VIC Govt makes $100M investment in recycling industry

The Victorian Government will invest $100 million into the state’s recycling system to drive research and expand local processing and manufacturing.

The investment follows a suite of additional announcements earlier this week, including the introduction of a container deposit scheme and roll out of a four-bin kerbside system.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the measures are part of the state’s 10-year Recycling Victoria plan, which aims to reform waste management and create sustainable industry.

The plan, Mr Andrews said, will create an additional 3900 jobs for the sector.

“The $100 million investment will help local businesses give new life to old rubbish – better processing recyclable materials and getting more value from waste by making it available for end-market uses like recycled plastic in railway sleepers or recycled glass in footpaths,” Mr Andrews said.

As part of the package, the state government will double funding for businesses to invest in infrastructure to sort and reprocess recyclables for use in manufacturing.

Mr Andrews said the $28 million infrastructure boost will bring the total funding available through the Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund to $56 million.

“The package includes $30 million in grants to make Victoria a leader in recycling innovation – creating new products from recycled materials like glass, plastic, organics, electronic waste, concrete, brick and rubber,” he said.

“The government will also provide $10 million in grants to help businesses improve resource efficiency, reduce waste and increase recycling in their daily operations – saving them time and money.”

A new $7 million Business Innovation Centre will also be established, to bring industry, universities and councils together to develop new technologies and collaborate on creative solutions to waste challenges.

“For waste that can’t be recycled, processors will also be able to access $10 million for waste-to-energy initiatives, minimising the amount of rubbish being sent to landfill, while $11.5 million will go towards treating hazardous waste – protecting the community from illegal chemical stockpiles,” Mr Andrews said.

According to Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan, the Victorian Government is leading the way by committing significant new funds to the industry.

“WMRR is pleased that the Victorian Government has flagged infrastructure investment as part of this package,” she said.

“This will be key to driving success as we work with government to continue to grow markets domestically for these valuable resources.”

Ms Sloan said that with 14 million tonnes of waste generated annually in Victoria, the investment represents a fantastic opportunity to transition the state’s remanufacturing industry.

“WMRR acknowledges that a sustainable remanufacturing base will take time to develop in Victoria, and its success depends on robust government regulation and policy that support market development and community and business demand for recycled material, which will go a long way in providing industry with certainty to invest,” Ms Sloan said.

According to Ms Sloan, WMRR will continue to work closely with Victoria’s leaders to provide feedback and input on the projects, policies, and investment priorities that will drive the sector forward.

“Market development and remanufacturing demand cannot however be achieved by one state alone,” she said.

“As we head towards the COAG meeting next month and impending export bans, it is vital that there be national action on creating markets and demand for recycled products, this includes emphasis on design, a mandated product stewardship scheme for packaging and national specifications.”

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VIC to introduce CDS and four bin kerbside system

The Victorian Government will introduce a container deposit scheme (CDS) by 2023, as part of a new suite of initiatives to reduce waste to landfill by 80 per cent over 10 years.

A four bin kerbside system will also be rolled out as part of a $129 million overhaul of the state’s waste and recycling sector, with seperate bins for glass, food and garden organics, household waste and plastic, metal and paper.

Premier Daniel Andrews said that by collecting glass separately, Victoria can ensure effective recycling, with jars and bottles transformed multiple times into different products, including new roads and footpaths.

“Separate glass collection will also make recovery of other recyclables – like plastic, metal and paper – simpler, with the food and organic bin significantly reducing the amount of waste going to landfill,” he said.

According to Mr Andrews, the bin rollout will begin gradually next year – informed by the needs of local communities and existing council contracts.

“There will also be special arrangements for remote regional households and people in apartments, to ensure everyone gets access to the new four-bin system,” he said.

“This represents a holistic approach to reducing, reusing and recycling our state’s waste. That’s good news for Victoria’s environment and good news for Victorian jobs.”

Waste management will also be classified as an essential service under the new system, to ensure a basic standard of service across the state.

Additionally, a dedicated waste authority will be established to help the state better govern its recycling system and hold waste service providers to account.

“An education and behaviour change campaign will support the rollout of the initiatives. It will target households, businesses, councils, community groups and charities – helping them transition to the new system,” Mr Andrews added.

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has welcomed the changes, highlighting Victoria as the only Australian jurisdiction without a CDS currently in place.

