Fed Govt delays glass waste export ban

COAG’s export ban on unprocessed glass has been delayed due to restrictions related to COVID-19, and will now commence 1 January 2021.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, COVID-19 restrictions made it “impossible” for parliament to pass legislation in time for the original 1 July 2020 deadline.

“We will introduce new legislation later this year to implement the waste export ban, giving interested stakeholders an opportunity to review the draft legislation,” she said.

The schedule for implementing the export ban on waste plastic, paper and tyres remains unchanged.

As part of the national response to the COAG export ban, the Federal Government is asking industry and state and territory governments to work together to bring forward project proposals that deliver a national solution for mixed-paper recycling in Australia.

“Australia has a once in a generation opportunity to improve waste management and recycling through national leadership and by funding infrastructure investments and encouraging new technologies,” Ms Ley said.

Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister Trevor Evans said Australia exports approximately 375,000 tonnes of mixed wastepaper and cardboard each year, but the ban will see a shift to recycling these materials domestically by 2024.

“The Federal Government is particularly interested in paper-recycling facility proposals that adopt new innovations for recovered paper and generate new jobs in rural and regional Australia,” he said.

Applications to the Federal Government are due 31 July, with a decision on successful projects expected at the end of August.

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Fed Govt invests $25M to clear environmental assessment backlog

The Federal Government has made a $25 million “congestion busting” investment in a bid to break through a multi-billion-dollar backlog of environmental assessments.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, just 19 per cent of key assessment decision points were being made on time in the December quarter last year.

“By March 2020, we are making 87 per cent on time and the department is on track to make that figure 100 per cent by June 2020, with no relaxation of any environmental safeguards under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC),” she said.

Additionally, Ms Ley said there was a backlog of 78 overdue key decisions in December 2019.

“That backlog has already been reduced by 47 per cent and is on track to be cleared by the end of this year,” she said.

“Cutting green tape is not about removing protection for the environment – it is about getting rid of unnecessary delays – delays that currently cost environmental groups, businesses and the economy hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Ms Ley said business confidence in a balanced assessment approach makes companies more proactive in identifying and complying with environmental safeguards under the EPBC Act.

“Professor Graeme Samuel will prepare an interim report into his review of the EPBC Act by the middle of this year, and I expect he will, in the course of the review, identify a range of measures that we can take to prevent unnecessary delays and improve environmental standards,” she said.

Ms Ley added that she would be prepared to make changes ahead of the final EPBC review report, if sensible opportunities presented themselves.

“We are getting congestion out of the system and we will continue to do so as the economy comes through the COVID-19 crisis, but we will also continue to ensure that our environment is protected and that proponents comply with environmental legislation,” she said.

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NSW and Fed Govt reach new bilateral agreement under EPBC Act

Major project assessments are set to be streamlined under a new bilateral agreement between the Federal and NSW Governments.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the new Bilateral Assessment Agreement will reduce the risk of Federal and state government duplication under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, while maintaining strong environmental safeguards.

“The changes are being made within the current Act, and do not form part of the wider EPBC review under Professor Graeme Samuel,” she said.

“They help all parties to understand what is expected of them in protecting the environment and the responsibilities they face in putting forward major projects.”

The new agreement includes harmonisation of the way proponents ‘off-set’ environmental impacts through the provision of alternate habitat areas.

“The NSW Biodiversity Offsets Scheme will now apply to all projects under the Bilateral agreement, and requires companies to contribute to the Biodiversity Conservation Trust that funds appropriate environmental protections to achieve strategic biodiversity gains across the state,” Ms Ley said.

According to NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes, the bilateral agreement is just one element of ongoing reforms designed to provide greater certainty, timeliness and transparency to the NSW Planning system.

“This agreement will mean environmental protections are applied more consistently than ever before to deliver better environmental outcomes,” he said.

“It will also help to achieve a single, streamlined assessment process that provides certainty for industry and investors by eliminating double-handling delays.”

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Applications open for $149M environmental science program

The Federal Government is investing $149 million in environmental science targeting plastic waste, climate systems and a range of key environmental issues.

