Fed Govt urges continued recycling

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley is urging Australians to correctly sort their recycling, in an effort to support the waste management industry as it fulfils its role as “an essential environmental service.”

“With a national focus on hygiene, the role of waste and recycling companies and their workers servicing homes, hospitals, building sites and supermarkets underlines the Prime Minister’s declaration that everyone who has a job in this challenging economy is now an essential worker,” she said.

According to Ms Ley, waste companies are working with state and local governments to ensure services continue to meet the needs of all Australians in the wake of COVID-19.

“Help where you can by recycling and reducing waste. It’s our waste, it’s our responsibility,” she said.

Ms Ley’s statement follows earlier calls for industry support, with the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) calling on state governments to provide waste and landfill levy relief to the sector.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said levy relief is an obvious and necessary measure that can be implemented quickly.

“Specifically, we are asking state governments to waiver landfill levy doubtful debts, put on hold all planned levy increases for at least six months and where appropriate consider waiving current waste and landfill levies for the next three months,” she said.

“We are also asking state and local governments to be more flexible on certain facility license conditions so that social distancing to protect staff can be maintained, and collection time curfews be lifted so that bins can continue to be collected.”

Related stories: 

NWRIC calls for levy relief to support waste sector

The National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on state governments to provide waste and landfill levy relief to the sector.

According to NWRIC CEO Rose Read, levy relief is an obvious and necessary measure that can be implemented quickly.

“Specifically, we are asking state governments to waiver landfill levy doubtful debts, put on hold all planned levy increases for at least six months and where appropriate consider waiving current waste and landfill levies for the next three months,” she said.

“We are also asking state and local governments to be more flexible on certain facility license conditions so that social distancing to protect staff can be maintained, and collection time curfews be lifted so that bins can continue to be collected.”

Ms Read said waste and recycling companies are doing everything possible to ensure bins continue to be collected and waste and recycling safely processed during these extreme times.

“With the shutdown of some non-essential services over the next 24 hours Australia-wide, the waste and recycling industry will increase efforts to ensure it can maintain an essential service to the community,” she said.

According to Ms Read, NWRIC members and state affiliates have been actively adopting measures over the past few weeks to protect their staff and maintain services to local communities, businesses and the health sector.

Ms Read recognised that like all businesses, the waste and recycling sector was experiencing disruption.

“The NWRIC acknowledges the substantial support the Commonwealth and State governments have announced so far for businesses,” she said.

Related stories: 

NWRIC calls on COAG to set clear definitions and realistic timeframes

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on ministers to set clear material definitions and realistic export timeframes at this Friday’s Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting.

According to NWRIC CEO Rose Read, the Prime Minister and Premiers’ decisions on waste export bans will be key to determining Australia’s future capacity to capture and reuse the millions of tonnes of recycled materials currently being lost from the economy.

“The NWRIC supports COAG’s proposed export ban of waste plastics, paper, glass and tyres, and is calling on COAG to extend the ban to unprocessed cars, white goods, unprocessed e-waste and waste machine lubricant oils,” Ms Read said.

“However, COAG must not shut down legitimate overseas markets for secondary resources recovered from recycled materials such as clean paper and cardboard.”

Furthermore, Ms Read said COAG must address the real source of the waste export problem: the lack of recycled resources being used by the manufacturing, packaging and construction industries in Australia.

“This lack of reuse of recycled materials has significantly stymied industry investment and innovation in recycling capacity over the past 10 years,” she said.

“If Australian governments do not require the manufacturing, construction and packing sectors to dramatically ramp up recycled content in infrastructure, products and packaging, then it will not achieve its 80 per cent resource recovery target.”

The NWRIC is calling on COAG to agree and commit to:

— Clear definitions on what waste can’t be exported.

— Realistic timeframes that allow time to build new processing facilities and secondary resource markets to develop.

— Procuring recycled materials for government infrastructure and mandating recycled content in products and packaging through the Product Stewardship Act.

