Over 2.7 billion containers returned in NSW

Over 2.7 billion containers have been returned through NSW’s container deposit scheme Return and Earn, as the program celebrates its second birthday.

Parliamentary Environment Secretary James Griffin said Return and Earn now has over five million drink containers returned everyday, with a current redemption rate of 67 per cent of eligible drink containers supplied into NSW.

“This time last year we were celebrating one billion containers returned on the first anniversary of Return and Earn. The growth of the scheme has seen us knocking on the door of three billion a year later,” Mr Griffin said.

“There’s no doubt Return and Earn has been a great success and has fundamentally changed people’s thinking and behavior around litter.”

This summer, users can opt to donate their 10 cent refund to Bottles for the Bush to support fire and drought affected communities, according to Mr Griffin.

“Return and Earn was launched with the aim of reducing litter and it’s doing that. Other flow on benefits have been revealed as people find new ways to utilise the fundraising benefits of the scheme,” Mr Griffin said.

“Alongside scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator TOMRA Cleanaway, we look forward to continuing to work closely with industry to find new and innovative ways to make ‘Returning and Earning’ even easier and continue to grow.”

Related stories:

ACOR launches NSW recycling app

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) and the NSW Government have launched a recycling app to help the state improve resource recovery rates.

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said Recycle Mate identifies what suburb a user is in and provides tailored information to each council’s recycling collection system.

“It’s like having a huge recycling guidebook in your pocket – it’s the most comprehensive recycling app of its kind,” Mr Shmigel said.

“The app’s database is constantly being updated – more items are added every day as users photograph their waste and recycling. That means that everyone who downloads and uses the app is helping us to make it even better.”

Environment Minister Matt Kean said the app will simplify the recycling process.

“NSW has been recycling for more than 30 years, but with a changing landscape we need to be even more careful with what goes in our recycling bins, and this app will help us achieve that,” Mr Kean said.

“This app will make recycling easier, and more importantly, it will help sort our waste, which ultimately means more items can be recovered and reused, as we move closer to closing the loop and creating a circular economy.”

Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock said the NSW Government is committed to helping the state’s 128 councils increase recycling rates.

“This app will keep recycling front of mind for residents across the state and help make local communities cleaner and greener,” Ms Hancock said.

“The government will continue to work closely with local councils to reduce waste and strengthen recycling.”

The project was supported with a $350,000 grant from the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.

Related stories:

NSW councils sign recycling target MOU

Leveraging collaborative purchasing power, the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) has set a new annual target of recycling 45 million glass bottles.

According to a SSROC statement, 11 member councils have unanimously signed a memorandum of understanding, which sets out how they will work together to develop a framework for regional procurement of recycled material in infrastructure.

“Australia’s current domestic markets for recycled materials and the infrastructure needed to process them into a clean, usable form is woefully inadequate,” the statement reads. 

“With the Council of Australian Governments set to ban the export of recyclable materials – following restrictions on Australian exports due to high levels of contamination – developing domestic markets for these materials is crucial to avoid stockpiling and landfilling of valuable resources.”

SSROC General Manager Namoi Dougall said SSROC’s approach to joint regional procurement will create sufficient demand to influence market development, beyond what individual councils can achieve. 

“Not only will it allow councils to procure safe, affordable, and high-quality materials, but this model can be rolled out across the Sydney metropolitan area and indeed the entire state,” Ms Dougall said. 

Member councils will initially focus on introducing more glass and reclaimed asphalt pavement into road construction. Following which, they will begin investigating other materials such as plastic, tyre crumb and textiles.

“Since 2018, SSROC has led a series of workshops and collaborations with engineers, procurement experts and specification bodies, to develop the recognised performance standards for adopting a range of recycled materials in civil works,” the statement reads.

“This has enabled this innovative process to be done in a safe and cost-effective way.”

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean praised the SSROC for their commitment to tackling waste in NSW.

“We need all levels of government and industry working together and embracing initiatives like this,” Mr Kean said.

We look forward to working closely with councils and industry so that together we safeguard the future of NSW.”

The 11 member councils include Bayside, Burwood, Canada Bay, Canterbury Bankstown, City of Sydney, Georges River, Inner West, Randwick, Sutherland, Waverley, and Woollahra.

