RecycleSmart diverts 2.2 tonnes of waste in three months

RecycleSmart users have have diverted 2.2 tonnes of waste from landfill in the last three months, following expansion into every council across Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

According to a RecycleSmart statement, 90 per cent of the collected material consisted of soft plastics and clothes.

“RecycleSmart is an Australian start-up with a mission to revolutionise waste management and preserve the environment,” the statement reads.

“We work with councils and businesses to help communities benefit from the economic and environmental advantages of resource recovery.”

RecycleSmart offers a door to door PickUp service whereby customers’ recyclable waste is collected for recovery, including soft plastics, e-waste, clothes and problem waste such as batteries and light bulbs.

“In addition to our rollout across new councils, we’ve also launched a Workplace PickUp service so that offices, schools and business can recycle more and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill,” the statement reads.

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Charitable containers: TOMRA

With over $1,000,000 raised for charity partners through Return and Earn, TOMRA’s Markus Fraval explores the added social benefits of container deposit schemes.

After bushfires ravaged Australia’s eastern and southern states in 2019 and 2020, families and businesses were faced with the task of rebuilding. Burning an unprecedented amount of the land, the economic consequences of the fires was significant, with lost tourism earnings adding a further layer of heartbreak and complication to those affected.

After dominating much of the environmental conversation in 2019, waste and resource recovery took a back seat, with discussions of regeneration, wildlife rehabilitation and strategic conservation more vital than ever.

However, the sector was keen to lend its support to rebuild efforts, with the NSW container deposit scheme (CDS) Return and Earn raising $500,000 for affected families in just four months.    

Proved to dramatically increase container recycling, CDSs across the country boast significant collection rates. In just over two years of operations, for instance, Return and Earn saw three billion containers returned.

According to Markus Fraval, TOMRA Australia Director, CDSs are about more than producing positive environmental outcomes. They have the ability, he says, to function as simple and streamlined donation points. There are currently 320 Return and Earn kiosks across NSW, with more than 1200 reverse vending machines (RVMs) run by network operator TOMRA Cleanaway.

“RVMs feature up to four donation partners, including a blend of state-based charities and local charity partners,” he explains.

“Each time NSW recyclers return their containers they have the option of choosing ‘donate’ on the interactive touchscreen, foregoing part or all of their refund to one of the available charities.”

Return and Earn on average receives five million containers each day, which, when refunds are donated, is the equivalent of putting $500,000 back into the pockets of people across NSW daily, Markus says.

“Donating a few 10-cent containers might seem like a small thing, but with the popularity of Return and Earn it can add up very quickly,”
he says.

“This money can help those in need in our communities, even if just a small percentage of the containers are donated rather than redeemed.”

Bottles for the Bush, TOMRA’s bushfire appeal, was launched in November 2019 in partnership with Rural Aid.

The initial goal, Markus says, was to raise $250,000 to help those affected by drought and bushfires by the end of February 2020.

“As Australia’s bushfires became front page news, not just in Australia but around the world, Aussie recyclers rallied to the cause, with the amount of people donating some or all of their drink containers quadrupling in just two to three weeks,” Markus says.

“The original target of $250,000 was smashed in just eight weeks, at which point TOMRA doubled the target to $500,000: a figure that was achieved three days before the end of the appeal.”

Within the first few weeks of the campaign, Markus says Rural Aid had already delivered more than $100,000 to NSW farmers and rural families in need of hay, food and water.

“Funds raised through Return and Earn were making a real difference in those communities hit hardest by drought and bushfires,” he adds.

Return and Earn’s appeal isn’t its first, with TOMRA launching the first major CDS crisis appeal in August 2018 as drought began to hit NSW. The appeal, Markus says, encouraged people to donate to Rural Aid through the “Buy a Bale” campaign.

“The appeal raised over $75,000 in 13 weeks, and further reinforced the potential of Return and Earn as a force for good and a way to help those most in need,” he says.

According to Markus, high-profile charities are not the only ones benefiting from CDSs, with Return and Earn containers providing vital funding for many smaller, volunteer-based organisations and community groups.

“Charity donation partners and community groups not yet on the RVM screens can benefit from the scheme by simply setting up a free account,” Markus says.

“Those groups can then share their unique scheme barcode with their supporters to scan at their local RVM when donating containers.”

Since Return and Earn began in December 2017, Markus says close to 500 not-for-profit organisations have participated and benefited, including charities, social enterprises, schools, sporting clubs, community groups and disaster appeals.

“Some of the largest organisations to benefit, raising tens of thousands of dollars, include the Salvation Army, Cancer Council, OzHarvest and the RSPCA,” he says.