Applications are open for the National Environmental Science Program’s second phase, with interested organisations urged to submit proposals by 30 June.

According to a Department of Agriculture, Waste and the Environment statement, the program is designed to support decision-makers from across the Australian community build resilience, while achieving positive environmental, social and economic outcomes.

“The program represents a critical cross-cutting enabler that provides the evidence base for the design, delivery and on-ground monitoring of core government environmental commitments, and the basis for long-term environmental programs,” the statement reads.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said phase two will build on past achievements through multi-disciplinary and applied research, consolidated into four hubs.

“The Sustainable Communities and Waste hub will deliver cutting-edge research on how to improve the liveability of our urban and rural environments, while delivering critical advice on how to reduce the impact of waste, chemicals and air pollutions on the environment, communities and the economy,” Ms Ley said.

According to program guidelines, the Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub will deliver research that supports targeted information and management tools to reduce the impact of plastic and other materials, and applied scenario modelling to support sustainable people-environment interactions in communities including liveability analysis.

Further criteria include projects delivering effective management options for hazardous waste, substances and pollutants throughout their lifecycle, and cross-hub coordination to support decision maker policy development, program management and regulatory processes in both marine and terrestrial environments.

Additional hubs include the Resilient Landscapes hub, Marine and Costal hub and Climate Systems hub.

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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.”

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COAG releases export ban Waste Response Strategy

Appropriately sorted paper and cardboard will be exempt from the Federal Government’s forthcoming waste export ban, as announced by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). 

According to COAG’s Waste Response Strategy, export ban timelines and material definitions were tested with industry between late 2019 and early 2020, following the ban’s initial November 2019 announcement. 

“Through responses to the COAG waste export ban discussion paper and roundtables, stakeholders provided input on their concerns, manufacturing and export practices, and other information which guided the development of specific material definitions,” the strategy reads.

“Paper and cardboard that is sorted to one type with low contamination levels can be exported. This reflects the role that these materials play in supporting kerbside recycling viability and that these do not require further processing to be ready for manufacturing into new products.”

Additional definition changes include removing the requirement that glass cullet for export be washed and colour sorted. This reflects, the strategy notes, industry feedback that glass cullet does not need to be washed and/or of a single colour to be ready for remanufacturing.

Bus, truck, and aviation tyres that are legitimately exported for re-treading can also continue to be exported, “as this practice represents a higher-order end use than destruction via crumbing or shredding.”

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the ban signals a once in a generation transformation of the recycling industry, which could generate $1.5 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years.

“This is about waking up to an issue that has been buried in landfill for too long. Most importantly, it is about Australia saying it is our waste and our responsibility, and it is about industry and government being prepared to invest in change,” she said. 

The strategy highlights the need for system-level changes to Australia’s waste and resource management practices to support the ban.

As such, the Federal Government has committed to supporting upgrades to material recovery facilities, building demand for recycled product through purchasing goods and services at scale and co-investing to support commercially viable waste and recycling facilities.

The Federal Government, in collaboration with state governments and industry, will also consider targeted stewardship interventions for packaging, plastic, paper, tyres and glass products.

“While there is support from the waste and recycling industry for new product stewardship schemes which place mandatory requirements on businesses, groups representing manufacturers have a range of views about mandatory schemes depending on the maturity of their respective schemes,” the strategy reads.

“Finalisation of the review of the Product Stewardship Act in 2020 will provide opportunities to reform stewardship arrangements, including opportunities for mandatory schemes where they support implementation of the export ban.”

Furthermore, the Federal and state governments will investigate opportunities for regional micro-factories, and establish regional recycling hubs in strategic locations across Australia.

Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans said the ban’s confirmation is the result of strong cooperation between states, territories and industry.

“We now have the opportunity to create jobs, grow the economy, transform the waste industry and significantly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill,” he said.

“We know that for every 10,000 tonnes of waste sent to landfill, there are approximately 2.8 direct jobs created. If we recycle the same waste, 9.2 direct jobs are created.”

