Recycled First, a new initiative from the Victorian Government, is set to boost the use of recycled and reused materials in construction projects.
According to Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan, Recycled First brings a uniform approach to the existing ‘ad hoc’ use of recycled products on major transport infrastructure projects.
“We’re paving a greener future for Victoria’s infrastructure, turning waste into vital materials for our huge transport agenda and getting rubbish out of landfills,” Ms Allan said.
“Recycled First will boost the demand for reused materials right across our construction sector – driving innovation in sustainable materials and changing the way we think about waste products.”
The program will incorporate recycled and reused materials that meet existing standards for road and rail projects – with recycled aggregates, glass, plastic, timber, steel, ballast, crushed concrete, crushed brick, crumb rubber, reclaimed asphalt pavement and organics taking precedence over brand new materials.
“Companies interested in delivering major transport infrastructure projects will be required to demonstrate how they will prioritise recycled and reused materials, while maintaining compliance and quality standards,” Ms Allan said.
Additionally, contractors will need to report on the types and volumes of recycled products used.
The policy will not set mandatory minimum requirements or targets, Ms Allan said. Instead, a project-by-project approach will allow contractors to liaise with recycled materials suppliers to determine if there are adequate supplies of the necessary products for their project.
“Work is already underway with current construction partners to ensure more recycled content is being used on major projects, in addition to the new Recycled First requirements,” Ms Allan said.
“The M80 Ring Road, Monash Freeway and South Gippsland Highway upgrades will use more than 20,000 tonnes of recycled materials, and 190 million glass bottles will be used in surfaces on the $1.8 billion Western Roads Upgrade.”
According to Ms Allan, recycled demolition material was also used to build extra lanes along 24 kilometres of the Tullamarine Freeway, as well as the Monash Freeway and M80 Ring Road.
“The state government is also reusing materials created by its own projects, with 14,000 tonnes of soil excavated from the Metro Tunnel site in Parkville now being used in pavement layers on roads in Point Cook,” she said.
“This material weighs as much as 226 E-class Melbourne trams and would otherwise have gone to landfill.”
Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy has dubbed the program an ‘accelerator for Victoria’s circular economy’.
“To have the state government strongly encourage the use of recycled content in these projects demonstrates very powerful support for resource recovery,” Mr Murphy said.
“We know that a strong market for recycled materials supports resource recovery, which diverts more material away from landfill and reduces stockpiling. It also preserves valuable natural resources which are increasingly difficult to access and costly to transport.”
According to Mr Murphy, Recycled First provides clarity for decision makers on Victoria’s Big Build, which includes more than 100 major road and rail projects.
“Many Big Build projects are located close to Melbourne, making recycled material from metropolitan areas the ideal supply choice. The use of locally sourced recycled content substantially reduces heavy vehicle use, which reduces congestion and carbon emissions,” he said.
“Victoria has long led the way when it comes to using recycled material in infrastructure. Having assessed other jurisdictions in Australia and overseas, I know Victoria is the envy of many. Many local governments are making good progress, and this initiative sets a great example.”
South Australia is using 100 per cent recyclable materials to seal parts of its $354 million Regency to Pym Street project.
Infrastructure Minister Stephan Knoll said over 110,000 plastic bags, 324 kilograms of recycled canola oil, 2500 printer cartridges and 207 tonnes of recycled asphalt were used to seal the project’s construction office car park.
“The project will also be supporting a trial of the addition of plastic to the asphalt mix on a section of road pavement, and will be exploring further opportunities to use recyclable materials on other aspects of the works,” he said.
According to Mr Knoll, the project saved 9.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide by using recycled materials, which is equal to taking nine cars off the road.
Environment Minister David Speirs said South Australia would continue to lead the nation in sustainable waste management.
“South Australia has been a nation leader in waste management, pioneering container deposit legislation, banning plastic bags and being the first mover as we look to remove single use plastics,” he said.
