Our future success is Australia’s future success: WRIQ

Newly appointed Waste Recycling Industry Association Queensland CEO Mark Smith discusses the role of the workforce and upcoming leaders in shaping solutions for a sustainable future.

Read moreOur future success is Australia’s future success: WRIQ

Industry responds to QLD Energy from Waste policy

The Queensland Government has released its highly anticipated Energy from Waste (EfW) policy following a webinar with the state’s Environment Minister, Leeanne Enoch.

Enoch hosted a ‘lunch with the Queensland Environment Minister’ via zoom last week due to social distancing restrictions, to announce the EfW policy and how it will play a key role within the waste and resource recovery system across the state.

The EfW policy aims to capture embodied energy from residual materials that would otherwise have been landfilled, as Queensland transitions towards a circular economy.

Enoch gave a candid update of the current state of play in Queensland, noted that the policy aligns with both the waste management hierarchy as well as Queensland’s strategic priorities, and provides industry with certainty on how EfW will be regulated and assessed in the state.

As well as establishing an EfW hierarchy to address the differing technologies available, the policy outlines seven outcomes to guide proponents on how environmental authority applications for EfW facilities will be assessed and regulated, detailing requirements that will need to be met to demonstrate operational performance of proposed facilities.

Gayle Sloan, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia (WMRR) CEO, said QLD’s EfW policy is a “very sensible and well considered document”.

She said EfW draws on international best practice, resisting the temptation that WMRR have seen in other Australian jurisdictions to create poorly thought out interventions that impact confidence and investment.

“The release of the document is a positive step towards offering EfW proponents some much-needed certainty, offering clear pathways to EfW, and importantly, a clear expectation about community engagement and social license,” Sloan said.

“All these steps are pivotal in rebuilding the economy and creating local jobs in the post-COVID world that we are building.”

Mark Smith, Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) CEO, agrees that the EfW policy provides an important building block for the Queensland waste and resource recovery sector and importantly sets out expectations from government to market.

However, Smith said a key challenge for state and local government and the private sector, who are the largest funders of infrastructure in Queensland and Australia, will be how the changes and improvements to waste and recycling management is communicated to the Queensland community.

“Recent research from CSIRO tells us that in order for community to trust and accept upgrades to waste facilities or new facilities being establish, is their confidence in the industry and their confidence in the government bodies regulating the sector,” he said.

“WRIQ is committed to improving the sector’s public brand and wants to ensure our members are supported by government when they decide to make investments to support the Queensland economy.”

Smith said it’s really important that government understand and recognise their role in building community awareness around the “role our sector plays in maintaining the economy and maintaining our way of life”.

WRIQ has congratulated the Queensland Government for releasing the policy and the commitment to releasing further guidance at the end of the year.

Sloan said that WMRR also appreciates the Queensland Department of Environment and Science’s (DES) strong engagement with the industry in the establishment of this policy.

“We look forward to the development of further detail on how industry can meet EfW requirements in Queensland, utilising what we know is international best practice, including the EU Waste Directives,” she said.

Smith said WRIQ will reach out to DES to also support the development process of the policy.

According to WMRR, during the webinar, Enoch also reassured attendees that resource recovery is at the forefront of many of the government’s decisions, acknowledging that the essential waste and resource recovery sector is a vital stakeholder and contributor to Queensland’s post-COVID economic recovery, particularly as the industry will be able to provide home grown manufacturing opportunities.

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Industry responds to QLD waste levy deferment

The Queensland Government has announced a six-month deferment to the waste levy increase that was set to begin on July 1 2020.

The levy has been deferred for six months due to the impact of COVID-19 on businesses operating within the waste sector in QLD.

The announcement has been welcomed by the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), whilst Waste Recycling Industry Association Queensland (WRIQ) stated in a members notice that the timing of the landfill level deferral is disappointing.

The six-month deferment will see the waste levy remain at $75 per tonne for general waste, and $105 and $125 per tonne for regulated wastes until 31 December 2020.

QLD joins the ranks of NSW and Victoria, being the first state movers in providing some form of levy relief, the former by way of deferring waste levy payments for the foreseeable future and the latter deferring its 1 July 2020 levy increase to 1 January 2021. WA’s waste levy has also been frozen for the 2020-21 year.

The move has been praised by the WMRR and CEO Gayle Sloan has credited the QLD government “proactivity in deferring the levy increase and the Department of Environment and Science is to be commended for listening to, and considering, the very real concerns of the industry”.

“As industry continues to face financial and operational challenges related to the pandemic, WMRR is encouraged to see jurisdictions taking a commonsense approach towards costs and regulatory pressures placed on our essential industry,” Sloan said.