VWMA CEO Peter Anderson said the association sees tremendous benefits for Victoria through the introduction of the scheme, including less rubbish sent to landfill, less litter from single use items covered by the scheme and the opportunity to further build public awareness about waste and recycling.

“The Victorian Government is to be congratulated for listening to stakeholders from the waste and recycling sector on the development of this CDS, which will transform how Victorians dispose of certain materials,” Mr Anderson said.

“It’s important that Victorians understand that this is not about imposing additional costs or inconvenience when it comes to disposal of recyclables. It’s about dramatically increasing the amount of waste that gets recycled and, conversely, reducing how much we send to landfill.”

The VWMA has worked closely with the Victorian Government to establish the scheme, Mr Anderson said, and looks forward to further engagement and consultation.

“As part of the transition to a CDS, change and adjustment will be required of every Victorian household and we may need to do things differently,” he said.

“Changes to the size of our bins and frequency of collection will be likely, and we look forward to working with the Victorian Government to help educate Victorians on the many environmental and economic benefits a CDS will deliver.”

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Government wedged into Clarinda issue

Alex Fraser highlights implications surrounding the potential closure of its Clarinda Recycling Facility, after Kingston City Council denied its application for the second time.

Alex Fraser put in the hard yards over the past two decades to clean up Victoria’s problem glass and is the state’s leading recycler in this space.

Through its network of sites at Clarinda, Laverton North and Epping, the company will take in material from the likes of Cleanaway, Polytrade and Visy and continue to find markets for thousands of tonnes of glass waste per annum.

A recent Sustainability Victoria grant enabled the installation of additional equipment at Clarinda. The project will reduce stockpiling and landfilling of problem glass by an additional 38,500 tonnes per annum. But in three years’ time, Clarinda may no longer exist.

Since 2014, Alex Fraser has been fighting to protect the shutdown of one million tonnes of recycling capacity which supplies material to major projects.

In what some are calling a NIMBY decision, in late 2019, that battle came to a head, as Kingston City Council denied an application to extend the life of the recycling operation.

The permit ends in 2023 and allows for an application for an extension. Even though the area has been rezoned as green wedge, an extension is permissible and the company had applied to stay until 2038.

It followed a comprehensive effort to find an alternative site in collaboration with the Victorian Government through Invest Victoria.

A second and final vote was taken in mid-December which was once again denied. Now, Alex Fraser has called on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to intervene.

Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser Managing Director, says the decision is at odds with Victoria’s Recycling Industry Strategic Plan.

“We’ll continue to work on all of the options available to us. This issue affects environment, resources, roads, transport and treasury at a state level. It really needs a coordinated government approach to resolving it,” Peter explains.

A number of claims have since been thrown around, such as: “there’s still another four years to find a site” and “Alex Fraser still has two other sites”.

For one, the company points out that even if it were able to find a suitable site, completing the planning process means a lengthy and uncertain timeframe. Relocation is also a complex process.

Secondly, Alex Fraser has spent years building a network of recycling sites close to where waste is generated. Significant work from state agencies has gone into Victoria’s Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan to ensure adequate buffer protection of waste activities as a result of the urban sprawl.

Victoria’s “big build” is placing additional strain on metropolitan quarries, an issue Peter says is a huge concern.

“For recycling of this scale to continue to work, we need to maintain a network of facilities that are positioned close to where waste is generated and where the outlets for recycled materials exist.”

According to the Victorian Extractive Resources Strategy, at the time of its publication in 2016, demand for extractive resources was expected to double by 2050 as a result of the big build, and since then infrastructure investment has only increased.

The strategy shows 34 per cent of extractives in 2050 will need to be sourced from quarries not yet built or planned, due to forecast resource exhaustion. To complicate matters further, an analysis undertaken in 2018 of quarry approvals shows only a quarter of quarry applicants were able to secure necessary approvals in the past two years to carry out new production.

To meet the shortfall, one of the Victorian Government’s key policy pledges is to improve waste management across the whole industry. Transportation of extractive resources is costly and not eco-friendly when the distance between a quarry and point of use is examined.

Around 535 quarries produce 50 million tonnes of stone, limestone, gypsum, sand and gravel per year. Put in perspective, the Metro Tunnel alone is expected to require more than 480,000 cubic metres of ready-mix concrete and 160,000 tonnes of other extractive materials.

“If we fail to ensure that a sufficient supply of extractive resources is available within close proximity to our growth areas and infrastructure projects, the cost of constructing houses and infrastructure will likely rise,” the strategy says.

