Waste talks

Last year’s Waste Expo Australia saw a record number of delegates converge on the Melbourne Exhibition Centre to examine new opportunities in a changing sector.

At last year’s Waste Expo Australia, Pete Shmigel, Australian Council of Recycling, opened his presentation with a question: when you think about the waste and resource recovery industry over the last 12 months, would you give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

Audience reactions were mixed, with one delegate calling the system a mess, and another applauding the sector’s ability to acknowledge its problems and move forward. For an industry in a state of flux, this lack of consensus should come as no surprise.

But Mr Shmigel was positive, highlighting rising construction and demolition (C&D) and commercial and industrial (C&I) recovery rates.

“What kind of animal would I use to describe recycling? I’d say a bear, and what’s a bear? It’s surprisingly fast, it grows really fast and it sleeps for about half the year,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Amazingly fast growth in C&D and C&I, and then we look at kerbside recycling and it’s asleep.”

A solution for kerbside’s slumber, Mr Shmigel said, is further funding and harmonisation across jurisdictions.

According to Mr Shmigel, the Australian Council of Recycling recently conducted an analysis across 110 councils in NSW, finding 3824 collection and recycling process variations.

“There’s an argument for standardising the types of packaging that goes in, and there’s an argument for standardising the types of systems councils themselves run,” Mr Shmigel said.

“If Canada can do it, why can’t Australia?”

Supporting a stronger kerbside system was the focus of multiple Waste Expo Australia presentations, with over 100 speakers and 120 exhibitors navigating opportunities in the changing market.

According to Event Director Cory McCarrick, 2019 saw record attendance, with early reports indicating a 33 per cent increase from 2018.

“We are thrilled with the large increase in visitation at last year’s Waste Expo Australia, with a number of people travelling from interstate for the event,” Mr McCarrick said.

“Waste Expo Australia has truly cemented itself as the must-attend event for the waste management and resource recovery sector.”

The two-day event was opened with a keynote from Victorian Energy Environment & Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, who outlined actions her department is taking to improve the state’s resource recovery system.

“Our country is facing some major challenges in the waste and resource recovery sector and that, of course, includes restrictions on the export of recyclable materials,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“It has also made us think differently about how we manage our waste domestically, and it’s been a bit of a wake-up call to many of us, because we know that we can do better.”

Ms D’Ambrosio highlighted the state’s forthcoming circular economy strategy and waste infrastructure investments, including a $500,000 grant to Advanced Circular Polymer for Australia’s largest plastics recycling plant.

“We are committed to strengthening and growing the waste and resource recovery sector as we transition to an economy with less waste and better reuse and recycling,” the minister said.

“My commitment to all of you as industry players is to be available and to listen and work with you as we manage the transition the community expects us to undertake.”

Policy drivers that would help Ms D’Ambrosio’s plan to strengthen the sector were then addressed by Rose Read, National Waste and Recycling Industry Council. Ms Read highlighted the importance of market development, landfill levies, product stewardship, environmental regulation, product bans, standards and education.

In reference to product stewardship, Ms Read highlighted the success of the used oil recycling scheme, the National Television and Computer Recycling scheme and state-run container deposit schemes (CDS).

The topic of CDS was further discussed at the Victorian Waste Management Association’s (VWMA) post day one discussion dinner, with presentations from Peter Bruce, Whenceforth Consulting, and David Cocks, MRA Consulting.

Mr Bruce, who recently served as Exchange for Change CEO, presented state-by-state CDS comparisons. He specifically highlighted variations between who owns the collected material, how cashflow is managed and how different schemes designs facilitate convenience.

While attendees appeared largely in favour of a Victorian CDS, questions were raised over long-term efficacy, material recovery facility liability and kerbside glass collection as a CDS substitute.

Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser, also addressed the importance of glass separation.

On the C&D stage, Mr Murphy discussed innovative recycling approaches and the consequence of increased recycled content in pavements and roads.

Following the presentation, Mr Murphy faced a steady stream of questions, highlighting
an understanding of the central role sustainable infrastructure will play in the transition towards a circular economy.

George Hatzimanolis, Repurpose It, expressed similar sentiments, with a presentation on the company’s approach to C&D transformation via best practice technology.

“The principles of our business are based on the concept of industrial ecology, taking a product at the end of a lifecycle and converting it into a product that begins a new lifecycle,” he said.

Mr Hatzimanolis went on to discuss the importance of urban recycling facilities located close to generation points and Repurpose It’s C&D washing process.

The contrast between urban and rural capabilities and needs was further discussed in a session chaired by Mark Smith, VWMA.

With presentations from Matt Genever, Sustainability Victoria, Isabel Axio, Just Waste Consulting, and Joe Agostino, Yarra City Council, the discussion emphasised the multifaceted nature of resource recovery, with distinctions made between what is appropriate in city centres and what works in the regions.

