Study highlights greater pollution than previously estimated

Plastic waste in the ocean is making its way back to land and increasing pollution on Australia’s beaches, according to new research from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

According to a CSIRO statement, the research explains why estimates of waste entering the ocean each year are 100 times larger than the amount of plastic observed floating on the surface, and suggests waste management strategies on land need to accommodate larger volumes of pollution than previously estimated.

“These findings highlight the importance of including the entire width of coastal areas in studies to understand how much – and where – debris gets trapped,” the statement reads.

“This is critical for developing targeted waste management policies, particularly in areas with large regional populations, to reduce litter ending up in our oceans and along our coasts.”

CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Denise Hardesty said researchers collected data on the amount and location of plastic pollution every 100 kilometres around the entire coast of Australia between 2011 and 2016.

“The highest concentrations of marine debris were found along the coastal backshores, where the vegetation begins,” Dr Hardesty said.

Utrecht University’s Arianna Olivelli, who led the analysis, said findings indicate that coasts are a major sink for marine debris, particularly for larger debris items.

“The debris recorded along the coasts was found to be a mix of littering and deposition from the ocean,” she said.

“The results suggest that plastic is moving from urban areas into the ocean, and then being transported back onshore and pushed onto land, where it remains.”

Ms Olivelli said onshore wind and waves, together with more densely populated areas, influences the amount and distribution of marine debris.

“The further back we went from the water’s edge, the more debris we found,” she said.

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Larvae to produce compost

Canberra-based start-up Goterra and CSIRO researchers are testing conditions to encourage fly mating, with the intention of producing larvae that eats through food waste.

CSIRO’s farming experts are working with lighting, temperature, moisture, surface texture and diet combinations to boost egg-laying.

Goterra aims to use the insects to create compost, which will reduce food sent landfill, enrich soil with nutrient-rich fertiliser and reduce transport emissions.

Goterra CEO Olympia Yarger said working with CSIRO meant her business could develop in multiple directions.

“We were inspired to start the business out of passion for insects and a belief in harnessing them to work for us, whether that’s as a source of food with edible insects, or to process food waste using larvae,” Ms Yarger said.

“We’re building the technology to breed the insects and transport them to wherever there is a need, creating a mobile and versatile alternative to everything from sources of protein to landfill.”

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Waste marketplace goes national

Advisory System for Processing, Innovation & Resource Exchange (ASPIRE) has transitioned out of CSIRO’s digital specialist arm to scale its operations nationally.

Developed by researchers in 2015, ASPIRE is an online marketplace that matches businesses with potential remanufactures, purchasers and recyclers to find new purposes for waste materials.

ASPIRE CEO Cameron McKenzie said while the online marketplace had seen impressive uptake amongst businesses, state governments and local councils in Victoria, a national network was pivotal to tackle the waste crisis.

“Around 300 businesses are using ASPIRE, which has collectively saved $207,000 in waste disposal and material costs. This has also resulted in a reduction of CO2 emissions and water through reuse and diversion from landfill,” Mr McKenzie said.

“While we’ve had strong traction in Victoria, we’re scaling ASPIRE nationally to address the increasing need for a way to manage Australia’s growing waste and recycling issues.”

CSIRO research scientist Melanie Ayre said ASPIRE had diverted hundreds of waste streams from landfill including batteries, e-waste, metals, organics and polystyrene since launching.

“Almost 80 per cent of Australia’s waste is generated through commercial, industrial, construction or demolition activities,” Dr Ayre said.

“We developed ASPIRE in response to rising costs of waste management, and to redirect waste to more productive uses.”

According to the 2018 National Waste Policy, a hypothetical five per cent improvement in efficient use of materials across the Australian economy could benefit Australia’s GDP by as much as $24 billion.

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Climate change impact: MRA Consulting

MRA’s Mike Ritchie speaks to Waste Management Review about the waste sector’s contribution to national emissions and its role in meeting Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.  

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CSIRO develops smelting process to reduce hazardous waste

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has developed a smelting process to produce soluble phosphate for fertiliser from low value ores, eliminating hazardous waste and making production more economically and environmentally sustainable.

Phosphate is a key ingredient in fertilisers and essential for plant health and growth. The AUD$73 billion global phosphate market continues to grow as demand for fertiliser increases to meet food production needs.

CSIRO team leader, Keith Barnard, said the CSIRO-developed PyroPhos process offers a simpler, safer and more efficient alternative to conventional phosphate production processes.

“The PyroPhos smelting process uses high temperature to extract phosphate from ores, producing prized phosphate feedstock and a glassy gravel that can be used in road base construction and Portland cement,” Dr Barnard said.

“A major benefit of the process is that is can be used on lower grade ores giving phosphate miners and processors the opportunity to increase their productivity in an environmentally sustainable way.”

The PyroPhos process is exclusively licenced to PyroPhos, a subsidiary of Process Capital.

Director of PyroPhos, Mark Muzzin, believes it’s a unique technology offering in the soluble phosphate fertiliser market.

“Our networks and investor base give us the ability to connect PyroPhos technology to the global phosphate industry,” Mr Muzzin said.

“We have had an excellent response from the industry and believe it has the ability to make a major impact.”

PyroPhos technology has emerged out of decades of research from CSIRO’s award-winning Sirosmelt innovation and pryometalurgical expertise.

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