The next 12 months will feature a number of key programs, reviews and initiatives that will impact the waste and resource recovery landscape in Queensland. Read more
Waste and recycling operations in New South Wales, including landfills, Community Recycling Centres, Return and Earn points, and charitable recyclers, can reopen to the public following lengthy COVID-19 closures.
National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) State Affiliates provide a detailed overview of industry and policy changes across the country.
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Where the industry meets to transform Australia’s waste management processes.
Australia is responsible for 74 million tonnes of waste on a yearly basis with a recycling rate of only 60 per cent. However, as all levels of government and industry work together to implement projects and provide funding to manage waste and protect the environment, the way we approach the country’s waste crisis is constantly shifting.
Exchange for Change has announced a six-month price freeze for supplier contributions that fund the Return and Earn NSW Container Deposit Scheme, effective from February to July next year.
The Queensland Government has announced a six-month deferment to the waste levy increase that was set to begin on July 1 2020.
The levy has been deferred for six months due to the impact of COVID-19 on businesses operating within the waste sector in QLD.
The announcement has been welcomed by the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), whilst Waste Recycling Industry Association Queensland (WRIQ) stated in a members notice that the timing of the landfill level deferral is disappointing.
The six-month deferment will see the waste levy remain at $75 per tonne for general waste, and $105 and $125 per tonne for regulated wastes until 31 December 2020.
QLD joins the ranks of NSW and Victoria, being the first state movers in providing some form of levy relief, the former by way of deferring waste levy payments for the foreseeable future and the latter deferring its 1 July 2020 levy increase to 1 January 2021. WA’s waste levy has also been frozen for the 2020-21 year.
The move has been praised by the WMRR and CEO Gayle Sloan has credited the QLD government “proactivity in deferring the levy increase and the Department of Environment and Science is to be commended for listening to, and considering, the very real concerns of the industry”.
“As industry continues to face financial and operational challenges related to the pandemic, WMRR is encouraged to see jurisdictions taking a commonsense approach towards costs and regulatory pressures placed on our essential industry,” Sloan said.
“In deferring the levy increase, operators and their customers may have some financial respite while continuing to focus on the job at hand, which is keeping our services operating while ensuring the safety of our staff and community.”
Sloan stated that the WMRR has recommended that only the first proposed levy increment in 2020 be deferred to provide relief to operators and their customers facing financial challenges and all later increments should continue as planned in order to safeguard ongoing investments that will build the industry.
WRIQ CEO, Mark Smith, received advice from DES on the Government’s decision to defer proposed landfill levy price increases last Friday evening on May 29, and believes the decision will impact QLD businesses and clients differently within the industry.
“This 11th hour notification is disappointing, as it provides our members and industry with minimal time to adapt and notify their supply chain of pricing impacts,” Smith said.
In response, WRIQ is collating general legal advice with WRIQ partner, Minter Ellison, to form advice and resources for its members, set to be available on Thursday June 4.
“The market works best when there is market certainty. Changing market conditions 4 weeks out from proposed increases will impact businesses differently. However in the age of Covid I recognise government need to make decisions that are best suited for the whole of Queensland,” Smith said.
He added that Post Covid, WRIQ would like to sit down with Government to determine a minimum timeframe in the event of future pricing changes.
“I respect that changes to landfill levies need to run a particular process but businesses also need to run to notify their clients and customers of the pricing changing. It would be great to bring both these processes into alignment,” he said.
The WMRR is also encouraging all future engagements with state governments.
“It is WMRR’s hope that SA will not continue to turn a blind eye to industry’s concerns and will follow in its neighbours’ footsteps by offering levy relief to operators,” Sloan said.
Last year the SA government implemented a 40 per cent levy increase, which Sloan stated was a shock announcement “with no industry consultation whatsoever and continues to place significant strain on existing projects and operations”.
“Now is the time to ease these financial pressures on operators so that we can maintain a viable industry and importantly, assist in the rebuilding of a post-COVID economy,” she said.
According to advice from DES to landfill operators, business systems and processes need to be reviewed to ensure the QLD deferral is incorporated.