Related stories:

Food waste diversion grants available

The NSW Environment Department is offering grants worth $100,000 to help food rescue organisations collect donated food and divert the material from landfill.

Environment Department Acting Director Waste and Resource Recovery Amanda Kane said Food Donation Grants are open to not-for-profit organisations and local councils, and designed to provide food relief agencies with extra resources to sign up more donors, work collaboratively and collect more surplus food for redistribution.

“Donating food is a great way to avoid food waste. Every year in NSW, almost a million tonnes of food waste ends up in landfill – 200,000 tonnes of this comes from businesses,” Ms Kane said.

“This funding will support projects that redirect surplus foods to places where it can be put to use, preventing it ever becoming waste at all.”

According to Ms Kane, the grants complement infrastructure funding provided by the NSW Government to food relief agencies for equipment such as fridges, freezers and refrigerated vans.

“Two rounds of the Food Donation Grants have already been successfully completed, with $1.7 million directed to support 21 food rescue projects,” Ms Kane said.

Grants between $5000 to $100,000 are available, with funding from the NSW Government’s $802 million Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.

Applications close on 21 November 2018.

Related stories:

$1 million awarded by NSW’s love food, hate waste program

In an Australian first, communities across NSW will deliver two-year whole-of-city approaches to food waste prevention, as part of the state government’s $1 million Love Food Communities grants program.

Grants have been awarded to the City of Sydney, Central Coast Council, Midwaste and North East Waste.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said roughly 750,000 tonnes of food is thrown away by households and businesses in NSW each year.

“I want to see less food being wasted across our communities and these grants will support the recipients to do just that by changing behaviour and giving people and businesses the tools they need to make informed decisions,” Mr Kean said.

“Together, these four newly funded projects will reach 17,000 households and nearly 500 businesses. This is a huge undertaking and will be the first time we see a whole-of-community approach taken to prevent food waste in NSW.”

Participants are required to undertake a food waste survey to understand how much food they are throwing out, implement a succinct program to amend some of their food practices, and at the end of the program re-measure their food waste.

As well as households and businesses, each project will target at least one other sector where there is scope to have a huge impact in food waste reduction such as aged care, schools, pubs and clubs and food manufacturers.

City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the city will work with its Green Building tenants and Sustainable Destination partners – Hilton, Accor Hotels, Hyatt – to achieve at least 20 per cent food waste reduction within their business.

“Food waste in our residents’ red-lid bins makes up approximately 35 per cent of the city’s general waste – waste that’s bad for our wallets and bad for our environment,” Ms Clover Moore said.

“We’re pleased to be working with the state government to increase awareness about food waste across businesses, apartment dwellers and tertiary education campuses to deliver a clear reduction in waste and create a more sustainable city.”

Hilton Sydney Executive Chef Kruno Velican said organisations must have professional sensitivity and a comprehensive acceptance of how global businesses can impact the communities they serve and environment in which they operate.

“Hilton Sydney has completed two rounds of the ‘Your Business is Food’ program and has reduced its food waste by 50 per cent, saving almost $860,000 from 2016 –2018,” Mr Velican said.

“Hilton Sydney has also partnered with Addi Road to deliver the daily surplus breakfast food to the community organisation and its patrons. This not only reduces food waste sent to landfill but also ensures that perfectly good food is enjoyed by people facing food insecurity.”

Related stories:

The convenience model: TOMRA

Markus Fraval, TOMRA Collections Strategy Director, highlights competing Container deposit scheme models and Return and Earn’s success.

When the Tasmanian Government announced it would implement a container deposit scheme (CDS) by 2023, it became the seventh state or territory to do so, leaving Victoria as the single holdout.

The CDS waste collection model is similarly growing overseas, with widespread uptake in North America and Europe. While all CDSs share a common goal, there are multiple implementation models including return to retail, convenience kiosks and large-scale drop-off depots.

Markus Fraval, TOMRA Collections Strategy Director, says most European CDSs operate under a return to retail system. He says this is generally supported by government regulated extended producer responsibility legislation.

“Businesses that sell drink containers are obligated to take the container back in some way, and because it’s so easy, those markets typically achieve 90-per-cent-plus return rates,” he says.

“We commonly employ South Australian style models in Australia, whereby people are required to go out of their way, generally to an industrial area, to return their containers.”