“The state government is leading by example, and is exploring innovative ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint and support sustainable waste management initiatives.”
Transport, infrastructure and planning ministers are asking Transport and Infrastructure Council officials to support the use of recycled material in road construction.
According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the request was made in a bid to support the forthcoming export ban and National Waste Action Plan.
“The 12th meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council has focused on practical steps to support our economy and protect the health of our communities, by better harnessing recycled materials, returning them to productive use,” Ms Ley said.
Specifically, officials have been asked to identify significant procurement opportunities over coming months, such as major road projects that could use recycled material.
Ms Ley said council was also asked to prioritise the development of standards to support the use of recycled materials in road construction.
“Establishing viable markets for recycled products is critical to our recycling future, and Australia’s infrastructure boom can play a major role,” Ms Ley said.
Officials will report on progress at council’s first meeting in 2020.
Australia can significantly boost domestic recycling by replacing virgin resources with recycled materials in road construction, according to a new report from the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).
Undertaken by MRA Consulting for ACOR, the report shows that by using recovered soft plastics, secondary glass cullets and passenger tyre crumb in asphalt and/or road base, Australia could double the amount of soft plastic domestically recycled, increase tyre recycling by 50 per cent and help eliminate unused glass cullet stockpiles.
According to ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel, roads are Australia’s largest single asset, and by building them with recycled materials, Australia can deliver the goal of domestically sustainable recycling.
“Our message to governments who build roads is; use recycled content to keep valuable stuff out of tips, deliver value for money to taxpayers and generate more jobs,” Mr Shmigel said.
Mr Shmigel said the report examined 12 roads including Sydney’s Westconnex, the Bruce Highway Upgrade in Queensland and the CityLink Tunnel in Melbourne.
“In reality, some 10,000 kilometers of new roads are being constructed; so regular use of recycled material in roads according to a new standard would be a road-led recycling revolution for regional jobs and environmental benefits like greenhouse gas reduction,” Mr Shmigel said.
“It’s important to recognise that recycled roads – compared to virgin roads – are cost competitive and comparable if not better on quality and longevity.”
Mr Shmigel said 11 of the 12 projects modelled in the report are partly funded by the Federal Government, which can require recycled content as part of funding agreements.
“That’s a great opportunity for our ‘Recycling PM’ to further deliver on his vision,” Mr Shmigel said.
“The choice is before us. Drive recycled roads into a better economic and environmental future, or drive old roads straight to the tip.”
Current recycling: 627,000 tonnes or 57 per cent
Additional tonnes from 12 recycled roads: 1.34 million tonnes
Current recycling: 89,900 tonnes or 4.5 per cent
Additional tonnes from 12 recycled roads: 104,500 tonnes
Current recycling: 328,000 tonnes or two per cent
Additional tonnes from 12 recycled roads: 174,000 tonnes
The Western Australian Government is providing guidance to local government and industry on the location and development of CDS infrastructure, with the release of a planning commission position statement.
The statement lists five types of CDS infrastructure including container collection cages, in shop over-the-counter return points, reverse vending machines, container deposit recycling centres and large-scale facilities.
“Proponents seeking to install CDS infrastructure should engage with the relevant local government as part of the site selection process,” the statement reads.
“This early engagement will allow local government to assess if the site being proposed is appropriate, and how it might relate to the CDS network more broadly as well as servicing considerations.”
Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said to maximise the effectiveness of the CDS in reducing litter and increasing recycling, it is important for associated infrastructure to be conveniently located in communities across WA.
“The position statement also aims to ensure the location, design and siting of CDS infrastructure is complementary to the character, functionality and amenity of surrounding neighbourhoods,” Ms Saffioti said.
“Encouraging more recycling in the community is a priority of the state government and we can achieve better outcomes by setting guidelines through the planning system.”
According to the statement, key issue for consideration include how the infrastructure fits in the surrounding built context? Is it universally accessible? Does the infrastructure necessitate the provision of waste bins? And does the location allow for passive surveillance?
