Beyond the destruction: Shred-X

Shred-X diverts almost 50,000 tonnes of paper per annum from landfill, partnering with Australian recycling organisations to recover and repurpose the material it collects.

Australians throw out 2.7 million single-use coffee cups every day, adding up to almost one billion coffee cups a year.

Van Karas, General Manager at Shred-X, says to efficiently recover and repurpose products, there has to be flexibility to enable current business capabilities to increase landfill diversion.

“It’s in our DNA to ensure wherever possible, following the required destruction process, the products we collect are recycled or repurposed,” he says.

Although Shred-X started out in the document destruction and paper recycling industry 20 years ago, Karas says the company has since expanded, pursuing recycling for an array of products other than paper including used coffee cups, QSR waste, e-waste and textiles.

Karas stated that following some recent tests, it has partnered with an Australian packaging company to collect and process their 100 per cent recyclable coffee cups.

“We’ve also invested in new ways of processing millions of ‘non-recyclable’ coffee cups, partnering with another Australian company that’s leading the way finding innovative solutions for recycling and repurposing use coffee cups aiding a circular economy,” Karas says.

Shred-X is continuing to align itself with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), which were first implemented into the global sector in 2016.

“One of the SDG’s Shred-X is actively working towards is building resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation,” he says.

By 2025, Australia has committed to National Packaging Targets ensuring 100 per cent of packaging is either reused, recycled or repurposed.

Further to this, an Australian chain of quick service restaurants (QSR’s) are also aiming to recycle its customer packaging and waste.

According to Karas, Shred-X has always been a business that collects and processes specialised waste in line with recyclers needs.

“We’re working very hard with resilient partners to achieve common goals. Following an upcoming trial, we will be looking at smart innovations that add value to processing QSR waste, ensuring it goes to recyclers that will continue to add value to the waste product,” he says.

“It’s pretty impressive that we’re able to help companies achieve national targets by finding a new home for waste besides landfill. Shred-X are working with a range of partners and have begun undertaking trials with quick service restaurants to achieve their sustainability targets.”

Shred-X has achieved the highest industry certifications for its secure destruction facilities and operations located in every state and territory which incorporate the latest and most environmentally sustainable shredding technologies.

Through the company’s partnership with Australian recyclers, Shred-X recovers 98.5 per cent of the material collected and processed through its facilities.

Shred-X has also introduced a range of innovative secure destruction solutions for textiles and uniforms, high-end garments and accessories, seized goods, recalled items and liquids with an aim to ensure ethical disposal and landfill diversion whenever and wherever possible.

Environmental Policy and recycling partnerships reflect the company’s ongoing commitment to improving the sustainability and resilience of the business, while also ensuring its services remain cost-effective and best practice.

The company has applied these same foundational goals of sustainability and innovation to the medical waste industry through its Med-X Healthcare Solutions brand.

Shred-X and Med-X have continued to invest in technology and innovation that support the reduction of landfill and promote recycling, even amid essential operations during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Karas says Med-X operations ramped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, spotlighting the company’s investment in robotic technology to encourage human contact-less waste disposal and recovery.

“Plastic is infinitely recyclable and we like to think if people choose us, they know they’re part of a sustainable chain that positively impacts the wider community and environment,” he says.

On the other hand, the e-waste sector has its challenges. Shred-X pioneered IT asset management, destruction and recycling solutions when Australian businesses were beginning to go paperless.

“People thought we were just taking their paper and not doing anything with it, but beyond secure shredding, we’ve been a firm leader in removing all information contained on electronic and IT assets and responsibly recycling or repurposing the end components.”

As more offices convert to digital only businesses, Shred-X has been continually exploring further opportunities with ewaste, textile and fibre recycling and repurposing partners, plastic product developers and waste-to-energy processors.

“Shred-X works with our partners to recycle all electronic components of ewaste including precious metals, glass and plastic, as well as repurposing assets once the confidential information contained on the assets is removed,” he says.

“We’ve been led to so many avenues from beginning with just pieces of paper. Our exploration of sustainable recycling and destruction is undertaken in the most ethically responsible manner, to suit even the most stringent sustainability targets and government regulations.”

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QLD opens consultation on single-use plastics ban legislation

Queensland is taking the next step in removing single-use plastics from the environment, opening consultation on a state-wide ban that will initially focus on straws, drink stirrers, cutlery and plates.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said single-use plastic was an increasing problem, damaging the state’s environment and marine life.

“It’s time to decide the future of single-use plastics in Queensland. Plastic pollution in our environment affects every aspect of our lives – from the water we drink and the food we consume, to the plants, animals and outdoor places we all love and enjoy,” she said.

“We are looking to limit and, where necessary, ban the supply of most single-use plastic products starting with straws, stirrers, plates, cutlery and cups.”

Ms Enoch said the state government’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, released in 2019, committed to introducing enabling legislation in 2020, subject to consultation, to ban the supply of specific plastic products.

