Industry responds to COVID-19 support packages

Waste Management Review will be running a four-part series throughout April on conquering waste industry challenges amid COVID-19 and possible future opportunities. In this first part, we highlight a summary of support packages available to the sector across each jurisdiction and what industry groups are hoping to see going forward.

Read moreIndustry responds to COVID-19 support packages

VWMA and EPA host waste tracker workshops

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), in collaboration with the Victorian EPA, recently carried out workshops to help inform and shape upcoming engagement activities related to EPA’s new integrated waste tracking tool.

In April 2019, the Victorian Government announced it would invest $5.5 million to switch to a GPS electronic tracking system on the back of a series of high profile illegal stockpile fires. With improved data analytics and reporting, the system is designed to better record the production, movement and receipt of industrial and high risk waste.

The new system will enable the EPA to monitor the movement of waste more quickly and accurately, with additional modern surveillance devices and tougher penalties. This will deliver insights on sector activity, trends and highlight potential illegal activity.

Victoria will see the biggest overhaul of environmental laws taking place from July 1, when the Environment Protection Act and related subordinate legislation comes into effect. For more information about these incoming laws click here

According to EPA Executive Director Regulatory Standards Assessments & Permissions Tim Eaton, the system is designed to enable businesses to comply with new laws.

“It’s an important investment in creating more transparency of waste movement and improving usability with modern technology,” he said.

Despite the VWMA supporting the action, VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said government needs to ensure implementation doesn’t result in unintended consequences from rogue operators that will actively look for ways around the system, while at the same time burdening already compliant businesses.

Late last year, the VWMA did a call out to the industry for expressions of interest to join a working group around the topic of Prescribed Industrial Waste (PIW) and the incoming waste tracking system.

“Membership with the association empowers us to act on our member’s behalves. Members have raised concerns with me throughout the year about incoming changes so we decided to form a working group to better understand the industry issues, concerns and opportunities that exist with the incoming changes,” Mr Smith said. 

“Last year, we saw a very rushed engagement process by EPA in the lead up to shifting Victorian businesses from a paper-based waste transport system to an only online system. The process last year let down a lot of businesses and there was room to improve. This year we wanted to be on the front foot and work with EPA to ensure those improvements were realised.” 

Mr Smith added that despite rushed 2019 consultation, the EPA has since changed its approach, recognising the opportunities of early engagement and industry involvement.

“EPA have engaged early – from July last year at our State Conference they began engaging with industry and informing them about the incoming changes. The biggest challenge we have now is that there isn’t much time before going live for EPA 2.0,” he said. 

“This time round, we’ve seen business asked to provide input and feedback in the development of the new waste tracking system and its implementation. It’s great to see EPA recognising the important role that our members play in this process.”

Mr Smith flagged that the new normal for businesses in Victoria will be an expectation that they are taking active steps to understand what compliance means for them.

“In short they need to know and understand their risks and have the appropriate systems and processes in place to eliminate or reduce risk and impacts. The VWMA will provide our members information about incoming changes as they are made available, but I’d encourage members and non-members to subscribe to EPA’s communications via their website,” he said. 

VWMA represents Victoria’s largest collection of waste and recycling operators including private operators, local councils, state government agencies and service providers / suppliers to the industry.

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Co-locating trust: social licence and WtE

Waste Management Review examines the implications of the social licence to operate in the emerging Australian waste-to-energy market.

In November 2019, Craigieburn residents on Melbourne’s urban fringe called on Hume City Council to reject a proposed waste-to-energy (WtE) facility in the suburb. The calls came amid concerns the plant would produce hazardous emissions, causing air pollution.

Katherine Lawford, No Toxic Incinerator for Hume spokesperson, said the community was upset, citing concerns the plant would lead to large volumes of waste transported into Melbourne for incineration.

The group was also apprehensive, Ms Lawford said, that the plant would undermine recycling efforts and encourage wastefulness. At the time of writing, there was no publicly accessible information on whether the proposed facility would use incineration or gasification technology.

