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:

VWMA State Conference returns

This year’s Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) State Conference will be returning to the Yarra Valley Lodge 30-31 July.

The VWMA State Conference is the only Victorian specific event and will bring together a mix of organisations and presenters from across local government, state government and the private sector.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the two day program had been developed to address key challenges for the sector including EPA updates, legal insights into regulatory changes, labour laws and overseas workers, procurement and landfill discussions as well as technology updates.

“We’ve had another challenging year and things aren’t slowing down for business, but I want our members and the sector to know we’re working hard to ensure their voice, their issues and their concerns are being addressed,” Mr Smith said.

“We’ve crafted a program that will deliver everything businesses need to be aware of for the next 12 months in one place. We’ve secured the Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio, who will open the conference, deliver a speech on the Victorian Government priorities and activities to support a strong, sustainable sector.”

Mr Smith said VWMA create these events and opportunities so members can engage and participate in important conversations, and shape and influence how VWMA can support them.

“We received such positive feedback to our conference last year that related to the tangible benefits our conference offered their business, either by engaging with government officials, networking and connecting with people to provide solutions to their challenges,” Mr Smith said.

The conference will also feature an assessment of Victoria’s infrastructure needs and one month check ins of prescribed industrial waste tickets and the e-waste ban.

“We take a different approach with our events. The topics aren’t abstract or high level, only dealing with future opportunities,” Mr Smith said.

“We ground everything we are doing back into what it means for business today, tomorrow and next week. We also bring a sense of fun, our storeroom at work is jam packed with gifts and prizes we have lined up for our delegates. It’s going to be intense but fun 1 and a half days.”

Topics at the conference include:

  • Recycling update
  • Community attitudes and perceptions of the sector
  • Reducing operating costs through smarter power options
  • Managing brand and crisis communications for the sector
  • Battery Stewardship Scheme Design
  • E-Waste and PIW check-ins  (one month on)
  • Workforce discussions (on mental health, drug and alcohol policy, overseas workers and more)
  • High-risk dangerous goods taskforce
  • VicRoads updates
  • EPA Act 2.0
  • As well as workshops and information sessions on: drones; solar; new tech; multiunit development challenges; and the dos and donts for grant applications.
  • Plus a heap of networking opportunities

For more information contact VWMA or access the conference program here.

Related stories:

New recycling facility opens in Melbourne

Australian Paper Recovery’s $2.5 million paper sorting facility in Melbourne’s west will process 39,000 tonnes of recycled paper a year.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the state government provided $475,000 in funding to the project, with the facility providing full grade separation of kerbside and commercial mixed paper and cardboard.

“The high quality sorted and graded paper is reprocessed locally and recycled into valuable products such as newspaper and packaging,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The facility has also expanded operations to accept additional materials from regional and metropolitan kerbside recycling, including plastics and metals, further increasing recycling capability here in Victoria.”

Government funding came from the $2.6 million Recycling Industry Transition Support Fund, which is designed to help Victoria’s resource recovery and reprocessing industry transition after the collapse of international export markets.

“Facilities like these are a crucial part of reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill – it’s fantastic to see Australian Paper Recovery expand their operations to accept more materials,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“A circular economy will not only improve Victoria’s waste and recycling systems – it will support local businesses and create local jobs here in Victoria.”

Related stories: 

Victoria to develop 10-year action plan

The Victorian Circular Economy Policy, which will establish goals for the Victorian waste and resource recovery system to transition to a circular economy, has opened for public comment.

A 10-year action plan outlining how the Victorian Government will work with businesses and community to deliver the policy’s goals will also be established.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the Circular Economy Policy would deliver new opportunities for industry and more jobs for Victorians.

“We’re transforming the way we think about waste and resource recovery – developing a circular economy will deliver better environmental, social and economic results for Victoria,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“Through the policy, Victoria will transition from the traditional linear model of consumption to a circular model that continually seeks to minimise the use of natural resources.”

The public now have an opportunity to comment on the policy issues paper, with a draft policy set to be released in September.

“The draft policy will outline a suite of specific proposals for how we can improve material use throughout the economy,” the paper reads.

“This could include regulations, incentive programs, innovation support and/or education. The final circular economy policy will draw together this consultation and research and analysis.”

The circular economy policy will establish goals and targets, in addition to a strong performance framework to measure, monitor and publicly report on progress.

“While these goals are still to be set, there will be many factors that will need to be measured and tracked, such as materials used for each unit of economic output, waste generation per person, energy generated from waste and reduction in stockpiles of recyclable material,” the paper reads.

The paper references multiple case studies including the use of recycled materials in public infrastructure and food waste reduction.

“Victoria can leverage additional benefits from the pipeline of public infrastructure projects. Approximately 3.9 million tonnes of recovered material are already used in road and other construction in Victoria, and there is scope to use more recycled materials in the construction of our public infrastructure,” the paper reads.

“There is significant scope to reduce food waste and ensure more is recovered in Australia’s leading food and agriculture state. Only 10 per cent of food waste generated by households and businesses is currently recovered. That means over 887,000 tonnes of food waste ends up in Victorian landfills each year and the water and energy required to produce and transport it is wasted.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the policy responds to global recycling challenges, and will build on the government’s continued investment in waste and resource recovery initiatives.

“This latest package builds on the $37 million Recycling Industry Strategic Plan – bringing the state government’s investment in the waste and resource recovery industry to more than $135 million,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“I encourage Victorians to have their say on this important issue, as we work towards a final policy in 2020.”

The Circular Economy Policy issues paper is open for consultation until 2 August.

Related stories:

Victorian parliament bans single-use plastic bags

Single-use plastic shopping bags will be banned across Victoria from 1 November, under new legislation introduced to parliament this week.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said all single-use plastic shopping bags with a thickness of 35 microns or less will be banned, including bags made from degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic.

The ban applies to bags provided by retail outlets including supermarkets, fashion boutiques, fast food outlets, convenience stores and service stations.

“These legislative changes follow an overwhelming number of responses during community consultation,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The feedback on this one was clear. Victorians want to do more to protect the environment from the damage litter causes, and are overwhelmingly supportive of banning single-use plastic shopping bags.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, work is underway with the National Retailers Association to ensure Victorian businesses are prepared for the ban and have access to sustainable packaging alternatives.

A plastic pollution action plan is also under development to help reduce other types of plastic pollution.

Related stories: 

X