“In the future we’ll also consider other forms of single-use items such as coffee cups, heavyweight plastic shopping bags and polystyrene containers, but right now we’re focused on straws, stirrers, plates and cutlery,” she said.

According to Ms Enoch, the state government wants to hear as many perspectives as possible. She added that the needs of people with disability and the age care sector would be taken into account.

“Over 75 per cent of rubbish that is removed from Australian beaches is made of plastic. Our government has already taken steps to reduce plastic with the ban on single-use plastics bags and the introduction of Containers for Change,” she said.

“Those initiatives have seen hundreds of millions of individual plastic products kept from entering the environment, and now we’re looking ahead. We want to hear from Queenslanders as we take this next step.”

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City of Yarra phases out single-use plastic

The City of Yarra is phasing out the sale of single-use plastic bottles and straws at all leisure facilities across the inner Melbourne municipality.

Following a July 2019 council resolution, Yarra City Council announced leisure centres would be the first council-run facilities to eliminate single-use bottles and straws, with other facilities set to follow.

According to a Yarra City Council statement, the phase out begun 1 January 2020, with staff now working with current suppliers to source plastic free product alternatives.

“By removing plastic bottles from our Yarra Leisure facilities, we expect to eliminate the consumption of approximately 17,000 plastic bottles each year,” the statement reads.

“This figure is based on our annual plastic bottle consumption across our facilities during 2018/19.”

Former Yarra Mayor Danae Bosler said going plastic-free is an important step in the council’s long-term ambition to become a zero waste city.

“Single-use plastics have a terrible impact on our environment, particularly our waterways, and our community expects us to take real action on this issue,” she said.

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Victoria’s single-use plastic ban begins

Single-use plastic shopping bags have been banned across Victoria, under new legislation introduced to parliament in June.

The ban, which commenced November 1, applies to bags with a thickness of 35 microns or less, including bags made from degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the ban follows extensive community consultation on tackling plastic pollution, with 96 per cent in favour of the ban.

“The plastic bag ban is part of a suite of government measures designed to reduce the impact of plastic pollution, reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and strengthen Victoria’s recycling industry,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“To support the community in moving to reusable bags, Sustainability Victoria is running a Better Bag Habits campaign – helping Victorian households to remember their phone, wallet, keys and bag before leaving home.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the EPA is also is working with retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers to support them in understanding their obligations, as well as monitoring industry performance.

“The government engaged the National Retail Association to conduct over 180 tours of shopping centres and precincts throughout Victoria to assist retailers transitioning away from banned bags,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

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Victorian parliament bans single-use plastic bags

Single-use plastic shopping bags will be banned across Victoria from 1 November, under new legislation introduced to parliament this week.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said all single-use plastic shopping bags with a thickness of 35 microns or less will be banned, including bags made from degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic.

The ban applies to bags provided by retail outlets including supermarkets, fashion boutiques, fast food outlets, convenience stores and service stations.

“These legislative changes follow an overwhelming number of responses during community consultation,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The feedback on this one was clear. Victorians want to do more to protect the environment from the damage litter causes, and are overwhelmingly supportive of banning single-use plastic shopping bags.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, work is underway with the National Retailers Association to ensure Victorian businesses are prepared for the ban and have access to sustainable packaging alternatives.

A plastic pollution action plan is also under development to help reduce other types of plastic pollution.

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NSW Labor’s waste election pledges

New South Wales Labor leader Michael Daley has announced that if elected his government will ban single-use plastic bags and invest $140 million into local recycling initiatives.

Mr Daley said the NSW waste system is struggling to keep up with rapidly declining sites for landfill, China’s National Sword policy and a collapsing market for recycled material.

NSW is the second highest per capita waste producer in the world with every person in the state generating an average of two tonnes of waste each year.

Mr Daley said that within the first 100 days of taking office Labor would introduce legislation to ban plastic bags as part of a longterm plan to phase out single-use plastic.

The proposed $140 million Circular Economy and Job Creation Investment Fund aims to support the resource recovery and recycling industry by investing in recycling and processing facilities, increasing community-based waste reduction and providing seed funding for innovative solutions for dealing with waste.

Mr Daley said the fund would use unallocated waste levy revenue to support recycling and environmental programs.

Labor also plan to establish a recycling, resource recovery and waste council comprised of key industry stakeholders that will provide advice to the Environment Minister.

“It is a fact that recycling waste generates more jobs than sending waste to landfill, Labor’s war on waste will seize this opportunity and at the same time reduce waste and pollution. It’s a win-win,” he said.

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Potential emergency plastic tax by 2021: report

The plastic waste crisis is expected to deepen, potentially leading to a federal response in the form of an emergency tax by 2021, according to global wealth manager Credit Suisse.

It argues that reactionary policy measures are highly likely in the short term and could include a tax on virgin resins or additional tariffs placed on imported plastic goods in its report, The age of plastic at a tipping point.