— Fast tracking development application and licensing processes for expanding and building new recycling and processing facilities.

— Joint investment from commonwealth and state governments with industry for new processing equipment and facilities.

— Strong enforcement of the ban, ensuring government agencies are adequately resourced to ensure compliance.

“If COAG gets this decision right and supports it with joint national and state investment, it will create the foundation necessary to move Australia to a country that values its waste as a resource, keeps these resources circulating in the economy, creating less waste and more jobs,” Ms Read said.

Related stories:

Bans at the border

With the first wave of export bans set to commence in July, Waste Management Review speaks with industry stakeholders about investment expectations and the globalised waste economy. 

When the Federal Government announced it would ban waste exports in August 2019, China’s National Sword was old news for most in the resource recovery sector.

While its consequences were still being felt, many industry stakeholders had grown tired of government platitudes about the circular economy.

The Council of Australian Government’s announcement therefore functioned as a jolt – a suggestion to industry that government was finally listening to calls for state intervention.

Praise was quick, with both the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) and the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association (WMRR) releasing statements highlighting the ban as a step towards a sustainable domestic recycling industry.

Despite widespread support for the ban as a concept, many, including ACOR and WMRR, cautioned that for it to be successful, it would need to be backed up by analogous infrastructure investment.

Rose Read, National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO, for example, suggests the regulatory measure will fail if not supported by market investment for plastics and paper. Rose adds that while the export ban’s intent is noteworthy, its achievability is seriously constrained without parallel support.

Similar concerns have been expressed by multiple stakeholders, highlighting a schism between regulatory measures and industry viability.

Mike Ritchie, MRA Consulting, for instance, argued that the Federal Government should introduce recycled content rules for domestic manufacturing. Likewise, Gayle Sloan, WMRR CEO, said the ban should be supported with mandated government procurement.

Following the Meeting of Environment Ministers in November, the Federal Government announced a nationwide timeline agreement.

Ministers agreed on a phased approach, with glass banned by July 2020, mixed waste plastics by July 2021 and whole tyres, including baled tyres, by December 2021.

Additionally, remaining waste products, including mixed paper and cardboard, will be banned by no later than 30 June 2022.

Of the timeline, Rose says the plastics and paper enforcement dates are unrealistic, particularly given the packaging industry is only working to achieve 30 per cent recycled content by 2025.

“We are very concerned that the regulatory focus is being crudely placed at the end-of-pipe, and not at the source of the issue, i.e. brands and producers,” she says.

“Currently, there is no regulation requiring manufacturers or the packaging industry to achieve these targets or penalties if they don’t. This is far from equitable.”

According to Rose, APCO’s packaging targets need to be brought forward to 2022 and mandated under the Product Stewardship Act – as proposed under senator Whish-Wilson’s Product Stewardship Amendment (Packaging and Plastics) Bill 2019.

“This is essential to ensure all packaging manufacturers, brands and retailers meet their producer responsibilities,” she says.

“It will create markets for locally recovered plastics, glass and paper and will remove problematic packaging, including plastics and composite materials, that can’t be recycled due to lack of technology or markets.”

Rose adds that given the ban’s intent, to prevent environmental and human harm, the Federal Government should consider banning whole crushed car bodies, white goods and waste motor oils exports.

“The NWRIC believes the current export of these materials is having substantial impacts on the environment and human health overseas, due to poor recycling and uncontrolled practices similar to that for whole baled tyres,” she says.

“These wastes are being harvested or burnt, with many of the by-products dumped or emitted, polluting the environment and putting human health at risk.”

Rose adds that Australia has the capacity to process these materials locally.

“Currently in NSW, steel mills are importing scrap from interstate and New Zealand to meet their feedstock needs, while whole car bodies are being exported to the Middle East and Asia,” she says.

Alternatively, the NWRIC does not support the banning of single resin/polymer plastics that have been processed, nor the banning of baled paper and cardboard.