“Your current levy obligations remain, including waste measurement and recording, monthly data returns and monthly invoice payments, so continue these as-normal,” the DES advised to landfill operators.
With a commitment to corporate responsibility, FLIR Systems Australia will prioritise the delivery of its new line of thermal imaging cameras to operators responding to COVID-19.
In the wake of COVID-19, industry consensus is clear: waste management is an essential service.
While legislative recognition is still a matter of debate, waste management operators across the country are committed to maintaining their services for councils, businesses and the wider community in challenging times.
Despite the altruism of this commitment, individuals working in the waste management space, much like their medical and food service counterparts, are having to forego self-isolation.
As such, Sean Towner, FLIR Systems Australia Sales Manager Instruments, says it’s now more important than ever to prioritise appropriate health and safety monitoring.
He adds that by doing so, businesses can protect their workers and stave off potential operational disruptions.
“Like all businesses, FLIR have had to adjust our operations in light of the current COVID-19 situation. That said, we also felt it paramount to use our technological innovation expertise to help the international community adapt,” Sean says.
The result, he explains, is FLIR’s A400/A700 Thermal Smart Sensor and Thermal Image Streaming fixed camera – launched 31 March this year.
“FLIR’s thermal imaging technology has been used in waste facilities across the globe for fire prevention for over 40 years. From warehouses to recycling sites and waste to energy facilities, FLIR understands that protecting one’s site from damage is integral to keeping insurance premiums down,” Sean says.
“With the new A400/A700 line, we’ve built upon that existing technology to provide an efficient screening solution for monitoring equipment, production lines, critical infrastructure, and importantly, skin temperatures.”
The highly configurable smart camera systems provide accurate, non-contact temperature monitoring across a wide range of disciplines including waste management, emissions monitoring, facility maintenance and environmental, health and safety regulation.
According to Sean, delivery of the FLIR A400/A700 Thermal Smart Sensor solution will be initially prioritised for operators and companies responding to COVID-19.
“As the world works together to face the global COVID-19 pandemic, FLIR will prioritise initial deliveries of this new A-series camera to professionals using it in elevated skin temperature screening, as an adjunct to other elevated body temperature screening tools to help to fight the spread of the virus,” he says.
With multi-image streaming, edge computing and Wi-Fi connectivity, Sean says the range can help speed up data flow. This, he adds, improves productivity and safety for all operations and applications.
“FLIR designed the A400/A700 cameras with two configurations to better meet application-specific needs,” Sean says.
“The Thermal Smart Sensor configuration, recommended for measuring elevated skin temperatures, incorporates advanced measurement tools and alarms with edge computing to enable faster critical decision making.”
Furthermore, the Image Streaming configuration provides multiple thermal streaming capabilities to help optimise process control, improve quality assurance or identify potential failures that could shut down facility operations.
“Users can design their systems by choosing either the Smart Sensor or Imaging Streaming configurations, selecting either the A400 or A700 camera body based on the resolutions they need, and then adding lenses and a range of optional features to fit their application,” Sean says.
The smart sensor range also includes options to adjust measurements and alarms based on a reference temperature source, with advance image quality up to 307,200 pixels and a measurement accuracy of +/- 2°C.
Sean adds that with multiple field-of-view choices, multi-streaming capabilities, motorised focus control and optional compressed radiometric streaming over Wi-Fi, FLIR’s fixed-mount camera solutions can tackle complex remote monitoring objectives.
“The camera’s remote monitoring capabilities are an added value when considering how many people are currently working from home,” he says.
“Easy configuration also allows operators to tailor the monitoring system to their company’s quality, productivity, maintenance and safety needs.”
Through compressed radiometric streaming that cuts bandwidth, Sean says FLIR’s thermal streaming solution makes it possible to add multiple cameras without the cost of expanding infrastructure.
He adds that this is a significant advantage in light of current global economic challenges.
“Regardless of external circumstances, waste management operators are committed to getting the job done. This means it’s crucial we ensure both the personal health and wellbeing of operators and the maintenance and efficiency of their equipment,” he says.
