MWRRG plans new C&I strategy

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group’s (MWRRG) 2018-19 Annual Report, tabled in parliament November 1, examines progress against the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan.

According to the report, MWRRG is developing a new strategy for commercial and industrial (C&I) waste and advanced waste processing (AWP).

“This year we began developing the evidence base to inform a C&I waste strategy, including 180 waste audits and industry workshops,” the report reads.

“The strategy will initially focus on reducing the volume of plastics and food waste going to landfill.”

Other implementation plan objectives include reducing waste sent to landfill, increasing organic waste recovered, delivering community, environmental and economic benefits and developing a plan for Melbourne’s growing population.

MWRRG’s 2018-21 business plan outlined 45 Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan deliverables, with the 2018-19 report listing 19 completed, a further 19 ongoing and 15 continued.

The highest level of deliverables was achieved in the reducing waste sent to landfill objective, with 6 completed, 9 ongoing and 2 continued.

According to the report’s Message from the Chair and CEO, MWRRG continues to support local government through capacity building, collaborative contracts procurement and education.

“Reducing waste sent to landfill continues to be a priority for us,” the report reads.

“We are achieving this in a number of ways, including recycling more green and food waste, a new strategy for commercial and industrial waste and AWP.”

The report lists AWP as a core element of MWRRG’s strategic and integrated approach to reducing waste sent to landfill, alongside recycling, composting green and food waste, and continuing landfill contracts for waste that can’t otherwise by recovered.

“Our work this year has continued to build resilience and strengthen the operation of the waste and resource recovery sector – helping to ensure regular services for the community and a lower environmental impact,” the report reads.

“For the longer term, we have laid the foundations – to reduce waste to landfill, increase organic recovery and recycling – for investment, transparency and diversity in the sector.”

MWRRG 2018-19 highlights include:

Effectively managing $100 million in council contracts annually including four landfill contracts on behalf of 26 councils, one recycling processing contact on behalf of five councils and three organics processing contracts on behalf of 21 councils.

Reducing commercial and industrial waste through 180 commercial and industrial waste audits.

Promoting green waste recycling through the Back to Earth Initiative eastern garden competition, which attracted 58 nominated projects, 18,400 votes from residents and reached 109,000 residents on Facebook.

Empowering councils to deliver effective food waste recycling through a new food and green waste collection guide.

Developing an evidence base to take action through three new social research reports on food waste recycling, advanced waste processing and illegal dumping.

Protecting communities and the environment through three plans for waste and resource recovery hubs, and leading a memorandum of understanding between key state agencies to implement a whole of government approach to land buffer protection.

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Collaborative vision for Melbourne’s waste: Rob Millard

Waste Management Review catches up with outgoing Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group CEO Rob Millard on his more than 30-year career in building Victoria’s recycling network.

Whether you’re a “garbo”, a councillor or an engineer, the waste sector has for many been a career for life.

The industry’s evolution from collection and sorting to landfill diversion has meant the opportunities for career development over the past few decades have been immense.

Yet none of this would have happened if the industry had remained risk averse and it is the ability to continually learn from its mistakes that inspires outgoing Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) CEO Rob Millard.

Earlier this year, Rob announced his retirement, with Jillian Riseley appointed as the new CEO.

After several months of volatility with the financial collapse of SKM Recycling, green shoots are emerging with a clean-up underway and Cleanaway acquiring the group’s senior secured debt.

Just like the fallout from an initial foray into organics recycling 10 years ago by the Coldstream Eastern Group, Rob believes that difficult times present an opportunity to regroup.

“Good things can come out of issues such as that and when you have drama you have to maximise learning and move forward,” Rob explains.

He says that government stakeholders and the broader waste sector can regroup and refine the kerbside recycling scheme and its supporting processes.    

“The key will be understanding what opportunities are in place over the next six to nine months to review how we collect and sort materials and ensure new contracts embrace future opportunities.

“It could be new bins such as a separate glass bin, it could be a container deposit scheme. Victoria needs to consider all the viable options and discuss them rather than going in with eyes half open.”

Its this indomitable spirit that drove Rob in his more than 30-year career across local government and MWRRG.

Coming from a civil engineer and technical background, Rob’s local government career began with the City of Moorabbin in 1977. It was here that Rob dipped his toe into management waters before moving into the City of Banyule in the 80s.

His achievements during this time spanned the introduction of a three-bin system following the amalgamation of the three councils Heidelberg, Diamond Valley and the former Nillumbik Shire Council.

“All had different waste collections so we introduced a three-bin system for new councils and implemented a green waste recycling program which was quite progressive for its time,” he says.

Rob also oversaw the upgrade of the council’s transfer station and built a materials recovery facility in conjunction with Visy, including the development of an education centre.

