Fuelling the market

Waste Management Review speaks with key industry stakeholders about the potential tyre-derived fuel flow-on effects of the Council of Australian Governments’ proposed export ban.

In early August, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) released a communique detailing its decision to ban the export of waste materials including plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

Specifics of the ban have not yet been released, with government stating that it would develop a ban timeline and action plan in due course. Despite this, industry responses have been swift and overwhelmingly positive, with particular focus given to the potential waste-to-energy flow-on effects of a ban on tyre exports.

Gayle Sloan, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO, says Australia has a robust and sustainable non-baling tyre recycling industry, which processes roughly 23 million used tyre units per annum.

“A ban on the export of whole-baled tyres will further drive the industry, which will create Australian jobs while ensuring human and environmental health are protected,” she says.

Pete Smigel, Australian Council of Recycling CEO, says consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable end-of-life disposal and recycling of products that offer sustainable environmental and human health outcomes.

“Australia has a great opportunity to develop a strong, sustainable and profitable tyre recycling industry that delivers significant environmental benefits and as well as job creation across the new manufacturing industry,” Pete says.

“It’s imperative this is supported by responsible government policy, and the COAG communique is a great step towards that.”

Tyrecycle, one of Australia’s largest collectors and recyclers of end-of-life tyres, operates numerous collection and processing facilities across the country, including Australia’s largest crumbing plant based at Somerton in Melbourne. It also has full chain-of-custody reporting.

Jim Fairweather, Tyrecycle CEO, says COAG’s signalled intention to ban the export of waste tyres is a win for the environment and the circular economy.

“The proposed ban presents the best opportunity to turn all end-of-life waste tyres in Australia into value-added commodities such as rubber crumb, rubber granule, tyre-derived fuel (TDF) and high-tensile steel, creating more sustainable jobs in Australia,” he says.

“A ban on the export of waste tyres should include both whole-baled tyres, which are sent unprocessed to countries such as India and Malaysia, as well as casings from old truck tyres sent into overseas markets for use as seconds or in retreading.”

Jim says these elements go hand-in-hand, given the ban on whole-baled tyres will require the establishment and growth of new markets for re-purposed tyre-derived products.   

Australia currently exports approximately 70,000 tonnes of whole-baled tyres per annum, which are then used in open burning as a fuel to heat drying kilns and in low-grade pyrolysis plants.

Rob Kelman, Australian Tyre Recyclers Association (ATRA) Executive Officer, says operations like this are controversial, do not comply with environmental, health and worker regulations and are associated with high levels of pollution.

ATRA members agreed to ban the practice of exporting whole-baled tyres in 2014, due to poor environmental outcomes and a direct association with water borne diseases.

“The World Health Organization specifically identifies international movement of whole tyres as a key factor in the increase in Dengue incidence,” Rob says.

Australia’s tyre recycling sector is largely dominated by traditional recycling methods, which use a series of shredders, screens and granulators to separate waste tyres into commodities.

Jim says these commodities, which are valued commensurate with their level of refinement, are used as raw material in the manufacture of new products such as soft fall surfaces and asphalt, as well as civil work applications such as roads and infrastructure.

“Waste tyres are also used in TDF – a globally traded commodity, which fuels sophisticated, high-energy manufacturing environments and power generation plants overseas,” Jim explains.

“The technology is proven, and TDF has excellent environmental credentials that include a reduction in landfill, improved emissions and reduced use of fossil fuels.”

Jim adds that for every tonne of TDF used, one tonne of CO2 is displaced.

“It burns cleaner than coal and has twice the energy value of brown coal,” he explains.

“The global TDF market, which includes South Korea and Japan, is hungry for more and could easily consume all of Australia’s waste tyres as TDF, but there should also be a gradual push to increase the domestic uptake of TDF, most likely in cement kilns.”

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Environment Minister discusses export ban with industry

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has hosted a waste and resource recovery roundtable in Sydney, with Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

According to a WMRR statement, executives from Australia’s leading waste, recycling, and resource recovery firms shared their insight with Ms Ley on current barriers to growth and success, including the lack of a nationally consistent and harmonised policy and regulatory framework.

“The minister was keen to hear about the current challenges and opportunities, and importantly, the key elements that would give the export ban, announced at the COAG meeting in August, the greatest chance at success,” the statement reads.

The roundtable was attended by executives from SUEZ, Cleanaway, Veolia, JJ Richards, ResourceCo, Tyrecycle, Visy Industries, Re.Group, Bingo Industries, Alex Fraser, and O-I.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said industry certainty is lacking in Australia, due to different policies, strategies, regulations and specifications across jurisdictions, and the lack of markets.

