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. 

Related stories:

Filling the gaps: Jillian Riseley and MWRRG

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group’s new CEO Jillian Riseley discusses the agency’s plans for 2020, including a new C&I strategy and advanced waste processing procurement.

When the City of New York announced a “zero waste” to landfill plan by 2030 in 2015, the Department of Sanitation looked to significantly expand its kerbside organics collection.

While the plan was announced well before China’s National Sword impacted the global markets, the city’s strategy is redolent of a global shift towards finding replacements for landfill.

With half the population of New York City, Melbourne has looked to progressively reduce a reliance on landfill, with an organics network spearheaded by the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) to fill that gap.

Much of the agenda began to be implemented after the release of the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan in 2016, which aimed to minimise the need to schedule any new landfills before 2026 and find alternatives, especially in the southeast.

MWRRG’s plan for landfill alternatives continues and is now being led by Jillian Riseley, who joined MWRRG as CEO on 2 September. She replaces Rob Millard, who led the organisation for 12 years.

Jillian has extensive experience in senior roles in complex, multi-stakeholder and regulated environments where she has led significant national consumer affairs and recycling initiatives and implemented procurement strategies in complex essential service markets.

Waste Management Review sat down with Jillian to discuss MWRRG’s upcoming policy work in collaborative procurement, its Back to Earth Initiative, a planned commercial and industrial (C&I) strategy and advanced waste processing (AWP) procurement.

Progress against the initiatives are recorded in MWRRG’s 2018-19 Annual Report. Tabled in Victorian Parliament in October, the Annual Report acknowledges that the waste and resource recovery sector was forced to navigate significant changes over the past year, both local and international.

It includes a number of comprehensive actions both finalised and set for completion in the coming year, including facilitating a litter prevention program, improving multi-unit dwelling waste management and the development of a Sustainability Hub at Fishermans Bend.

Jillian says her background and passion for sustainability and collaborative procurement is what drew her to MWRRG.

“There are huge opportunities as we’re seeing a step change in the way that we, as a state, manage resource recovery,” Jillian says.

“For example, the opportunity to incorporate recycled content, recover resources and reuse them in roads is a massive opportunity.”

She says that with the Victorian Government’s circular economy policy coming out later this year, there is an opportunity for MWRRG to work with councils and the C&I sector towards reducing waste and increasing resource recovery.

MWRRG continued its support for councils through collaborative contracts, capacity building, procurement and education to ensure services continued as normal. It established the feasibility for a collaborative procurement approach for an alternative to landfill through the Metropolitan Regional Business Case for Advanced Waste Processing.

To that end, AWP is one part of MWRRG’s strategic and integrated approach to waste management. Metropolitan councils were invited to work with MWRRG, culminating in one of the largest collaborative procurements in the country. Sixteen council’s in Melbourne’s south-east are working together on a joint AWP procurement while councils in the north and west are assessing their needs.

DERIVING COLLABORATIVE VALUE

Jillian says that collaborative procurement, more generally, creates significant value for councils not just in price, but helping to build a sustainable sector, with governance and social indicators also part of that.

She adds that the collaborative procurements are very much council driven, with the local government sector identifying the best possible model to solve their local challenge.

“Our AWP procurement is often misunderstood as it’s technology agnostic. The initial stage of the project is going out and looking at the best infrastructure in the world to find a solution to the challenge of diminishing reliance on landfill,” she says.

In addition to finding an alternative to landfill, MWRRG has continued to support councils to respond to changes in the recycling sector, most recently with the collapse and subsequent sale of SKM Recycling. In the short-term, it is coordinating panel contracts to allow councils to access a recycling processor.

In the long-term, MWRRG is awaiting the release of the Circular Economy Policy, which may have implications on the available volumes and composition of recyclables.

“We have a vested interest in making sure the waste and resource recovery industry is strong and sustainable both environmentally and financially,” she says.

“That holistic look we’ll get from a circular economy policy should hopefully strengthen the whole chain not just that little piece from an SKM risk perspective, but looking globally and at the whole system.”

Earlier this year MWRRG conducted 180 waste audits and industry workshops to inform a C&I strategy that will initially focus on reducing the volume of plastics and food going to landfill.

“It will be interesting to see where we land in the development of our C&I strategy as we’re now going through the data,” Jillian says.