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Waste Management Review speaks with Queensland Health operators and suppliers about managing medical waste in the wake of COVID-19.
As governments, working in conjunction with medical and scientific experts, continue to evaluate the transmissibility and severity of COVID-19, Australia’s National Biohazard Waste Industry Committee is suggesting a degree of precaution.
While there is no evidence as of yet that direct, unprotected human contact during the handling of healthcare waste has resulted in COVID-19 infections, medical knowledge is evolving with each passing week based on epidemiological advice.
The committee therefore suggests medical staff responsible for the management of increased, and potentially more hazardous, clinical waste volumes introduce additional safety measures.
To respond to the COVID-19 situation, Logan Hospital, a major hospital in one of the fastest growing regions in Queensland, has set up a specialised Fever Clinic to test patients suspected to have COVID-19.
The clinic is located in a separate concreted alcove adjacent to he hospital’s Emergency Department to protect staff, visitors and other patients, and can only be accessed with consent from triage nurses after an outdoor consultation.
In addition to setting up the new clinic, Wayne Hebblewhite, Logan Hospital Environmental Services Manager, says the hospital is adapting its waste management processes.
“The main change is that we’ve had to double bag all our clinical waste, as well as labelling and locking or zip tying all our clinical waste bins. It’s a change in processes,” he says.
These changes are in line with the National Biohazard Waste Industry committee’s COVID-19 clinical waste guidance, which urges healthcare workers to implement double bagging of waste from COVID-19 confirmed patients.
“By placing contaminated waste into a primary clinical waste bag and tying this bag up prior to disposal in the lined mobile garbage bins – the bag lining the mobile garbage bin must also be tied up – a significant increase in protection can be achieved,” the committee states.
To manage these changes, in addition to heightened levels of waste generation, Wayne has been working closely with Logan Hospital’s clinical and related waste management provider Ace Waste.
“From day one, they sent out all the literature we needed to follow their instructions and gave us clear guidelines on how to manage potentially COVID-19 contaminated waste,” Wayne says.
He adds that Logan Hospital’s Ace Waste Key Account Manager, Ben Huxley, came to the hospital to discuss process changes and walk the Logan team through the process. Wayne says he’s been very supportive.
“We needed additional bins and they were provided the following day,” Wayne says.
“We also required foot pedals for bins in our clinical waste areas to minimise human contact, and Ace Waste were able to provide those to us as well.”
According to Wayne, Ace Waste’s level of service has been consistent throughout the long-standing relationship.
“We’ve always found Ace Waste to be 100 percent professional. Ben is in contact at least once a month to discuss any sorts of issues we have. Nothing is too much trouble, if they can help us, they will,” he says.
David Brown, Wide Bay Hospital & Health Services Region Operational & Support Services Manager, expresses similar sentiments.
“We’ve been working with Ace Waste for 12 months, and in those 12 months we’ve had a seamless transfer from our previous contractor to Ace Waste,” he says.
“We’ve had no issues whatsoever, and to this date, I’ve had zero complaints from any of our facilities about the clinical waste service Ace Waste provides.”
Servicing more than 214,000 people across an area of 37,000 square kilometres, David’s operations cover the Bundaberg, Fraser Coast and North Burnett regions, as well as parts of Gladstone.
“We’ve seen an increase in our clinical waste product, with more kilograms being created, and as a by-product of that, we’ve had to increase the storage capacity of our bins, which Ace Waste helped facilitate,” he says.
Queensland Health’s recently released COVID-19 waste management recommendations stipulate that all staff should be trained in the correct procedures for waste handling.
To support this effort, Ace Waste have provided Wide Bay with extensive educational material that breaks down waste segregation in a simple and consistent manner.
“The material covers: what is clinical waste and what goes in which bin. It’s been very handy having that at this point in time with COVID-19 happening,” David says.
As part of its response to COVID-19, Queensland Health is supporting the internal expansion of Intensive Care and Emergency Department capacity.
According to Ben Huxley, Ace Waste Key Account Manager, Ace Waste is working to support their clients through this expansion by developing bespoke procedures and providing information on safe handling, transportation and waste receiving requirements.