“Both these recyclates have legitimate overseas markets, clearly demonstrating they are value added products that will not have a negative impact on human health or the environment,” Rose says.

FREE TRADE?

While concerns over implementation are common, the ban as a concept has been largely well received.

John B Cook, from John B Cook & Associates, however, suggests a blanket ban on exports is counterproductive. He adds that much of the material domestic materials recovery facilities receive is packaging produced from overseas.

“We’re in a situation now where glass bottles are being imported from Singapore. If we are importing packaging from overseas, we shouldn’t say, well you can’t send the packaging back and complete the loop,” he explains.

John admits that while recovered resources are a credible commodity, waste is a difficult industry.

“The market has failed in relation to waste. It [was] thought landfill was an inexpensive, easy option, and we’ve been dealing with that ever since.

“That said, we’re now moving away from a disposal culture. People want a circular economy, they want recycling, plus they don’t want to live next to landfills. So the market failed, and the reality is government intervention is required.”

John says however that the devil is in the detail. He adds that while there should be a ban on exporting “garbage”, completely closing the borders is unsustainable.

“Contracts need to be developed that ensure we are adding value and recovering resources instead of exporting dirty plastics, which we seem to have been doing,” he says.

“We should be washing and processing the material here and exporting bales or pallets at low contamination levels.”

The Federal Government also needs to facilitate market development, John says. He adds that while those markets are developing, exports need to occur to a specification that is adhered to.

The idea of sustainable exports, John says, works in tandem with developing domestic recycling markets. He suggests investment in the infrastructure and technology required to produce high-grade pure materials for exports has a flow-on effect.

That said, lack of federal investment is a central industry complaint surrounding the ban.

While it’s too soon to tell, the Federal Government’s recently opened $100 million Australian Recycling Investment Fund might alleviate these concerns.

Speaking with Waste Management Review in June last year, Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans said the fund was designed to support recycled content product manufacturing.

Administered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Minister Evans said the government will provide guidance about the mandate and how to best invest in new industry.

While the fund was announced in May 2019, applications didn’t open until December. This followed criticism from Labor Assistant Environment Spokesperson Josh Wilson, who said the Federal Government was not doing enough to support the export ban or build the National Waste Strategy.

“We know the so-called recycling investment plan is predominantly bulked out with prepackaged or repackaged funds,” Mr Wilson said.

“The hundred million dollars in the Australian Recycling Investment Fund consists of nothing more than a fresh label on existing clean energy finance moneys.”

Rose says while the NWRIC welcomes the Australian Recycling Investment Fund, its investment criteria means it will only be capable of supporting a few major infrastructure projects.

“Smaller projects, for example those less than $10 million, won’t have access to the fund directly, but will have to seek loans through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s aggregate programs,” she says.

A GLOBAL PROBLEM

Despite ban conversations understandably centring on Australian markets, Michele Acuto, Melbourne University Global Urban Politics Professor, says industry and government need a global perspective.

Drawing on research from the World Economic Forum, Michele says retreating into an export ban is paradoxical to the notion of a circular economy.

“The problem with the ban is that it’s similar to immediate conversations after China’s restrictions. The rhetoric is quite nationalist, and more explicitly, about domestic solutions to an international problem,” he says.

“I want to be very clear that I’m not saying Australia doesn’t require strong infrastructure investment – but we do need to be thinking in terms of a global circular economy.”

The ban, he says, is diametrically opposed to this approach, and a recognition of waste as a global series of networks and industries.

The World Economic Forum suggests to create a global circular economy, system change needs to enable blended financing models, particularly in developing countries, policy framework adjustments and public-private collaboration.

For instance, Michele suggests a more collegial and strategic relationship between Australia and its neighbours could move global networks in the right direction.

He adds that while there is little agreement on waste definitions between Australian states, let alone sovereign bodies, the Federal Government should attempt to work in tandem with Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“We’ve turned another opportunity for leadership into a statement of inward policy. It’s very tit for tat and smells like 1980s Cold War policy. There’s an ocean of difference between the ban and a strategically based national plan,” he says.