While the Craigieburn facility’s fate is uncertain, No Toxic Incinerator for Hume’s concerns are not novel, with similar protests occurring across the country. Negative public reactions to WtE therefore foreground issues of residential encroachment, misunderstood technology and social licence to operate (SLO).

SLO, which evolved from broader concepts of corporate responsibility, centres on the idea that a business needs not only appropriate government or regulatory approval, but also a “social licence”. First used by Jim Cooney, an executive of international mining company Placer Dome, at a 1997 World Bank Meeting, SLO grew rapidly in use and pervasiveness. The term is now commonplace across a wide range of sectors including resources, farming, forestry and waste.

The Next Generation’s (TNG) failed 2018 WtE proposal, lodged by Dial A Dump Industries’ Ian Malouf, worked to gain SLO, but in the end, what went wrong is a matter that cannot be conclusively defined. The proposal, which sought to build and operate a large-scale combustion facility in Eastern Creek, Western Sydney, led to widespread public protest.

The proposal placed the facility strategically close to the NSW power grid, with Mr Malouf offering to supplement free power for 1000 homes.

As reported by Waste Management Review in 2018, TNG also conducted multiple presentations to council and officers, two public exhibitions, 8000 DVDs and pamphlet drops delivered door to door, and online, radio, news and television promotion during consultation.

It’s worth noting that the plant was to be co-located with the Genesis Xero Waste Recycling Facility, meaning residents were potentially already accustomed to living near waste and resource recovery operations. The idea of co-location is highlighted by CSIRO’s Engaging Communities on Waste Project as a useful mechanism to drive greater community acceptance.

In spite of these factors, protest persisted, with Mr Malouf’s application referred to the NSW Independent Planning Commission for determination in April 2018, following 949 public objections. The commission rejected the proposal in July, citing, among other objections, that the project was not in the public interest.

CHANGING ATTITUDES 

According to Sustainability Victoria’s 2018 Resource Recovery Technology Guide, waste and resource recovery facilities represent some of the most contentious land uses operating in Australia today.

For waste and resource recovery planning in Victoria, communities must therefore be involved in determining waste and resource recovery priorities and have opportunities to participate in decision-making and long-term planning.

“Stakeholders have different contributions to make and different involvement needs at each stage of the decision-making process,” the guide suggests.

“At different stages, involvement may take the form of sharing information, consulting, entering into dialogue with certain parties or providing opportunity for stakeholders to deliberate on decisions.”

According to Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association Executive Officer, contention around waste facility land use stems from a lack of understanding of the role waste management plays in society and the technologies employed.

“While working with Sustainability Victoria in 2016, I was involved in social research with CSIRO that looked at community attitudes and perceptions about the sector. After surveying 1212 Victorians, we found that there are a number of factors that can build or improve SLO, including better community understanding of how the sector contributes to Victoria’s lifestyle and economy, and also governance (controls and oversight) arrangements by regulators.”

Government often views SLO, Mark says, as something an individual site or operator needs to secure. He would argue, however, that SLO exists on two levels  – the industry as a whole and individual sites – with both occupying a shared space with government.

“I’d also argue that government does not clearly understand its role in building public confidence in the sector,” he adds.

Mark says that with recent developments such as the export ban, the waste sector will require significant infrastructure upgrades and expansion.

“This expansion can’t and won’t happen if the private sector, who own and operate the bulk of assets in Australia, continue to encounter barriers to investment, such as communities slowing down development,” he says.

“We do occupy a shared space with government, so I think it’s important for government to reflect on their role and responsibility in building SLO and educating the public, especially around WtE.”

Similar concerns are referenced in Victoria’s Waste Education Strategy report, released in 2016. In the report, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio suggests that despite investment in waste education, success in addressing critical long-term issues has been inconsistent across state and local government, industry, schools, community organisations and third-party providers.

To address this, and facilitate greater instances of SLO, the strategy proposes increasing the Victorian community’s perception of waste management as an essential service.