“Since early March, there have been a considerable number of Fever Clinics established throughout our service area, both within hospital campuses and as stand-alone operations,” Ben says.
“An ongoing challenge faced by Ace Waste in supporting these services has been identifying and adapting to the rapidly evolving demands and service delivery platforms.”
Using their intimate knowledge of healthcare industry needs, systems and compliance, Ben says Ace Waste have been able to assist in process development and provide appropriate equipment requirements for each facility it services.
“Ace Waste is also providing expanded waste collection frequencies and facilitating additional servicing demands to ensure the focus of our healthcare professionals remains on providing the highest level of care to our community,” he says.
Ben adds that Ace Waste understands that future changes are likely to occur and is planning for a ‘worst case scenario’.
“Ace Waste is working on further expansion to accommodate future increased demand, and we are well positioned to service the Queensland community should the need arise,” he says.
“We’re in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, and it’s now more important than ever to support our valued clients in the medical and healthcare sector.”
The world’s recycling industry has been preparing changes to operations following the ease of shutdown restrictions across global networks.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) has collected feedback on the impact of the virus around the world, with specific regard to how it is affecting the recycling industry.
The BIR said in a statement that plastics recyclers face the challenge of low selling prices for their materials, while suppliers are unable to reduce their own selling prices owing to the high cost of shipping and the impact on availability of the lockdowns in exporting countries.
“The situation will improve only when all countries lift their lockdowns and resume their economic activities as before the COVID-19 outbreak,” the BIR stated.
According to the BIR’s statement, Asia’s demand for recycled materials is at only 30-40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels amid a slowdown in volumes requested by the plastics manufacturing industry and cancellation of overseas orders.
Recycling units in Europe have remained open throughout the crisis owing to their crucial role in waste management.
BIR stated that Italy’s metals sector reopened on May 4, which will help improve business in the waste sector as operations resume following many weeks of lockdown.
Europe’s recycling industry, especially in Italy, has sustained high costs through guaranteeing to stay open during the lockdown despite very low levels of business.
BIR stated that ASSOFERMET, UNIRIMA and ASSORIMAP, Italy’s three national associations covering recycling commodities, have drafted a letter to the government to reinforce this message and to call for a change of mindset now that the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the essential nature of recycling and of waste management as a whole.
According to the BIR’s research, 73 per cent of recycling centres have remained open to receive materials in France.
Specific to recovered paper, mills in France are expected to encounter small shortages in May despite ongoing collection and sorting activities.
In the UK, the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has already issued an instruction for the reopening of local authority household waste and recycling centres.
“Reopening could provide a minor boost for some larger metal recyclers with contracts to collect the household metals gathered at these sites,” the BIR stated.
“The BMRA has advocated the reopening of these centres to counter increased dumping of large domestic appliances and to avoid the fire risk posed to metal recyclers by householders concealing small waste electrical and electronic equipment in bins collected from homes.”
Recyclers in the Middle East have returned to operation but the flow of scrap is less than 20 per cent of the norm.
“All ports are operating normally and exports are continuing to move to countries that can accept material,” the BIR stated.
“Social distancing must continue to be observed while manpower allowed on recycling premises is reduced and strict health & safety controls apply.”
Weston Thermal Solutions and Pink Environmental Services are upping their capacity to assist medical waste producers to deal with a surge in infectious material in the wake of COVID-19.
Since first reported to the World Health Organization in December 2019, COVID-19 has spread rapidly to every continent in the world, barring Antarctica. The World Health Organization declared the situation a global health emergency on 30 January 2020, with movement restrictions soon enacted world-over.
In light of the global pandemic, hospitals and waste management operators are bracing themselves for a surge in waste-contaminated with infectious materials.
While there is no current data on how much medical waste is being produced as a result of COVID-19, the recommended use of disposal personal protective equipment alone is set to see hospital waste generation skyrocket.
To help operators manage the surge, Belinda Paton, Weston Thermal Solutions (WTS) General Manager, says WTS – the thermal processing arm of The Weston Group – is working to increase the quantity of waste they receive.
