Filling the gaps: Jillian Riseley and MWRRG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DERIVING COLLABORATIVE VALUE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Buying it back: City of Charles Sturt

Fiona Jenkins, City of Charles Sturt Waste and Sustainability Coordinator, highlights the council’s recent decision to prioritise products made from recycled material.

Q: How has council been affected by recent waste and recycling sector instability?

A: All councils have been impacted by the changes heralded by the introduction of China’s National Sword policy and the City of Charles Sturt is no different. These impacts include increased yellow lidded bin recycling costs and rising uncertainty on the future operation of the recycling sector generally.

Q: Why did the City of Charles Sturt choose to sign the Local Government Association of South Australia’s (LGA) Procurement Pilot Project memorandum of understanding?

A: Charles Sturt is seeking opportunities to support South Australian recycling businesses, which we see as critical to the future
of recycling for our residents. Our residents produce 10,000 tonnes of recyclable material each year through our kerbside recycling bins. Doing our bit and buying recycled products back is the best way to ensure this industry survives and thrives in the post China Sword era.

We see the LGA Procurement Pilot Project as a key part of this, as it solidifies our commitment to #buyingitback and makes it clear to everyone that we are serious about the future of recycling in our region.

Q: What is council’s action plan for prioritising recycled content through procurement?

A: Briefings with staff involved in the procurement of materials, for example those working in infrastructure, have already commenced.

The briefings will be ongoing throughout the project to ensure high awareness of the availability and benefits of recycled products.

A new requirement has also been introduced for staff to report on their purchase of recycled products. This immediately increases the visibility of recycled product procurement across the organisation and addresses the old adage ‘you cannot manage what you haven’t measured.’

A target has been set for the purchase of recycled plastic for 2019-20, while targets for a wider range of recycled product purchases will be established from 2020-21.

Additionally, recycled product purchases will be publicly reported against by council each year through our annual report.

Q: What effect will the new procurement process have on Charles Sturt residents?

A: Residents are unlikely to be aware we purchase recycled products in many cases because a road made from recycled materials looks and performs in much the same way as a road made from new/raw materials. However, council will promote some key examples to help draw attention to the benefits of our purchases as the program progresses.
Q: How does the LGA Pilot Project fit in with council’s wider waste and recycling plan?

A: We have a strong commitment to recycling and have recently announced we will be jointly establishing our own materials recovery facility (MRF) with the City of Port Adelaide Enfield. As part of that decision, both councils have reinforced the importance of finding local markets for recycled materials produced by the new MRF. We have a view to use this as an opportunity to support and accelerate the establishment and growth of South Australia’s circular economy.

Given the principles established by both councils, the LGA Circular Economy Procurement Project strongly supports our publicly stated values and objectives as leaders in the development of the circular economy in western Adelaide.

Q: Why did Charles Sturt decide to partner with another council for the MRF?

A: The two councils combined account for 20,000 tonnes of kerbside recyclable material each year. By combining our tonnes, we can establish a facility with sufficient operational efficiencies, while retaining additional plant capacity to accept additional material from other councils at a later date if required.

The MRF operation will be administered through a new regional subsidiary, in the same way other regional waste authorities currently operate across Adelaide, such as the Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority, Southern Region Waste Resource Authority and East Waste.

Each council will hold a 50 per cent stake in the new body.

Q: How will the MRF affect recycling services in the city?

A: The new MRF will place our kerbside recycling service on a more stable footing, but from a resident’s perspective, little will change. It will accept the same range of materials we currently accept in kerbside recycling bins.

The main difference will be that both councils will be in a position to know and influence where their recyclable material is sent for processing. This provides an opportunity to help create grow the circular economy by selling recyclable material to local recycling companies.

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Transport and Infrastructure Council supports recycled roads

Transport, infrastructure and planning ministers are asking Transport and Infrastructure Council officials to support the use of recycled material in road construction.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the request was made in a bid to support the forthcoming export ban and National Waste Action Plan.

“The 12th meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council has focused on practical steps to support our economy and protect the health of our communities, by better harnessing recycled materials, returning them to productive use,” Ms Ley said.

Specifically, officials have been asked to identify significant procurement opportunities over coming months, such as major road projects that could use recycled material.

Ms Ley said council was also asked to prioritise the development of standards to support the use of recycled materials in road construction.

“Establishing viable markets for recycled products is critical to our recycling future, and Australia’s infrastructure boom can play a major role,” Ms Ley said.

Officials will report on progress at council’s first meeting in 2020.

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NSW councils sign recycling target MOU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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South Australian councils sign procurement MOU

In an Australian-first, nine South Australian councils have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to prioritise the purchase of products made from recycled materials.

According to Local Government Association of South Australia (LGA) President Sam Telfer, the MOU is the beginning of a circular procurement pilot project led by the LGA, with the assistance of a $96,500 Green Industries SA grant.