Ms Axio explained how to adapt urban concepts to regional landscapes, and suggested challenges such as low populations and transport costs were enabling characteristics rather than barriers.

Mr Genever then broadened the scope, focusing on what Sustainability Victoria has learnt over the past seven years.

He specifically stressed the importance of closing the market development, sustainable procurement and new infrastructure loop.

Similar arguments were made at day two’s Towards a Circular Economy Partnership Panel, chaired by Toli Papadopoulos from Prime Creative Media.

During the panel, Sebastian Chapman, DELWP, highlighted the importance of data, and said while the department doesn’t fully understand the flow of material in the Victorian economy, it is working to improve.

Pushing the point, Cameron McKenzie, ASPIRE, referenced the axiom that data is more valuable than oil. Without data, he said, waste cannot be sustainably managed.

While each panellist presented different perspectives, the consensus was clear: for a circular economy to thrive, action needs to extend beyond waste to reuse, repair and sharing economies.    

As the expo wrapped up its final day, delegates discussed waste-derived products, destructive distillation and optical sorting.

The extensive and varied nature of the Waste Expo Australia program was perhaps best expressed by Steven Sergi, South Australian EPA: if anyone still thinks waste management involves simply putting material in a hole, they’re behind the eight ball.

Related stories: 

WtE facility to inject green gas into VIC network

In a Victorian first, a waste-to-energy facility in Creswick will explore how to inject clear, filtered green gas into the state’s gas network.

Operating since July, the facility will continue its current testing phase through to early 2020.

According to Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, the $1.65 million Hepburn Shire Waste to Energy System will save $280,000 each year by diverting 2000 tonnes of organic waste from landfill.

“The state government invested $650,000 in the facility from the New Energy Jobs Fund, with Hepburn Shire Council delivering the remaining funding,” she said.

“The project is aiming to scale-up production to reduce waste shire-wide, with potential for the system to then be replicated across other Victorian councils.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the facility transforms organic waste from a local RACV resort into energy, compost and waste water for street planting and dust mitigation.

“A biodigester that turns organic waste into valuable products in Creswick is helping to remove waste from the environment while creating opportunities for new jobs and businesses,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“Projects like these create opportunities for new products and jobs across regional Victoria and mean less waste ends up in landfill.”

Related stories:

Macedon Ranges to introduce kerbside food collection

Macedon Ranges Shire Council is expanding its kerbside collection to include food organics, after receiving $182,000 in funding from the state government.

According to Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, the project, worth over $460,000, has the potential to divert an estimated 4864 tonnes of organic material from landfill and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8241 tonnes.

“This will support Macedon Ranges Shire Council to better divert food and organic waste from landfill, including providing infrastructure to residents such as kitchen caddies, liners and kerbside bins,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“It’s crucial we continue to support projects like these across regional Victoria – they boost jobs, divert more waste from landfill and reduce emissions.”

Managed by statutory authority Sustainability Victoria, the funding comes from the state government’s $26 million Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund, which aims to support infrastructure investment to improve collection and reprocessing.

Previous recipients include the City of Greater Geelong to develop laneway recycling for retail and hospitality outlets, Advanced Circular Polymers to assist the development of Australia’s largest plastic recycling facility and Ararat Rural City Council to consolidate three existing rural facilities.

Related stories:

$30M stockpile clean-up continues

Thousands of cubic metres of material will leave a waste stockpile in Geelong this week, as the EPA begins removing truckloads of contaminated soil.

The Victorian EPA used powers granted under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to take over management at the stockpile in April, after the previous operator let recycling waste grow to dangerous levels.

In a statement at the time, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the process could take several years, with the state government providing $30 million for clean-up and fire prevention measures.

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the stockpile contains an estimated 320,000 cubic meters of waste including timber, concrete, brick, plaster, glass and ceramics.

EPA South West Region Manager Carolyn Francis said the contaminated soil will be removed in a closely monitored operation over the next four weeks.

“The soil contains a variety of contaminants including metals, plastics and some asbestos, so the removal operation has been carefully planned,” Ms Francis said.

“The soil will be kept damp during loading to prevent any problems with dust, then sealed in plastic on site for safe transport in covered trucks to a licensed landfill in Melbourne, and will be tracked to their destination by EPA’s electronic Waste Transport Certificate system.”

Ms Francis said the EPA will run additional asbestos fibre air quality monitoring at the site during soil removal, which will be managed by an independent occupational hygienist.

“The removal of this hazard will clear some of the land around the edges of the property and remove a potential source of dust from the site,” Ms Francis said.

The site’s land will likely be sold to recover costs following the cleanup, according to the EPA’s website.

Related stories:

Victoria’s single-use plastic ban begins

Single-use plastic shopping bags have been banned across Victoria, under new legislation introduced to parliament in June.

