At this year’s Australasian Waste and Recycling Expo (AWRE), the effects of COVID-19 on the waste and resource recovery industry took centre stage.
Over 40 per cent of Australians believe workplaces lack recycling options, according to new research commissioned by Planet Ark.
The NSW Government has released new guidelines to boost the use of asphalt containing recycled crushed glass on infrastructure projects across the state.
Sixteen metropolitan Sydney councils have joined forces to recycle nearly 100 million glass containers per year into local roads, through the largest local government-led procurement of recycled road-making materials in NSW history.
Environment Minister Matt Kean has congratulated communities across New South Wales for making the Return and Earn program a success, with over four billion containers recycled through the scheme.
Councils and the alternative waste treatment (AWT) industry can apply for $20 million in funding from the NSW Government to improve kerbside waste recycling.
According to Environment Minister Matt Kean, the funding is part of the state government’s $24 million AWT transition package, designed to help councils and industry achieve better food and organics waste separation and innovate how they recycle.
The funding follows the NSW EPA’s 2018 decision to restrict the use of mixed waste organics outputs (MWOO).
“It aims to support councils and the industry to plan and introduce separate food and organics waste services at the kerbside, making the most of the valuable resource that is household food and garden waste,” Mr Kean said.
“This is about the government supporting innovative, sustainable resource recovery of general waste that will be environmentally, socially and economically beneficial.”
Available funding includes $12.5 million via the Organics Collections grants program, $5 million in Local Council Transition grants and $2.51 million in Research and Development grants for new or alternative uses for general waste.
Local Government NSW President Linda Scott said councils want to work with the NSW and Federal Governments to save recycling, minimise waste and build a circular economy.
“This much-needed funding will assist councils and council-led AWT industries to help keep food and garden waste out of landfill – a goal that we share with Environment Minister Matt Kean to support our environment,” she said.
“I welcome this new NSW Government funding to support recycling in our communities, as only in partnership can we ensure we save recycling in NSW.”
The Organics Collections grants program aims help councils impacted by MWOO regulatory changes switch to garden only or food and garden organics collection services, with individual grants of up to $1.3 million.
A total of $16 million is available under this funding round, with an additional $3.5 million available to non-affected councils.
Similarly, Local Council Transition grants aim to support councils impacted by MWOO regulatory changes with a range of project options, including strategic planning, options assessment, community engagement, rolling out new organics collection services or improving their existing organics services.
Research and Development grants are designed to support initiatives to develop alternative end markets or new products for general waste, either to accelerate or enhance existing projects or fund new research and development.
An additional $3.75 million for processing infrastructure is scheduled to open for applications next month through the Organics Infrastructure Large and Small program.
Members of the public are being asked to report illegal dumping in their communities, after the NSW EPA recorded a 34 per cent increase in illegal dumping last month compared to April 2019.
Environment Minister Matt Kean said illegally dumped waste can harm human health, pollute the environment and cost millions of dollars in taxpayer clean up money each year.
“Most people do the right thing and book in a waste pick up service with their council or sell items in good condition through online forums, but some don’t,” he said.
“Leaving waste on the kerbside without contacting your council could be illegal dumping and cost thousands of dollars in fines.”
Reports to the RIDonline database, which is used by NSW councils and government agencies to record and manage illegal dumping, show incidents of dumped household waste were up 42 per cent, with green waste and mulch up by 30 per cent.
The EPA, which is now a part of the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, has advised residents to book waste collections with their local council and to store unwanted good safely until they can be disposed of.
“COVID-19 is also putting stress on charity stores and volunteers. If your local op shop or charity bin is closed, don’t leave your donations outside. Look for an alternative nearby, or revisit when the store is open,” an EPA statement reads.
“Goods left outside op shops and charity bins often become waste, costing charities to clean up and dispose of.”
Councils must band together to foster a viable domestic recycling market, writes Helen Sloan, Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils Program Manager.
The NSW Government’s Net Zero Plan Stage One: 2020-2030 seeks to achieve net zero emissions from organic waste in landfill by 2030, with targeted actions to support councils improve services and product quality.
“Organic waste, such as food scraps and garden trimmings, makes up about 40 per cent of red-lidded kerbside bins. When sent to landfill, the decomposing material releases methane that may not be captured,” the plan reads.
“However, when this waste is managed effectively, through proper composting and recycling processes, methane emissions can be substantially reduced, soils can be regenerated to store carbon and biogas can be created to generate electricity.”
The plan outlines specific actions including supporting best-practice food and garden waste management infrastructure, and ensuring compost or other organic soils are of the highest quality for land application.
Furthermore, the state government will facilitate the development of waste-to-energy facilities in locations with strong community support, and update regulatory settings to ensure residual emissions from the organic waste industry are offset.
The NSW economy will see over $11.6 billion in private investment and 2400 new jobs as a result of the plan, according to Environment Minister Matt Kean.
“Where there are technologies that can reduce both our emissions and costs for households and businesses, we want to roll them out across the state. Where these technologies are not yet commercial, we want to invest in their development so they will be available in the decades to come,” Mr Kean said.
The plan outlines four key priorities: drive uptake of proven emissions reduction technologies, empower consumers and businesses to make sustainable choices, invest in the next wave of emissions reduction innovation and ensure the NSW Government leads by example.
Mr Kean said roughly two-thirds of the plan’s private investment will be directed at regional and rural NSW, “diversifying local economies that are doing it tough after the drought and devastating bushfire season.”
“Global markets are rapidly changing in response to climate change, with many of the world’s biggest economies and companies committed to reach net zero emissions by 2050. NSW already leads the nation with its economic and investment plans and from today, NSW will lead the nation with its Net Zero Plan,” Mr Kean said.
“Our actions are firmly grounded in science and economics, not ideology, to give our workers and businesses the best opportunity to thrive in a low-carbon world.”
The plan is financially supported by a $2 billion bilateral agreement between the Federal and NSW Government, announced in January 2020.
The NSW Government is calling on councils and industry groups to apply for more than $1 million in grants to tackle litter in their local area.
A total of $1.17 million – comprising $670,000 for round six of the Community Litter Grants and $500,000 for the inaugural Cigarette Butt Litter Prevention Grants – is available to councils, businesses and organisations.
Environment Minister Matt Kean said more than 200 projects have been funded under the program, with some recording up to 80 per cent litter reduction in their targeted hotspot.
“Cigarettes butts are consistently the most littered item in NSW every year. I look forward to seeing innovative projects to help reduce the millions of butts littered each year and by doing so, cleaning up our environment,” he said.
According to Mr Kean, the community grants can be used to fund a number of litter initiatives including community education and engagement, clean-ups, new bins, promoting programs aimed at addressing littering, and strengthening the capacity of environmental groups working in the sector.
“Our community groups and councils are fantastic partners to assist with tackling litter. It is local communities who know their litter hotspots and can develop practical and effective solutions,” he said.