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With too much plastic waste domestically and with no large export markets available, Credit Suisse estimates there will be a sharp increase in plastic being sent to landfill and illegal dumping.

“Our headline view is that things will get worse before they get better: the policy initiatives in the National Waste Strategy won’t take hold until FY20/21,” the report said.

Credit Suisse expects bans on single use-plastics to be extended to the six most common plastic packaging and tax incentives to be provided to help hit the 2025 target of 30 per cent recycled content in packaging.

The long lead time from policy approval to implementation is problematic, particularly for new waste infrastructure, which the company said will likely lead to a more supportive project approval environment for waste infrastructure.

Waste managers are expected to benefit from this scenario, with short term potential from council re-negotiations and long-term potential to fast-track waste infrastructure approvals, according to the report.

“Plastic has infiltrated almost every aspect of human life. It is the most prolific material on the planet, growing faster than any commodity in the last 33 years,” the report said.

“Plastic packaging has become one of the most intractable environmental challenges of our age. None of the commonly used plastics are biodegradable; they accumulate in landfills or the natural environment rather than decompose.

“To curtail the situation in the short run, it is a matter of when, not if, we see reactionary policy measures,” the report said.

EU Parliament endorses ban on single-use plastics

European Parliament has endorsed a proposition to ban 10 single-use plastic products which are commonly found on Europe’s beaches and seas, including drinking straws, cutlery and abandoned fishing gear.

The 10 products targeted also include plastic cotton buds, plates, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons and form up to 70 per cent of all marine litter items.

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Single-use drink containers made with plastic will only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached.

Under the rules proposed in May, member states will be obliged to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drink cups. This can be done through national reduction targets, making alternative products available at the point of sale or ensuring that there is a charge attached to single-use plastic products.

Certain products will require clear and standardised labelling that includes how to dispose of the waste, the negative environmental impact of the product and the presence of plastics in the product.

The European Commission has also teamed up with the United Nations Environment Programme to launch a coalition of aquariums to fight plastic pollution.

Aquariums around the world will organise permanent activities and be invited to change their procurement policies for their canteens and shops to eliminate all single-use plastic items.

The coalition aims to have at least 200 aquariums on board by 2019 to raise public awareness about plastic pollution.

EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said the European Commission has been working for 18 months to instigate and build this global coalition.

“Aquariums are a window to our ocean. With their collections and their educational programmes, they show us what we need to protect, and they inspire the ocean lovers of tomorrow,” he said.

“Millions of people visit aquariums around the world every year. This will mobilise them to rethink the way we use plastic.”

Reusable bag campaign launches ahead of VIC plastic bag ban

The Victorian Government has launched a campaign to encourage the use of reusable shopping bags ahead of the state’s 2019 ban on lightweight, single-use plastic bags.

The Better Bag Habits campaign urges Victorians to remember their bag, wallet, keys and phone when leaving the house. The campaign will run on social media and radio.

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Some tips the campaign will encourage will be to store reusable bags in the car, at home, work to ensure customers are always ready to shop. It also encourages the use of foldable bags that can easily fit into a pocket, handbag or backpack.

Research commissioned by Sustainability Victoria found around three quarters of Victorians already carry reusable bags when food shopping.

Younger Victorians and those on higher incomes have been the slowest to say no to single-use bags, particularly when shopping for non-food items.

The ban on single-use plastic bags will come apply to shopping bags less than 35 microns tick after community consultation found a 96 per cent of the 8000 submissions were for the ban.

The state government is also working with other states and territories to phase out thick plastic bags to further reduce plastic pollution.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said Victorians are already saying no to plastic bags, but this campaign will encourage it to become a habit.

“We’re stopping plastic pollution and ensuring Victorians are ready to live without single-use, lightweight plastic bags.”

ECU to phase out single-use plastics

Edith Cowan University (ECU) will begin phasing out single-use plastic water bottles and straws across all of its campuses from the start of semester two.

It follows initiatives on the east coast from the Universities of Canberra, Melbourne, Sunshine Coast and Monash University.

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ECU said it believes it is the first Western Australian University to limit the use of plastic water bottles on campus.

The phase out will be done as part of a staged approach to restrict single-use plastic water bottles. Beginning with around 40 events it holds on its campuses, ECU will instead provide water refill stations.

The university is also investigating solutions including an increase to the number of water fountains on campus, offering free or discounted multi-use water bottles on campus and discussing with commercial tenants for alternatives to single-use bottles.

ECU Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Chapman said it was a big step forward for the University.

“With around 30,000 students and 1800 staff, we can make a huge difference by taking this first step to limit single-use plastic water bottles at our campus events,” Professor Chapman said.

“It’s also financially responsible. More than 90 per cent of the cost of bottled water can be traced back to the bottle, lid and label.

“This is not a ban. This is about education and providing alternatives. By offering high quality, convenient options to students, staff and visitors, we are confident we can reduce the demand for single-use plastic water bottles on our campuses.

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