The World Economic Forum suggests similar, albeit more controversial, solutions. Recycling is linear, the NGO argues, and out of touch with the extended lifecycle goals of a circular economy.

Reusing, redistributing and/or remanufacturing strategies are the preferred approach, it argues.

Additional points include moving away from activities that devalue materials, relocalising and resizing activities closer to consumers, and developing strategic partnerships with service providers.

While it’s hard to argue against future-focused attempts to restructure our approach to waste and consumption, the challenges of today still require action.

At a recent meeting with Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the NWRIC members discussed how to build local demand for recovered materials for packaging, products and infrastructure.

According to Rose, new obligations must extend beyond the waste and resource recovery sector to include organisations importing products to Australia.

“A circular economy requires all parts of the supply chain participate,” she says.

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

Related stories:

NWRIC calls for paper and cardboard export ban exemption

The National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on the Council of Australia Governments (COAG) to ensure clean, high grade paper and cardboard are exempt from waste export bans.

According to NWRIC CEO Rose Read, while industry supports banning waste glass, whole baled tyres, mixed plastic and mixed paper exports, the NWRIC does not support banning clean paper and cardboard exports.

“Australia currently exports close to 1.1 million tonnes of clean, high grade paper and cardboard every year, approximately one third of the material we use. This export market is estimated to be worth more than $230 million,” Ms Read said.

“Without the capacity to export clean paper and cardboard, recycling services could fail, including household kerbside collections.”

Ms Read added that Australia does not currently have the capacity to locally remanufacture all the paper and cardboard it generates.

“Australia’s domestic paper mills that process recycled paper are in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. These mills do not currently have sufficient capacity to take all of the recycled paper and cardboard generated on the east coast. Let alone that generated in SA, NT and WA, who rely on overseas markets,” she said.

“Recycled paper is only purchased by a small number of reprocessors, limiting competition.”

The NWRIC is inviting COAG to work with the waste and resource recovery industry to develop national scrap specifications for metals, plastics, paper, cardboard, e-waste and other recycled materials.

“These would give the waste management and recycling sector clarity and certainty on what can be exported, and manufacturers confidence in the recovered material being supplied,” Ms Read said.

Related stories:

Waste talks

Last year’s Waste Expo Australia saw a record number of delegates converge on the Melbourne Exhibition Centre to examine new opportunities in a changing sector.

At last year’s Waste Expo Australia, Pete Shmigel, Australian Council of Recycling, opened his presentation with a question: when you think about the waste and resource recovery industry over the last 12 months, would you give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

Audience reactions were mixed, with one delegate calling the system a mess, and another applauding the sector’s ability to acknowledge its problems and move forward. For an industry in a state of flux, this lack of consensus should come as no surprise.

But Mr Shmigel was positive, highlighting rising construction and demolition (C&D) and commercial and industrial (C&I) recovery rates.

“What kind of animal would I use to describe recycling? I’d say a bear, and what’s a bear? It’s surprisingly fast, it grows really fast and it sleeps for about half the year,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Amazingly fast growth in C&D and C&I, and then we look at kerbside recycling and it’s asleep.”

A solution for kerbside’s slumber, Mr Shmigel said, is further funding and harmonisation across jurisdictions.

According to Mr Shmigel, the Australian Council of Recycling recently conducted an analysis across 110 councils in NSW, finding 3824 collection and recycling process variations.

“There’s an argument for standardising the types of packaging that goes in, and there’s an argument for standardising the types of systems councils themselves run,” Mr Shmigel said.

“If Canada can do it, why can’t Australia?”

Supporting a stronger kerbside system was the focus of multiple Waste Expo Australia presentations, with over 100 speakers and 120 exhibitors navigating opportunities in the changing market.

According to Event Director Cory McCarrick, 2019 saw record attendance, with early reports indicating a 33 per cent increase from 2018.