Top-performing local organisations, Markus adds, include PCYC Singleton, Lions Club Gerringong and Ronald McDonald House Greater Western Sydney.

“In addition to those who have raised funds via the RVM machines, hundreds of other not-for-profit organisations and community groups are raising funds their own way, by encouraging supporters to raise money for them through the Return and Earn network,” Markus says.

“Now, with more than one billion Aussie animals losing their lives and millions of them with their habitats destroyed, TOMRA and Return and Earn are urging recyclers to donate to ‘Cans for Koalas’, which is raising funds for WWF’s Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund.”

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NSW EPA releases COVID-19 WARR fact sheets

Waste items from people in isolation with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in non-healthcare facilities should be placed in red-lidded waste bins, according to the NSW EPA.

The advice is listed in a series of EPA fact sheets pertaining to waste and resource recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the EPA, the risk of COVID-19 transmission when handling waste is low, however safe routine procedures should be followed.

Furthermore, despite public health orders listing restrictions to activities and places that are closed, the EPA says the waste and recycling industry should remain open, and “continue to provide its important services to the community and businesses.”

“Keeping facilities open also helps to reduce the potential for illegal dumping of waste that costs millions of dollars to clean up,” the fact sheet reads.

Under model work health and safety laws, employers must have measures in place to eliminate or mange risks arising from COVID-19.

“Measures to reduce risk include providing workers with appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves and eye protection, and information and training on how and why they are required to use them,” the fact sheet reads.

Additionally, the EPA stresses that waste facilities should remain open to the public to provide easy disposal options.

The NSW Government will also continue to work with the transport industry to ensure uninterrupted movement of goods and other materials across state borders.

“NSW has not imposed any state-based restrictions on the movement of waste,” the fact sheet reads.

While the Queensland Government has tightened restrictions on entry into the state, these restrictions provide for the continuation of essential goods and services.

The EPA also suggests operators develop a business continuity plan if one is not already in place.

“Plans should include the priority responsibilities of storing, transporting and disposing of waste appropriately, as well as measures to continue essential waste services like kerbside collection,” the fact sheet reads.

“Plans should be assessed and revised to account for changing circumstances, such as reduced staff numbers or the loss of key personnel, with focus given to high-risk activities.”

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Applications open for NSW Circulate grant program

Applications are now open for round three, intake seven of Circulate, the NSW Government’s industrial ecology grant program.

Grants of up to $150,000 are available to businesses, not for profit organisations, product stewardship groups, industry bodies and government organisations for projects that apply industrial ecology principles to recover materials that would otherwise be sent to landfill.

According to a NSW EPA statement, industrial ecology aims to increase the efficiency of industry’s resource use by shifting from a linear to a closed-loop or circular system.

“Traditional industry typically follows a linear pattern. Virgin resources are extracted from the environment, products are made and sold and waste products are sent to landfill,” the statement reads.

“Industrial ecology redesigns industrial processes so they function in similar ways to natural ecosystems. In this way, the waste products of one process become the resources of another process.”

Projects funded under the six-year, $5.46 million program must also demonstrate how recovered material will be used as feedstock for other commercial, industrial or construction processes.

“Recipients develop synergies with other industries to identify industrial ecology opportunities, increase efficiency and save money by reducing waste sent to landfill,” the statement reads.

“To date, the program has diverted more than 50,000 tonnes of C&I and C&D waste from landfill.”

Applications are open until 1 May 2020.

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NSW fast-tracks facility development process

The NSW Government will fast-track planning processes for State Significant Developments – including waste management facilities – to keep the development sector moving through the COVID-19 crisis.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the construction and development sectors are vital to keeping people in jobs and supporting the state’s economic recovery.

“We are fast-tracking assessments to keep people in jobs, boost the construction pipeline and keep our economy moving,” he said.

In addition to fast-tracking assessments of State Significant Developments, Mr Stokes said the planning system acceleration program would clear the current backlog of cases in the Land & Environment Court.

“Our economic recovery will in many ways be longer and harder than the health one, and it’s essential we do everything we can now to keep our state moving forward, and allow work to continue wherever possible in line with the best medical advice,” he said.

According to Mr Stokes, the planning system will likely undergo further reform to ensure it enables economic growth once the immediate effects of COVID-19 have passed.

“This will pass and when it does, the planning system will be ready to continue driving economic productivity across the State,” he said.

Further details of additional reforms are set to be released in the coming weeks.

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NSW awards over $1M to Aboriginal waste and land projects

The NSW Government has awarded $1,092,270 to 13 Local Aboriginal Land Councils for community waste projects designed to clean up and prevent illegal dumping on their land.