“As demand increases on our healthcare system during this time, generated waste volumes also increase. To address this, we’re working hard with medical waste producers to provide a streamlined collection and disposal service,” Belinda says.
“Removing this waste in a timely and safe manner minimises the risk to healthcare staff, patients and the community as a whole.”
The Weston Group, which traditionally processes industrial waste and manufactures steelmaking supplies, recently diversified its operations to include the thermal treatment of various hazardous wastes, under the name WTS.
Using state-of-the-art technology, in conjunction with the strictest emission criteria in Australia, WTS opened its innovative thermal destruction plant at Kurri Kurri in NSW’s Hunter Valley last month.
Working with Pink Environmental Services (Pink), which collects and consolidates medical and hazardous waste, WTS has the capacity to thermally process 800 kilograms of waste each hour – with a proposed annual throughput of 8000 tonnes.
As a critical part of the WTS supply chain, Pink, which was established in late 2019 as the collection arm of WTS, works to consolidate waste generated by hospitals and waste management operators for bulk shipment to the Kurri Kurri plant.
Due to the nature of hazardous waste management, David Bullard, Pink General Manager, says safety is at the forefront of Pink and WTS’ approach to every issue.
“The risk profile is such that, you have to approach and treat everything as though it could kill, maim or even severely injure, because when you do, you mitigate the risk at that level,” he says.
“This leads to a safer working environment, which is absolutely paramount in the approach we take at Pink. It’s Pink’s intention to operate at industry best practice and then push beyond, so Pink then sets the standard.”
As waste is considered an essential service, David says it’s Pink’s role to support those on the front line, and provide whatever services are required to support their operations.
“Pink has offered its support to many companies that are conducting primary collections, providing the disposal services, and working with the relevant government authorities,” he adds.
“At Pink, we believe the best way to minimise risk in the current circumstances, for industry, the community and the environment, is to earmark all COVID-19 contaminated material and potential COVID-19 contaminated material for ultra-high thermal destruction, rather than sterilisation and landfill.”
Belinda shares similar sentiments, citing thermal destruction as arguably the most secure way to destroy pathogenic substances including the COVID-19 virus. Belinda adds that through the process, only ash which has been treated for prolonged periods at high temperatures is sent to landfill.
“This generally represents only 10 per cent of the initial waste load, thereby drastically reducing the burden on landfills and extending their operational lifespan,” she says.
By neutralising the potential for bio-hazardous waste streams to negatively impact community health and the environment, Belinda says thermal treatment facilitates a disposal option for waste streams that cannot be disposed of via other means.
“While always an important link in the waste management chain, thermal treatment is particularly critical in these challenging times,” she says.
WTS’ new plant features a primary combustion chamber rotary kiln, which Belinda says enhances thermal processing by providing greater contact between waste and combustion air.
“The rotary kiln primary chamber is an ashing, co-current operation, with material loaded into the primary combustion chamber for initial processing,” Belinda says.
Following combustion, the resultant ash material is discharged from the kiln and maintained on a stationary burnout hearth for up to eight hours, to ensure complete burnout of all carbonaceous matter.
To safely manage hazardous and medical waste, WTS employs strict inspection and quarantine protocols to all incoming waste. This, Belinda says, ensure the status, classification, storage requirements, optimal treatment mode and destruction verification of all incoming streams.
“Good chemical hygiene is crucial while working with hazardous and bio-hazardous waste, so our treatment process is designed to be almost entirely automated, with no physical contact between operators and hazardous waste,” Belinda explains.
This is achieved through the design and use of a tippler bin to deposit waste directly into the loading system of the thermal destruction process.
“The site also has a cool room facility to maintain putrescible waste below 4°C at all times until processing occurs. Bin disinfection processes are also applied to ensure the safety of bins/receptacles exchanged/returned as part of the service,” Belinda says.
According to David, regulatory authorities have approached WTS and Pink regarding their capacity to assist in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While approved to thermally destroy other inputs, we are currently focusing our attention and plant capacity on processing clinical and related wastes,” he says.
“We want to ensure that we are positioned with sufficient storage and processing to support the NSW effort in this crisis situation.”
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