“We are thrilled with the large increase in visitation at last year’s Waste Expo Australia, with a number of people travelling from interstate for the event,” Mr McCarrick said.

“Waste Expo Australia has truly cemented itself as the must-attend event for the waste management and resource recovery sector.”

The two-day event was opened with a keynote from Victorian Energy Environment & Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, who outlined actions her department is taking to improve the state’s resource recovery system.

“Our country is facing some major challenges in the waste and resource recovery sector and that, of course, includes restrictions on the export of recyclable materials,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“It has also made us think differently about how we manage our waste domestically, and it’s been a bit of a wake-up call to many of us, because we know that we can do better.”

Ms D’Ambrosio highlighted the state’s forthcoming circular economy strategy and waste infrastructure investments, including a $500,000 grant to Advanced Circular Polymer for Australia’s largest plastics recycling plant.

“We are committed to strengthening and growing the waste and resource recovery sector as we transition to an economy with less waste and better reuse and recycling,” the minister said.

“My commitment to all of you as industry players is to be available and to listen and work with you as we manage the transition the community expects us to undertake.”

Policy drivers that would help Ms D’Ambrosio’s plan to strengthen the sector were then addressed by Rose Read, National Waste and Recycling Industry Council. Ms Read highlighted the importance of market development, landfill levies, product stewardship, environmental regulation, product bans, standards and education.

In reference to product stewardship, Ms Read highlighted the success of the used oil recycling scheme, the National Television and Computer Recycling scheme and state-run container deposit schemes (CDS).

The topic of CDS was further discussed at the Victorian Waste Management Association’s (VWMA) post day one discussion dinner, with presentations from Peter Bruce, Whenceforth Consulting, and David Cocks, MRA Consulting.

Mr Bruce, who recently served as Exchange for Change CEO, presented state-by-state CDS comparisons. He specifically highlighted variations between who owns the collected material, how cashflow is managed and how different schemes designs facilitate convenience.

While attendees appeared largely in favour of a Victorian CDS, questions were raised over long-term efficacy, material recovery facility liability and kerbside glass collection as a CDS substitute.

Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser, also addressed the importance of glass separation.

On the C&D stage, Mr Murphy discussed innovative recycling approaches and the consequence of increased recycled content in pavements and roads.

Following the presentation, Mr Murphy faced a steady stream of questions, highlighting
an understanding of the central role sustainable infrastructure will play in the transition towards a circular economy.

George Hatzimanolis, Repurpose It, expressed similar sentiments, with a presentation on the company’s approach to C&D transformation via best practice technology.

“The principles of our business are based on the concept of industrial ecology, taking a product at the end of a lifecycle and converting it into a product that begins a new lifecycle,” he said.

Mr Hatzimanolis went on to discuss the importance of urban recycling facilities located close to generation points and Repurpose It’s C&D washing process.

The contrast between urban and rural capabilities and needs was further discussed in a session chaired by Mark Smith, VWMA.

With presentations from Matt Genever, Sustainability Victoria, Isabel Axio, Just Waste Consulting, and Joe Agostino, Yarra City Council, the discussion emphasised the multifaceted nature of resource recovery, with distinctions made between what is appropriate in city centres and what works in the regions.

Ms Axio explained how to adapt urban concepts to regional landscapes, and suggested challenges such as low populations and transport costs were enabling characteristics rather than barriers.

Mr Genever then broadened the scope, focusing on what Sustainability Victoria has learnt over the past seven years.

He specifically stressed the importance of closing the market development, sustainable procurement and new infrastructure loop.

Similar arguments were made at day two’s Towards a Circular Economy Partnership Panel, chaired by Toli Papadopoulos from Prime Creative Media.

During the panel, Sebastian Chapman, DELWP, highlighted the importance of data, and said while the department doesn’t fully understand the flow of material in the Victorian economy, it is working to improve.

Pushing the point, Cameron McKenzie, ASPIRE, referenced the axiom that data is more valuable than oil. Without data, he said, waste cannot be sustainably managed.

