Women in Industry finalists announced

The finalists for this year’s Women in Industry Awards have been announced, with National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read nominated for the prestigious Industry Advocacy Award.

Now in its seventh year, the Women in Industry Awards recognise and reward the achievements of women working within the waste management, engineering, manufacturing, process control and commercial road transport industries.

The awards aim to raise the profile of women within industry, and this year saw a record number of nominations.

“Nominations for the Woman in Industry Awards have trended up year over year, and this year we saw 27 per cent more nominations than last year’s record,” Woman in Industry Show Director Simon Coburn said.

“We also saw a record number of individual businesses and organisations represented, which demonstrates the wide reach of the program and strong engagement from multiple industry sectors.”

According to Coburn, this year’s finalist review committee were particularly impressed with Read’s work in ensuring that waste is seen as a resource, and that the industry is recognised as an essential service that supports every business and household in Australia.

As NWRIC CEO, Read plays a pivotal role in representing the largest waste and recycling companies operating nationwide, with a turnover of more than $6 billion per year and employing over 15,000 people.

The committee noted that Read’s depth of policy knowledge and operational experience has delivered measurable benefit and noteworthy outcomes over many years.

The winners of the 2020 Women in Industry Awards will be announced late August 2020.

For a full list of finalists click here

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NWRIC calls for national battery recycling program by end of 2020

Following the release of the Product Stewardship Act review, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on the Federal Government to ensure a comprehensive national battery recycling program is in place, and funded by all battery brands by the end of 2020.

Read moreNWRIC calls for national battery recycling program by end of 2020

NWRIC State Associations update

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council State Affiliates provide a detailed overview of industry and policy changes across the country. 

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is the national industry body for commercial waste and recycling operators Australia wide.

It brings together national businesses and affiliated state associations to develop and promote policies and actions to advance waste management and resource recovery in Australia  – ensuring a fair, safe and sustainable industry that serves all Australians.

NWRIC affiliated state associations include the Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ), the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW & ACT (WCRA), the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), the Waste Recycling Industry of South Australia (WRISA), the Waste Recycling Industry of Western Australia (WRIWA) and the Waste Recycling Industry Northern Territory (WRINT).

State Association staff updates

With the closing of the financial year WRIQ said farewell to Rick Ralph, who after 14 years with WRIQ formerly handed over the CEO role to Mark Smith.

WRISA welcomed their new EO Adam Gray who has taken over this role from Chris Bridesdon.

On behalf of all the affiliates and NWRIC members I would like to pass on our thanks and gratitude to Rick and Chris for their contribution to the waste and recycling sector over the many years and wish you both well in your new endeavours.

Rick will now focus on his podcast series Talking Garbology – Waste and Recycling Unwrapped’ .

To tune in visit: https://thegarbologist.com.au/ . 

While Chris will continue with his waste management consulting services.

WCRA – Waste Management Award to increase in November 2020

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has announced that there will be an increase in all modern award minimum wages by 1.75 per cent. 

In handing down this decision, the FWC decided that some industries have been more effected by the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore the timing of the increase will be staggered for different industry sectors.

It was decided by the FWC that the Waste Management Award 2020 is a Group 2 Award, with an increase of 1.75 per cent from the start of the first full pay period on or after 1 November 2020. 

The Waste Management Award 2020 covers employers in all Australian jurisdictions who operate a business in the waste management sector.  For more details, contact the WCRA office on 02 9604 7206 or email memberservices@wcra.com.au.

WRIQ – Levies and action against illegal activities

Reminder to waste operators in Queensland that the government has passed the amendment regulation relating to the landfill levy (Waste Reduction and Recycling (Waste Levy Rates for 2020–2021) Amendment Regulation 2020). 

Businesses should have updated contract pricing and implemented appropriate auditing to ensure their supply chains have been notified. 

WRIQ has provided information to its members on what changes are required. If you would like a copy of the advice please contact memberservices@wriq.com.au

The Department of Environment and Science (DES) has recently taken action on a large illegal stockpile.

The WRIQ welcomes the action being taken by DES on illegal operations, as they damage the reputation of legitimate operators and create false markets.

WRIQ hopes to see more of this action on rogue operators.

WRISA – SA Draft Waste and Food Waste Strategies out for comment

With the SA Government releasing both its Draft Waste Strategy and Food Waste Strategy for public comment last week, Adam Gray, WRISA’s new EO, will be reaching out to members seeking their input and preparing a response. 

Submissions are due with the government by 15 August 2020. Please feel free to reach out to Adam at Adam@wrisa.com.au.

WRINT – new Board appointments 

The WRINT at its recent AGM has appointed Mark Sweet from VTG Waste as their President and Dean Caton from NT Recycling as Vice President. Congratulations to both.

WRINT, an affiliate of the NWRIC, represents and supports waste and recycling businesses operating across the Northern Territory.

Associate membership is also now available to state and local government bodies and businesses supplying the waste and recycling sector.

For more information about getting involved and advancing the waste and recycling industry in the territory please contact their Executive Officer Rick Ralph at Benjas1@bigpond.com.

This article is the second in an ongoing monthly series. 

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Focusing on the future through positive reform

In response to the NSW Government’s issue paper Cleaning Up Our Act, a number of priority steps have been identified, writes Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council.

The NSW Government’s issue paper Cleaning Up Our Act: The Future of Waste and Resource Recovery outlines the current challenges facing the waste system and proposes a vision for the future NSW circular economy including options for reform.   

What is pleasing about the paper is that the NSW Government clearly recognises the current waste and resource recovery system is inadequate to meet the state’s growing needs, let alone the transition to a circular economy.

Business as usual won’t fix it, and if we fail to act now to disrupt this trend, the NSW waste system may not be able to cope.

From an infrastructure perspective, the nuts and bolts of the waste system, the issues paper clearly recognises the system’s current limitations and gaps.

From collection challenges and the lack of capacity to process, recover and treat waste, to the limited resilience in the system to ensure service continuity and reliability.

It also acknowledges the essential nature of waste and recycling infrastructure, the workforce supporting it, and community well-being.

Importantly, the government’s vision gives more weight to waste avoidance and creating markets. The NWRIC welcomes this, and it is consistent with the current National Waste Policy. 

It also clearly acknowledges that responsibility for waste isn’t just with those who collect, recycle and dispose of waste or the community.

More so, it identifies that those enterprises that make, sell and construct are key players who must adopt a stronger sense of environmental responsibility for their products across the entire supply chain and material lifecycle.

The paper also places explicit emphasis on waste being seen as a resource that should positively contribute to a sustainable future.

This shift reflects the principles of a circular economy, building social, environmental and economic capital, as opposed to simply reducing environmental harm.

The options proposed in the issues paper are comprehensive and far-reaching, reflecting complex interrelationships and the need for system-wide reform that meets growing public expectations.

The challenge now is to prioritise these options, ensuring an implementation-oriented plan that can deliver measurable outcomes over the next five years from 2021.

Considering our current status, we need to look to the future and design a process that can navigate a clear pathway to change and reform.

In its response to the issues paper, the NWRIC identified a number of priority steps to a more sustainable, affordable and reliable waste and recycling sector.

From a material perspective, priority should initially be given to organics, plastics and glass.

Specifically, this means diverting organics from landfill and increasing the recovery of plastics and glass. This will require system-wide changes and collaboration with other jurisdictions.