Environment Minster Stephen Dawson said a clear and consistent planning approvals process for the collection network is crucial to ensuring appropriately located refund points.
“Having approval criteria aligned across local government areas will also help operators who plan to set up refund points in multiple locations,” Mr Dawson said.
Waste Management Review explores the impact of NSW’s dwindling putrescible landfill space and its effect on long-term infrastructure planning.
Following the lead of Victoria and South Australia, the NSW EPA (EPA), in partnership with Infrastructure NSW, announced it was developing a waste strategy.
The strategy aims to set a 20-year vision for reducing waste, drive sustainable recycling markets and identify and improve the state and regional waste infrastructure network.
It will also aim to provide the waste industry with certainty and set goals and incentives to ensure the correct infrastructure decisions are made to meet community needs.
Stakeholders, including local government, industry experts and the broader community, will work with the EPA over the next six months to provide an evidence base and address the key priorities for the waste and resource recovery sector. This will include examining similar waste strategies in Australia and around the world.
The NSW EPA had released a Draft NSW Waste and Resource Recovery Needs Report 2017-21 in 2017 but the document never went past the consultation stage. The document in itself forecasts the population of NSW will grow to over 8.2 million and it is expected the state will need to process nearly 20 million tonnes of waste. According to the document, there is a known capacity of 31.8 million tonnes of putrescible landfill space per annum, with a gap of 742,000 tonnes per annum.
“Assuming the 2021 resource recovery diversion target is met, NSW will have sufficient existing (or planned and approved) landfill capacity,” the report says.
According to NSW Government’s half-yearly review at the end of 2018, treasury will collect an extra $133.4 million in the current fiscal year alone from its waste levy and an additional $726.7 million over four years. The extra finance suggests additional waste is being landfilled. According to the National Waste Report 2018, core waste (MSW, C&I, C&D) in NSW has grown over the past 11 years by 14 per cent.
Colin Sweet, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Landfill Owners Association, says that as old landfills filled up, they weren’t replaced with new ones. He recalls the last approval for a putrescible waste landfill was Veolia’s landfill at Woodlawn was well over a decade ago.
“A number of people have tried to get new landfills up and running, but they were either refused or the applicant run out of patience through the planning approval process,” he says.
“You could argue that waste companies looked at how difficult it was to get an approval and how much money was spent to try and get approval and be unsuccessful and that they had very little appetite to commence their own application.”
As a result, Colin says there are no putrescible landfills that receive waste from the Sydney metropolitan area other than SUEZ’s Lucas Heights facility and Veolia’s landfill at its Woodlawn site, despite an appropriate regulatory environment.
The most recent putrescible landfill, that services the Sydney metro area, to be approved was the Woodlawn Bioreactor in 2000 (commissioned in 2004).
Colin says that regional areas lack the capacity to fill the void, with many facing airspace shortages.
He says that the problem is compounded in the event of a bushfire, derailment for Woodlawn, flood or other problem that places either landfill temporarily out of action.
“If one of those facilities shuts down, the other facility doesn’t have the capacity to accept the waste that can no longer go to the facility that is shut down.”
A spokesperson for EPA NSW said natural disasters and other serious incidents can occur at any time or location and the NSW Government has plans in place to respond to such events.
“That planning includes alternative emergency waste management processing and disposal options are available,” they said.
The spokesperson highlighted plans for a 20-year waste strategy for NSW.
“The strategy will set a roadmap towards an integrated waste and resource recovery network across metropolitan and regional NSW, set setting medium-term targets to enable certainty and guide investment by government and industry and strengthen data collection to inform future reform,” they said.
Colin notes that cascading plans exist in Victoria that provide the waste and resource recovery industry with certainty. Sustainability Victoria (SV) has a Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Plan (MWRRG), while the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group also has the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan.
Colin explains that the fact that the EPA is designing an infrastructure plan is not without its flaws.