According to Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan, the strategy shows a recognition of what is needed to build a sustainable waste and recovery industry in Australia.

“It is evident that the Federal Government is prepared to remain at the table and work with all other Australian governments, in order that we can future proof and resource our essential industry as we respond to the waste export bans, and achieve the waste reduction and recycling outcomes that the Australian community rightly expects,” she said.

The strategy not only acknowledges that waste plastic is a significant and complex issue, Ms Sloan said, but also takes positive initial steps in mapping out what all jurisdictions must do to tackle the challenge.

According to Ms Sloan, these range from harmonising policies and programs to phasing out single-use and hard to recycle plastics. The Federal Government is also supporting industry to invest in new plastics processing capacity, Ms Sloan said, through competitive grant funding and commercial and concessional loans.

“Of note however will be the need to fast track infrastructure, because with only two years till the roll-out of the plastics ban and the significant volume of waste plastic that needs to be managed, Australia needs to start building processing facilities now, for them to be up and running ahead of 2022,” Ms Sloan said.

Export ban timeline: 

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Pact Group announces $500M investment in plastics recovery

Pact Group, one of Australia’s largest rigid plastic product manufacturers, will invest $500 million into plastics recovery infrastructure, research and technology over the next five years.

Pact Group Non-Executive Chairman Raphael Geminder made the pledge at the first National Plastics Summit at Parliament House this week, following news the company plan to develop a plastic pelletising facility with Cleanaway and Asahi.

According to Mr Geminder, the company will partner with government and industry to invest in new facilities for sustainable packaging, reuse and recycling initiatives.

“Our stated vision is to include 30 per cent recycled content across our product portfolio by 2025. Across our business, this would be the equivalent of keeping nearly two billion plastic containers out of landfill,” Mr Geminder said.

“Just as importantly, we will be creating jobs for Australians in the circular economy – a new and growing sector where we believe Australia can lead the world.”

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the commitment was encouraging, with industry leadership to reduce plastic waste, increase recycling and create jobs a critical outcome of the summit.

“Pact’s announcement at the National Plastics Summit follows announcements from major brands McDonald’s and Nestlé, with McDonald’s committing to phase out plastic cutlery by the end of 2020, removing 585 tonnes of plastic waste per annum,” Ms Ley said.

“This adds to McDonald’s previous commitment to phase out 500 million straws every year and takes the total annual plastic reduction to 860 tonnes.”

Furthermore, Nestlé will partner with waste management company IQ Renew on a soft plastics collection trial, to be tested at 100,000 homes.

“The recycling economy starts here, this is where we take what are now seen as problems and turn them into assets that create remanufactured products, which create jobs and which grow our economy,” Ms Ley said.

Additional commitments include $650,000 from PepsiCo to support Greening the Green, a program aimed at educating consumers on soft plastics, and Unilever announcing it will halve its use of virgin plastic in production and packaging by 2025.

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation announced it would lead the development of the ANZPAC Plastic Pact, a new program within the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Plastics Pact Network.

“ANZPAC will provide the significant intervention required to meet Australia’s national plastic packaging target – that 70 per cent of all plastic packaging will be recycled or composted by 2025,” Ms Ley said.

According to Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans, the summit was an important step in working with industry to drive long-term practical outcomes, such as increasing Australia’s recycling rates and domestic reprocessing capabilities.

“We are looking towards fundamentally changing the way we think about and manage our waste, and creating new markets for recycled products,” he said.

“This transformation towards a circular economy will both create jobs and help our environment.”

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Waste projects awarded $20M in CRC grants

The Federal Government has invested almost $20 million in a series of waste reduction and resource recovery projects, as part of round eight of the Cooperative Research Centre grants program.

Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said the projects highlight the economic opportunities inherent in waste and recycling.

“Not only are these projects helping to ensure Australia has a more sustainable and prosperous future by reducing the impact of plastics on our environment, they are also opening further opportunities for new jobs,” she said.

“This funding will support Australian businesses and researchers as they forge new markets to limit the use of plastics and create recycled products.”

