By Mike Ritchie, MRA Consulting Group
This year’s AWRE is providing a platform to connect industry stakeholders, issues and policy, as the waste and resource recovery sector gears up for an investment driven 2021.
One of Australia’s largest regional education campaigns, Halve Waste, has taken significant strides in resource recovery.
Facing the imminent closure of its regional landfill, which is of the largest in NSW, Albury initiated the Halve Waste campaign in 2010.
Despite the NSW-Victorian border parallels, Halve Waste was considered a regional goal as all council’s share Albury City Council’s Waste Management Centre as its main disposal facility.
As well as Albury City, the surrounding councils of Wodonga, Corowa Shire, Indigo Shire, Greater Hume and Towong Shire support the campaign. The campaign is all in the name – a target of halving the region’s waste to landfill by 2020.
Halve Waste aims to prolong the life of the region’s landfill to provide critical time and funding for infrastructure replacement and remediation. It saw a comprehensive education and waste reduction program across the region.
Funding for the education campaign was provided via a small surcharge at the Albury landfill, a funding model which can also be used by other council-owning landfills.
Andrea Baldwin, Team Leader – Waste Management at Albury City Council, says with the campaign running for 10 years, the Halve Waste group has taken significant strides towards improved resource recovery.
Improvements at the Albury landfill include a landfill gas system, three weighbridges to track vehicles through the site and a community recycling centre.
In addition, the site also comprises vastly improved resource recovery facilities, including a commercial and industrial and construction and demolition materials recovery facility, solar farm and a significant increase in its gate fee.
The campaign consists of regular advertising and promotion of waste reduction and avoidance messages. All available media is used with messaging promoted via social media, the Halve Waste and individual council websites, and traditional print media.
The school, business and community programs also offer face-to face education sessions. This covers everything from how to recycle, what goes in each bin, how to use the FOGO system, landfill tours, support for waste-free events and waste audits for businesses.
Halve Waste has directly educated over 15,000 school children, community groups and businesses. It has reached over 50,000 people across the wider district through social media and paid advertising.
Albury and Wodonga FOGO collection service has to date generated over 101,000 tonnes of food and garden organics, all of which is being recycled into much needed compost for farms. In 2020, the region will offer a commercial food waste collection service.
“This massive communication program has been supported by a significant investment in infrastructure at the Albury landfill,” Andrea says.
“This includes a community recycling facility, AWARE up-cycle shop, garden organics, whitegoods and timber drop-off points and the push-pit, all designed to capture recyclables before they get to the landfill.”
The Halve Waste campaign continues to be a model for implementing recovery infrastructure improvements and education in regional Australia.
Waste received at the landfill has decreased by 20 per cent and waste buried in landfill by 49 per cent. MRA Consulting provided support to the campaign across a range of areas.
Halve Waste and Albury City Council have won numerous awards for their contribution to the community, including local government environmental excellence awards.
Andrea says that while designed for the Albury region, Halve Waste is a whole-of-community and coordinated council investment.
“The resources, materials, programs and infrastructure development can be tailored to suit any local conditions and opportunities. AlburyCity and the Halve Waste team are interested in tailoring a package for local councils and groups of councils across the country.”
The Victorian Government’s Recycling Victoria strategy is the largest package of recycling reforms in the state’s history. Waste Management Review explores the policy.
MRA Consulting Group has welcomed the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) decision to address the many difficulties facing the recycling and waste management sector.
At its meeting of 9 August, COAG announced it would establish a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, while building Australia’s capacity to generate high value recycled commodities and associated demand.
MRA Managing Director Mike Ritchie said since China’s National Sword restrictions, the recycling industry has been calling for government intervention to support domestic recycling activities.
“According to the 2018 National Waste Report, Australians generate 54.5 million tonnes of waste per year and we successfully recycle over 31.7 million tonnes of that or 58 percent,” Mr Ritchie said.
“Of that, 4.3 million tonnes is exported, primarily fibre and plastic. This 4.3 million tonnes is now subject to greater import restrictions by the Asian manufacturing nations, as they grow their own domestic recycling industries.”
Mr Ritchie said Australian needs to rebuild its own on-shore reprocessing capacity to avoid fibre and plastic going to landfill.
“That means plastic reprocessing facilities to turn used bottles into plastic pellets, and reusing fibre in recycled paper here in Australia. We know how to do it but the economics have always favoured export,” M r Ritchie said.
“To close the loop in Australia we will need governments and businesses to preferentially purchase materials with recycled content.”
Mr Richie said government needs to introduce recycled content rules for domestic manufacturers, and have purchasing policies in place that require recycled content.
“The most obvious are converting glass bottles into sand for use in road base, and asphalt and reprocessing plastic bottles into asphalt, furniture and fuel. Governments also need to mandate the use of recycled paper” Mr Ritchie said.
“Recycling doesn’t stop at putting the bin out on the kerb, it stops when a product using recycled material is sold back into the economy. If we want to truly close the loop then we need to purchase and reuse products with recycled content.”
In 2018, The Australian Council of Recycling and MRA estimated that a one-off payment of $150 million could de-risk and on-shore Australia’s recycling sector through three actions.
Actions include $90 million to retrofit materials recovery facilities to improve sorting, a positive procurement policy to ensure products with recycled content are purchased in Australia and community education to reduce contamination in recycling systems.
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