Creating markets for recovered materials is also key to making services affordable and sustainable.

The challenge here is not only to address the current quality and supply issues, but more importantly to enable recovered plastics and glass to effectively compete with virgin materials as an affordable alternative.

Several reforms are required to achieve this price parity. Improved source separation at the point of collection, increasing processing capacity, and agreed minimum recovered resource supply specifications will go a long way.

But most importantly, we need to require those who make, sell and construct to use more recovered materials in their packaging, products and infrastructure.

This can initially be driven by taking a stronger product stewardship approach and mandating minimum recycled content in plastic containers.

Requiring all government funded infrastructure projects to demonstrate how they will optimise their use of recycled materials and report on the type and volume of recycled materials and products used, will also be essential.

To encourage private sector investment and technological innovation, the government must provide for dedicated precincts in local and state planning policies, streamline the planning approval and environmental licensing process, and reform the current resource recovery order and exemption framework.

Such changes will help deliver certainty to industry; a much-needed requirement.

Reliability in the system is also paramount. The NSW Government must increase landfill capacity, and proactively support the importance of energy recovery as a viable solution to treat residual waste that cannot be recycled including, contaminated organics.

Finally, greater effort is required to eradicate sub-standard and illegal practices. The approach taken by Victoria to support a waste crime prevention inspectorate is commended.

For too long unlicensed and illegal waste activities have been allowed to occur across the state, harming the environment and putting the community at risk.

The NWRIC considers that all waste and recycling operations must be conducted in accordance with state, national and international environmental, health and safety regulations. Failure to do so is unacceptable.

Of course, essential to any effective strategy and action plan will be clear objectives, targets, data collection to review performance year-on-year, timely progress and adequate funding.

NSW is in a strong position to make these changes quickly. With more than $750 million raised per annum through the state waste levy and only 20 per cent being currently spent on waste and recycling activities, there is ample scope to implement the necessary changes.

This will serve to encourage the greater private investment necessary to create a more sustainable, reliable and affordable waste and recycling system.

The current climate clearly demonstrates that waste and recycling is a service essential to the health and well-being of NSW.

In this regard, the issues paper provides a positive outlook on how NSW can future proof its waste and recycling system as it transitions to a circular economy and recovers from COVID-19.

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NWRIC State Associations update

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council State Affiliates provide a detailed overview of industry and policy changes across the country. 

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is the national industry body for commercial waste and recycling operators Australia wide.

It brings together national businesses and affiliated state associations to develop and promote policies and actions to advance waste management and resource recovery in Australia – ensuring a fair, safe and sustainable industry that serves all Australians.

NWRIC affiliated state associations include the Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ), the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW & ACT (WCRA), the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), the Waste Recycling Industry of South Australia (WRISA), the Waste Recycling Industry of Western Australia (WRIWA) and the Waste Recycling Industry Northern Territory (WRINT).

Two new State Association appointments:

Mark Smith, previous EO at VWMA, has headed to warmer weather this month to take on the CEO role at WRIQ.

Alex Serpo, NWRIC’s Secretary, has moved across to fill the EO role at the VWMA.

While retiring from WRIQ, Rick Ralph will continue as EO for WRINT.

Congratulations to Mark and Alex. I know both are looking forward to their new roles, meeting members and advancing the industry.

Mark can be contacted at mark.smith@wriq.com.au and Alex at Alex@vta.com.au

WRIQ – Environmental Regulator Survey:

Have your say on the Queensland’s Environmental Regulator – WRIQ is inviting Queensland waste and recycling operators to share their experiences on Queensland’s environmental regulator.

The survey includes a focus on how performance of the industry’s regulator, the Department of Environment & Science (DES), has evolved since a WRIQ review in 2018 identified important industry concerns. It will also seek opinions on implementation of the new Queensland waste strategy and waste levy.

The survey is open to anyone in the Queensland waste industry and participants are encouraged to share their thoughts on the key issues, which WRIQ will then share back to government and our members.

It is expected the survey will identify priority areas for both WRIQ and DES. The survey comes at an important time for the industry, with the Queensland State Election later this year and expected economic stimulus packages issued by State and Federal Governments post Covid-19 response.

To complete the survey please click here.  The survey closes on 19 June.

Please contact memberservices@wriq.com.au if you have any questions.

VWMA – Chemical Stockpiles, Waste Education, New Recycling Authority:

EY Report into Chemical Stockpiles ReleasedErnst and Young (EY) has released its report into the EPA’s management of 14 chemical waste sites between January 2016 and April 2019, including the facility which caught fire in Campbellfield in April 2019.

In response, the EPA has already acted, including the development of a digital priority waste tracking system.

The VWMA will be working closely with the EPA to help roll out and improve this technology, as well as other important programs to ensure the safe disposal of hazardous liquids.

New yellow top bin waste education material available to businesses – In order to reduce contamination in yellow top bins, Sustainability Victoria has launched a new public education campaign.

The education material can be viewed at www.recycling.vic.gov.au. Businesses and councils wishing to share the material can download it from the Victorian Government website.

Please share this material if you can.

Advertising commenced 24 May and will run until 30 June, including broadcast free to air TV and on demand TV, social media and radio.

Consultation Underway to Develop a New Recycling Authority in VictoriaThe VWMA are currently consulting with the DELWP on the introduction of a new Waste and Recycling Act and Waste Authority for Victoria. The Waste Authority will help to deliver the new Recycling Victoria program.

The VWMA will be seeking to work proactively with government on all aspects of this new program, including the container deposit scheme, Recycled First and regulations to protect waste as an essential service.

WRISA – Container Deposit Review, Single Use Plastics:

Container Deposit Scheme Review – The SA government is currently completing an economic study and material flow analysis on kerbside, MRF and commercial CDS activity.

The outcomes of these investigations will be included in the impending CDS Review Discussion Paper, which will contain proposed changes to the scheme and form the basis of the next round of public consultation.

Legislation amendment and implementation are expected to commence in late 2020 and run through to early 2021.

Single Use Plastics – The Single-use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Bill 2020 was recently introduced into parliament.

On commencement, the main points within the legislation include prohibition of the sale, supply or distribution of single-use plastic drinking straws, cutlery, and drink stirrers.

Following a period of 12 months, expanded polystyrene cups, bowls, plates and clam-shell containers, and oxo-degradable plastic products will also be prohibited.

The legislation also contains provisions for exemptions and the inclusion of additional products, which can be made via regulations.

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We say thank you

Waste Management Review and Australia’s waste management associations would like to give a big thank you for all those out there working hard amid challenges.

This article provides a list of some lifetime members that have made a significant contribution to the sector.

While some state-based associations are less than five years old, others such as the Waste Contractors and Recycling Association NSW (WCRA) are some of the oldest waste associations in the world.

Newer associations such as the Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ), maintain a rich history spanning just over a decade, while the Victorian Waste Management Association’s (VWMA) has over 30 years under its belt.

Associations that have existed for many years have a number of lifetime members. In WCRA’s case, life members means persons who have been appointed by the executive for an outstanding service of a minimum of 10 years to the industry.

These hard working members have consistently put the interests of the association and industry ahead of their own commercial and person interests. Additionally, they have enhanced the operation and reputation of the association and industry.