According to Markus, depot models require significant time and organisational commitment from consumers and, as such, are often ineffective. He adds that in lieu of return-to-retail legislation, conveniently positioned reverse vending machine kiosks are a more effective model for Australia.

Markus says despite New South Wales not having the benefit of a return to retail network, the Return and Earn system was designed to be as similar to the European model as possible.

He says this was achieved by positioning reverse vending machine kiosks in shopping centres and supermarket carparks throughout
the state.

“Accessible kiosks allow consumers to participate in the scheme as part of their normal routines and daily habits,” Markus says.

“This provides incentives for positive consumer behavioural change that are not too extreme or inconvenient.”

TOMRA, in a joint venture partnership with Cleanaway, was appointed Return and Earn network operators by the New South Wales Government in 2017.

The role incorporates network design, establishing new drop-off facilities and maintaining the
state’s more than 600 existing collection points.

“We know from our experience in over 40 global deposit markets that the big drivers for successful return rates are deposit value or financial incentive, and the level of returning convenience,” Markus says.

He suggests TOMRA’s focus on convenience and access is the reason that in just under two years, 55 per cent of New South Wales residents have participated in the scheme and return rates have been high.

Since commencing on 1 December 2017, Return and Earn has collected more than two billion containers through a combination of TOMRA kiosks and more traditional depot collection points.

“The first billion containers were collected in the first 12 months of the program, with the next billion collected in the following seven months. This suggests the scheme is still accelerating,” Markus says.

“Return and Earn is now averaging well above four million containers per day.”

While reverse vending machine kiosks represent only half of the total collection points in New South Wales, Markus says approximately 80 per cent of all returns come through TOMRA reverse vending machines.

“It is critical for a successful CDS to have a network of small footprint collection points capable of high capacity collections,” he says.

“It’s also important to facilitate an integrated supply chain that spans collections, logistics and processing.”

Markus says while collection quantity is key, CDSs need to operate as efficiently as possible to keep price impacts at a minimum.

“As network operators, TOMRA Cleanaway has processed well over 100,000 tonnes of material for commodity trading in domestic and international markets,” Markus says.

“For instance, we ship bales of aluminium cans overseas for smelting and remanufacturing into sheet metal, which can then be used to produce new beverage containers.”

Additionally, Markus says roughly half the plastic sold by TOMRA Cleanaway is used for domestic bottle-to-bottle manufacturing, with the remaining half exported oversees to make bottles, textiles and plastic films.

TOMRA’s optical sorting and reverse vending machine technology is available to all operators across the CDS spectrum.

“Our technology scans bottles from 360 degrees, taking one gigabyte of images per second,” Markus says.

“The speed and ease of use of our machines allow TOMRA to collect more than 40 billion containers through reverse vending machines around the world each year.”

According to a recent state government survey, over 85 per cent of New South Wales residents support Return and Earn.

“There are different models out there, and while I think it’s useful for people to understand the success of CDSs more broadly, there is something to be said for the New South Wales model,” Markus says.

“It is undoubtedly the most convenient scheme in Australia.”

Related stories:

NSW EPA opens MWOO consultation

EPA Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford says the EPA does not intend to amend its MWOO revocation, or allow the material to be used as a soil amendment on agricultural, mining rehabilitation or forestry land.

“The research undertaken on MWOO has been extensive, including an assessment of human health and ecological risks when applied as a soil amendment and advice from scientific experts,” Mr Gifford said.

“The research clearly shows that the potential risks outweigh the limited benefits of applying MWOO on agricultural land, given the levels of contamination left behind such as glass and plastics, as well as metals and chemicals.”

The NSW EPA is seeking feedback on the future use of mixed waste organic outputs (MWOO), and a proposed transition package to support the alternative waste treatment (AWT) industry transition.

The proposed transition package follows the EPA’s October 2018 revocation of the general and specific Resource Recovery Order and Resource Recovery Exemption for the application of MWOO.

Mr Gifford said the NSW Government’s proposed $6.5 million transition package is designed to help industry consider and develop new sustainable solutions to manage general household waste.

“This is just the first step in considering new and future uses for general household waste, with significant work underway to improve the management of waste in NSW through the development of a 20 Year Waste Strategy,” Mr Gifford said.