As part of this strategic direction, Ms D’Ambrosio said the state government would work with the waste industry to help them engage local communities and encourage best practice approaches to community engagement.

CSIRO’s latest research, an update on Mark’s aforementioned 2016 project, also formed part of this strategy.

The 2019 project, titled Changes and perceiptions in Victorian attitudes and perceptions of the waste and resource recovery sector, surveyed 1244 Victorians living in metropolitan and regional Victoria. Respondents were asked for their views on living near WtE facilities, as well as waste and resource recovery complexes – including possible impacts, benefits and trust.

CSRIO identified eight key factors that drive social acceptance in the waste sphere, which were fairness and equity, governance, quality of relationships, trust in the sector, impacts to wellbeing, benefits of wellbeing, attitudes about waste and knowledge.

Andrea Walton, CSIRO Resources and Communities Team Leader, says urban growth, particularly in outer suburbs surrounding waste sites that previously had a significant buffer, bring local communities and waste sites into closer proximity.

“Population growth puts more pressure on the waste management system through the generation of increased waste volumes. Effective forward planning of waste management has become an expectation of citizens, partly because they view waste management as an essential service,” Andrea says.

“This type of planning builds trust in the sector and contributes to people’s social acceptance of the need for different types of activities and infrastructure to manage our waste.”

SLO has therefore become more pertinent, Andrea says, forming a basis for the approval of new sites, new technologies and the ongoing operation of existing sites.

When asked why CSIRO chose to include WtE in its updated research – WtE was excluded in the initial 2016 report – Andrea says while WtE is not a new technology globally, it is new to Australia.

As such, CSIRO thought it important to understand what Australians thought about WtE and what underpinned those attitudes. CSIRO found that overall, acceptance of living near a WtE facility was low, but significantly higher than acceptance of living near a waste and resource recovery complex that included landfill.

“People support the avoidance of waste and see landfill as the least preferred option for managing waste material. Negative views about living near a landfill mean relatively higher support for WtE. It’s important to note however that support for living near a WtE facility was still modest,” she says.

Perceptions of impacts were also lower for WtE than for a waste complex, with societal benefits assessed more favourably. Moreover, residents viewed WtE as potentially fairer when considered on a broader societal level, provided the burden to local communities was offset by benefits, such as local councils being paid accordingly.   

According to Andrea, a key challenge to achieving SLO is public access to information. CSRIO’s research shows a link between higher knowledge levels and increased social acceptance. That said, self-reported overall knowledge is low, suggesting opportunities for improvement.

“Effective community engagement is fundamental to this process as is communicating with local communities about how these sites are governed and the context of the state’s overall planning and strategies for waste management,” Andrea says.

She notes, much like Mark, that this process needs to involve both government and industry stakeholders.

“Done well, these initiatives help to improve trust in the sector and ultimately more acceptance of a waste operator’s activities. However, this sort of interaction has to be genuine and meaningful to local communities,” she says.

NEXT STEPS FOR EASTERN CREEK

In October 2019, Cleanaway and the Macquarie Capital Green Investment Group announced plans to co-invest and co-develop a WtE plant in Eastern Creek, not far from Mr Malouf’s proposed 2018 site.

According to Mark Biddulph, Cleanaway Head of Corporate Affairs, the proposed facility aims to divert up to 500,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfill, and use it to generate electricity for more than 65,000 homes and businesses. He adds that the proposal is still in the early stages of the approvals process, having only recently received the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements.

Despite this, Cleanaway hosted a community workshop in November 2019, with the aim of engaging a broad cross section of the community to seek questions, ideas and feedback. Further community engagement will take place throughout 2020.

“Cleanaway is committed to involving the Western Sydney community in the development process and engaging with them often and openly,” Mark says.

Should the facility be approved, Mark says Cleanaway is looking forward to setting up a visitor and education centre onsite to encourage further knowledge sharing. He adds that Cleanaway also plans to invest in a number of local community programs.