She says that a substantial amount of paper is going to landfill in the C&I sector.

According to the National Waste Report, around 31.7 million tonnes of materials were processed for recycling, with C&I representing 37 per cent of this. The report highlights that in many instances, C&I recycling rates are lower than they could be due to the cost of additional bins and collections being seen as prohibitive.

“Plastics also feels like an obvious place to start, but having worked a lot with both the corporate and C&I sector, the way in which those sectors work and their sub-sectors within sectors work are very bespoke and unique,” she says.

“So, whatever the strategy is and whatever we decide to focus on, we will need to tailor the strategy to that sector.”

Jillian says MWRRG is looking at releasing a draft C&I strategy at the start of next year.

“Utilising existing networks and the trusted stakeholder relationships we have built over the last decade will be really useful,” she says.

The Back to Earth Initiative, a successful organics social marketing campaign with 28 councils, is also being expanded in 2019-20.

“We commissioned some social research last year looking at the kind of messaging that resonates with people and encourages them to change their behaviour, so we’re now rolling out a new version of Back to Earth, offering it to more councils and including a focus on food waste recycling,” she says.

Jillian says MWRRG provides councils a complete FOGO support service, from planning to implementation, evaluation and social marketing. It comes as the capacity of its organics processing network already exceeds the Metropolitan Implementation Plan 2021 target of 120,000.

“We’re working with our colleagues at Sustainability Victoria to support the work they do around Love Food, Hate Waste, so we’re looking at the whole continuum, from what you buy and how you prepare it to what you do with what’s leftover.”

Supporting that was the development of a FOGO guide in late 2018 which provided practical tools and advice for planning and implementing a service in six stages.

“There’s been great pick-up of the guide with councils actually using it and following the steps in order to plan and implement their own FOGO or conduct their own trials,” Jillian says.

“Since launching in August last year, we have delivered follow-up workshops and training to staff from every council in metropolitan Melbourne and several regional councils who have valued the practical steps outlined in the guide,” she says.     

In tackling buffer protection, MWRRG also reached a memorandum of understanding with key agencies on a whole-of-state government approach. It delivered three hub plans in West Melbourne, Dandenong South and Epping, which are being implemented, and is providing support at another six sites.

While there are numerous challenges ahead, Jillian looks forward to tackling them collectively with industry.

“The silver lining is the average Victorian is much more aware of waste and recycling and there is a groundswell of support for finding solutions to our national challenges and taking increased responsibility for recycling,” she says.

“With visibility and motivation comes opportunity, supported through a circular economy policy and the introduction of FOGO.”

This article was published in the December 2019 edition of Waste Management Review. 

Related stories: 

Veolia and AORA make Back to Earth Initiative pledge

To mark World Soils Day, industry and councils are renewing their commitment to the Back to Earth Initiative.

The Back to Earth Initiative is run by the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) in partnership with 24 metropolitan councils in Melbourne, and four regional Victorian councils.

According to a Back to Earth Initiative statement, World Soils Day serves as a reminder for the importance of soil health, and how compost made from household food and green waste is nourishing Victorian soils.

As part of the Back to Earth Initiative pledge, industry and councils commit to support the successful operation of organics processing facilities and community education.

Veolia and the Australian Organics Recycling Association have made the pledge.

“We commit to supporting the Back to Earth Initiative which promotes food and green waste recycling to the community,” the statement reads.

“We will continue to work with the community, councils and MWRRG to help the community correctly recycle food and green waste.”

The Back to Earth Initiative aims to show how food and green waste is turned into valuable compost.

“By working collaboratively to promote food and/or green waste collection services, councils—supported by MWRRG and industry—can provide clear and consistent information to the community,” the statement reads.

Related stories:

MWRRG develops Sustainability Hub business case

Business cases for an Inner Metropolitan Sustainability Hub and Western Waste and Recycling Centre of Excellence have identified opportunities for a variety of sites.

The business cases, developed by the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) in collaboration with key stakeholders, were prepared to inform the Victorian Government’s upcoming Circular Economy Policy.

According to a MWRRG statement, the Inner Metropolitan Sustainability Hub business case investigates the creation of a sustainability hub in Fishermans Bend.