“The $6.5 million package includes funding for AWT operators to undertake research and development into alternative products and end markets for household general waste, and to make the required changes to their facilities to produce products, such as refuse derived fuel or other innovative new uses.”

Mr Gifford said funding is available to introduce food organics and garden organics (FOGO) processing lines at AWT facilities.

“More than 40 NSW councils are already providing FOGO kerbside collections to households, or food only collections as sustainable alternatives in managing general household waste,” Mr Gifford said.

“The NSW Government is also extending existing funding to minimise the risk of disruption to kerbside collection services and ensure that any additional transport and landfill costs are not passed on to councils or ratepayers.”

According to Mr Gifford, NSW Health advised that they do not expect any adverse health effects as a result of past use of MWOO on agricultural land.

“The health risk assessment identified certain circumstances where exposure to chemicals could occur at levels that are higher than referenced doses, but these circumstances would be unusual and short lived,” Mr Gifford said.

According to Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Shmigel, if the NSW Government implements the EPA’s decision, waste to landfill or incineration will increase by roughly 25 per cent.

“It is hard to understand how an internationally proven product successfully used by local farmers and others for nearly 20 years – and which the NSW Government has previously said has no human health impact – can be banned,” Mr Shmigel said.

“While industry has been given no opportunity to see the report cited in today’s media, we were yesterday ‘confidentially’ briefed by the EPA that laboratory tests on our industry’s material were done at 10 times the actual permissible usage.”

Mr Shmigel said industry has on several occasions offered to develop and invest in new performance levels to address EPA concerns.

“That offer has been de facto rejected, or is now being dismissed as unachievable, without robust industry consultation,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Therefore, the prospect of an environmentally beneficial and economically sustainable way forward has been seemingly ruled out by the EPA, which is fully unproductive.”

In contrast, Total Environment Centre Executive Director Jeff Angel welcomed the EPA’s decision.

“This issue has been festering for over 10 years, when we and scientists first drew attention to the potential pollution from the toxic chemicals and plastics that was being applied as a so-called soil enhancer,” Mr Angel said.

“It’s now clear it was poisoning the environment and threatens human health. We don’t need this stuff spread across the environment, and better ways need to be found to reuse the resources.”

Related stories:

NSW EPA releases new C&D guidelines

The NSW EPA has published two new guidance documents to help the construction and demolition industry strengthen their procurement and contract processes around waste disposal.

In NSW, waste owners and transporters may be guilty of an offence if construction and demolition waste is transported to the wrong facility or disposed of illegally.

Individuals can be fined up to $250,000, while corporations can be fined up to $1,000,000. If the offence involves asbestos waste, the fines double.

EPA Executive Director Waste Operations Carmen Dwyer said the documents, Construction and Demolition Waste: A Management Toolkit and Owner’s Guide to Lawful Disposal of Construction and Demolition Waste, will help both private and government organisations strengthen their waste processes.

“We know that most people in this industry are keen to cut out unlawful behaviour, and the toolkit and guide provide steps that businesses can take to ensure their waste material is lawfully disposed of,” Ms Dwyer said.

“The documents provide step-by-step guides to help industry bolster their contracts with waste transporters, and factor in control measures from the beginning of the procurement process through to disposal.”

Guidance includes knowing what waste streams will be generated, questioning waste management quotes that appear too low, checking council development consent and environment protection laws and having clear roles and responsibilities for everyone managing waste on the project.

Related stories:

Funding awarded for regional NSW landfills

The NSW Government has allocated $3.4 million to assist rural and regional landfill upgrades and closures in Western NSW, the Central West Murray and Northern Tablelands.

Environment Department Acting Director of Resource Recovery Amanda Kane said the Landfill Consolidation and Environmental Improvements Program aims to support environmental outcomes in regional councils, including closing down and consolidating landfills.

“The grants provide up to $200,000 to rural and regional councils who manage licensed and unlicensed landfills,” Ms Kane said.

“The funding supports projects that improve landfills to better protect the environment, such as installing signage, litter and security fencing or infrastructure to sort and recycle materials.”

According to Ms Kane, the grants also support the closure of landfills that have long term legacy issues, while ensuring residents still have access to services.