“Building trust and SLO within the Western Sydney is critical to Cleanaway. To do this we’re committed to ongoing engagement, transparency and best practice operations that reflect and align with sustainable waste management,” Mark says.

“It’s essential to bring the community with us on the journey.”

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Immersed in industry: VWMA Waste Expo site tours

The Victorian Waste Management Association’s recent industry site tours took delegates through a range of resource recovery and manufacturing facilities.

The partnership between the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) and Waste Expo Australia was particularly significant in 2019, given current challenges facing the Victorian arm of the sector.

While the event had a national focus, Mark Smith, VWMA Executive Officer, says Victoria was lucky to have Waste Expo located in Melbourne.

“We support Waste Expo because of the relevance this national event brings to the Victorian landscape, with thought provoking discussions and presentations on everything important and impactful to the sector,” he says.

As a strategic Waste Expo partner, VWMA ran three concurrent industry tours on the Friday following the expo, a first for the leading waste and resource recovery event.

Hosting a wide range of delegates including representatives from the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group, industry heavy weights such as TOMRA, local government agents and small business owners, VWMA’s tours were designed to educate and stimulate conversation.

The day’s events included a construction and demolition tour, an organics tour and a packaging process tour.

“Working with industry partners Alex Fraser, the Australian Packaging and Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the Australian Organic Recycling Association (AORA), VWMA ran the tours to bring the steps industry is taking to support Victoria’s recycling agenda into focus,” Mark says.

As attendees gathered at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Friday morning, many expressed difficulty over choosing which tour to attend.

After an opening address from Mark, delegates piled into three separate buses, each with an industry specific tour guide.

The construction and demolition tour, sponsored by Alex Fraser, included site visits to Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility, Alex Fraser’s Sustainable Supply Hub, a Level Crossing Removal Project site and the Toll Shipping’s terminal at Webb Dock.

Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility is established on a site acquired 18 months ago by the company, with Bingo pouring $23 million into the facility since then. The site allows Bingo to convert waste into seven different products and has capacity for around 300,000 tonnes per annum. The company aims to achieve a 75 per cent recovery rate on-site.

At Webb Dock, Alex Fraser has worked with contractor Civilex to develop a heavy-duty pavement which incorporates reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) that meets VicRoads guidelines. The pavement base layers are comprised recycled glass sand and recycled concrete.

As part of the Level Crossing Removal Project, the Western Program Alliance used Alex Fraser’s recycled sand as bedding material for the combined services conduit housing the communications and power cables. The grade separation was undertaken at Kororoit Creek Road in Melbourne. The low embodied energy material replaces virgin sand with all 900 tonnes diverted from landfill at a lower cost.

Finally, Waste Management Review got to explore where Alex Fraser’s recycling happens, touring its Laverton North supply hub where more than one million tonnes of C&D waste, and one billion bottles of glass waste is reprocessed to make the quality construction materials needed to build greener roads.

A climb to the top of Alex Fraser’s high recycled technology asphalt plant topped off the excursion. The new $18 million faciliity is capable of producing over half a million tonnes of green asphalt per year, utilising the recycled glass sand and RAP produced in its collocated recycling facilities.

Shifting material focus, the Organics and Composting Tour’s first stop took attendees to the South Melbourne Market, where they were told about the market’s 32 tonne a year dehydrating compost initiative.

From there, VWMA and AORA directed the tour bus to Sacyr’s new indoor compositing facility. Michael Wood, Sacyr Environment Australia Consultant, guided the group through the 120,000 tonnes per annum facility, and explained the challenges associated with adapting a European model to an Australian environment.

The group was then guided through Cleanaway’s South East Organic Processing Facility and food depackaging unit.

Melinda Lizza, Cleanaway Development Manager, explained the depackaging unit’s 150,000 tonnes per annum capabilities, before handing the tour over to Michael Lawlor, Cleanaway Operations Supervisor.