Tony Khoury, WCRA Executive Director, would like to acknowledge the following life members for their service to the waste management industry and the association:

— Arthur Baker

— Bernadette Byrnes

— Terry Dene

— Mike Noble

— Barry Thomas

— Harry Wilson

“Through their involvement with WCRA, these wonderful people enhanced the operation and reputation of the association and the industry,” Mr Khoury said.

“They consistently put the interests of the association and the industry ahead of their personal and business interests in the discharge of their respective duties and responsibilities.”

In Victoria, the VWMA recognised Graham Lenthall at their annual general meeting for his contribution to the industry.

Graham, who retired from the industry in 2018, has accumulated over 40 years of experience across many of today’s well known waste and recycling operators.

The association congratulates and thanks Graham for his service.

Graham joins other industry greats such as:

— Edward (Ted) Smith

— Harry Gooden

— Neil Stow

— Tony Whelan

VWMA CEO Peter Anderson said the industry has improved and developed with the assistance of the above individuals who have consistently displayed their passion, commitment and dedication.

“It is with enormous pride that they be recognised and forever be remembered for what they have done for our industry,” he said.

WRIQ would like to acknowledge the following lifetime members:

— Bob Eggleton

— Nev Brownlow

— Grant Stockwell

WRIQ CEO Mark Smith said it is so important we acknowledge those industry greats that have contributed so much to our sector.

“In Queensland we also look to acknowledge the great work happening across our state through our annual award,” he said.

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) was formed in early 2017 and represents major companies like Alex Fraser Group, Cleanaway, J.J. Richards and Sons, Solo Resource Recovery, Sims Metals Management, Suez, Toxfree, Remondis, ResourceCo and Veolia.

The NWRIC would like to acknowledge Doug Dean and Max Spedding, former CEOs of Veolia and NWRIC respectively.

Mr Spedding recently spoke to Waste Management Review about his vast experience and provided some sentiments about the potential future direction of the waste and resource recovery sector.

To subscribe to Waste Management Review with free home delivery click here

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Recycling Victoria: a new economy? Part three

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.

This is the final article in a three part series: part three will explore Recycling Victoria’s organics recovery targets, the state government’s Social Procurement Framework and efforts to support safe and effective high-risk and hazardous waste management. To read part two click here

In recent years, Victoria’s waste and resource recovery system has faced a number of setbacks, from fires at material recycling facilities and illegal stockpiling, to uneven policy regulations and the collapse of major processor SKM Recycling in 2019. Added to this is uncertainty amid COVID-19 ramifications.

The SKM collapse was particularly noteworthy, entering mainstream consciousness after 33 Victorian councils were forced to landfill their recycling: calling the state’s infrastructure capacity into question.

Fast forward just one year, and the state is in better shape, with the release of Victoria’s long-awaited circular economy policy Recycling Victoria: A New Economy presenting widespread opportunity for sector growth.

REDUCING METHANE MECHANISMS

 Listing organics as a priority material, Recycling Victoria seeks to cut the volume of organic material sent to landfill by 50 per cent between 2020 and 2030, with an interim target of 20 per cent reduction by 2025.

The strategy also aims to ensure every Victorian household has access to food and garden organic waste recycling services or local composing by 2030.

Furthermore, the Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund will encourage investment in organic waste sorting and processing infrastructure, while the Recycling Markets Acceleration package aims to build strong markets for products made from recovered organic waste such as compost.

The Victorian Government will also introduce new rules requiring businesses to sort commonly recyclable materials and organic waste from unrecoverable waste.

Frank Harney, Australian Organics Recycling Association Victoria Chair, says that while the strategy broadly represents positive movement for the organics sector, particularly in regard to state-wide FOGO collection, more work needs to be done to stop organics ending up in landfill. Frank adds that were it up to him, organics in landfill would be banned immediately.

“We don’t have the capacity in composting facilities to handle more material. We’re currently processing 700,000 tonnes and that will at least double. We’re already at processing capacity now, so there needs to be a lot of initiatives directed at decontamination and getting sites licensed,” he says.

Frank highlights decontamination as critical, suggesting that while councils are working at further educating the public, a certain level of contamination will always be present at kerbside.

“The system needs to be designed in a way where it comes in the front gate, gets decontaminated, gets chipped and into the vessels, and then goes out to maturation sites,” he says.

Frank also suggests that more work needs to be done on the classification of waste, so organic material can be more efficiently composted. He adds that while he isn’t sure why a lettuce leaf needs to go through maturation, “that’s the rule.”

The structure of contracts also needs to change, Frank says, suggesting that awarding large scale council contracts to single entities creates a number of logistical market challenges.

PROACTIVE PROCUREMENT

As a large buyer of goods and services, the Victorian Government has committed to creating strong markets for recycled materials. As such, Recycling Victoria states that the state government will seek new opportunities to purchase products containing recycled materials and use recycled materials to build roads, railways and other public infrastructure.

“The Victorian Government’s Social Procurement Framework requires government buyers to consider opportunities to deliver social and sustainable outcomes in every procurement activity. This includes sustainable material choices and buying products made from recycled content where appropriate,” the strategy reads.

Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Outgoing Executive Officer, highlights that the Victorian Government is simultaneously the state’s largest employer and its largest procurer of goods and services.

“It’s great to see the government playing an essential role in driving circular economy outcomes through the policy,” he says.

According to Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser Managing Director, the strategy is a sign of support for resource recovery and recycled content infrastructure.

“We know that a strong market for recycled materials supports resource recovery, which diverts more material away from landfill and reduces stockpiling. It also preserves valuable natural resources which are increasingly difficult to access and costly to transport,” he says.

“Many Big Build projects are located close to Melbourne, making recycled material from metropolitan areas the ideal supply choice. The use of locally sourced recycled content substantially reduces heavy vehicle use, which reduces congestion and carbon emissions.”

It should be noted however that Recycling Victoria lists no concrete targets. Rose Read, National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO, says this is cause for concern, and reflects a limited level of understanding as to where the real opportunities to procure recovered materials are.

“The upside however is that state agencies such as the Major Roads Projects are getting the message to increase recycled content in their procurement. This shift in behaviour has to be adopted more widely across government,” Rose says.

“To do this, the government has to remove the perceived risk of substituting virgin materials with recovered materials by fast tracking standards, working with industry to address supply chain issues and providing practical guidance in specifying state and local government tenders.”

On the flip side, Rose says the resource recovery industry has to step up to ensure quality materials can be supplied in line with construction and manufacturing standards and timelines.

“Working together is critical here, and government should establish supply chain groups to resolve these barriers to increasing the use of recovered materials,” she says.

TRACKING REGULATION:

To support safe and effective high-risk and hazardous waste management, the state government has committed to implementing stronger regulation, policy and planning. Industry investment in better hazardous waste management, including opportunities to maximise the safe and cost-effective recovery and recycling of these wastes will also be encouraged.

Furthermore, the Victorian Government will consider the potential introduction of new levies for waste being stockpiled for long periods. A Waste Crime Prevention Inspectorate within the EPA will also be established to work across government with WorkSafe Victoria, emergency services agencies, local government and other regulators.

Rose says the NWRIC is pleased to see resources being committed to support a waste crime prevention inspectorate. She adds that for too long, unlicensed and illegal waste activities have been allowed to occur across the state, harming the environment and putting the community at risk and undeservingly damaging the reputation of good operators.

“Together with the recent changes to the environment protection Act, this resource will provide the EPA with the necessary tools to stop unlicensed and illegal waste management activities,” Rose says.