“In deferring the levy increase, operators and their customers may have some financial respite while continuing to focus on the job at hand, which is keeping our services operating while ensuring the safety of our staff and community.”

Sloan stated that the WMRR has recommended that only the first proposed levy increment in 2020 be deferred to provide relief to operators and their customers facing financial challenges and all later increments should continue as planned in order to safeguard ongoing investments that will build the  industry.

WRIQ CEO, Mark Smith, received advice from DES on the Government’s decision to defer proposed landfill levy price increases last Friday evening on May 29, and believes the decision will impact QLD businesses and clients differently within the industry.

“This 11th hour notification is disappointing, as it provides our members and industry with minimal time to adapt and notify their supply chain of pricing impacts,” Smith said.

In response, WRIQ is collating general legal advice with WRIQ partner, Minter Ellison, to form advice and resources for its members, set to be available on Thursday June 4.

“The market works best when there is market certainty. Changing market conditions 4 weeks out from proposed increases will impact businesses differently. However in the age of Covid I recognise government need to make decisions that are best suited for the whole of Queensland,” Smith said.

He added that Post Covid, WRIQ would like to sit down with Government to determine a minimum timeframe in the event of future pricing changes.

“I respect that changes to landfill levies need to run a particular process but businesses also need to run to notify their clients and customers of the pricing changing. It would be great to bring both these processes into alignment,” he said.

The WMRR is also encouraging all future engagements with state governments.

“It is WMRR’s hope that SA will not continue to turn a blind eye to industry’s concerns and will follow in its neighbours’ footsteps by offering levy relief to operators,” Sloan said.

Last year the SA government implemented a 40 per cent levy increase, which Sloan stated was a shock announcement “with no industry consultation whatsoever and continues to place significant strain on existing projects and operations”.

“Now is the time to ease these financial pressures on operators so that we can maintain a viable industry and importantly, assist in the rebuilding of a post-COVID economy,” she said.

According to advice from DES to landfill operators, business systems and processes need to be reviewed to ensure the QLD deferral is incorporated.

“Your current levy obligations remain, including waste measurement and recording, monthly data returns and monthly invoice payments, so continue these as-normal,” the DES advised to landfill operators.

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Industry responds to COVID-19 support packages

Waste Management Review will be running a four-part series throughout April on conquering waste industry challenges amid COVID-19 and possible future opportunities. In this first part, we highlight a summary of support packages available to the sector across each jurisdiction and what industry groups are hoping to see going forward.

Read moreIndustry responds to COVID-19 support packages

Historic Cairns Wharf timber to be recycled

Historic rare timber from the world heritage-listed Wet Tropics of Queensland could find a new home, with recycled timber specialists Kennedy’s Timber removing hundreds of metres of piles as part of the $20 million upgrade of the Cairns wharves 1-6.

Built in 1942 during World War II, the Cairns Wharf was covered in 200 millimetres of thick concrete, which has ensured elements of the timber remained in good condition for its age.

Kennedy’s Timber has been contracted by Astral Construction to complete the removal of 2000 lineal metres of Crows Ash, 1500 lineal metres of Cairns Hickory and 150 turpentine piles – which will be put on sale for a special project.

Kennedy’s Timber founder Michael Kennedy said it is an honour to be part of such a significant project and to be asked to find a home for this piece of history.

“In 26 years of timber recycling, I have never seen such outstanding timber with a rich history – both Crows Ash and Hickory are very rare timbers and highly sought-after. Years ago, the timber was milled in the rainforest of the Wet Tropics of Queensland which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and logging is no longer permitted,” Mr Kennedy said. 

“To be able to give this timber to a new home is such a unique opportunity and we’re certain there will be plenty of individuals excited about the prospect of using this timber on their projects. The timber is very desirable for furniture makers due to its golden colour, durability and rich patina. Recycled timber also stores carbon so it’s always a great environmentally-friendly option.”

The state government is spending $20 million dollars to upgrade the Cairns wharves from 1-6 as part of the $127 million Cairns Shipping Development Project – which is designed to attract large cruise ships and boost tourism. 

A new concrete jetty has been built to replace the old structure at wharf 6, with 15 per cent retained for heritage purposes.

The timber removal process will take an estimated three weeks to complete.

“We want the Cairns Wharf recycled timber to go towards special projects and we have a few in mind – I would love to hear from local builders, architects and designers who have an exceptional home for this piece of history,” Mr Kennedy said.

Kennedy’s Timber is a specialist in recycled timber within the commercial and residential building industry and provide the full spectrum of timber design options.

Their recycled timber has been used in projects like Suncorp Stadium, Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine, Parliament House Canberra, Hilton hotel and many resorts.