After the tour, the group had lunch with the Cleanaway crew and discussed interactions with the EPA and growing levels of scrutiny on the compost industry.

From there, the group was driven to Bio Gro’s Dandenong South Facility, where Sage Hahn, Bio Gro General Manger, explained the company’s approach to organics diversion and composted mulch production.

After taking the group through the Bio Gro site, Sage fielded a range of technical questions and detailed the mineral additive process of mulch manufacturing.

Doug Wilson, AROA Victoria Admin Officer and compost group tour guide, says the day allowed delegates to closely inspect organics processing.

“At the very time when the state government is bringing the circular economy into focus, the organics tour took delegates on an interactive experience with some of Melbourne’s most exciting and innovative organics recovery technology,” he says.

The APCO packing tour, which was delivered in partnership with the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Australian Institute of Packaging, took attendees to Ego Pharmaceuticals, the South Melbourne Markets and recycled plastic manufacturer Replas’ Carrum Downs site.

Of the APCO tour, Mark says industry is at a critical time where collaboration is essential to address challenges in the packaging supply chain and achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“Great stuff happens all across Australia by the waste and recycling industry and many organisatsions that we partner with,” Mark says.

He added that these were areas of interest that were not spoken about enough.

“It was exciting to see demonstrations of the circular economy in action. Parts of our sector are leading on this front and there are scale interventions that only really need the appropriate government policy to delivery environmental, economic and social benefits to Australia.”

He says this was clearly demonstrated on the tours in the Victoria context.

“Industry is leading on parts of this and it’s important to acknowledge the good work being done locally.

“A big thanks to all our partners for coming on board and collaborating with us.”

This article was published in the December issue of Waste Management Review. 

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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.

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Is Victoria ready for a CDS?

With Victoria the only state yet to commit to a container deposit scheme, Waste Management Review speaks with industry stakeholders about scheme potential.

In the absence of an overarching waste policy, Victoria’s waste management and resource recovery sector lacks market certainty and centralised oversight.

As such, an inconsistent approach to waste management created an environment that may have been more attractive to rogue operators.

Challenges arise when bulk processing and limited end markets exist in the same region, as evident in Victoria’s recent spate of non-compliant stockpiles.

Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA)  Executive Officer, says current procurement practices encouraged a concentration of processing capacities, and this inherently concentrated risk.

Mark adds that the recent SKM Recycling shut down highlights the risks inherent in any system that doesn’t seek to secure end markets for materials and appropriate protocols for any shocks to the system.

“A series of events related to how contracts are written, commodity pricing and how businesses establish themselves brought us to where we are now. It’s not something that happened overnight,” Mark says.

“I believe our current resource recovery issues present an opportunity to change the way government and the private sector operate which must see the private sector as a partner with the government in delivering messages and engaging with the public.”

Mark adds that the introduction of a Victorian container deposit scheme (CDS) could serve as a catalyst for tackling our current recycling issues, but can’t be done in isolation or on its own.

When the Tasmanian Government earlier this year announced it would introduce a CDS by 2023, Victoria became the only state or territory without a scheme forthcoming or in place.

At VWMA’s August State Conference, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio told delegates that the state government had no current plans to develop a CDS. That was, despite demonstrated success in other states. Ms D’Ambrosio recently told the 7:30 report that government is closely watching other states’ CDS closely, a statement she reiterates regularly.

Seeking to offer up potential solutions to Victoria’s recycling and waste management issues, the VWMA hosted a CDS discussion and knowledge transfer event in October. At the event, delegates analysed schemes and results from other states. Mark says the information will be compiled and presented to delegates attending, which included a number of vocal local governments and other associations, such as the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV).

The MAV is similarly active, launching its Rescue Our Recycling action plan earlier this year. The plan identifies five actions each tier of government should take to help achieve a sustainable recycling system, with a CDS nominated as a key action for the Victorian Government.

The MAV’s submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Recycling and Waste Management, lodged May 2019, likewise urged the state government to introduce a scheme.