Projects include landfill closures in Lithgow, Parkes, Hilltops, Bellingen, Upper Hunter and Mid Coast, and improvement works in Bourke, Gilgandra, Walgett, Richmond Valley, Bland, Tenterfield, Leeton, Parkes, Tamworth and Dungog.

The program is delivered through a partnership between the Environmental Trust and the NSW EPA, as part of the state’s $802 million Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.

Related stories:

NSW EPA: let’s chat compost

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has developed an engaging conversational learning program to support professional development in the organics sector.

Simulated conversational experiences, or chatbots, have been gaining traction across numerous industries.

Conversational learning is a unique concept that delivers knowledge in focused, micro-learning chunks, requiring only three to five minutes of a learner’s time.

It aims to put learners in control, use conversation and story-telling to stimulate engagement, build knowledge and allow for active discovery and decision making.

With an increase in chatbot messenger apps offering instantaneous customer service, news and other relevant notifications, chatbot experiences are even making inroads in the waste sector.

To support the compost industry, e-learning provider IMC has been working with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) via its organics program.

IMC and the EPA have developed four-five minute chatbot modules dubbed “Let’s Chat Compost” on the topics of assessing odour, pasteurisation, composting and managing contamination.

The learning sessions aim to simulate ordinary conversations, akin to those you’d have with a friend or colleague – personal, fun and to the point.

They embed personality into the learning content and create a dynamic interaction like one-on-one teaching, making social and interactive e-learning “in dialogue” possible.

The Let’s Chat Compost modules allow users to continue or refresh their learning through the EPA’s existing Compost Facility Management eLearning program, released at the end of last year.

Presented in social media messenger style, the app uses conversation and memes to engage learners to expand on their composting knowledge.

The Compost Facility Management course comprises seven modules and has been designed for regulators and people in all roles working in organics facilities.

It uses interactive content, animation and video to engage learners, with the aim of embedding high-level skills and knowledge for best practice facility management.   

IMC has leveraged its expertise from working with clients such as National Rugby League, the Department of Health and Human Services, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi to craft unique and conversational learning experiences.

Amanda Kane, Organics Manager at the NSW EPA, says Let’s Chat Compost aims to draw attention to the key processes most relevant to processors, regulators, local government, consultants and waste collection operators.

“Let’s Chat Compost will be a tool to reinforce learning and act as a reminder for what’s happening inside a compost pile that might be causing an odour, or why it’s important to manage contamination and the importance of pasteurisation,” Amanda says.

“IMC’s concept was developed in Germany and designed to look as much like a phone chat as possible. It was in recognition of the platforms we use in everyday life.”

She says that developing smartphone nuggets is an exercise in communicating the most important content in an engaging way.

“The main goal of the nuggets is to get people to take up the course, but also as a reminder for those that have completed the course,” Amanda says.

The app can send notifications to those who have completed the course, encouraging them to share the modules with their colleagues or revisit aspects of their learning.

Amanda adds that companies could adapt the program to suit their organisational tone and include additional relevant occupational health and safety and company information.

“The result is not only contributing to the production of a quality product, but upskilling the industry and minimising the environmental impact of one’s operations.

“It’s critical that processors are operating within the conditions of their license, and that if any issues do arise, they know how to respond and communicate with the EPA and advise us what’s happening.”

She says that the smartphone nuggets are aimed to be accessible on multiple devices and link back to course content.

The modules also include expert tips from industry leaders such as SOILCO and Australian Native Landscapes (ANL).

“We wanted to have industry voices to communicate those messages. All of the course content was filmed at sites around NSW using various technologies,” Amanda says.

“These include ANL’s open windrow or the in-tunnel systems that JR Richards & Sons have up at Grafton and then using team members at all levels to communicate the message, including EPA regulatory staff as well.

“We have had 300 people sign up, and the overall feedback is that people are finding it to be a rewarding learning experience.”

EVA Environmental Director Geraldine Busby, who also worked on the initial training course, oversaw the development of smartphone nuggets.

Carmen Locke, Instructional Designer, IMC AG, says conversational learning allows learners to make decisions while being actively immersed in a one-on-one learning scenario. This increases their ability to retain content, understand concepts and develop new skills and behaviours.

To use Let’s Chat Compost click here.

Related stories: 

X