“The goal posts are constantly changing and often, our industry is a political football which exacerbates the challenges because it causes greater instability and uncertainty,” Ms Sloan said.

“The minister listened intently and said she had a clear idea of the current landscape and need for greater harmonisation, which we appreciated.”

Ms Sloan said Ms Ley advised that the forthcoming export ban on waste paper, plastic, glass and tyres would be on the agenda at the 8 November Meeting of Environment Ministers.

According to the WMRR statement, industry leaders said they would applaud the ban if it was coupled with the expansion of reprocessing and recycling, and the development of domestic remanufacturing.

“Sure, we can stop shipping these materials, and industry does not want to export – we absolutely want to reprocess and recycle right here in Australia – but if there’s no buyback or take up of the recycled products, where does that leave us?” Ms Sloan said.

“The ban must be supported first and foremost by sustainable and mandated procurement at all levels of government, with the Commonwealth leading the way.”

In a separate statement, Ms Ley said the Federal Government would work with Australia’s leading recyclers to achieve the earliest possible export ban time frame.

“The Prime Minister has agreed with all state and territory governments that a ban will be put in place, and we want to establish a clear timetable and clear strategic priorities by working with both industry and the state environment ministers,” Ms Ley said.

“A ban on plastic exports should not lead to higher levels of stockpiling in Australia, and I will be challenging all parties, the states, the industry participants and the community to embark on genuine change in tackling waste.”

Of her meeting with WMRR, Ms Ley said it was clear that policy consistency was needed across the states.

“We need to give industry the confidence to invest in recycling and remanufacturing, and an assurance that markets are being created for their products,” Ms Ley said.

Ms Ley also meet with industry leaders at the Australian Council of Recycling in Melbourne, including senior executives from Visy, Veolia, Orora, 0-I, PACT, Sims Metal Management, Reconomy-Downer, Close the Loop and Tyrecycle.

“The clear message from this and my previous meetings is that the re-cycling industry is in no doubt about the opportunities for re-manufactured products or the ability to generate future investment for expansion,” Ms Ley said.

“Concerns remain, however, about excessive or inconsistent planning regulations that could hamper that growth and the disparate range of collection strategies across local government.”

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WMRR holds EfW conference

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has held the first Energy from Waste (EfW) Conference in Canberra.

Attendees heard from a host of international and local speakers, who tracked the success of EfW facilities globally and the current gaps, challenges and opportunities to drive the technology in Australia.

According to WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan, there are currently more than 2000 EfW plants operating safely around the world.

“EfW technologies have been proven overseas, and at this conference, attendees heard from our international keynotes about the success of EfW working as part of an integrated waste management and resource recovery system,” Ms Sloan said.

“Industry is not touting EfW as the be all and end all of waste management, rather it is a recovery solution above disposal when we are unable to recycle. EfW assists in driving positive diversion and recovery outcomes.”

Ms Sloan said harmonisation was another topic of conversation at the conference.

“At the Around the States panel, comprising senior government officers from QLD, SA, NSW, ACT, WA, and VIC, industry reiterated the need for all jurisdictions to come together, led by the Federal Government, to develop a nationally consistent policy and regulatory framework,” Ms Sloan said.

“That would go a long way in creating certainty for industry and all other stakeholders.”

Ms Sloan said attendees had numerous opportunities to discuss the various presentations.

“At an interactive session led by Arup, attendees were called upon to share their thoughts on what they believed were the gaps that needed to be closed, the opportunities that could be captured and the barriers that stood in the way of EfW development in Australia,” Ms Sloan said.

“From the feedback received at this session, Arup will now develop an industry roadmap to develop and establish EfW within a successful waste management and resource recovery system. WMRR will soon release this roadmap.”

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COAG proposes export ban

Federal, state and local government ministers have agreed to work on a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, to improve Australia’s recycling capacity.

The agreement was made at the 9 August Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison arguing more needed to be done to deal with rising amounts of recyclable waste.

Environment Ministers will advise a proposed timetable and response strategy following consultation with industry and other stakeholders.

COAG agreed the strategy should draw on the best science, research and commercial experience, including that of agencies like the CSIRO and the work of Cooperative Research Centres.

Australia exported roughly 4.5 million tonnes of waste last year, with the majority sent to Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Malaysia and Thailand.

Indonesia, India and Malaysia have since begun to review their waste import policies.

“It’s our waste, and it’s our responsibility,” Mr Morrison said in a post-meeting press conference, according to an ABC report.