Among the grants is $2.9 million to develop a plant in Victoria that transforms plastic waste from the rectification work of hazardous building cladding into recycled shoes and prefabricated building elements.

“Once they reach the end of their life, the shoes and building products can again be recycled, showing the circular economy of waste and recycling,” Ms Andrews said.

“This project demonstrates an enormous opportunity from using the waste materials as a result of replacing hazardous building cladding.”

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the grants underline the Federal Government’s commitment to growing Australia’s recycling capacity and ending problematic waste exports.

“We know from working with industry that there are some amazing ideas to build on, and these CRC-P grants help foster Australian innovation in what is a key area for our environment and our economy,” she said.

Other successful recipients include: 

$3 million to create green micro-factories to turn recycled waste plastics into engineered products.

$2.7 million to transform plastic waste into lightweight prefabricated building products.

$2.5 million to develop a mobile plastic recycling container facility for remote and Indigenous communities.

$2.4 million to further test and develop a recycled plastic construction solution to be exported to global markets.

$1.9 million to grow the production of diesel from landfill waste.

$2 million to further develop technology that converts waste contaminated plastic into feedstock for remanufacturing plastic.

$1.8 million to scale-up patented bio-polymer technology, enabling the recycling of commingled and contaminated waste plastics without the need to sort the waste stream.

$650,000 to increase the re-use of HDPE plastic.

Applications for round nine of the CRC-P grants will open 13 February and close 19 March.

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Federal Government funds community environment projects

More than 900 local environment projects have received funding through the Federal Government’s $22.65 million Communities Environment Program.

Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans said he welcomed the significant proportion of waste reduction and recycling initiatives receiving funding.

“The Federal Government is strongly committed to increasing our recycling rates, turning our waste back into valuable products and encouraging innovation, so that resources are not lost to landfill,” Mr Evans said.

“It’s great to see that this commitment is shared by many in our communities, judging by the amount of applications seeking funding to deliver waste reduction, recycling and litter clean-up activities.”

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the government was pleased to see strong community interest in the program.

“People want to play a role in helping our environment, and it is fantastic to see such a wide range of not-for-profit community organisations, schools and local governing bodies engaged in identifying local priorities and opportunities,” Ms Ley said.

“Many are being encouraged to get involved for the first time in delivering small grant projects in particular, and we are also seeing how a number of individual projects can help address wider issues.”

Up to $150,000 was made available to each federal electorate during the 2019-20 financial year.

According to Ms Ley, applicants could apply for grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 per project, with each electorate eligible for up to 20 community-led projects that address local environmental priorities in their jurisdiction.

Examples of funded projects include a new community recycling station for light globes and batteries in Aberfoyle, South Australia, and a Pumicestone, Queensland project that seeks to recreate lost shellfish reefs using old oyster shells.

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Federal Government to host first national plastic summit

The Federal Government is set to host Australia’s first national plastic summit in 2020.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the summit will explore new remanufacturing methods in an effort to build a wider understanding about the importance of recycling strategies.

Ms Ley said approximately 200 leading retailers, industry representatives, state governments, local government associations, infrastructure companies and researchers will be invited to Canberra in early March to take part in the national summit.

“Delegates will be invited to showcase solutions, mobilise actions and address the National Waste Policy Action Plan target of phasing out problematic and unnecessary plastics over the next five years,” Ms Ley said.

“Consumer and community education will be a key focus, along with the role of school children and young adults in influencing household behaviour, and in highlighting the link between industry action and community interests.”

Ms Ley said the Federal Government will be looking for commitments from industry that will create jobs, research opportunities, education initiatives and practical community outcomes.

“The Federal Government is investing more than $167 million in our national Recycling Investment Plan, and all governments have taken a significant step agreeing to ban the export of unprocessed mixed plastic waste from 2021,” Ms Ley said.

“As we hit the peak plastic packaging time of the year, now is an opportunity for all Australians to consider the ways we can think about the plastic we use and, importantly recycle.”

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