Industry responds to QLD Energy from Waste policy

The Queensland Government has released its highly anticipated Energy from Waste (EfW) policy following a webinar with the state’s Environment Minister, Leeanne Enoch.

Enoch hosted a ‘lunch with the Queensland Environment Minister’ via zoom last week due to social distancing restrictions, to announce the EfW policy and how it will play a key role within the waste and resource recovery system across the state.

The EfW policy aims to capture embodied energy from residual materials that would otherwise have been landfilled, as Queensland transitions towards a circular economy.

Enoch gave a candid update of the current state of play in Queensland, noted that the policy aligns with both the waste management hierarchy as well as Queensland’s strategic priorities, and provides industry with certainty on how EfW will be regulated and assessed in the state.

As well as establishing an EfW hierarchy to address the differing technologies available, the policy outlines seven outcomes to guide proponents on how environmental authority applications for EfW facilities will be assessed and regulated, detailing requirements that will need to be met to demonstrate operational performance of proposed facilities.

Gayle Sloan, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia (WMRR) CEO, said QLD’s EfW policy is a “very sensible and well considered document”.

She said EfW draws on international best practice, resisting the temptation that WMRR have seen in other Australian jurisdictions to create poorly thought out interventions that impact confidence and investment.

“The release of the document is a positive step towards offering EfW proponents some much-needed certainty, offering clear pathways to EfW, and importantly, a clear expectation about community engagement and social license,” Sloan said.

“All these steps are pivotal in rebuilding the economy and creating local jobs in the post-COVID world that we are building.”

Mark Smith, Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) CEO, agrees that the EfW policy provides an important building block for the Queensland waste and resource recovery sector and importantly sets out expectations from government to market.

However, Smith said a key challenge for state and local government and the private sector, who are the largest funders of infrastructure in Queensland and Australia, will be how the changes and improvements to waste and recycling management is communicated to the Queensland community.

“Recent research from CSIRO tells us that in order for community to trust and accept upgrades to waste facilities or new facilities being establish, is their confidence in the industry and their confidence in the government bodies regulating the sector,” he said.

“WRIQ is committed to improving the sector’s public brand and wants to ensure our members are supported by government when they decide to make investments to support the Queensland economy.”

Smith said it’s really important that government understand and recognise their role in building community awareness around the “role our sector plays in maintaining the economy and maintaining our way of life”.

WRIQ has congratulated the Queensland Government for releasing the policy and the commitment to releasing further guidance at the end of the year.

Sloan said that WMRR also appreciates the Queensland Department of Environment and Science’s (DES) strong engagement with the industry in the establishment of this policy.

“We look forward to the development of further detail on how industry can meet EfW requirements in Queensland, utilising what we know is international best practice, including the EU Waste Directives,” she said.

Smith said WRIQ will reach out to DES to also support the development process of the policy.

According to WMRR, during the webinar, Enoch also reassured attendees that resource recovery is at the forefront of many of the government’s decisions, acknowledging that the essential waste and resource recovery sector is a vital stakeholder and contributor to Queensland’s post-COVID economic recovery, particularly as the industry will be able to provide home grown manufacturing opportunities.

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QLD opens consultation on single-use plastics ban legislation

Queensland is taking the next step in removing single-use plastics from the environment, opening consultation on a state-wide ban that will initially focus on straws, drink stirrers, cutlery and plates.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said single-use plastic was an increasing problem, damaging the state’s environment and marine life.

“It’s time to decide the future of single-use plastics in Queensland. Plastic pollution in our environment affects every aspect of our lives – from the water we drink and the food we consume, to the plants, animals and outdoor places we all love and enjoy,” she said.

“We are looking to limit and, where necessary, ban the supply of most single-use plastic products starting with straws, stirrers, plates, cutlery and cups.”

Ms Enoch said the state government’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, released in 2019, committed to introducing enabling legislation in 2020, subject to consultation, to ban the supply of specific plastic products.

“In the future we’ll also consider other forms of single-use items such as coffee cups, heavyweight plastic shopping bags and polystyrene containers, but right now we’re focused on straws, stirrers, plates and cutlery,” she said.

According to Ms Enoch, the state government wants to hear as many perspectives as possible. She added that the needs of people with disability and the age care sector would be taken into account.

“Over 75 per cent of rubbish that is removed from Australian beaches is made of plastic. Our government has already taken steps to reduce plastic with the ban on single-use plastics bags and the introduction of Containers for Change,” she said.

“Those initiatives have seen hundreds of millions of individual plastic products kept from entering the environment, and now we’re looking ahead. We want to hear from Queenslanders as we take this next step.”

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QLD councils receive $5M to fight illegal dumping

To reduce illegal dumping in known hotspots, the Queensland Government is allocating $5 million to local councils to employ new officers and increase surveillance.

According to Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch, illegal dumping costs Queensland communities millions of dollars annually.

“The state government is currently fighting a war on waste, and we are ensuring that councils have the support they need to tackle this issue, to protect the environment and create local jobs,” Ms Enoch said.

The funding follows a successful local government illegal dumping pilot partnership program in 2019.

“Thanks to the success of this pilot, we are now expanding the program across Queensland, with more than $3.6 million going to 29 Queensland councils to fund a total 31 new dedicated illegal dumping field officer positions,” Ms Enoch said.

“This funding will help local councils to employ additional illegal dumping officers, hold target programs, boost intelligence and enhance reporting on illegal dumping activities.”

Additionally, the state government will provide $1.3 million to 32 councils through a dumping hotspot program, which is designed to support regional programs tackling illegal dumping at a local level.