“That’s why I think setting a clear path forward as leaders — that we don’t want to see this going into the ocean, that we don’t want to see this go into waterways, and we’ll do everything in our remit to achieve that goal — is a very important outcome.”

Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Shmigel said the COAG announcement aligned with domestic sustainability goals.

“The best route to COAG’s vision of recycling sovereignty and security is for governments to now match very big deeds and dollars to their discussions. This great leadership by COAG must be followed by great investment that matches industries own,” Mr Shmigel said.

“As part of the Environment Ministers’ upcoming plan, that means: major scale support for reprocessing and remanufacturing infrastructure; unprecedented public sector purchasing of recycled content products and other bold incentives for domestic use of recyclate, such as tax credits for manufacturers, removal of ridiculous regulatory barriers and indeed proposed bans for recycled content products in some states.”

Mr Shmigel said material export bans needed to be implemented over a clear timetable with consultation and care to avoid unintended consequences.

“If there are no new and sustainable markets established for the 4.5m tonnes of currently exported material, there will only be the option of domestic disposal – which is highly undesirable,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Ministers must also remain open to alternative waste treatment and waste to energy where Australia only uses some 2 per cent of its waste, which is massively below European countries, who also have much higher recycling rates.”

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said the meeting represents a step in the right direction towards building a sustainable domestic remanufacturing industry.

“Waste management and resource recovery were firmly on the table at the COAG meeting in Cairns, and leaders agreed to develop a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass, and tyres, while building Australia’s capacity to generate high value recycled commodities and associated demand,” Ms Sloan said.

“This is a significant and positive commitment – industry has always advocated that Australia should be processing our own waste and recyclables. Industry can, and is keen, to build capacity and the fact that we’re on the agenda and we have the Prime Minister’s and Premiers’ attention means we can finally move forward.”

Ms Sloan said WMRR support the task given to environment ministers to advise on a proposed timetable and response strategy following consultation with industry and other stakeholders.

“As part of this exercise, leaders agreed the strategy must seek to reduce waste, especially plastics, decrease the amount of waste going to landfill and maximise the capability of our waste management and recycling sector to collect, recycle, reuse, convert and recover waste,” Ms Sloan said.

“We also look forward to Meeting of Environment Ministers convening sooner rather than later to progress what we all know we need – and what is now clearly in everyone’s sights – market signals that will enable industry to invest and all stakeholders to support onshore remanufacturing and markets for domestic recycled products.”

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Government to release procurement targets

Federal Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans will reportedly unveil ambitious new targets for sustainable procurement by all state governments.

Mr Evans said he would seek agreement on proposed procurement targets at the next Meeting of Environment Ministers, adding the Federal Government would offer funding support to develop Australia’s remanufacturing sector.

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan, who said WMRR had been calling for procurement targets for over 18 months, meet with Mr Evans to discuss what the next steps would be.

“WMRR welcomes the minister’s announcements and it is pleasing to see movement on the federal level, after years of industry advocating for federal leadership on a number of fronts, sustainable procurement being one of them,” Ms Sloan said.

“It became very clear early in the meeting that the minister understands the significance creating demand and markets for recycled products has on driving our industry forward.”

According to Mr Sloan, Mr Evans’ work in the retail industry, as CEO of the National Retail Association, has given him much-needed perspective and experience in supply chain management.

“Mr Evans has a wealth of knowledge on the roles, responsibilities and market demands within a supply chain,” Ms Sloan said.

“WMRR also had the opportunity to discuss the importance of national leadership in creating a level playing field and developing a common approach to levies and industry development as Australia, despite having seven jurisdictions, is one common market.”

Mr Sloan said WMRR also discussed the federal government’s role in driving resource recovery and remanufacturing through harmonised, effective and appropriate regulatory, policy and market settings.

“WMRR looks forward to our continued engagement with the minister and all levels of government, as we look forward and keep our eyes on the circular economy ball,” Ms Sloan said.

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QLD releases energy from waste policy

The public is being invited to comment on the Queensland Government’s Energy-from-Waste policy discussion paper, released earlier this week.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said finding alternative uses for waste was becoming more important than ever.

“The discussion paper is giving Queenslanders a chance to contribute to the development of a new policy, provide feedback on the types of technologies and help us plan for the future,” Ms Enoch said.

“The paper is an important action under the government’s new waste strategy.”

Ms Enoch said the government’s waste strategy outlined priorities and actions to help grow the recycling and resource recovery sector.

“We have set ambitious targets to recover 90 per cent of the waste we generate by 2050 and recycle at least 75 per cent of that waste,” Ms Enoch said.