Coral Ross, MAV President, says she is hopeful the parliamentary committee will recommend a scheme be introduced.   

“Container deposit schemes are celebrated for their strong record of success in increasing recovery of beverage containers, reducing waste to landfill, delivering community, environmental and economic
benefits and decreasing litter,” the submission reads.

“In light of trials and studies underway, consideration should also be given to how a separate kerbside collection for glass may complement or supplant a CDS. Either way, it is imperative that the principles of product stewardship and extended producer responsibility apply.”

CRUSHED GLASS

Contamination from crushed glass in the general recycling stream is a central driver for CDS implementation. Another solution however, introducing a fourth kerbside glass bin, is also gaining traction, albeit only in preliminary trialling stages.

The City of Yarra in Melbourne’s inner east launched a kerbside glass collection trial across 1300 households in April, following a successful FOGO collection trial in 2018.

In September, Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council City Works and Assets Director, told Waste Management Review the trial has been successful so far, with a notable decrease in contamination observed.

He added that Yarra will look to expand the service throughout the city upon the trial’s completion.

While Coral applauds the success of individual council trials, she cautions against assuming state-wide implementation would be straightforward and doable.

“There is significant diversity across councils and regions in terms of the recycling services councils offer. Proximity to materials recovery facilities, community willingness and ability to pay, and budget and resource constraints are all relevant considerations,” she says.

“Also, the Yarra and Macedon trials are small scale, so we can’t yet know how the service would work on a state-wide level.”

Another issue, Coral says, is whether or not councils can find a processor to take the material.

“In the case of Moyne Shire Council and their intention to roll-out separate glass collection municipality-wide, we understand that having a ready local end market for that material was key to the council making that decision.” she says.

“Not all councils may be able to achieve that, plus, there’s a real question about Victoria’s infrastructure and beneficiation capacity if 79 councils all start collecting glass separately.”

For these reasons, Coral says the local government sector strongly supports the introduction of a CDS as an immediate state-wide priority. She also notes that she doesn’t consider CDS to be the silver bullet that will fix everything but rather a key component of a suite of reforms needed to improve recycling outcomes.

“We have to remember that removing glass from the general stream not only reduces the contamination of paper and plastic, but enables better quality glass recovery,” she says.

“Ideally we want to see glass bottles and jars remanufactured into glass bottles and jars. Achieving a clean stream of material is key to that.”

Mark has similar infrastructure capacity concerns and issues with a ready market for materials, highlighting the amenity impacts of glass collection in high density areas. He adds that the rise of multi-unit dwellings also needs to be considered when analysing the efficacy of a fourth kerbside bin.

Mark says that waste operators already face bin collection challenges including traffic congestion, level of street access and bin placement – added to that could be a fourth collection round with noisy material.

“How is that going to impact residents? And what will resident pushback look like once those collections start? It’s a concerning proposition for many VWMA members but may also be a broader traffic challenge as well.”

IMPLEMENTATION

A recent Total Environment Centre report shows that 84 per cent of Victorians support the idea of a CDS. However, the state government refuses to heed introduction calls.

According to Mark, a CDS would require systematic changes to how parts of government operate, which may explain their hesitation.

“There hasn’t been a consistent line from the state government on what Victoria’s future recycling program will look like,” he says.

“I think that’s a problem, because we end up tinkering on a lot of little activities instead of looking towards a big fundamental shift and that shift has to take into consideration the direction the other states are taking and the region.”

Many states, including New South Wales and the Northern Territory, position their CDS as a litter management initiative.

Mark say that results from other jurisdictions and globally has seen CDS work as an effective platform to educate and engage with the public on waste, litter and recycling issues.

“The minister has said multiple times that a CDS won’t adequately address current challenges, and yes it wont fix everything, but there’s never going to be a silver bullet,” he says.

“It’s about identifying key challenges for the state, and then chipping away at problems that has support from all the revevant partners in the sector”

Another issue, Mark says, is minimal investment in public waste education from the state government.