While each panellist presented different perspectives, the consensus was clear: for a circular economy to thrive, action needs to extend beyond waste to reuse, repair and sharing economies.    

As the expo wrapped up its final day, delegates discussed waste-derived products, destructive distillation and optical sorting.

The extensive and varied nature of the Waste Expo Australia program was perhaps best expressed by Steven Sergi, South Australian EPA: if anyone still thinks waste management involves simply putting material in a hole, they’re behind the eight ball.

Related stories: 

Victoria’s Parliamentary Inquiry – five critical actions

The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry has made 45 recommendations to advance Victoria’s waste management and resource recovery system. NWRIC CEO Rose Read outlines which of these recommendations are critical to setting the state on the pathway to a circular economy.

For the past four years Victoria’s waste and recycling system has been beset with a number of setbacks. From fires at material recycling facilities, illegal tyre and construction waste stockpiles to hazardous chemicals illegally buried or gone up in flames. The factors driving these setbacks are many. From criminal activity and substandard business practices, to unevenly policed regulations and China shutting its doors to poorly sorted materials.

In response to these challenges the Victorian Parliament’s Environment and Planning Committee initiated an inquiry into waste management, receiving more than 90 submissions and presentations.

The result, over 45 sweeping recommendations touching on many elements of waste and resource recovery; from chemical and hazardous waste management, landfill levies, waste to energy infrastructure needs to organics recovery, product stewardship, household waste, kerbside services and community education.

The challenge now for the Victorian government is to determine which recommendations are mission critical. From a waste and recycling service provider perspective, the NWRIC is calling on the Victorian government to progress the following actions first.

Grow domestic markets

Create stronger market pull for recovered plastics, organics, paper, glass and tyres by requiring greater use of recovered materials in products, packaging and construction as well as compost to soils. This should be approached from three different angles.

Firstly, introduce recycled content requirements for state and local government procurement and an obligation for agencies to publicly report on compliance with these requirements. As well as support manufacturers to streamline the testing and standards development processes for products containing recycled materials, especially products purchased by government.

Secondly, require a minimum recycled content level in new packaging produced in Victoria and work with manufacturers to reduce their use of virgin plastics.

Thirdly, advocate for the Commonwealth Government to introduce import requirements for products to have packaging that contains recycled materials.

Improve source separation

Making it easier for the community and businesses to source separate by ensuring all local councils are compliant with Standards Australia policy on bin lid colours within 12 months, and improving the capacity of multi-unit developments to collect, sort and recycle household waste.

Introducing a container deposit scheme to supplement improved municipal kerbside recycling services is critical. As is rolling out a consistent FOGO collection scheme state-wide. Where appropriate, also consider adopting a fourth glass bin or removing glass from the yellow bin and provide drop off points.

Increasing funding of state-wide recycling education is essential, as is supporting the widespread adoption of the Australasian Recycling Label in Victoria.

Advocating to the Commonwealth Government for both a national battery and solar PV system product stewardship schemes urgently to remove dangerous and flammable items form the current collection systems.

Integrate local and state planning

Embed waste and recycling infrastructure plans into local and state planning regulations and plans. Planning for waste and recycling facilities has been a national challenge, and Victoria is no different.

Even though Victoria has a SWRRIP and Regional WRRIPs in place, a leading recycling facility owned by Alex Fraser Group in Clarinda is facing eviction. This facility processes close to one million tonnes, representing approximately 10 per cent of Victoria’s recycling capacity.

This example illustrates the disconnect between waste and recycling infrastructure planning and local and state planning regulations and plans. Without strategically located dedicated sites for waste and recycling facilities, appropriate buffer zones, security of tenure industry cannot provide efficient and competitive resource recovery and waste management services to the community and businesses.

Expedite energy recovery

Implement energy recovery technologies in Victoria, to complement existing landfills and to better manage those materials that cannot be recycled.