“But we acknowledge that some wastes cannot be recycled, and it is better to retain the value of these wastes by recovering energy than it is to dispose of them to landfill. This is all part of our broader transition to a circular economy.”

Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) Executive Officer Rick Ralph said WRIQ and its members welcomed the new waste strategy.

“Energy from waste will play an important role in helping to achieve the objectives and targets of the strategy,” Mr Ralph said.

“The release of the Energy-from-Waste discussion paper is a step in the right direction. Industry looks forward to having this discussion with the government in this important initiative.”

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said energy from waste was a vital part of a sustainable waste and resource recovery system.

“Its technologies are also proven globally, with more than 2000 energy from waste facilities operating safely across the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, many having operated for decades,” Ms Sloan said.

“We look forward to working with the Queensland Government to leverage the technical expertise of our industry to develop a policy that promotes investment in, and growth of, an integrated waste management and resource recovery system that includes energy from waste.”

Public consultation is open until 26 August.

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SA to ban single-use plastics

The South Australian Government is set to ban a range of single-use plastics, under proposed legislation to be introduced into state parliament.

Environment Minister David Speirs has released, Turning the Tide on Single Use Plastics: The Next Steps, which outlines how the legislation will ban products including plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers.

Mr Speirs said a range of other products including takeaway coffee cups, plastic bags and other takeaway food packaging would be considered for future intervention, following further consultation.

“To help inform the development of the legislation, a stakeholder taskforce will be established – comprising representatives of selected business, industry, local government and interest groups to ensure that impacts are mitigated and appropriate time is given for transition,” Mr Speirs said.

“The banning of single-use plastic products will also be piloted through voluntary business/retailer led ‘plastic-free precincts’, which will identify opportunities and challenges associated with transitioning away from single-use plastic products and inform the legislation.”

Mr Speirs said a discussion paper released earlier this year received strong feedback from South Australians.

“It is clear from the more than 3500 submissions that there is significant community and industry support for increased measures to address a range of single-use plastic products and other items,” Mr Speirs said.

“Nearly 99 per cent of respondents recognised the environmental problems associated with single use plastics, and nearly 97 per cent supported government intervention.”

Mr Speirs said draft legislation would be released for further public consultation later this year, with the intention of introducing it to the parliament in 2020.

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan has welcomed the state government’s announcement.

“South Australia will be the first state in Australia to ban multiple single-use plastic items such as plastic straws, cutlery, and stirrers. Takeaway polystyrene containers and cups are next on the chopping board,” Ms Sloan said.

“SA is once again ahead of the pack, and the hope is that other jurisdictions will follow suit and take similar action against single-use plastics.”

Ms Sloan said she hopes the initiative will improve the quality of recyclable materials recovered by eliminating contaminants.

“Eliminating single-use items that have readily available re-useable alternatives is a great step in reducing waste generation and challenging the convenience paradigm that we have towards consumption,” Ms Sloan said.

“WMRR looks forward to continued engagement with the South Australia Government as it develops legislation for the ban.”

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Tasmania releases Waste Action Plan

Tasmania’s draft Waste Action Plan, released 29 June, sets a framework to develop the state’s recently announced CDS and a statewide landfill levy.

Acting Environment Minister Elise Archer has opened the draft for public consultation.

In a cabinet reshuffle last week, it was announced Treasurer Peter Gutwein would soon replace Ms Archer as Environment Minister.

“With a growing population and the recent restrictions of recycling product exports to China, it is important Tasmania takes a more strategic approach to the way it manages waste into the future,” Ms Archer says.

“Dealing with our waste is a shared responsibility between all levels of government, the private sector, and the community.”

According to Ms Archer, the proposed state wide levy is set to replace multiple council levies already in place, with funds to be reinvested in waste and recycling infrastructure and programs.

“The draft plan also contains a series of ambitious, but achievable, waste management, litter and recycling targets that align with targets in the recently approved National Waste Policy,” Ms Archer says.

Other proposed measures include ensuing 100 per cent of packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, reducing waste generation by 10 per cent per person by 2030 and achieving an 80 per cent average recovery rate from all waste streams by 2030.

Additionally, the plan outlines efforts to ensure Tasmania has the lowest incidence of littering in the country by 2023.

The state government will also work with local government and businesses to phase out problematic plastic by 2030 and reduce the volume of organic waste sent to landfill by 50 per cent by 2030.

Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) CEO Pete Shmigel said the draft illustrated smart and progressive reform.

Mr Shmigel highlighted the CDS, waste reduction goals and the commitment to a new administrative structure for waste management as particularly positive.

“ACOR also thinks it’s terrific innovation that the Treasurer Peter Gutwein will also be Environment Minister,” Mr Shmigel said.