The ban, which commenced November 1, applies to bags with a thickness of 35 microns or less, including bags made from degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the ban follows extensive community consultation on tackling plastic pollution, with 96 per cent in favour of the ban.

“The plastic bag ban is part of a suite of government measures designed to reduce the impact of plastic pollution, reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and strengthen Victoria’s recycling industry,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“To support the community in moving to reusable bags, Sustainability Victoria is running a Better Bag Habits campaign – helping Victorian households to remember their phone, wallet, keys and bag before leaving home.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the EPA is also is working with retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers to support them in understanding their obligations, as well as monitoring industry performance.

“The government engaged the National Retail Association to conduct over 180 tours of shopping centres and precincts throughout Victoria to assist retailers transitioning away from banned bags,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

Related stories:

Sustainability Victoria welcomes new CEO

Claire Ferres Miles has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Sustainability Victoria, effective 25 November.

Recognised as a ‘Top 50 Woman in the Victorian Public Sector’ in 2017, Ms Ferres Miles’s previous work in local government, state government and the private sector led to breakthroughs in affordable housing, sustainability, transport and planning, according to a Sustainability Victoria statement.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio congratulated Ms Ferres Miles on her appointment.

“Ms Ferres Miles will lead Sustainability Victoria’s transformative climate and energy programs, as well as continuing to work to strengthen the state’s recycling sector,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

According to Ms Ferres Miles, Victorians are seeking advice and action in response to the challenges of a changing climate, resource recovery and energy efficiency.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure Victoria’s future is one of social, economic and environmental prosperity,” Ms Ferres Miles said.

Welcoming Ms Ferres Miles’s appointment on behalf of the Sustainability Victoria Board, Chair Heather Campbell said the organisation was looking forward to continuing its journey under Ms Ferres Miles’s leadership.

The Board also thanked and acknowledged Interim CEO Carl Muller for his leadership over the past six months.

“His continued commitment during this time has enabled the great work of the Sustainability Victoria team and helped to advance Victoria’s emerging opportunities within the circular economy,” Ms Campbell said.

Related stories: 

Waste Expo returns October 23

Waste Expo Australia, one of the most comprehensive free-to-attend conferences for the waste management, resource recovery and wastewater sectors, returns to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre 23-24 October.

Waste Expo Australia Event Director Cory McCarrick said the event, featuring over 100 speakers, will provide the perfect think tank for navigating upcoming opportunities.

“On Wednesday in Melbourne, Waste Expo Australia 2019 will open its doors at one of the most significant times in history, attracting the largest gathering of waste management and resource professionals in Australia,” Mr McCarrick said. 

According to Mr McCarrick, Australia’s recent pledge to change and improve its recycling habits provides significant new opportunities for businesses in the waste and recycling industry.

“The government’s focus on improving recycling habits, particularly with plastic use, shows there will be significant environmental implications as to how businesses will need to be run into the future,” Mr McCarrick said.

The event will be opened by Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, leading a long list of industry professionals looking to discuss, question and examine Australia’s waste management processes, while also seeing the latest product innovations from over 120 brands in the supplier showcase.

Key exhibitors include Bost Group, Cleanaway, Caterpillar, HSR Southern Cross, Tricon Equipment, Applied Machinery and Hitachi.

Mr McCarrick said Waste Expo has grown significantly since 2018, and it is now a must-attend event for anyone in the waste and recycling industry.

“It is clear the push across all levels of government has put waste and recycling to the front of minds, and Waste Expo Australia will challenge current thinking and push boundaries of innovation to enable all businesses to examine their own operations, speak to suppliers and take on high-level information, all for free,” Mr McCarrick said. 

Heading up the Wastewater Summit stage on day one, Water Corporation Senior Technical Advisor Membrane Treatment Stacey Hamilton will outline the steps taken by Perth’s Water Corporation to establish Australia’s first groundwater replenishment scheme. 

“As Australia’s first scheme, developing the regulatory framework, understanding the technical challenges and keeping the community engaged are all part of keeping the scheme compliant,” Dr Hamilton said.

“The key message from the presentation will be the journey taken by the corporation to get where we are. Getting other utilities educated on the process and journey is important.”

Also on day one, Aerofloat Manager of Operations Michael Anderson will detail compact trade waste solutions and explain how washing with treated reclaimed water helps achieve high quality recycled products.

“Australia’s low water resources and environmental regulations means that any plastic recycling business must have an effective and reliable wash-water recycling system in place,” Mr Anderson said.

At the Wastwater Summit, Mr Anderson will provide delegates with a good understanding of the opportunities for plastic recycling, and highlight where businesses fit within Australia’s current political and environmental requirements.

“Attendees will see solutions that enable wash-water recycling to be used year-round, not just as a short-term fix within their plant,” Mr Anderson said.