This includes informing them of opportunities for the construction of a water recycling plant, an anaerobic digester, a resource recovery centre, community facilities and additional space for private investment opportunities.

“The concept of a sustainability hub to co-locate all essential facilities sees major efficiencies in waste, water and energy use on a much smaller footprint,” the statement reads.

The second business case presents options for a Waste and Recycling Centre of Excellence in the western metropolitan region.

“The proposed Centre of Excellence is a small, multi-function innovation centre that would support communities, businesses, local government, and tertiary education providers to transition towards a circular economy through practical and scalable services,” the statement reads.

“This includes activities such as partnering businesses to trade priority waste streams, grant writing assistance, networking events and business workshops, assistance with research and development of circular economy projects, online resources and audits or material flow analyses.”

Related stories:

MWRRG plans new C&I strategy

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group’s (MWRRG) 2018-19 Annual Report, tabled in parliament November 1, examines progress against the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan.

According to the report, MWRRG is developing a new strategy for commercial and industrial (C&I) waste and advanced waste processing (AWP).

“This year we began developing the evidence base to inform a C&I waste strategy, including 180 waste audits and industry workshops,” the report reads.

“The strategy will initially focus on reducing the volume of plastics and food waste going to landfill.”

Other implementation plan objectives include reducing waste sent to landfill, increasing organic waste recovered, delivering community, environmental and economic benefits and developing a plan for Melbourne’s growing population.

MWRRG’s 2018-21 business plan outlined 45 Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan deliverables, with the 2018-19 report listing 19 completed, a further 19 ongoing and 15 continued.

The highest level of deliverables was achieved in the reducing waste sent to landfill objective, with 6 completed, 9 ongoing and 2 continued.

According to the report’s Message from the Chair and CEO, MWRRG continues to support local government through capacity building, collaborative contracts procurement and education.

“Reducing waste sent to landfill continues to be a priority for us,” the report reads.

“We are achieving this in a number of ways, including recycling more green and food waste, a new strategy for commercial and industrial waste and AWP.”

The report lists AWP as a core element of MWRRG’s strategic and integrated approach to reducing waste sent to landfill, alongside recycling, composting green and food waste, and continuing landfill contracts for waste that can’t otherwise by recovered.

“Our work this year has continued to build resilience and strengthen the operation of the waste and resource recovery sector – helping to ensure regular services for the community and a lower environmental impact,” the report reads.

“For the longer term, we have laid the foundations – to reduce waste to landfill, increase organic recovery and recycling – for investment, transparency and diversity in the sector.”

MWRRG 2018-19 highlights include:

Effectively managing $100 million in council contracts annually including four landfill contracts on behalf of 26 councils, one recycling processing contact on behalf of five councils and three organics processing contracts on behalf of 21 councils.

Reducing commercial and industrial waste through 180 commercial and industrial waste audits.

Promoting green waste recycling through the Back to Earth Initiative eastern garden competition, which attracted 58 nominated projects, 18,400 votes from residents and reached 109,000 residents on Facebook.

Empowering councils to deliver effective food waste recycling through a new food and green waste collection guide.

Developing an evidence base to take action through three new social research reports on food waste recycling, advanced waste processing and illegal dumping.

Protecting communities and the environment through three plans for waste and resource recovery hubs, and leading a memorandum of understanding between key state agencies to implement a whole of government approach to land buffer protection.

Related stories:

MWRRG welcomes new CEO

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) has announced the appointment of a new CEO, effective 2 September.

Jillian Riseley will replace Rob Millard, who has led the organisation since producing the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Strategic Plan in 2009.

MWRRG Chair Colleen Gates said she was delighted to welcome Ms Riseley to the role.

“Ms Riseley’s commercial and not-for-profit background, networks and situational knowledge demonstrate an ability to embrace disruption, and use innovative approaches to lead organisational and industry transformation,” Ms Gates said.

“Furthermore, Ms Riseley’s experience and skill as a strategist, people leader and relationship builder, will be of great value to the organisation and the waste and resource recovery portfolio more broadly.”

According to a MWRRG statement, Ms Riseley is recognised for her work delivering innovative and sector-wide solutions to environmental issues in local communities.

“Ms Riseley’s extensive experience in senior roles includes complex, multi-stakeholder and regulated environments,” the statement reads.

“She has led significant national consumer affairs and recycling initiatives, and implemented procurement strategies in complex essential service markets.”