“The EPA will probably come up with a very good plan from a technical perspective, but it’s the planning department who will effectively decide whether those projects proceed or not,” he says.
A government agency responsible for land use planning across the metropolitan area known as the Greater Sydney Commission has responsibility for planning, but Colin says it does not even come close to Victoria’s quality of waste infrastructure plans. As landfills could take up to 10 years to approve, Colin says the issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
“If you’re going to spend that kind of money over that period of time, you need to have some confidence you will get approval for an environmentally compliant facility which the community needs,” Colin says.
Colin cites Dial-a-Dump’s The Next Generation proposal as one example of the challenges facing NSW landfill planning.
“The Malouf facility made sense because he was going to put his waste to energy facility next to his landfill and could have sent the ash to the landfill via a conveyor belt.”
“Other waste companies would look at that and how much money he spent on trying to get an approval and then ask themselves if they want to spend X amount of dollars,” he says.
Colin says there is virtually no suitably zoned land allocated in NSW for waste management facilities.
As far as the interstate transport to Queensland issue is concerned, Colin questions whether a $70 levy will stop waste from flowing to NSW, which has a $140 levy and higher gate fees for non-putrescible waste. He notes that Sydney will have a gate fee of about $250, including a $140 waste levy versus QLD’s $100 gate fee, including a levy of $70. He says carting waste to NSW may therefore slow waste movement down, but he could not foresee it stopping completely.
“The ideal scenario is that areas within NSW and metropolitan Sydney need to be identified as potential waste management facilities. That also means that within NSW, there needs to be areas marked which are going to be future landfills and those areas would obviously be former or current mining sites.”
“There are other mine sites across NSW, including coal mining, where there are enormous voids, which could be safely used for landfilling.”
Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council says that the difficulty in getting planning approvals over the line is timing.
“The most recent approval was granted in 2017 for the expansion of the Lucas Heights facility. This took between four to five years to get approved.
“Based on past experience approval, the construction of a new landfill would take around eight years allowing for four to five years planning approval and two to three years construction.”
Rose says that the NSW Government has completely dropped the ball on waste and recycling in the state.
The NSW Waste Less, Recycle More initiative aimed to increase recycling from 63 per cent (2010/11) to 75 per cent (2021/22) diversion from landfill.
“At 2016/17 the diversion rate is 62 per cent even though the government through its Waste Less Recycle More initiative has invested over $500 million from June 2012 to July 2017.
“In 2017-18 alone the NSW Government received $769 million dollars revenue from the waste levy. Why is there so little of the waste levy going back into waste and recycling – an essential community service?”
Rose notes that a needs analysis completed in 2017 by the NSW EPA clearly shows a lack of capacity across the current waste infrastructure to achieve the diversion targets for 2021.
“What has been the government’s response? In 2018, NSW actually reduced it’s capacity to divert waste from landfill by stopping the applicatio
n of mixed waste organics and putting a hold on any progress to establishing energy recovery capacity within the state.”
She says these are two key resource recovery processes essential to diverting more waste from landfill and extending the life of the current putrescible landfills servicing Sydney.
Rose notes that only recently has the NSW Government flagged it will prepare a 20-year NSW Waste Infrastructure Plan that won’t be complet
ed until the end of 2019.
“This is on top of the impacts of China’s National Sword, the impending introduction of the Queensland levy and the vast amount of construction going on in NSW will put substantial pressure on landfill capacity in NSW.”
The main planning challenge that needs to be addressed is the commitment to protecting existing, and identifying new, locations for waste management and resource recovery.
Rose says that while the performance particularly over the last two years of the NSW Government in waste avoidance and resource recovery does not instil a lot of confidence with industry, NWRIC is ever hopeful and committed to working with government.
“NSW has the potential to transform waste management and resource recovery. It has the funding through an annual waste levy of more than $700 million per annum.