While we all want to recover and recycle as much as possible there are some products and materials that are not suitable for recycling. Well-developed energy recovery facilities that meet all environmental and health outcomes have a role to play in optimising the recovery of embodied energy from those non-recyclable materials as well as dealing with contaminated biosolids currently being stockpiled in Victoria.

Reform landfill levies

Adjust the Municipal and Industrial Landfill Levy (MILL) and increase share of funds invested back into the sector. Any financial incentive to transport materials from or to other jurisdiction’s landfills should be removed. The NWRIC White Paper on State Waste and Landfill Levies highlighted how interstate price differentials in levies has created a levy avoidance industry where potentially recyclable materials are ending up in landfill or illegal stockpiles.

The whitepaper also highlighted the lack of transparency, accountability and investment of levy funds back into the sector. As illustrated in Victoria where in excess of $500 million is sitting in the Sustainability Fund and the majority of expenditure from this fund has been on climate change activities rather than waste management and recycling initiatives.

The reporting of how the MILL funds are invested is also overly complex with little assessment of the effectiveness of investment on waste and recycling outcomes.

The NWRIC, looks forward to seeing how the soon to be released Victorian Circular Economy Policy and government budgets incorporate and fund the recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry and the outcomes from the Infrastructure and Landfill Levy reviews. If we are not reusing materials in products, packaging or construction or compost on soils we are not recycling let alone going circular.

Related stories:

NWRIC calls on VIC Premier to intervene in Alex Fraser decision

The National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to intervene in the City of Kingston’s decision to deny the extension of Alex Fraser’s Clarinda recycling facility.

Earlier this year, Alex Fraser called on Kingston City Council to extend its operating permit for its glass and construction and demolition recycling site, as one million tonnes of recyclables risks going to landfill. Kingston Council rejected the extension earlier this month.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the Clarinda facility is a site of state significance.

“It’s capacity to recycle up to one million tonnes of construction materials represents approximately 25 per cent of Melbourne’s recycled material each year,” Ms Read said.

“To lose this site will have significant ramifications for resource recovery in Victoria and the population of Melbourne.”

According to an NWRIC statement, the City of Kingston decision contrasts with Sustainability Victoria’s Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan, which identifies the Alex Fraser site as one of Melbourne’s key resource recovery hubs.

“This illustrates another major weakness in the Victorian Government’s ability to manage waste and recycling, where clearly they have failed to integrate their infrastructure planning with local and state government planning regulations,” the statement reads.

The statement suggests that if Victorian’s want best practise recycling, it’s important that significant recovery hubs are protected and not overridden by local decisions.

“Moving these sites is not a simple matter, there are significant impacts not just on the recycler and its commercial operations, but on the whole of Victoria’s economy, employment and the environment,” the statement reads.

“If the Victorian government is serious about getting recycling back on track in Victoria, the premier needs to step up and mediate a more realistic solution for the future of the Alex Fraser Clarinda site as a matter of urgency.”

Related stories:

NWRIC discusses export ban with Minister Ley

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has asked Environment Minister Sussan Ley to bring the ban on whole bale tyre exports forward to July 2020, in parallel with glass.

According to an NWRIC statement, the potential harm to humans and the environment by exporting whole baled tyres is significant, with ample capacity to process the material into value added products domestically.

NWRIC members made the request at their quarterly meeting in Canberra this week, which Ms Ley attended to discuss export ban execution and the implications of the proposed timetable.

At the meeting, council members indicated their support for the intent of the ban, and welcomed the strong leadership of the Federal Government, according to an NWRIC statement.

In reference to mixed plastics, NWRIC advised Ms Ley that more time is required for industry to purchase equipment and scale processing capacity. The council also argued for the need to fast track local plastic demand through packaging.

Additionally, NWRIC called the export ban on baled paper and cardboard “illogical,” given local demand is limited and strong existing markets exist overseas.