“The NWRIC considers that all waste and recycling operations must be conducted in accordance with state, national and international environmental, health and safety regulations. Failure to do so is not acceptable.”

The moves come of the back of a 2019 $5.5 million investment to switch to a GPS electronic tracking system, following a series of high-profile illegal stockpile fires. With improved data analytics and reporting, the system is designed to better record the production, movement and receipt of industrial and high-risk waste.

According to Mark, the VWMA is supportive of the state government’s intention to level the playing field.

“Illegal operators undermined confidence in the system and undercut legitimate businesses. Illegal sites have chewed up millions of dollars in clean-up costs, and I’m hopeful all these investments will begin to tackle upstream and downstream players that feed this underbelly,” he says.

“Essential to the success of this program will be recognising the role compliant operators can play, and the broader onboarding of industry.”

Mark says the VWMA sees itself as a partner with the EPA on that process.

“The EPA has been really supportive of us in helping build businesses capability and capacity to understand their duties and obligations. It is a big task and we want to work with the government on this,” he says.

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Eye into the past invokes opportunity

In part three of Waste Management Review’s COVID-19 challenges and opportunities series, retired waste industry leader Max Spedding recalls how he overcame challenges in the past. He eyes opportunities for the future on the other side of the crisis.

While Australia and the globe as a whole are undoubtedly facing one of the worst collective economic and health crises since the Great Depression, there are always lessons we can gleam from the past.

So far the response from Australian federal, state and territory governments to the health crisis has been swift. At the time of writing, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia was less than 7000, with more than 4000 recovered. The health crisis is very much intertwined with the economic one.

That said, there are always stories of resilience that can shed some light into how we can deal with future challenges. To that end, Waste Management Review explores how waste industry stalwarts got through challenging times in the past and their thoughts on what lies ahead for recycling.

While the International Monetary Fund expects real gross domestic product (GDP) to shrunk by 6.2 per cent this year, the 1980’s drought-related recession saw a 2.2 per cent decrease throughout 1982. Likewise, the 1990’s recession infamously referred to by former Prime Minister Paul Keating as the “recession we had to have” saw a fall of 1.7 per cent. All of these instances were linked to global pressures.

The characterisation of the current economic situation has been compared by many commentators to the Great Depression, where GDP fell by 10 per cent between 1929-31. The Great Depression of the 1930s led to a revaluation of the country’s understanding and implementation of macroeconomic policies, with Keynesian economics being developed during and after the period.

According to a speech by the Australian Treasury Macroeconomic Group in 2009, the key elements of the modern monetary policy framework has over time provided capacity for flexibility and a rapid and aggressive response to macroeconomic shocks. It cites rapid easing of Australian monetary policy in late 2008 to 2009 as an example of this flexibility. The lessons proved useful in staving off the significant impacts of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

The unknown territory Australia now faces itself in is how to deal with the re-build, and the three stimulus packages, valued at a collective $213.6 billion, is only one step of the way. The Federal Government has flagged that policies discussed pre-election will now be re-visited. This means tax cuts, deregulation and industrial relations reform may be a few areas looked at on the other side.

Those who have lived through multiple crises will understand that there are opportunities at the other end, and resilience is important.

Max Spedding started his career in ready mixed concrete and finished it with the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, leading the influence of federal government policy reform on waste and resource recovery. He’s lived through multiple economic crises, including the 1973 oil crisis and 1987 stock market crash.

Spedding started his career more than 50 years ago in 1970 in the Shire of Korong north of Bendigo. After working in local government for a year, he joined Pioneer Concrete – now Hanson – in Australia and in 1971 went to the UK followed by Italy in 1973-74. He immersed himself in concrete and quarries for the next decade, focusing on managing profit and loss in his various divisions.

“In fifty years, we’ve never seen anything quite like this, but it is interesting when you reflect on problems of the past,” Spedding says.

He recalls working in Italy under 30 per cent inflation and fuel price changes. The 1973 oil crisis began after the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting countries proclaimed an oil embargo targeted at nations perceived as supporting Israel during the Yom Kuppur War.

While the US, UK and Canada were targeted, an article published by the Università del Salento indicates Italy was highly affected due to its lack of primary sources of oil.

Spedding says conditions were also challenging while the terrorist and guerrilla organisation Red Brigade remained active – a group responsible for kidnappings and robbing’s throughout Italy.

“You just couldn’t keep up with inflation, but the interesting thing was that although it took a year or so to get through it, but we did, we got there.

“Of course it was economic rather than medical, but you’ve just got to live by the day and wait for new opportunities arise.”

“It’s surprising how you have a period of intense inflation and it sort of clears the deck and establishes a new platform on the value of your investments and you can then go forward again. It’s a matter of being able to batten down the hatches and hold on and then look at the new reality that comes out and take advantage of the difficulties.”

Fast forward to 1984 and Spedding returns to Sydney to manage Pioneer’s concrete division. Things get tricker as the company becomes vertically integrated and begins to lose thousands each month, he says.

“What Pioneer taught me is to make sure you have all the information on the table and you remain focused on what the intent of it is. If you’re intent is to make money, you have to make money – overall as a group – not just one aspect of it.”

In 1987, he decided to put his learnings to greater use joining a company called Hooker Corporation in a newly formed resources division.

“That was all doing well but unfortunately George Herscu invested heavily in America in supermarkets and they went belly up and the holding company went into bankruptcy.

“That left our little resources division which was quite profitable with positive cash flow hanging out there.”

He says all team divisions were brought into the corporation under a negative pledge arrangement which saw him presented with a request for $340 million despite the division having a value of around $20 million.

“At the same time we had the 1987 crash and all of my options I had negotiated in taking on this new role went out the window.”

“But the net result was we sold off the resources division and only one bit of it failed, all the rest of it continued and is now in the hands of others.”

He says going through a liquidation and the 1987 crisis, amid incredibly high interest rates, was extremely difficult to manage but he emerged in 1989 with a role with Browning Ferris Industries (BFI) – now owned by SUEZ in Australia – running the development of new landfills in Australia and New Zealand. He developed the Lyndhurst Landfill in Taylor’s Road, one of the first lined landfill in Australia which is still in existence today.

In 1992, he took on  managing waste-to-energy market developments for BFI in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Two years later, he took over as Managing Director of the BFI in Australia.

“That got me into the international waste industry. The interesting thing there was we had the Asian share market economy meltdown in 1996/97. My response to our American owners at that time was our caution in developing WtE in Asia proved to be successful. Because when the crunch came although the projects/companies we were involved in failed, we virtually had no exposure.”

“That’s one crisis that was avoided because we were probably a bit too conservative, but sometimes you have to be.”

He recalls attending a larger conference in 1996 with BFI with over 500 managers from around the world. Every third person was asked to stand up.

“The CEO says just imagine you all just lost your jobs: that’s how much the industry is going to go to recycling and unless we embrace recycling, all you guys will be out of work.”

More than 20 years’ later, he says recycling is still a real challenge for the industry.

He says we need to keep it simple and the three RRRs – reduce, reuse and recycle showed what practically can be done. He says that while metals work in the global economy and fibre works locally plastics have always been a challenge.

“Throughout my life I’ve always targeted the 80 per cent solution as this gives you the highest amount of efficiency and return and sustainability. As soon as you start to focus on the top one or two per cent, you get in trouble.”