“New South Wales has had ongoing public programs to engage the public on recycling and waste for years, while Victoria hasn’t had a state wide program or investment in this space for over 10 years,” he says.

“The state government could utilise a very small component of the Sustainability Fund to finance similar programs here.”

In addition to education, Mark says the state government would need to incentivise end markets for recycled materials that would see greater business uptake of recycled materials but also educating the public to seek out products made with recycled materials.

“If we look at the wider waste situation, the private sector invests $815 million each year, while the state government invests very little, with the bulk of the funds allocated going to infrastructure projects. The private sector have repeatedly spoken about the appetite to invest if they know there is market certainty. For me, this poses a question over the role state governments should play in market intervention,” he says.

“While introducing a CDS will undoubtably require additional costs at the start, what we’ve seen in other states, especially New South Wales, is that the state government only have to make minimal investment for set up and roll-out.”

Mark says government and industry also need to expand their focus beyond the immediate horizon and be conscious of future challenges and the future direction of the region.

“We don’t want to set up a system that in two or three years becomes obsolete, or actually becomes some sort of barrier for embracing a national push on product stewardship, because Victoria decided to introduce a CDS [for example] that is in complete contrast with the rest of the country and region,” he says.

While Coral says a national scheme would be ideal, she believes Victoria needs to start addressing its current challenges now.

“A federal scheme in line with product stewardship was on the table a few years ago but didn’t go anywhere, and now we’ve seen each state roll-out, or commit to rolling out CDS, so it would be a grave mistake for Victoria to sit back and wait for a national CDS,” she says.

“You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

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VWMA hosts National Recycling Week business breakfast

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), in partnership with Frankston City Council, is hosting a business breakfast on 14 November as part of National Recycling Week.

With the support of Frankston City Council, Corio Waste Management and Functions by the Bay, the VWMA is aiming for a zero food waste to landfill event.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the event is open to anyone, but is particularly focused on businesses in the Frankston Municipality.

“The Choice Energy sponsored event by will feature expert speakers from across the sustainability field, including Equilibrium, Beyond Zero Emissions and the Sustainable Australia Fund,” Mr Smith said.

“The business breakfast, held at Functions by the Bay, will include energy efficiency advice, material efficiency advice, access and explanations of tools and services to support business, and will be followed by coffee and networking.”

Mr Smith said the event is aimed at talking about waste, recycling and energy efficiency to businesses outside the waste sector.

“This event is all about making it easier for businesses to understand the steps and strategies they can begin straight away, or the areas they can make strategic investments in to reduce their waste and energy costs and increase efficiency,” Mr Smith said.

“There are a lot of government programs and grants out there for business, but these programs often have lengthy application processes with little certainty of when funds will come through if successful. What we’re hoping to create with this event is a one stop shop for businesses to gain an in-depth understanding of proven approaches to become more sustainable and more profitable.”

Frankston City CEO Phil Cantillon said the city was commitment to understanding the needs of Frankston’s diverse business community.

”Late last year we carried out a survey of our business community to understand the areas where they wanted our support to become more sustainable. This event is the outcome of that work, and we hope for a great turn out,” Mr Cantillon said.

“It’s great that the opportunity we’ve created with the VWMA includes benefits for business who register, including free energy assessments from event sponsor Choice Energy.”

Choice Energy CEO Christopher Dean said the current state of power prices is a challenge for businesses.

“Energy costs are one of the highest line items for business, alongside tax and payroll,” Mr Dean said.

According to Mr Dean, Victorian businesses are often confused when it comes to electricity, which inhibits their ability to make good decisions about their energy supply.

“This event will help to demystify energy bills, and empower people to take back control and reduce their costs with practical advice and solutions,” Mr Dean said.

The Frankston City Business Breakfast will be held 14 November between 7:30am to 9:00am at Functions by the Bay – Cnr Plowman Place and Young Street, Frankston.

VWMA members and businesses residing within Frankston will receive special rates. For more information including how to book your place visit the VWMA website.