Related stories:

EOI’s to open following SKM shut down

Victoria’s Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) has announced that expression of interest for recycling services will open this month, following the temporary closure of SKM Recycling facilities.

SKM, which has contracts with 33 Victorian councils, announced it would not accept material from 26 July, following EPA regulation and compliance issues.

According to a media statement, MWRRG has been in daily contact with affected councils, state government, the Municipal Association of Victoria and other recycling service providers to assess their capacity to take extra recyclables.

MWRRG is now progressing plans for new collaborative procurements for recycling services, working with 11 council clusters comprising more than 60 councils across the state.

“By councils working together, larger contracts will be offered to the industry to encourage investment in recycling infrastructure and technology, and to attract new candidates to the Victorian recycling sector,” the statement reads.

“Industry will be asked to provide an expression of interest on the collaborative procurements in August, with detailed submissions expected by the end of the year. Contracts are expected to be in place by June 2020.”

Related stories: 

EPA Victoria orders recycler to stop accepting material

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) is initiating a range of measures to support councils, following a EPA Victoria notice that SKM Services stop accepting recyclable material at its Laverton North site.

EPA issued the recycler with notices on 19 June that required it bring outdoor stockpiles at Maffra Street, Coolaroo and Laverton North into compliance with the Victorian Waste Management Policy by 3 July 2019.

An EPA media statement said regulatory action followed an inspection that revealed waste on site had increased following an extension of time for compliance.

Additionally, a fire broke out at the Laverton North site 9 July that EPA believes began on a conveyor belt.

“EPA is of the opinion that SKM understood its obligations under the notices, but had not demonstrated a move towards achieving compliance at the Laverton North site,” the statement reads.

“The company will still be able to process waste at its Laverton North site while the notice is in place, but will not be able to receive any new materials until EPA is satisfied that it has achieved compliance with the Victorian Waste Management Policy.”

MWRRG is seeking confirmation from SKM that it has alternative provisions in place to ensure it can continue to provide service to up to 10 affected local councils.

MWRRG CEO Rob Millard said MWRRG’s focus is on ensuring minimal disruption to residents by working with affected councils, other recycling facilities and landfill operators on immediate and long-term solutions.

“Following China’s decision to limit the importation of recyclables, MWRRG has been developing collaborative procurements for recycling services, working with 11 council clusters comprising more than 60 councils across the state,” Mr Millard said.

“By councils working together, larger contracts will be offered in the industry to encourage investment in recycling infrastructure and technology, and to attract new candidates to the Victorian recycling sector.”

Mr Millard said industry would be asked to provide expressions of interest on the collaborative procurements in August, with detailed submissions expected by the end of the year.

Related stories:

Illegally dumped waste costs Melbourne $10.8 million a year

Cleaning up illegally dumped material costs Melbourne $10.8 million a year, according to a Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) survey.

Following the survey, MWRRG conducted research into factors that contribute to illegal dumping in the region.

MWRRG Litter and Illegal Dumping Program Coordinator Jess Hand presented the findings at Waste 2019 in Coffs Harbour early this month.

“They want to give their items a second chance at life, people justify putting items on the kerb as a form of giving or a charitable act,” Ms Hand said.

The research found proximity to a transfer station made no difference to knowledge of disposal options, participants over 50 however are more likely to use one.

“There is also a misperception among participants that all hard waste collected by councils goes to landfill,” Ms Hand said.

“We need to make sure residents know how to rehome or recycle items responsibly, using charity stores, online marketplaces or council waste disposal channels.”

In 2016-17 metropolitan councils in Victoria collected more than 100,000 tonnes of hard waste, which MWRRG indicates as material unable to be collected through kerbside collection, such as white goods, mattresses, e-waste, general household goods and furniture.

Of metropolitan Melbourne’s 31 councils, all offer a kerbside hard waste service to residents in addition to kerbside bin collections, however only 19 operate a transfer station.

Ms Hand said the findings will be used to inform the development of an illegal dumping prevention resource kit for metropolitan councils.

Related stories: 

MWRRG’s FOGO guide for councils

Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group has developed a comprehensive guide to help councils design, implement and maintain a high-performing food organics and garden organics service. 

Read moreMWRRG’s FOGO guide for councils

X