According to an EPA statement, Cowra, Dubbo, Worimi, Illawarra, Mindaribba, Wanaruah, Ngambri, Tibooburra, Amaroo, Cobowra and Menindee Local Aboriginal Land Councils have been awarded a total of $692,270 from the Aboriginal Land Clean Up and Prevention (ALCUP) program.

“Cleaning up a heritage property, developing a bush tucker garden, revegetating a historic campground, removing asbestos waste and stopping illegal access to dumping hot spots are among the planned ALCUP projects and clean-up activities,” the statement reads.

EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Regional Carmen Dwyer said many Aboriginal communities faced waste disposal barriers due to lack of services, resources and limited access to waste management facilities.

“The EPA recognises the difficult and diverse challenges faced in many remote Aboriginal communities and is committed to helping local land councils improve their environment and create long-term change,” Ms Dwyer said.

“This funding will help Local Aboriginal Land Councils tackle issues in their areas. Illegal dumping of waste is a common problem, and these grants will help make a big difference to local communities.”

A total of $726,181 has already been awarded under the ALCUP, funded through the state government’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.

Ms Dwyer said the program encourages community education and partnerships, and incorporates cultural activities to reduce and prevent the occurrence of illegal dumping.

“Previously, the program has funded clean-up work, surveillance cameras, deterrence signage, education and awareness programs and bush regeneration,” she said.

“Since 2006, the program has seen 6108 tonnes of waste cleaned up, 1344 tonnes of waste safely disposed of at landfills and 1706 tonnes of materials recycled.”

Additionally, Moree, Amaroo and Walgett Local Aboriginal Land Councils have been awarded a total of $400,000 under the Aboriginal Communities Waste Management Program (ACWMP).

“The three ACWMP projects receiving funding will tackle bulky waste and litter in a variety of unique ways, including cleaning out a dam to restock with fish, removing damaged cars, clearing demolished house materials, removing dumped waste from riverbanks, unblocking drains, planting native grasses, growing bush tucker medicines and starting vegetable gardens and chicken-keeping,” the EPA statement reads.

“Aboriginal community members will be employed by some land councils as rangers or to undertake the work.”

The $4 million ACWMP is funded for four years until 2021.

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NSW and Fed Govt reach new bilateral agreement under EPBC Act

Major project assessments are set to be streamlined under a new bilateral agreement between the Federal and NSW Governments.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the new Bilateral Assessment Agreement will reduce the risk of Federal and state government duplication under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, while maintaining strong environmental safeguards.

“The changes are being made within the current Act, and do not form part of the wider EPBC review under Professor Graeme Samuel,” she said.

“They help all parties to understand what is expected of them in protecting the environment and the responsibilities they face in putting forward major projects.”

The new agreement includes harmonisation of the way proponents ‘off-set’ environmental impacts through the provision of alternate habitat areas.

“The NSW Biodiversity Offsets Scheme will now apply to all projects under the Bilateral agreement, and requires companies to contribute to the Biodiversity Conservation Trust that funds appropriate environmental protections to achieve strategic biodiversity gains across the state,” Ms Ley said.

According to NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes, the bilateral agreement is just one element of ongoing reforms designed to provide greater certainty, timeliness and transparency to the NSW Planning system.

“This agreement will mean environmental protections are applied more consistently than ever before to deliver better environmental outcomes,” he said.

“It will also help to achieve a single, streamlined assessment process that provides certainty for industry and investors by eliminating double-handling delays.”

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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

NSW transfer station awarded $66K weighbridge grant

Waste 360 has been awarded a $66,496 grant from the NSW Planning, Industry and Environment Department to install a weighbridge at its new transfer station in Strathfield, NSW.

According to Planning, Industry and Environment Department Circular Economy Executive Director Sanjay Sridher, the grant was awarded under the Waste Less, Recycle More Initiative’s Weighbridge Fund.

“The weighbridge will enable Waste 360 to collect valuable data that helps to provide more accurate information on the volumes of waste and recyclables generated in NSW and supports improved environmental performance across the state,” he said.

Mr Sridher said this was the final round of funding under the Weighbridge Fund grants program.

“Over 35 waste and recycling facilities have received more than $2 million in grants under the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative to support the installation of weighbridges,” he said.

“This program has played an important role to support the modernisation of the waste sector in NSW. Better data collection through the use of weighbridges at licensed facilities improves understanding of the volumes of waste and recyclables, and facilitates the collection and payment of the waste and environment levy.”

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NSW targets zero organics in landfill by 2030

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.

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