“This can lead to more expensive and potentially fewer infrastructure projects for Victorians. Impacts on transport infrastructure will rise, and greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts will increase.”

Alex Fraser highlights that if the Clarinda facility were to close, it would be equivalent to the loss of a major quarry in metropolitan resource availability.

Clarinda is perfectly positioned to supply major projects such as the Mordialloc Freeway, Monash Upgrade, Level Crossing Removal Project and the upcoming outer Suburban Rail Loop.

Peter says that recycling in Melbourne has been successful because of a network of sites, close to the city which provide access to markets.

Globally, a clear barrier to using recycled materials is the availability of supply within reasonable distances. He says that anyone in the industry understands the time and cost implications of trucking material from further afield.

The Victorian Government has committed to a “hot list” of priority quarry approvals that can be fast tracked to support the big build. He says it would be perverse to fast-track the development of a new quarry to counter the shutdown of a recycling facility.

Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) CEO Jillian Riseley recently penned a letter to the City of Kingston calling for the Clarinda Recycling Facility’s extension.

She reiterated that the MWRRG had a statutory role to play in reducing waste to landfill and that its Metropolitan Implementation Plan articulated the need to integrate land use planning with waste and resource recovery.

The metro plan identifies the Clayton South Precinct as one of 13 hubs of metropolitan importance and acknowledges Alex Fraser’s role in supporting construction and demolition waste.

“The Clayton South Precinct Hub including Alex Fraser facilities, along with other state significant hubs, together operate as a network providing critical and complementary recycling and recovery capacity,” Jillian wrote.

“For the network to function effectively it requires capacity and security of operations across the hub.”

She says that should the operation discontinue, the loss of one million tonnes would undermine the entire network and place pressure on already constrained landfill capacity in the southeast.

Kingston City Council claims that the community has voiced objections about the Clarinda Recycling Facility. The MWRRG’s letter confirms the application for permit extension would allow Alex Fraser to support ongoing best practice environmental management.

Peter says that a number of houses are close to landfills and affected by dust, noise and odour.

“We have provided evidence that the source of dust, noise and odour is not the Clarinda Recycling Facility. Our employees do an outstanding job and have demonstrated how to transition away from landfill,” Peter says.

“We have exceptionally good controls, including 24-hour dust monitoring across the site.

“In fact, the site has been awarded by the Clean Air Society of Australia & New Zealand so it is well recognised as being a leader.”

Alex Fraser also put forward a Community Benefits Package, giving the Kingston community ownership of 22 hectares of land, along with a total of $7.5 million for local sports and recreation facilities.

The proposal was not accepted by the council, an issue Alex Fraser remains perplexed about.

As the Victorian Government plans to release its long-awaited circular economy policy, Peter says Victoria long led the way in using recycled materials in infrastructure.

He adds the site is an outstanding example of the circular economy in action and the state government must intervene to retain this recycling capacity.

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

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Landfill levy waived for bushfire victims

Landfill levies have been waived for residents in bushfire affected areas across Victoria, following an announcement from state Premier Daniel Andrews.

“As Victorians begin returning to their homes and land following the recent bushfires, the state government will make sure people can dispose of their bushfire waste without paying the landfill levy,” Mr Andrews said.

“This is practical and immediate support for people who are undertaking the heartbreaking task of cleaning up their homes and properties.”

According to Mr Andrews, bushfire waste includes debris from homes, businesses, sheds, stock, fencing and equipment that has been damaged.

“The levy waiver will also make it easier for people to dispose of dead livestock,” he said.

The Victorian EPA will work with landfill operators and councils in fire-affected areas to apply for the exemption.

“If residents or business owners have any questions or concerns about bushfire waste clean up and disposal, they can contact EPA for further information,” Mr Andrews said.

The exemption follows similar measures in NSW, with the state government waiving the levy in bushfire natural disaster areas in November 2019.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said thousands of people across NSW are reeling from the effects of the November bushfires, which are still burning.

“We know that the effects of these bushfires will be felt for months, and even years to come, and we hope that this streamlined waste process can provide a little relief for those coping with the effects of these horrible bushfires,” he said.

The NSW exemption will apply until 29 February 2020.

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NWRIC calls on VIC Premier to intervene in Alex Fraser decision

The National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to intervene in the City of Kingston’s decision to deny the extension of Alex Fraser’s Clarinda recycling facility.