“By working together, we can send a strong message that illegal dumping will not be tolerated, and it’s up to all Queenslander’s to do their part to keep our state clean,” Ms Enoch said.

Local Government Association of Queensland CEO Greg Hallam welcomed the additional funding.

“The initial pilot program has already had early success for the four councils involved. The Local Government Association of Queensland welcomes its expansion to additional councils across the state,” Mr Hallam said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the government on measures to help ease the burden of illegal dumping on Queensland communities.”

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QLD releases Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan

The Queensland Government has released a statewide Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, which features a proposal to ban single-use plastics.

According to Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch, to effectively tackle plastic pollution, Queensland needs to reduce plastic through the design, manufacturing and packaging of products and their ultimate disposal.

“As part of Queensland’s transition to a circular economy, where waste is avoided, reused and recycled to the greatest possible extent, a fundamental shift in the way that we design, use, reuse and process plastics is needed,” Ms Enoch said.

“The majority of Queenslanders, seven out of ten, already take steps to reduce their use of single-use plastics, but there is always more we can do to tackle pollution.”

Ms Enoch said the state government has undertaken extensive consultation with industry and the community.

“This plan is an Australian first in its scope and structure, and takes a holistic approach to the complex nature and impacts of plastic throughout its supply chain, and identifies actions that can be taken,” Ms Enoch said.

“One of these actions is to introduce legislation next year, subject to consultation through a Regulatory Impact Statement, to ban the supply of plastic products including plastic straws, cutlery, plates and stirrers.”

Other actions include expanding on the Plastic Free Places in Queensland program, excluding specific single-use plastic from Queensland Government sponsored events from 2020 onwards, using government purchasing power to reduce plastic use and providing $3 million in community grants for projects geared towards long-term behavioural change.

“We will also identify and develop new businesses and markets to transform the way plastic is recovered, reused and recycled—creating new jobs and industries for Queensland,” Ms Enoch said.

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly said APCO commended Minister Enoch and the entire Queensland Government on the plan.

“It’s been fantastic for APCO to have been closely involved with the consultation and evolution of this approach, driven by the wonderful team at the Queensland Government,” Ms Donnelly said.

“It is vital that we continue to see such strong leadership from our state governments on this critical issue, and it’s been a pleasure to actively work with solution-orientated and collaborative stakeholders in Queensland to address our collective plastics issue and drive long term, sustainable change.”

Ms Donnelly said a key consideration for the state government should be identifying opportunities for leadership in the Asia-Pacific region, with a focus on improved plastic packaging design, collection and processing systems and innovation.

Ms Donnelly said APCO is working in partnership with the Queensland Government, industry and stakeholders to delver a number initiatives identified in the plan.

Initiatives include developing a voluntary sustainable shopping bag code of practice, and working towards the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“The Queensland Government is committed to supporting APCO meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets, and has played an important national leadership role in areas including work on more sustainable options for heavyweight plastic shopping bags and stewardship for agricultural plastic packaging,” Ms Donnelly said.

One billion returns in first year of QLD CDS

In its first year of operations, Queensland’s container deposit scheme Containers for Change has seen one billion containers returned.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the return rate is a third higher than predicted.

“On average, we’re currently seeing more than 3.4 million containers a day being returned across the state,” Ms Enoch said.

“These containers were the second most littered item in our state, but since the scheme started there has been a greater than 35 per cent reduction in containers ending up as litter.”

Ms Enoch said the scheme has also seen $100 million returned to Queenslanders and community groups.

“More and more small businesses are getting involved in running refund points, and charities and community groups are also seeing the benefits through fundraising activities,” Ms Enoch said.

“Ten cents per container adds up; and in the last 12 months more than $100 million has gone back to individuals, families, community groups and charities, including RSPCA Queensland who have raised about $3500 in donated refunds.”

Ms Enoch also announced that the state government is offering funding to more than 100 not-for-profit and community organisations to help the scheme grow, and provide a boost to fundraising efforts.

“The state government is committed to boosting recycling with well over 100 infrastructure grants being offered to not-for-profit organisations,” Ms Enoch said.

“These grants of up to $10,000 will help community groups, charities and not-for-profit organisations purchase the equipment necessary to be donation points, the refunds from these donated containers going directly back to the community group.”

Container Exchange CEO Ken Noye said the scheme is supporting economic and job growth, with more than 700 jobs created across Queensland.

“One of the biggest benefits of the scheme has been the employment opportunities provided to young job-seekers, individuals with a disability, people re-entering the workforce and the long-term unemployed,” Mr Noye said.

“The economic benefits have also reached families, community groups, schools and sporting clubs, as a whole new revenue stream has been created.”

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QLD CDS reaches 800M returns

More than 800 million containers have been returned across Queensland, since the state’s Containers for Change scheme began in November 2018.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the milestone was reached while Parliament was sitting in Townsville.

“We know Townsville residents care about recycling because of the amazing results we’ve seen through the scheme, with more than 59 million containers in this region alone, including more than 6.4 million in just the month of August,” Ms Enoch said.

Ms Enoch said the scheme’s popularity has exceeded expectations, with the volume of returned containers roughly three times higher than predicted.

“As more and more Queenslanders have been getting on board with this recycling scheme, businesses are embracing the economic and job opportunities,” Ms Enoch said.

According to Ms Enoch, there are more than 300 operating container refund points across the state, with an average of three million containers returned each day.

“With more than 800 million containers now returned across the state, this means $80 million has been refunded to individuals and families, charities and community organisations,” Ms Enoch said.

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