But recycling really changed around a decade ago when organisations found a reliable outlet in China. At that point, Spedding was doing some consulting work and CEO of the Australian Landfill Owners Association until 2015.

“This model was basically to do the minimum amount of sorting and produce a bulk product with five per cent contamination or less. You offloaded it to China which had very cheap labour and poor environmental condition,” he says.

“The interesting thing that most people don’t think about is that it’s not only the cheap labour. So much material is coming to Australia as a major market for the Chinese manufacturing sector. All of the containers had to be taken back to China and they all went back empty so basically you got almost free backloading in those containers of this material.

“So using China as a low labour but also as a low cost destination because of the empty container. It was a perfect marriage, if you like. The only problem was that it wasn’t sustainable.”

He officially formed the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council in early 2017 with the backing of its national members – Alex Fraser Group, Cleanaway, J. J. Richards and Sons, Solo Resource Recovery, Suez, Toxfree, Remondis, ResourceCo and Veolia.

In mid 2017, China announced to the World Trade Organization an intention to ban the import of waste products from US, Japan, Australia and other source countries, to take full effect by the end of 2017.

He says councils went from paying $40 a tonne to offload their recyclables to suddenly being paid $10 a tonne for the material.

Spedding says that while industry was concerned, the Federal Government seemed to have little understanding about the implications.

“This was the public perception that recyclables had a value. There’s no doubt they do, but where is the value positive is the issue,” he says.

“It doesn’t start positive, it’s positive somewhere along the line from sorting and processing  down into a producing a raw material again.”

He believes the value of waste doesn’t begin at a household level, it begins at stages of sorting and processing across the supply chain and back down into a raw material.

“The issue [now] is COVID-19 has disrupted the economy totally. But the biggest thing, is that I think coronavirus has spelt the end of globalisation as we previously knew it,” he says.

“Through the 90’s globalisation was a concept being pushed by everyone by countries, companies and individuals. We had the beginnings of a truly global economy.”

He adds that COVID-19 has exposed the weakness of globalisation and our dependence on supply lines and cheaply produced components overseas.

“As we come out of the coronavirus and look at all of these policies, recycling in particular, we are going to have to re-consider the world and the approach to globalisation.”

He points out that while everyone has been talking about a circular economy, that was practical up until China closed its doors on waste exports.

“While China was producing and was part of the circular economy, that was fine, but as soon as they closed the doors and wouldn’t take the waste back, the circular economy couldn’t include them.

“Therefore, it’s no good talking about circular economy in a global situation. But now we have a situation where globalisation will certainly be on the table for review and our circular economy that we’ll be talking can be geographically smaller.”

He says that as supply chains are broken by COVID-19, Australia can consider looking a more local specialised manufacturing including from recycled materials. Additionally, it can prompt a re-think of sustainable local services, whether it be closer food supplies, medicine or equipment, improving the climate in the process.

“I’m hopeful one of the positives that will come out of this is a refocus in Australia on manufacturing and product sustainability.”

“There is an opportunity for a new approach and a greater focus on a resilient, self-reliant Australia as a result.”

“There can be a lot of positives that will come out of this as long as we return to work not thinking it’s all the same and try to go back to where we were. We need to be looking at where we can be, and how it can be better.”

Close the Loop Founder Steve Morris says the company’s brands take a long-term view in its licence to operate.

“I’ve always found that resource recovery, product stewardship and circular economy…all of that seems to be growing independent of market ups and downs,” he says.

“Right now we are expecting some big decisions coming out of government like the Recycling Victoria policy, NSW EPA and incentive work on our road products.”

He says there were many scenarios in which circumstances looked uncertain over the years, including the development of its TonerPlas product.

“Our biggest challenge there is getting a government procurement professionals to actually buy the product, to specify the product.”

He says fortunately the company has received extensive support from agencies such as Sustainability Victoria. This has helped drive the product forward and the company has worked towards long-term sustainable outputs.

“It’s certainly been risky but we’ve been 100 per cent committed all the way,” he says.

Steve says Close the Loop, which has been value-adding on-shore, was reasonably insulated from National Sword, if not feeling bullish about the policy.

“National Sword to us was a risk we became aware of two or three years before it really hit. We were feeling fairly safe because of the value-add we give the polymers here before they go through brokers into other countries.”

He agrees the way forward in a post COVID-19 world is a renewed interest local manufacturing in Australia and an increase in regional supply chains. This should be supported by state, territory and national circular economy policies.

This is the second part of a four part series on challenges and opportunities during COVID-19. You can read part one by clicking here. Part two can also be read here.

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Recycling Victoria: a new economy? Part two

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.

This article is the second in a three part series: part two will explore the forthcoming CDS, waste as an essential service and the Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund. To read part one click here

In recent years, Victoria’s waste and resource recovery system has faced a number of setbacks, from fires at material recycling facilities and illegal stockpiling, to uneven policy regulations and the collapse of major processor SKM Recycling in 2019. Added to this is uncertainty amid COVID-19 ramifications.

The SKM collapse was particularly noteworthy, entering mainstream consciousness after 33 Victorian councils were forced to landfill their recycling: calling the state’s infrastructure capacity into question.

Fast forward just one year, and the state is in better shape, with the release of Victoria’s long-awaited circular economy policy Recycling Victoria: A New Economy presenting widespread opportunity for sector growth.

CASH FOR CANS

Before Recycling Victoria’s February release, Victoria, often touted as the ‘progressive’ state, was the only Australian jurisdiction without a container deposit scheme (CDS) in place or forthcoming.

The state government’s CDS hesitance has been an ongoing point of frustration for industry, with Ms D’Ambrosio telling delegates at VWMA’s August 2019 State Conference that the state government had no current plans to develop a CDS.

Additionally, despite an acknowledgement of demonstrated success in other jurisdictions, Infrastructure Victoria’s October 2019 interim waste report suggested more analysis was needed on how to design an optimal scheme for the state. That said, the times are changing, with Recycling Victoria committing to introduce a CDS by 2023.

Speaking with Waste Management Review in March, Trevor Evans, Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister, said the Victorian commitment means Australia is now fully covered by CDS.

“The next question is whether we can get those schemes operating as harmoniously as possible. We know a harmonised approach between the states and territories would lead to the very best outcomes for Australia,” he said.

While the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) would prefer to see a national CDS, Rose Read, NWRIC CEO, says at minimum, Victoria should work with all other state and territory CDS’ to ensure performance criteria for community access, network distribution, collection and material recovery targets.

She adds that reporting set by governments should be consistent to ensure services can be delivered cost effectively by the industry to the beverage suppliers.

While Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Outgoing Executive Officer, says he is supportive of Victoria’s CDS announcement, he similarly stresses the need to select a model that puts community access, ease of use and accessibility first, and doesn’t put remote and regional communities at a disadvantage.

“I’m optimistic that government will appropriately consultant with all the key stakeholders about a CDS role out including the VWMA members. Our association is here to advocate for our members and I’d really encourage the teams working on CDS to engage with us, Victoria’s peak body representing the sector” he says.

“I’d encourage any of our members who are concerned about CDS in Victoria to reach out and voice those concerns directly with us, so we can consider them when engaging with the government in coming months.”