Waste Expo Australia is co-location with All-Energy Australia, Energy Efficiency Expo and ISSA Cleaning and Hygiene Expo, forming the nation’s most significant showcase for the waste, recycling, wastewater, renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleaning industries.

Related stories:

VIC commits $1.6M to recycling research projects

The Victorian Government, through Sustainability Victoria’s Research, Development and Demonstration grants program, has allocated $1.6 million to projects that develop products sourced from recycled glass, plastic, paper and e-waste.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the grants program supports innovative research to develop and test new uses and technologies for materials recovered from household and commercial recycling.

Projects include testing roads and railway line noise walls made of recycled plastic, establishing a method to extract zinc and zinc oxide powders from spent alkaline batteries and investigating new blends of foamed bitumen using recycled glass.

Ms D’Ambrosio said research institutions will contribute a further $3.4 million to the projects.

“Institutions including the University of Melbourne and Deakin University will work to drive procurement of large volumes of recycled products into the commercial market,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

Sustainability Victoria Interim CEO Carl Muller said research findings from the funded projects will inform industry of the opportunities to use recovered materials in manufacturing and infrastructure.

“The environmental benefits of using recycled content products and materials are clear, including reducing the need for resources, reducing production of high energy products such as concrete and curbing greenhouse gas emissions from production,” Mr Muller said.

“It’s all part of Victoria’s growing circular economy – we need proven recycled content products and markets for those products to make recycling viable. This will build confidence and market demand.”

Projects include: 

Australian Road Research Board: $200,000, trialling high proportions of recycled crushed glass in asphalt on local roads within Brimbank City Council.

The University of Melbourne: $200,000, developing a precast structural concrete wall using waste glass fines and waste paper cellulose fibres.

Deakin University: $195,00, investigating an alternative to the current physical and mechanical recycling methods of polyethylene.

Victoria University: $195,000, developing new blends of trench backfill material specifically for use in and around sewer and manhole structures.

Swinburne University: $192,950, evaluating the use of glass, plastics and crushed concrete in railway substructure including the capping layer and sub ballast.

 Related stories:

$30M Victorian stockpile clean-up begins

The first truck loads of construction and demolition waste are being removed from a waste stockpile in Lara, Geelong, after the Victorian Government took control of site management in May.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the process could take several years, with the state government providing $30 million for clean-up and fire prevention measures.

“Poor site management practices by the previous operator let the recycling waste grow to dangerous levels, resulting in an unacceptable fire risk to the local community, the environment and emergency services,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“There is absolutely no excuse for the reckless behaviour of the people who left this mess for us to deal with, and we will have no hesitation pursuing them to cover the cost of the clean-up.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the site contains an estimated 320,000 cubic metres of predominantly construction and demolition waste, including materials such as timber, concrete, bricks, plaster, glass and ceramics.

“The first stage will be the processing and removal of a 27,000 cubic metre stockpile of timber, weighing an estimated 3500 tonnes,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The City of Greater Geelong will project manage the works on behalf of the EPA and government, including managing interim fire risk measures by maintaining 24/7 security, secure fencing and maintenance of firefighting equipment.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the EPA is pursuing previous site occupiers, owners, company directors and any other relevant parties to recover the costs of the fire prevention measures and clean up.

“Since August 2017, the EPA has had additional powers to support Victoria’s fire services and issue remedial notices to facilities not properly managing potential fire risks,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“These powers will be strengthened further under the new Environment Protection Act which will come into effect on 1 July 2020, to prevent situations like this in the future.”

Related stories:

$10M loan for SKM clean-up

KordaMentha has secured a $10 million loan from the Victorian Government to help clean-up SKM sites and resume waste processing.

KordaMentha were appointed SKM Recycling’s receiver and manager earlier in August, following reports the company owed $100 million to multiple stakeholders.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the loan would help clear waste stockpiles and fund the essential maintenance work required to get SKM’s plants back up and running, while meeting strict environmental and safety standards.

“The Laverton site will be the first to return to operation, with stockpile clearing to begin within the week, and some processing expected to start within five weeks,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“This loan is the fastest way of getting recyclable materials sent to processing sites instead of landfill.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the state government is also in the process of overhauling kerbside recycling.

“The state government is working in partnership with local government and industry on a major overhaul of kerbside collection, which will seek innovative and cost-effective designs that could include additional household bins to reduce waste contamination,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“Negotiating new kerbside collection services across councils will send a strong signal to industry, trigger a change to community behaviour and reduce waste and contamination.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said following consultation, an EOI will be released to design the new kerbside collection service, expected to start in 2021.

The announcement comes on top of a $6.6 million financial relief package to councils directly affected by the closure of SKM, which includes a rebate to cover the cost of the landfill levy.

Related stories:

X