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QLD awards industry development grants

Two businesses in Queensland’s timber forestry region will share in more than $600,000 of state government funding to investigate projects that will transform waste into products.

Laminex Australia will receive $559,000 via the state’s Resource Recovery Industry Development Program (RRIDP) to conduct a feasibility study into an energy cogeneration plant at its fibreboard manufacturing facility.

According to State Development and Manufacturing Minister Cameron Dick, the business currently produces 310,000 metric metres of fibreboard (MDF) and laminates approximately seven million square metres of MDF and particleboard each year.

“Laminex is already a major employer in the region, and we’re committed to helping them create more jobs for locals,” Mr Dick said.

“The proposed plant would support the electricity and thermal energy requirements for Laminex’s entire Gympie fibreboard manufacturing facility.”

Mr Dick said Laminex will draw from a wide selection of waste resources as feedstock for the cogeneration plant, including demolition wood waste and green waste.

“Once operational, the cogeneration plant would divert up to 100,000 tonnes of waste from landfill annually,” he said.

Laminex Group Executive General Manager Justin Burgess said the company, which last year expanded its manufacturing operations in Gympie, wanted to continue backing the regional community and reduce its carbon footprint.

“To do this, we need to ensure our flagship plant continues to be at the forefront when it comes to using innovative energy-efficient equipment,” Mr Burgess said.

“Supported by this grant funding, we expect to use up to 100,000 tonnes of biomass otherwise destined for landfill to generate electricity and thermal energy for production processes, achieving the highest possible energy efficiency.”

Addtionally, Queensland’s largest forestry plantation company HQPlantations (HQP) has been awarded $50,000 through the $5 million Waste to Biofutures Fund, to help test the use of forest-floor materials as feedstock for a biomass plant.

Mr Dick said HQP is the largest forest plantation owner in the state, with around 200,000 hectares of timber forests, more than half of which comprise the Fraser Coast pine plantations extending from east of Gympie to near Bundaberg.

Mr Dick said over 1.25 million tonnes of timber is harvested annually from the area, so being able to turn the waste from this work into energy would deliver strong economic and employment outcomes for the region.

“Queensland’s southern pine plantations support an estimated 1670 primary production and processing jobs, and for every job created by the forest and timber industry, another job is indirectly created in the broader economy,” he said.

“If we can help unlock new revenue streams for our plantations and associated timber businesses, local communities that rely on our forestry industry will reap the benefits of the seeds being sowed.”

HQP Science Manager Ian Last said treating treetops and other offcuts as a resource rather than waste is a research priority for the company.

“The Queensland Government’s funding will support field trials, including further sampling to better define residues, as well as trialling residue recovery equipment such as mobile in-field chippers and grinders,” Mr Last said.

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QLD proposes local government waste reform

The Queensland Government is reviewing waste regulations after a Queensland Treasury Corporation review highlighted anti-competition concerns and a lack of regulatory harmonisation.

The state government’s Local Government Waste Management Reforms Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) is now open for public comment.

“Local government stakeholders have raised concerns about their ability to administer waste management in the absence of a state level regulatory framework for the administration of waste management, and the need for all councils to develop local laws for waste administration,” the RIS reads.

“Some stakeholders expressed the view that some local governments are acting in an anticompetitive manner while implementing local government waste management provisions.”

The RIS examines two regulatory mechanisms, section seven of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulation 2011, and chapter 5A of the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008.

According to the RIS, both sections provide a regulatory framework for local governments to administer waste management activities within a local government area.

Section seven allows local governments to designate areas for general and green waste collection, and to determine the frequency of those collections. Chapter 5A gives local governments the ability to impose obligations and requirements on premises outside designated areas.

The RIS suggests that when paired with powers granted under the Local Government Act 2009, section seven and chapter 5A give local governments the ability to stifle competition.

“The Local Government Act 2009 provides for local governments to make local laws, including anti-competitive laws, where the benefit to the community is considered to outweigh the cost,” the RIS reads.

Alternatively, the RIS highlights local government concerns that without these powers, commercial operators will only collect from profitable segments of the market, thereby undermining the economies of scale that come from mandating all services.

The RIS proposes two options: no change to current regulations, and amendments that will retain local government’s ability to mandate domestic waste collection, but only allow local governments to designate areas for council commercial waste collection when strict criteria are met.

The Local Government Association Queensland is supporting the retention of present regulations, suggesting changes will lead to a clear cost shift to local communities for the sole benefit of the private sector.

Additionally, the association suggests changes could reduce service certainty, reduce the ability to control and regulate collection activities and impact contract arrangements and negotiations.

Submissions close 31 February.

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