“This also applies to the export of single resin polymer plastics, such as clean bales of PET and HDPE. The vast majority of this resource is going to legitimate licensed overseas manufacturers,” the statement reads.

How to build local demand for recovered materials for packaging, products and infrastructure was another topic of conversation.

“The minister emphasised the government’s commitment to increase the uptake of recovered materials by changing their procurement practices,” the statement reads.

“She also stressed that businesses must step up too, especially the packaging industry, manufacturers and retailers, by ramping up the use of recycled materials. This program is especially needed in plastic packaging and products.”

NWRIC also argued that for the ban to be successful, new obligations must extend beyond the waste and resource recovery sector, to include organisations importing products to Australia.

“A circular economy requires all parts of the supply chain participate. This also includes consumers who must buy recycled, along with households plus businesses sorting recycling better,” the statement reads.

“Importantly, the minister acknowledged that Australia is a net importer of plastics and paper, so this needs to be considered in implementing the export ban.”

NWRIC members also requested Ms Ley consider banning the export of whole crushed car bodies, white good and waste motor oils.

“All of these products, when exported unprocessed, are causing serious harm to human health and the environment in locations across Asia,” the statement reads.

In addition to the export ban, Ms Ley and NWRIC members discussed the challenges of diverting organics from landfill, and the need for nationally consistent landfill levies.

According to the statement, NWRIC told Ms Ley that there needs to be greater transparency and investment of levies back into developing recovered materials markets, community education, compliance activities, research and data collection. NWRIC members also highlighted the importance of state investment being matched by the Commonwealth.

Related stories:

Waste export bans alone won’t drive resource recovery

Waste export bans won’t deliver the National Waste Policy Action Plan resource recovery targets unless recycled materials are used in packaging, products and infrastructure, writes Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council.

Led by the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, state and territory environment ministers agreed at their recent meeting on a timeline for COAG’s waste export bans and signed off on the National Waste Policy Action Plan.

The proposed waste export bans in large are being introduced to reduce harm to human health and the environment overseas. But the likelihood of them delivering the 80 per cent resource recovery target by 2030, or the 70 per cent plastics recovery rate by 2025 on their own is low.

To achieve these resource recovery targets, the demand to use recovered materials locally needs to be fast tracked.

The environment ministers commitment on the 8th November to identify significant procurement opportunities such as major road projects that could use recycled material is a good start. As is prioritising work to develop specifications and standards for the use of recycled materials in building, construction and infrastructure development.

However, this will only increase demand for glass and crumbed tyres. It won’t increase the demand for recovered plastic, paper and cardboard locally.

What is needed to create markets for plastics, paper and cardboard is legally requiring packaging companies, manufacturers and retailers to increase the proportion of recovered materials in packaging put onto the Australian market, including imports, as most of these materials come from overseas.

Some may say that manufacturers have already committed to this. But evidence to date suggests this is limited to one or two global brands that cover less than 40 per cent of the packaging market.

Likewise, none of the major supermarkets have committed to increase the proportion of recycled content in the packaged products they sell. Nor is there any commitment to indicate the level of recycled content on packaging to give consumers the choice to buy recycled.

On the phased timings proposed to implement the export ban:

The NWRIC considers the timeline for mixed plastics is insufficient for industry to purchase and install equipment, especially as there are limited markets.

The timeframe should be extended to match the 2025 APCO recycle content target. If the government wants this to progress more quickly, manufacturers should be required to meet specific plastic recycled content targets sooner.

The NWRIC also does not support the banning of single resin/polymer plastics that have not been processed (e.g. cleaned and baled PET), nor the banning of baled paper and cardboard. Both these recyclates have legitimate overseas markets, clearly demonstrating they are value added products that will not have a negative impact on human health or the environment.

To give government confidence that there will be no harm to human health and the environment overseas, exporters should be able to verify their downstream pathways and material recovery rates with the aid of third-party audits.

Submissions in response to the government’s discussion paper on implementing the banning exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres discussion paper are due by 3 December 2019.

Related stories: 

X