Mr Telfer said the goal is to increase local demand for recycled materials, support the development of a circular economy in SA and reduce waste and recycling costs for councils.

“China’s National Sword Policy has made waste and recycling significantly more expensive for South Australian councils,” Mr Telfer said.

Mr Telfer said it was vital to develop new markets for recycled materials in South Australia, and to support this, councils should prioritise the use of recycled materials in their procurement processes.

“This MOU sends a clear message to industry about the types of products that councils want to purchase as part of their commitment to supporting the environment and improving their sustainability,” Mr Telfer said.

Through the MOU, councils have committed to prioritising the purchase of recycled-content products through the procurement process, and tracking and reporting on recycled-content purchasing by weight.

According to a LGA statement, most will also adopt a rolling target for the purchase of recycled plastic products, and work towards eventually buying back recycled materials equivalent to half the weight of plastics collected in council areas.

“Examples of products made of recycled materials that can be purchased by councils include road and construction materials, street furniture, bollards, office stationery and compost,” the statement reads.

“The MOU was signed on-site at Advanced Plastic Recycling (APR); a leading manufacturer and designer of recycled wood plastic composite products made from 100 per cent post-consumer waste. Products produced by APR include bollards, boardwalks, fencing and street furniture.”

APR CEO Ryan Lokan said that by using materials sourced locally from kerbside recycling, APR prevent 1500 tonnes of plastic and 1500 tonnes of wood from entering landfill each year.

“The greatest benefit coming from mandatory buy back is the demand created,” Mr Lokan said.

LGA CEO Matt Pinnegar and LGA President Sam Telfer.

“Demand drives innovation and it is companies like ours that will rise to the challenge to meet the requirements for recycled material.”

South Australian Environment Minister David Speirs said improved recycling and resource recovery not only reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill, but also supports the state’s economy.

“This project will help drive local demand for recycled materials, supporting local reprocessing and remanufacturing opportunities here in South Australia,” Mr Speirs said.

Participating councils include Adelaide Hills Council, City of Burnside, City of Charles Sturt, Mount Barker District Council, Rural City of Murray Bridge, City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters, City of Onkaparinga, City of Port Adelaide Enfield and City of Prospect.

City of Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson said the circular procurement pilot project highlights councils working together to find positive and long-term solutions, to issues facing recycling in South Australia and across the country.

“This announcement builds on our plans – and those of other SA councils – to establish new material recycling facilities in our communities,” Ms Thompson said.

“Exciting projects like this help us become more self-sufficient, create circular economies and reduce our reliance on recycling companies, delivering major benefits to the environment and local economy.”

Adelaide Hills Council Acting Mayor Nathan Daniel said the program will lead to improved knowledge and understanding of circular procurement, through the increased purchase of products with recycled content.

“This will in turn provide stability and ongoing markets for recyclable material placed in the kerbside recycling bin. Adelaide Hills Council is committed to providing leadership in transitioning to a sustainable future that prioritises the use of recycled material,” Mr Daniel said.

“It’s essential that we continue to look at ways to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill. Council hopes the pilot project will help develop local markets for recyclable materials by increasing market demand for recycled content products and materials.”

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Government to release procurement targets

Federal Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans will reportedly unveil ambitious new targets for sustainable procurement by all state governments.

Mr Evans said he would seek agreement on proposed procurement targets at the next Meeting of Environment Ministers, adding the Federal Government would offer funding support to develop Australia’s remanufacturing sector.

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan, who said WMRR had been calling for procurement targets for over 18 months, meet with Mr Evans to discuss what the next steps would be.

“WMRR welcomes the minister’s announcements and it is pleasing to see movement on the federal level, after years of industry advocating for federal leadership on a number of fronts, sustainable procurement being one of them,” Ms Sloan said.

“It became very clear early in the meeting that the minister understands the significance creating demand and markets for recycled products has on driving our industry forward.”

According to Mr Sloan, Mr Evans’ work in the retail industry, as CEO of the National Retail Association, has given him much-needed perspective and experience in supply chain management.

“Mr Evans has a wealth of knowledge on the roles, responsibilities and market demands within a supply chain,” Ms Sloan said.

“WMRR also had the opportunity to discuss the importance of national leadership in creating a level playing field and developing a common approach to levies and industry development as Australia, despite having seven jurisdictions, is one common market.”

Mr Sloan said WMRR also discussed the federal government’s role in driving resource recovery and remanufacturing through harmonised, effective and appropriate regulatory, policy and market settings.

“WMRR looks forward to our continued engagement with the minister and all levels of government, as we look forward and keep our eyes on the circular economy ball,” Ms Sloan said.

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Compelling proposition

A shift in business practices would support a significant increase in procurement of recyclables, writes Matt Genever, Director Resource Recovery at Sustainability Victoria.

Read moreCompelling proposition

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