“It helps recognise that recycling is a great way to combine ‘green’ and ‘gold’ as it is both an economic and environmental positive.”

Mr Shmigel is calling on government to set the new levy at a sufficient level to drive positive results and industry investment, and make commitments to the positive procurement of recycled content products to boost local manufacturers.

Additionally, Mr Shmigel has encouraged state government to ensure the proposed resource recovery management body involves both local government and industry experts.

“This new plan can start turning the Apple Isle from a recycling laggard to a recycling leader, and that’s something our industry and no doubt the people of Tasmania support,” Mr Shmigel said.

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said the plan shows a strategic approach to tackling waste, and highlighted its framework for addressing identified priorities.

“WMRR is pleased that Tasmania finally has a waste and resource recovery strategy and in releasing the plan, the minister has acknowledged that waste management is a shared responsibility between all levels of government, the private sector, and community,” Ms Sloan said.

“The minister should also be congratulated for listening to industry about the importance of a levy as an economic tool for prioritising resource recovery, as well as working with industry and the community to design and set the levy. This is a show of great leadership.”

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Industry responds to SA waste levy increase

The South Australian Government’s decision to increase the solid waste levy from $100 to $140 from 1 January 2020 has left the waste industry ‘blindsided’, according to the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR.)

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said while industry supports government action that promotes resource recovery and market development, progress is not as simple as increasing landfill levies.

“Industry was prepared for the original $3 increase, however it has been blindsided by this new amount of $40, which is far greater than planned,” Ms Sloan said.

“The timing and notice of this new levy increase is completely unsatisfactory and does not allow businesses and local government with locked in 2019-20 budgets to prepare for the additional cost.”

According to Ms Sloan, South Australia was previously leading the way in resource recovery, though a blend of policy, guidelines and levy drivers that precluded the requirement for excessive cost structures.

“Part of the reason for South Australia’s success is the strong working relationship between all sectors of industry and the existence of a high-level advisory group to government,” Ms Sloan said.

“The fact that the levy increase was not discussed with this advisory group is extremely disappointing.”

According to Ms Sloan, the levy increase comes in addition to a raft of new and increased costs including increased licensing fees and new financial assurance requirements.

“South Australia should look to Queensland as a model for implementing such a rapid change in levy amount,” Ms Sloan said.

“The Queensland government also looked to implement such a change on 1 January, however this was moved and a years notice given, with mechanisms put in place to manage such a large impact on councils and households.”

Ms Sloan said while WMRR agrees landfill levies are an integral part of a successful waste and resource recovery policy framework, it cannot be the only response from government.

“Such a large increase, without policy support, has a real potential to lead to unintended outcomes such as illegal dumping,” Ms Sloan said.

“A good levy is a certain levy, with telegraphed changes that industry can plan for and respond to.”

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VIC budget allocates $35 million to waste and resource recovery

The 2019-20 Victorian budget has injected $35 million into the waste and resource recovery industry, using funds raised from the municipal and industrial landfill levy.

According to the offical budget website, proceeds from the levy are first used to fund core activities of environmental agencies, with the remaining balance going towards the sustainability fund.

The budget has allocated an additional $68.8 million in levy proceeds including $15 million to strengthen the EPA, $30 million for the Lara stockpile site rehabilitation and $3.7 million to combat illegal stockpiling and hazardous waste mismanagement.

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said Victoria was leading the way in its financial commitment to assisting the waste industry in developing markets.

“It’s been more than 18 months since China implemented its National Sword policy and its impacts, along with other ongoing challenges, have brought to the fore the need to build and grow domestic remanufacturing,” Ms Sloan said.

“This week’s $35 million announcement is on top of the almost $37 million Victoria provided to industry in 2018 in the wake of China.”

Ms Sloan said developing a sustainable remanufacturing base was dependant on robust government regulation, and policy that supports market development and demand for recycled material.

“With the recent appointment of two federal ministers in the environment portfolio, including for the first time an assistant minister for waste reduction, WMRR is hopeful that Australia will finally have the much-needed national coordination and leadership it requires to grow its domestic remanufacturing sector and develop a consistent policy approach,” Ms Sloan said.

“We know that for every 10,000 tonnes of product recycled we create 9.2 jobs, so this is good news for Victoria.”

Ms Sloan said it was an exciting time to be working in the waste and resource recovery industry.

“WMRR looks forward to continuing its positive collaboration with the Victorian Government, as it fixes and builds its essential waste and resource recovery industry to create a circular economy and build a local remanufacturing industry,” Ms Sloan said.

“We 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.”

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