ESSENTIAL REGULATION

Recognising that major reforms are needed to lift the performance of Victoria’s recycling sector, the state government will establish a new dedicated Waste and Recycling Act to govern all aspects associated with waste and recycling services. And in effect, regulate waste as an essential service.

“This new Act will address current gaps by requiring improved data collection from waste and recycling organisations (including material recovery facilities) to provide transparency and accountability for what happens to our waste,” the strategy reads.

Nick Harford, Equilibrium Managing Director, says regulating waste as an essential service represents sensible reform. He notes that in 2019, the Essential Services Commission was asked by the state government to review the waste and resource recovery sector.

“They provided a confidential report to government last year, and obviously we don’t know what was in it. But they indicated at the time that they saw a limited availability of recycling markets and additional capacity constraints,” he says.

According to Nick, the Essential Services Commission also indicated that they wanted to explore contractual arrangements, barriers to market and community and business expectations.

“I think these are the sorts of things they will now examine, and given the nature of those things, I expect there will need to be some consultation with stakeholders, if not the broader Victorian community,” he says.

Nick notes that responsibilities are likely to change under the Act, highlighting that local government currently holds authority for MSW waste, with different systems and kerbside compositions across local government areas.

“I think government is signalling that these new powers may enable a state-wide approach. It may be outcomes focused, for instance, the state government sets its expectations and it’s up to local government or other authorities to achieve that. Or it could be a more mandated approach,” he says.

The state government will also establish a new waste authority in 2021, with the aim of better governing Victoria’s waste and recycling systems, and holding waste service providers to account. This will ensure, the strategy suggests, that recent recycling disruptions are not repeated.

In terms of how these changes will affect the private sector, Nick forecasts that it will lead to increased accountability.

“It’s flagged in the policy that greater data collection and reporting is expected. Which I assume is another driver for legislating as an essential service, because it gives the state power to demand reporting from the sector,” he says.

“That will potentially lead to more costs, but we’ll have to see how it pans out. Recycling companies have been getting better and better in terms of tracking and reporting their materials handling. So really, it’s just business as usual. I think the general principle is that an informed market is an efficient market.”

Nick highlights that if the Essential Services Commission informs the purchase of waste and recycling services in a more effective manner, it could lead to increased competition, and as such, more innovation, as companies look for opportunities and competitive advantages.

WASTE-TO-ENERGY CAP

In addition to essential services regulation, Nick highlights Recycling Victoria’s waste-to-energy (WtE) commitments as significant, albeit vague.

“This is an area where we as an industry need to see more detail, because the state government mentions giving priority to aerobic digestion as a technology, as well as putting a cap on the amount of material that can go to WtE via thermal technology,” he says.

Despite a recognition of the role WtE plays in a functioning resource recovery sector, the state government has placed a cap of one million tonnes a year on the amount of residual waste that can be used in thermal WtE facilities, until 2030.

“The cap will be implemented through new rules which will be given effect by legislation or regulations. The cap will include all thermal WtE facilities and apply to the quantity of waste they use as feedstocks,” the strategy reads.

In reference to the cap, Nick says he isn’t sure how it will play out.

“Does that include facilities that are already approved, even if they are not up and running? Australian Paper for example is already approved, which is 700,000 tonnes per annum of material earmarked for thermal processing. They haven’t secured that material yet, but it is on the drawing board,” he says.

According to Rose, applying a volume cap provides certainty to industry, and importantly, gives the community confidence that genuine recyclables won’t be used as feedstock.

“However, the NWRIC does not believe a cap of one million tonnes is appropriate, as currently there is over 4.2 million tonnes going to landfill, of which between 40 per cent to 50 per cent of this material would be considered eligible residual waste,” she says.

Under Recycling Victoria, the state government has also committed to supporting early entrants into Victoria’s WtE market, including facilities that use organic waste to make bioenergy or provide precinct-scale energy.

Investment support will include grant or loan funding, and investment facilitation to help proponents navigate regulatory and financial processes. The government will also fund research to develop safe end uses for residual products such as ash and digestate.

CAPACITY EXPANSION

The state government has allocated $100 million via the Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund to help local businesses establish and upgrade infrastructure to sort and reprocess recyclables for use in manufacturing. The fund will be administered by Sustainability Victoria (SV).

“The package includes $30 million in grants to make Victoria a leader in recycling innovation – creating new products from recycled materials like glass, plastic, organics, electronic waste, concrete, brick and rubber,” Premier Daniel Andrew said.

“The government will also provide $10 million in grants to help businesses improve resource efficiency, reduce waste and increase recycling in their daily operations – saving them time and money.”

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Claire Ferres Miles

Claire Ferres Miles, SV Chief Executive Officer, says SV are proud to have played a significant role in developing the Recycling Victoria policy.

“Our work to transform the recycling sector is already underway – SV designed and recently launched $39.5 million in grants from the Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund to boost recycling capacity in Victoria,” she says.

“We look forward to supporting all Victorians as together we transition to a circular economy, and ensuring our community has a recycling system that can be relied on.”

According to Claire, widespread disruption to global recycling market has exposed the volatility of Victoria’s recycling system, and the need to invest in industry to increase resilience.

“The Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund is focussed initially on plastics and paper and cardboard reprocessing and glass beneficiation, as there are significant gaps for these materials,” she says.

Claire notes however that the exact processing gap for any material is not clear cut, with many variables.

“Using market intelligence and horizon scan activity, we are proactively working to be aware of how materials are moving through our economy and where government intervention is required,” she says.

“As an example of this, we used our e-waste material flow analysis to identify photovoltaic panels as an emerging waste issue. This data has supported us to develop a national stewardship approach to address this issue.”

In addition to the Infrastructure Fund, Recycling Victoria will see the expansion of the state government’s Investment Facilitation Service.

“SV’s Investment Facilitation Service is available to all Victorian-based resource recovery businesses, and since its inception in 2015, has engaged with over 400 resource recovery projects,” Claire says.

“The service promotes opportunities in the sector, supports business case development and coordinates the investor’s relationship across government.”

The service has also been a critical conduit through which industry concerns and needs informed Recycling Victoria’s development, Claire says. She adds that much of this feedback and insight is reflected in the policy.

“Over the coming months, SV will work closely with industry to define an enhanced role for this service that is high value and fit-for-purpose, for both current and emerging challenges, and opportunities to achieve investment attraction in Victoria,” Claire explains.

In addition to the paper and cardboard, plastic and glass materials fund, SV has opened grants for the Infrastructure Fund’s hazardous waste stream, with expressions of interest sought until 8 May.

“There is an estimated 15,000 – 29,000 tonnes per annum of liquid hazardous wastes containing recyclable solvent that needs to be managed in Victoria. Currently there is limited capacity to recycle these solvents,” Claire says.

“This funding will support the establishment of recycling infrastructure to viably increase the recycling of solvents for use in the Victorian economy.”

Of the Investment Fund, Jillian Riseley, Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) Chief Executive Officer, says there is significant opportunity to improve infrastructure capacity across Victoria.

“It’s exciting as we look to the future and our role in facilitating the delivery of new recycling services contracts for councils,” she says.

Jillian adds that MWRRG is in the final stages of its review into the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan.

“It will make a range of recommendations for the waste and resource recovery sector to ensure we meet our future needs and objectives to reduce waste and increase resource recovery,” she says.

“In reviewing our Metropolitan Implementation Plan, we consulted with industry to understand the capacity and future needs of the sector to ensure we have the right infrastructure in place.”