Earlier this year, Alex Fraser called on Kingston City Council to extend its operating permit for its glass and construction and demolition recycling site, as one million tonnes of recyclables risks going to landfill. Kingston Council rejected the extension earlier this month.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the Clarinda facility is a site of state significance.

“It’s capacity to recycle up to one million tonnes of construction materials represents approximately 25 per cent of Melbourne’s recycled material each year,” Ms Read said.

“To lose this site will have significant ramifications for resource recovery in Victoria and the population of Melbourne.”

According to an NWRIC statement, the City of Kingston decision contrasts with Sustainability Victoria’s Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan, which identifies the Alex Fraser site as one of Melbourne’s key resource recovery hubs.

“This illustrates another major weakness in the Victorian Government’s ability to manage waste and recycling, where clearly they have failed to integrate their infrastructure planning with local and state government planning regulations,” the statement reads.

The statement suggests that if Victorian’s want best practise recycling, it’s important that significant recovery hubs are protected and not overridden by local decisions.

“Moving these sites is not a simple matter, there are significant impacts not just on the recycler and its commercial operations, but on the whole of Victoria’s economy, employment and the environment,” the statement reads.

“If the Victorian government is serious about getting recycling back on track in Victoria, the premier needs to step up and mediate a more realistic solution for the future of the Alex Fraser Clarinda site as a matter of urgency.”

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Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards 2018 finalists revealed

The finalists have been announced for the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards, which recognise individuals, communities, organisations and businesses that are driving a sustainable future.

Winners will be announced at the Premier’s Sustainability Awards gala dinner at The Forum on Melbourne on 11 October.

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There are ten different categories for the awards with Premier Daniel Andrews selecting two overall winners of the Premier’s Regional Recognition Award and the Premier’s Recognition award.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the finalists in this year’s Premier’s Sustainability Awards are an especially diverse group from every sector in Victoria.

“I congratulate all finalists for their innovative work – using resources wisely and promoting sustainable practices here in Victoria,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

The Finalists for 2018 are:

Built Environment

  • City of Greater Bendigo, Lovell Chen, Nicholson Construction – Bendigo Soldiers’ Memorial Institute Passive House
  • Lendlease, CPB Contractors, WSP, Aurecon, Level Crossing Removal Authority and Metro Trains Melbourne – Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal
  • RMIT University – RMIT Sustainable Urban Precincts Program

Community

  • Enable Social Enterprises – Expansion – Greener Futures Employability Program
  • Kelly Mrocki – The Girl Who Saved the Frogs Incursion
  • Kensington Compost – Kensington Compost

Education

  • Albert Park Preschool Centre – Keeping Our Promise to Bunjil
  • Beeac Primary School – Brolga Pathways
  • Dunkeld Kindergarten – Educating Future World Leaders

Environmental justice

  • Department of Health and Human Services – Elenara House Sustainable Rooming House Upgrade
  • GWMWater (Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water Corporation) – Memorandum of Understanding with Dja Dja Wurrung – South West Loddon Pipeline
  • Moreland City Council and Moreland Energy Foundation – Cooling Communities

Environmental protection

  • Extreme Dents – Eso-friendly Automotive RepairPOD
  • Yume Food – Build a Marketplace Exclusively for Surplus Food to Reduce Food Waste
  • Zoos Victoria, Phillip Island Nature Parks – When Balloons Fly

Government

  • City of Melbourne, City of Port Phillip, City of Yarra, City of Moreland – Melbourne Renewable Energy Project
  • Department of Justice and Regulation – Recycle, Reuse, Donate Woodwork Program
  • Gannawarra Shire Council – Gannawarra Large Scale Solar

Health

  • Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Victorian Branch – Nursing for the Environment
  • Beaconsfield Dental – Beaconsfield Dental Health
  • Western Health – Changing Anaesthetic Gases at Western Health

Innovative products or services

  • BCH – Whole Garment Design
  • PonyUp for Good – PonyUp for Good
  • Yume Food – Build a Marketplace Exclusively for Surplus Food to Reduce Food Waste

Large business

  • IKEA Richmond – IKEA Richmond Refurbishment Project
  • Telstra Corporation – Murra Warra Wind Farm harnessing long-term renewable energy supply

Small and medium enterprises

  • Extreme Dents – Eco-friendly Automotive RepairPOD
  • Revolution Apps – Compost Revolution
  • Yume Food – Build a Marketplace Exclusively for Surplus Food to Reduce Food Waste
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