed paper decontamination and plastics reprocessing capacity, as well as a continued lack of substantive progress on the product stewardship agenda, including batteries.

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said it’s hard to understand why banning baled tyres has not been prioritised as ample evidence was produced on the environmental impact of exports, the existing domestic capacity for reprocessing, and the legal avenues available.

“If one or two jurisdictions blocked this, they need to state their reasons so they can be addressed, and so the ban date can be revisited and expedited at COAG itself. Otherwise, other jurisdictions should just start now via regulations as there is minimal risk in doing so,” Mr Shmigel said.

“On the other hand, it’s good to see more commitment to recycled roads as a practical, no/low cost solution for domestic sustainability. There is evidence that specifying recycled content in even 12 major projects around the country can double our plastics recycling rate, and we should move forward faster on that front, including at COAG where we look forward to the Prime Minister’s continued leadership on recycling,”
he said.

Ministers also agreed to write to the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) to set out their expectations with respect to new packaging targets.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly, tasked with supporting the delivery of the National 2025 Packaging Targets, applauded the ministers for agreeing on the National Waste Policy: Action Plan 2019.

“APCO was involved closely during the consultation and evolution of this approach and is proud to be identified as a key delivery partner for a range of actions moving forward. In particular, we look forward to working with Planet Ark to develop and launch the Circular Economy Hub online platform and marketplace,” Ms Donnelly said.

“We acknowledge the support of ministers as we strive to be more ambitious, and in particular work with industry and key stakeholders to develop a revised target for the use of recycled content in all packaging. In practical terms, today’s announcement reinforces the collective efforts of the entire supply chain, including APCO’s Members, to deliver a truly sustainable packaging system for Australia, as we continue the transition to a circular economy.”

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