MWRRG have ensured that the review recommendations align with the objectives of Recycling Victoria, the findings of Infrastructure Victoria’s report on the waste and resource recovery sector and the national waste policy, Jillian adds.

According to Duncan Lummis, ARCADIS Associate Technical Director, Recycling Victoria provides some long-awaited clarity and an outline route map to help steer Victoria away from its current over reliance on landfill and export markets for recyclables.

He adds that currently, multiple government agencies have either recently, or are in the process of, considering the scale of capacity gaps in Victoria’s reprocessing infrastructure.

“Sustainability Victoria’s updated 2018 Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan identified significant gaps across the state. Notably, these included a lack of reprocessing facilities for organic and residual wastes across all regions in Victoria,” he says.

These gaps, Duncan adds, have the potential to become more significant in light of the new, ambitious landfill diversion and recovery targets.

In the medium term, he says, FOGO processing capacity needs to be increased significantly to manage the newly expanded household services.

“The scale of the gaps, by region and material type, would be clearer with the release of government studies, data and analysis used to support the development of the new policy,” Duncan says.

In terms of Recycling Victoria’s infrastructure funding commitments, Duncan says “time will tell” as to whether the new funding referenced in the policy is adequate.

“Key considerations will be the measurement of future landfill diversion and recovery performance against the policy’s targets, and the ability of future funding priorities to be refocused where required,” he says.

“Flexibility to change future funding priorities is needed to address underperforming areas and sectors. The revamped waste data system in Victoria should also be used to ensure that future funding is appropriately targeted.”

Duncan says the decision to initially focus on organic, plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, textiles and tyre processing is positive.

“In addition, for WtE solutions to process residuals, the indirect support provided through increases in the landfill levy is a game changer that should enable much needed alternatives to landfill to enter the Victorian market,” he explains.

Duncan adds that contaminated soil reprocessing solutions would also benefit from clear, longer term support mechanisms to encourage investment.

“This would help to address the emerging PFAS issues, partly resulting from Victoria’s Big Build agenda, which has resulted in large quantities of contaminated soils being stockpiled” he says.

Duncan expects that specific materials will continue to be prioritised until the trajectory of landfill diversion and recovery performance demonstrates that the new targets are likely to be achieved.

“Confidence in the achievement of the targets is needed, which will not only be gained through the provision of key financial packages, levy increases and regulatory changes, but crucially, will be demonstrated and evidenced through more robust and reliable data,” he says.

“Monitoring of performance against the targets should be ongoing and used to inform future revisions to the policy when required, to help ensure councils, communities, commerce, industry and the waste management sector are collectively kept on track to achieve the targets.”

THE INTERIM WASTE REPORT

Published in October 2019, Infrastructure Victoria’s (IV) interim waste report sought to examine the waste and resource recovery sector through an infrastructure lens.

Evidence from the report suggested Victoria was failing to meet its stated waste policy objectives, including reducing waste to landfill and minimising the impact of waste disposal on human health and the environment.

While two separate documents, Jonathan Spear, IV Deputy Chief Executive, says he is pleased to see an alignment between IV’s report and Recycling Victoria.

“There are lots of themes there and lots of policy directions that government took after this final policy set,” he says.

“It was really good to see, and really good collaboration with IV with industry and with local government and state government to achieve that.”

Following the report, IV was tasked with providing final advice to government, which Jonathan says they have recently delivered.

“The key part of our work was being quite detailed about what the infrastructure requirements are for recycling and resource recovery,” he says.

“What we think government will do is use that to inform the finer details of implementing its policy, especially around what sort of infrastructure investments are meant to be made by industry and local, state and commonwealth governments.”

Jonathan expects IV’s advice will publicly available in the coming months.

Next week’s instalment will explore the policy’s organics recovery targets, the Victorian Government’s Social Procurement Framework and efforts to support safe and effective high-risk and hazardous waste management. 

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Recycling Victoria: a new economy? Part one

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.

This article is the first in a three part series: part one will explore Victoria’s landfill levy increase and four-bin kerbside system. 

In recent years, Victoria’s waste and resource recovery system has faced a number of setbacks, from fires at material recycling facilities and illegal stockpiling, to uneven policy regulations and the collapse of major processor SKM Recycling in 2019. Added to this is uncertainty amid COVID-19 ramifications.

The SKM collapse was particularly noteworthy, entering mainstream consciousness after 33 Victorian councils were forced to landfill their recycling: calling the state’s infrastructure capacity into question.

Fast forward just one year, and the state is in better shape, with the release of Victoria’s long-awaited circular economy policy Recycling Victoria: A New Economy presenting widespread opportunity for sector growth.

Key highlights include a $100 million investment in the state’s recycling system to drive research and expand local processing and manufacturing and the introduction of a state-wide four bin kerbside system.

When announcing the policy, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Recycling Victoria would help local businesses “give new life to old rubbish” and drive positive environmental outcomes for the state.

According to Rose Read, National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO, the policy is a signal that government has listened to industry and the community.

“From cleaning up what goes into the bins, improving local processing capacity and remanufacturing and growing local market demand for recovered materials, through to more resources to stop illegal waste activities and a recognition that waste and recycling is an essential service, the state government is committed to addressing the basic systemic issues facing Victoria,” she says.

Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Outgoing Executive Officer, is similarly supportive, with the policy making headway into key areas VWMA has long advocated for.

“In particular, it’s promising to see Victoria commit to catching up with other states and territories on the container deposit scheme (CDS) front and making important investments into a level playing field by strengthening the EPA’s waste crime capabilities,” he says.

Mark is cautious about implementation however, suggesting Recycling Victoria does not allocate enough money to the private sector.

“We’ve seen VAGO report after VAGO report highlighting the deficiencies in government agencies to deliver waste and resource recovery programs. One way I think we can improve is by government seeing the private sector as a true partner for community engagement and education,” he says.

“It would be appropriate that we see quarterly reporting back to industry on the progress of this ambitious policy, as a way to hold government accountable for the delivery of the relevant actions”.

LOOKING TO THE LEVY

Under Recycling Victoria, the state’s landfill levy is set to almost double, jumping from $65.90 to $125.90 per tonne over three years. Recognising the challenges associated with the ‘tyranny of distance’, the strategy notes proportional increases will be reflected at regional landfills.

While the move prompted some mainstream media critique, with claims it would “hit ratepayers hip pockets”, industry reaction has been favourable.

Bingo Industries Managing Director Daniel Tartak, for example, suggests the increase will prompt technology investment and move Victoria towards international best practice diversion rates.

According to State Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, the increase will help support recycling reforms and provide strong investment incentives. Furthermore, Ms D’Ambrosio highlights the increase as a mechanism to stop cross-border dumping, with Victoria’s levy historically lower than neighbouring states.

According to David Cocks, MRA Consulting Victoria Manager, harmonising Victoria’s levy with other jurisdictions is an essential move to help the state meet its resource recovery targets.

“The risk of significant impacts on our waste management system through the transportation of waste is absolutely critical. Plus, from the perspective of supporting investment in recycling, there is nothing like a good economic incentive, and the waste levy certainly supports that,” he says.

 “Additionally, when hypothecated, levies provide a significant opportunity for investment back into the sector to support higher order activities.”

While David says the strategy flags the role of hypothecation, the “sting in the tail” is that investment needs to come through.