“It has a sound Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy and it has a sound planning strategy for the Greater Sydney Region Plan “A metropolis of three cities”. What it currently lacks is leadership and a commitment to actually implement these strategies and deliver on its targets and intentions in a timely manner.”
A spokesperson for SUEZ said that modern and highly engineered landfills play a necessary role in managing New South Wales’ waste, now and in the future.
“SUEZ has an extensive waste management network servicing Sydney which has allowed us to always accept waste to our landfills. However the waste hierarchy also acknowledges the role that energy recovery can play in waste management,” they said.
“In regards to contingency planning, SUEZ maintains business continuity processes at all our facilities as part of our standard operating procedures.”
Marc Churchin – Group General Manager, NSW – Veolia Australia and New Zealand, says that policy certainty and building a collaborative regulatory framework which focuses on extracting and returning value at all stages of the waste lifecycle will make or break NSW’s sustainability leadership.
“In the last ten years, Veolia has committed some $150 million in the development of waste technology and infrastructure to lead the creation of a circular economy including mechanical biological treatment, bioreactor technology, leachate treatment, organics recovery and materials recovery.
“In order for this to continue, and to drive the best outcomes for community, business and municipal sectors, the NSW Government must create optimal conditions for private and public investment in long-term infrastructure which reduces the social and environmental impact of waste.”
A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment refuted claims that it had been historically difficult for proponents to gain approvals for putrescible landfills in metropolitan Sydney.
“Approvals for putrescible landfills in NSW can be granted by either a council or the minister for planning (or his/her delegate). The minister has been the consent authority for only one putrescible landfill in the metropolitan Sydney area in recent years, the Lucas Heights Landfill, which was approved in about 14 months,” they said.
The spokesperson also responded to questions regarding the lengthy approvals process for landfills, whether there was suitably zoned land and the impact of the Queensland levy.
“The department is not aware of a putrescible landfill approval which the minister for Planning (or his delegate) was the consent authority taking 10 years.”
“The State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007 permits waste facilities, including putrescible landfills, in a range of appropriate zones across the state, including some rural, industrial and special purpose zones.”
“The department is working with the EPA and the waste industry to assist in addressing the impacts of the Queensland levy where appropriate. Representatives of the department are also active members of the National Sword taskforce which is a whole of government group addressing a range of issues brought on by the limits imposed on the export of waste.”
It will also aim to provide the waste industry with certainty and set goals and incentives to ensure the correct infrastructure decisions are made to meet community needs.
Stakeholders, including local government, industry experts and the broader community, will work with the EPA over the next six months to provide an evidence base and address the key priorities for the waste and resource recovery sector.
This will include examining similar waste strategies in Australia and around the world.
A long-term vision and roadmap will include new long-term goals for waste generation and landfill diversion, new policy positions and strategic decisions that aim to avoid waste and improve resource recovery, and a plan for new or enhanced policies to improve waste collection.
A framework for the delivery of an integrated state network will be part of the roadmap, along with aims to align policy and regulation to achieve long term strategic objectives and a plan to strengthen data quality and access.
The strategy is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
The funding aims to assist councils prepare for the state’s ban on e-waste which will come into effect in July 2019.
The upgrades aim to ensure 98 per cent of Victorians in metropolitan areas are within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point and 98 per cent of regional Victorians are within a 30-minute drive from a disposal point.
Councils will receive discarded electronics which will then be stripped of components for reprocessing or sold on the second-hand goods market.
Applications will also open in November for a share of $790,000 to deliver local education campaigns, with councils able to apply for up to $10,000 in funding.
E-waste is defined as anything with a plug or a battery that has reached the end of its useful life, including phones, computers, white goods, televisions and air conditioners.
The amount of e-waste generated in Victoria is projected to increase from 109,000 tonnes in 2015 to 256,000 tonnes in 2035.
Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the funding will ensure the state has one of the best e-waste collection infrastructure networks in Australia.
“We’re delivering on our promise to maximise recycling and minimise the damage e-waste has on our environment,” she said.