Rob joined MWRRG in January 2007 after 30 years of experience in local government. His skills in strategy and visioning, stakeholder vision and engagement and building relationship has allowed him to build the capacity of councils across the country.

He was central to building MWRRG into the organisation it is today – a central authority responsible for waste and resource recovery across the whole of Melbourne and the region’s 31 councils.

From the beginning, Rob built powerful partnerships and influential networks that brought together industry and local and state government. This led to the formation of many working groups, delivery of forums and workshops with the view towards solving problems, finding solutions and advancing waste and resource recovery.

“MWRRG was a unique experience as I moved from delivering services to the community to leading an organisation which formed a provisional strategic direction for all of Melbourne,” Rob says.

“Joining the organisation provided an interface between industry and local government and opened up conversations.”

He says that he was also passionate about being able to change the status quo and provide clusters of councils with the opportunity to go to tender and develop high quality infrastructure.

One of Rob’s first notable achievements arose in 2009 when he helped produce the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Strategic plan (MWRRIP), which for the first time brought together a metropolitan-wide approach to waste and resource recovery coordination.

In 2015, Rob spearheaded a more powerful MWRRIP, consulting widely with industry to cover market assessment, infrastructure research and data analysis.

Released in 2016, the plan was widely supported by government, industry, local government and the community.

“At the time it was considered a highly ambitious document as there was a plan to not schedule any new landfills and find alternatives, especially in the southeast of Melbourne,” Rob says.

“Just over three years into the plan we are going to market this year with 16 of the southeast councils for landfill alternatives and we have a robust organics network in place.”

Likewise building Melbourne’s organics recycling network through collaborative procurement models formed a key part of the MWRRIP.

Over the past decade, the organics network has been responsible for processing Melbourne’s green and, subsequently, food waste. Rob oversaw the group’s facilitation of collaborative organics processing contracts, including the first one in Melbourne’s west and eventually north.

“The organics network has the capability for councils to transition to FOGO, with around eight councils either trialling or running a service and up to 17 making the switch.”

By 2018 the east followed with further contracts expected to be operational by 2019-20. Most recently, the southeast network was developed with Sacyr Environment contracted to deliver a $65 million site in Dandenong South.

Within this, Rob helped develop MWRRG’s awareness and education campaign Back to Earth, which helped councils lower their contamination, with Nillumbik reducing its contamination from 10.5 to a mere 0.79 per cent.

As a result of collective efforts by councils, contractors and MWRRG, the capacity of the organics processing network currently exceeds the Metropolitan Implementation Plan 2021 target by 120,000 tonnes.

Rob adds that the MWRRIP also acknowledged that planning and resource recovery need to be integrated, with MWRRG conducting extensive work on buffer protection in conjunction with Sustainability Victoria and planning authorities.

Initiatives included the inclusion of buffers for protecting key waste and resource recovery infrastructure, educating statutory planners on understanding the importance of such sites and the waste sector on how the planning system works. Significantly, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between key state agencies to implement a whole-of-state government approach to buffer protection.

“Getting that social license to operate has been a key driver to ensuring we have a sustainable integrated network aligned with the needs of the community.”

As far as the future goes, MWRRG will be driving further success in developing a commercial and industrial waste strategy to reduce food and plastic waste, expanding its Back to Earth initiative and progressing new collaborative procurements for council recycling services stimulating high-quality infrastructure.

For now, Rob will be spending some quality time with his family and looks forward to providing his support to the resource recovery sector on select projects into the future.

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MWRRG welcomes new CEO

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) has announced the appointment of a new CEO, effective 2 September.

Jillian Riseley will replace Rob Millard, who has led the organisation since producing the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Strategic Plan in 2009.

MWRRG Chair Colleen Gates said she was delighted to welcome Ms Riseley to the role.

“Ms Riseley’s commercial and not-for-profit background, networks and situational knowledge demonstrate an ability to embrace disruption, and use innovative approaches to lead organisational and industry transformation,” Ms Gates said.

“Furthermore, Ms Riseley’s experience and skill as a strategist, people leader and relationship builder, will be of great value to the organisation and the waste and resource recovery portfolio more broadly.”

According to a MWRRG statement, Ms Riseley is recognised for her work delivering innovative and sector-wide solutions to environmental issues in local communities.

“Ms Riseley’s extensive experience in senior roles includes complex, multi-stakeholder and regulated environments,” the statement reads.

“She has led significant national consumer affairs and recycling initiatives, and implemented procurement strategies in complex essential service markets.”

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MWRRG’s FOGO guide for councils

Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group has developed a comprehensive guide to help councils design, implement and maintain a high-performing food organics and garden organics service. 

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The future of waste in metro Melbourne: MWRRG

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