“At the moment, circa $300 million has been foreshadowed as additional investment in the sector. But in three years time, the levy increase will produce an additional $240 million per annum – on top of what is already collected,” he says.

“Over the 10-year period of the strategy, these levy increases will realise $2 billion in additional revenue for the state. What is the proportional amount of this revenue to invest back into the sector? Is it 15 per cent or $300 million? I don’t think so.”

Rose says the increase is well overdue, highlighting that the NWRIC has consistently advocated for levy harmonisation to prevent inappropriate movement and disposal of waste.

“The proposed increase will reduce the gap in levy prices between states and encourage greater recovery of recyclable materials. It will also enable energy recovery from waste that can’t be recycled but does have a significant calorific value,” she says.

Furthermore, while Rose says staging the implementation over three years is sensible, NWRIC is recommending that the price increase be deferred for up to six months due to the impacts of COVID-19.

However, like David, Rose stresses the importance of hypothecation.

As highlighted in the NWRIC’s review of all state landfill levies last year, Victoria collected an estimated $215 million in levies in 2017-18, of which only $35 million or 16 per cent was invested back into local council, community and industry waste projects via the Sustainability Fund.

An estimated $104 million (50 per cent) was used to fund the Victorian EPA, Sustainability Victoria and Regional Waste Groups.

“In reviewing the Victorian state government budgets and financial reports, it is extremely difficult to get a clear view of where the levy funds are spent and what is achieved. As part of its landfill levy review, the NWRIC is calling on each state government to establish a separate trust fund and report annually on funds raised, spent and outcomes achieved,” Rose says.

“For too long these funds have been used to support other government activities outside the waste and resource recovery sector, rather than supporting better waste management practices and greater reuse of recycled materials.”

According to Mark, industry is supportive of the increase, under the caveat that the state government delivers the increase while monitoring compliance.

“In recent years we’ve seen government invest more money cleaning up illegal activity than what flows back to private operators who are the main employer and investor in the waste and resource recovery sector,” he says.

“It would be great to have more transparency on landfill levy collection and in particular distribution, including being transparent about what amount the government puts down compared to the private sector. Who gets what exactly shouldn’t be so hard to decipher. I think the NSW Government does this well, and it’s something Sustainability Victoria and DELWP could replicate.”

KERBSIDE REVAMP:

While the levy increase attracted much of the waste sector’s initial attention, scaling outward, it was the four bin kerbside roll-out that peaked major public interest.

The new system will include bins for combined food and garden organics (FOGO), glass, combined paper, plastic and metals, and residual waste. Additionally, all services and bins will be standardised, including lid colours, to simplify the system across councils.

Reforms will be implemented gradually, with the Victorian Government supporting the rollout of new glass bins and bin lids from 2021. According to the strategy, all Victorians will have a new glass bin or access to glass services by 2027. Mandatory rollout of FOGO recovery will commence in 2026-7, with all Victorians to have access by 2030.

“To support the reforms, the Victorian Government will review relevant existing guidelines, policies and regulation to make sure people living in diverse dwelling types, including multi-unit developments, have equitable access to best practice recycling,” the strategy reads.

Mark says while it’s great to see a commitment to standardising bins, the program should be brought forward.

“As I understand it, consistency across Victoria is unlikely to happen until 2025,” he says.

Furthermore, Mark says changes to the kerbside system should be well-funded and accompanied by a consistent public education campaign.

“I hope the agencies rolling out these reforms give the private sector the appropriate opportunities to inform and shape messaging, as the private sector has far more direct contact with the public then the state government does on this front,” he adds.

While the announcement might seem novel to the general public, it follows years of industry discussion over the viability of greater source separation. In the last two years for instance, Macedon Ranges Shire Council, Yarra City Council and Hobsons Bay have introduced and/or trialed four kerbside bins, to positive results.

Speaking with Waste Management Review in 2019, Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council Director City Works and Assets, said the council’s 2018 FOGO trial identified Yarra residents as willing to engage in new kerbside recycling systems. The trial was so successful, he said, that Yarra saw a 40 per cent increase in diversion from landfill, “with current FOGO contamination rates now averaging less than one per cent.”

A spokesperson for the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) highlights the new system as a positive initial step to ensure better material separation.

“Cross contamination of resources is a barrier to effective resource recovery, and the separation of glass is an effective way to reduce that cross contamination,” the spokesperson says.

“We have also called for the standardisation of bin lid colours in the past, so it is great to see the government taking up our recommendation.”

Furthermore, the spokesperson says greater source separation will result in reduced overheads and operating costs for recyclers.

“Greater separation, and therefore less contamination, means recyclers don’t need to reject as much material, therefore getting a better return based on increased volume of material recovered. This will be beneficial for councils in terms of increased shared returns,” the spokesperson explains.

To support councils through the roll out, VLGA is calling on the state government to support community education and initiatives to increases FOGO diversion.

“We specifically asked the government to fund these initiatives through the landfill levy. We also asked the government to support councils through procurement of products made with recycled materials,” the spokesperson says.

While David shares similar sentiments, calling source separation the most cost-effective way to recover resources, he says the state government needs to show evidence that a fourth bin for glass is the right move.

“They haven’t demonstrated a successful business case for that. They may have done the work, but it hasn’t been put forth. There are numbers stated in the policy, but I would like to see where they’ve done that analysis,” he says.

“Perhaps the fourth bin should be for paper and card, especially considering that a future CDS will remove a lot of glass from the kerbside bin.”

Rose also cautions that Victoria’s fourth glass bin is out of step with other states and territories, “making it nationally inconsistent and confusing for the community at large.”

“The NWRIC believes the majority of glass containers would be better dealt with through a CDS, as is being done by other states and territories. However, the fourth bin does mean better separation at source,” she says.

To help industry processes these materials, Rose says the Victorian Government should align with the WA State-wide Guidelines for Kerbside Recycling.

“In the case of Victoria, only the following items should end up in the yellow lidded bin: plastic containers, paper and cardboard boxes flattened (no shredded paper), aluminium and steel containers. All education messages should be consistently applied by local governments across the state to reflect this,” she says.

“The messaging needs to be simple and clear, reinforcing the right behaviours both within households and businesses. Industry should also have the ability to reject bins and loads that do not meet these requirements.”

From a logistics standpoint, Jillian Riseley, Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) Chief Executive Officer, says MWRRG will continue to work with councils to implement the changes to their services. She adds that each council is in a slightly different situation, from those with food waste recycling and a glass bin collection already in place, through to those with neither.

“We continue to engage with councils and work with them to map and deliver resource recovery and waste services for their communities. Specifically, we are collaborating with councils on their development of transition plans,” Jillian says.

“In March we hosted a workshop with council waste officers to help them outline a process for the development of transition plans. Our collaborative procurement, contract management, education, training and marketing and communications expertise will support councils throughout the transition.”

Jillian adds that Recycling Victoria is a once in a generation investment.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to ensure we build a more sustainable, resilient sector with new jobs and opportunities for locally delivered resource recovery,” she says.

“Increased kerbside consistency and future state-wide education and behaviour change campaigns will reinforce the work councils already do to engage with their communities.”

Next week’s instalment will explore the forthcoming CDS, waste as an essential service and Victoria’s proposed waste-to-energy cap. We’ll also hear from Claire Ferres Miles, Chief Executive Officer, Sustainability Victoria. 

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