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VWMA CDS discussion dinner

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is hosting a dinner on 23 October, where attendees will hear from industry experts about container deposit scheme (CDS) implementation and results.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the event will examine what Victoria and Tasmania can learn from CDS roll outs in NSW, ACT, QLD, WA and SA.

Mr Smith said New Zealand is also in the process of implementing its own national scheme.

“CDS’s aim to reduce the amount of beverage container litter and increase the amount of recycling through financial incentives,” Mr Smith said.

“However, not all schemes and rollouts workout to be the the same. What can Victoria and Tasmania learn from the States leading on this front?”

Mr Smith said the event, which is part of Waste Expo Australia, is open to all attendees and anyone interested in the topic of CDS’s.

“In addition to a scrumptious dinner and drinks, we’ve organised experts to present on a state by state comparison of CDS, and an overview of what happens with the cashflow of these schemes,” Mr Smith said.

“Big thanks to event sponsors MRA Consulting Group and RSM Group for making this event possible.”

For more information click here.

Nominations open for VTA’s Freight Industry Awards 2019

Nominations are now open for the Sustainable Environment Award, as part of the Victorian Transport Association’s (VTA) Freight Industry Awards.

The awards recognise achievements across a range of categories, with the winners to be announced on the evening of the event.

Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Executive Officer Mark Smith said there are six awards available including the Sustainable Environment Award, Investment in People Award, Best Practice Safety Award, Application of Technology Award, Female Leadership Award and Young Achiever Award.

“Reflecting on the last 12 months we’ve seen some amazing projects realised by big and small operators,” Mr Smith said.

“I encourage those businesses to apply and share their good news stories. We need to hear them, especially now.”

According to Mr Smith, the Sustainable Environment Award acknowledges the close relationship between the VTA and the VWMA, and recognises implementation of a policy or program and or technological innovation that improves sustainability.

Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy said the company was honoured to be recognised at last year’s awards for its work with problematic glass waste.

“It was wonderful for our people to be recognised for their innovation, hard work and commitment to getting better outcomes for the planet,” Mr Murphy said.

Alex Fraser won the Waste and Recycling Award, now named the Sustainable Environment Award, for its efforts turning waste into valuable infrastructure building material.

Nominations are open until 28 August.

The event, themed Queen, will be held Saturday 7 September at Crown’s Palladium Ballroom in Melbourne.

Tickets to the event cost $320 (excluding GST), with a table of 10 costing $3000 (excluding GST).

For more information and to book tickets, click here.

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Industry welcomes COAG recycling pledge

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s pledge to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

The decision was made at the 9 August Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, with the intention of developing Australia’s capacity to generate high value recycled commodities.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the decision would help create market certainty among the private sector, which is the biggest investor in Victoria’s waste management system.

“For too long there’s been an air of uncertainty around Victoria’s recycling challenge, fuelled by finger pointing and short-sighted solutions, so it’s promising to see COAG agree on the urgent need for a new approach,” Mr Smith said.

“In order to successfully manage our waste needs, now and into the future, we need appropriate investment in the people, system, processes, education and engagement to drive sustainable change.”

According to Mr Smith, as the primary employer, purchasers and manager of waste and recycling assets across Victoria and Australia, business has an integral role to play in developing the sector.

Mr Smith said VWMA has long called for all levels of government to work together with the private sector and other key stakeholders on a sustainable solution to the state’s ongoing recycling challenge.

“The private sector supports more than 23,000 Victorian jobs and invests over $800 million into waste and recycling services and infrastructure annually,” Mr Smith said.

“COAG’s agreement to build the sector’s capacity to collect, recycle, reuse, convert and recover waste will be very welcome and serve as a catalyst for investment and innovation.”

Mr Smith said while it’s still early days, the COAG’s announcement is a step in the right direction.

“VWMA looks forward to continuing to work with local and state government, as well as councils and other expert bodies, to arrive at a solution that benefits all Australians,” Mr Smith said.

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