Sustainability Victoria launches Buy Recycled directory

Sustainability Victoria has launched a new online directory, Buy Recycled, which highlights Victorian products containing recycled content.

The tool is designed to provide government buyers with easy access to suppliers and recycled material options when considering products for purchasing and infrastructure projects.

The Victorian Government’s Social Procurement Framework requires government buyers to consider opportunities to deliver social and sustainable outcomes in every procurement activity.

Where appropriate, this includes sustainable material choices and buying products made from recycled content.

“We support state and local governments to consider environmental sustainability principles when making decisions about purchasing goods for public construction and infrastructure,” a Sustainability Victoria statement reads.

Products listed in the directory include: fencing, furniture, pavement, piping and irrigation, playgrounds, road base and soils.

“It is increasingly important for government to consider the environmental impact of purchasing and infrastructure activities,” the statement reads.

“Buy Recycled aims to provide buyers with options to achieve positive environmental outcomes and support organisational sustainability goals.”

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There’s still time to enter the 2020 Premier’s Sustainability Awards

Entries are closing soon for the Premier’s Sustainability Awards 2020 – a program of 11 categories that rewards outstanding achievements by Victorians leading the way in sustainable innovation and practices across all sectors within the state.

Read moreThere’s still time to enter the 2020 Premier’s Sustainability Awards

Two-hundred million bottles: Alex Fraser

A new glass additive bin at Alex Fraser’s Clarinda Recycling Facility is boosting its reprocessing capability by 40,000 tonnes a year and has the capacity to double that production annually.

Late last year, Alex Fraser was among 13 recipients of the Victorian Government’s $4.67 million Resource Recovery Infrastructure Grants program.

It used the $336,500 grant towards the construction of the new glass and brick additive bins at its Clarinda Recycling Facility, where they are used to blend recycled glass sand and brick into a new, sustainable roadbase product.

This single piece of recycling infrastructure is markedly increasing the distribution of recycled glass and brick into road and rail projects throughout Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs.

Delivering on end-market demand is a central focus for Alex Fraser, with Clarinda currently processing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of recycled products for use on road construction and maintenance projects across Victoria.

Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser Managing Director, says the facility is currently reducing the landfilling and stockpiling of problematic glass by 40,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of 200 million bottles.

He adds that with the new additive bins in full production mode, Alex Fraser has the capacity to double this annual production.

“By reprocessing this priority waste into high quality sand, we’re able to supply rail and road projects with a range of high-spec, sustainable materials that cut costs, cartage and carbon emissions, and reduce the strain on natural resources,” he says.

“We’re pleased to be working with the Victorian Government to overcome one of the state’s biggest recycling challenges.”

Matt Genever, Director of Resource Recovery at Sustainability Victoria, says SV recognised the Clarinda Recycling Facility as an important site for resource recovery in Melbourne.

“Processing up to one million tonnes of recycling per annum, the site serves a dual purpose, both as a hub for C&D waste in the south-east and through supply of aggregate and sand into new construction activities,” he says.

“We are acutely aware of the shortage of quarried materials to supply the state’s significant infrastructure program and having a site of this scale located in close proximity to these major projects is essential in ensuring ongoing supply of recycled construction products and materials.”

Recently, the Southern Program Alliance opted to utilise almost 200,000 tonnes of tonnes of Alex Fraser’s recycled materials on the Mentone and Cheltenham Level Crossing Removal Upgrade (LXRA).

The project, expected to be completed in early 2021, is set to save 170,000 tonnes of material from landfill and will reduce the strain on natural resources by 185,000 tonnes.

With the additive bin now in full operation at the Clarinda Recycling Facility, Alex Fraser is increasing its handling of priority recovered materials – like glass fines and brick – to around 800 tonnes per week.

“Glass is a high-volume waste stream, so it is imperative its recycling facilities are well located close to the point of generation and close to its end-markets,” Peter says.

He adds that as inner-metropolitan quarries deplete, natural sand is being trucked up to 100 kilometres, driving up costs, traffic congestion and emissions.

The additive bin will not only help with Melbourne’s glass waste problem, but provide an inner city supply solution that reduces these impacts.

“We are not only reprocessing waste materials, but ensuring that the material is recycled into a valuable resource that is needed and contributes toward Victoria’s growing circular economy,” Peter says.

Alex Fraser’s Clarinda facility has the capacity to recycle a million tonnes of C&D waste each year. Peter explains that the reprocessed material typically goes out to road and rail projects as recycled aggregates, road base or asphalt.

“With the new additive bins, we are able to blend recycled glass sand and brick into a product that meets Vicroads specifications for most road bases which are being used in huge quantities on municipal works and Big Build projects throughout the south east,” he says.

You can read the full article in the July edition of Waste Management Review.

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Construction sector to prioritise recycled

Recycled First aims to bring a unified approach to the application of recycled materials on road infrastructure projects. Waste Management Review homes in on the program.

With Victoria’s big build delivering more than 100 road and rail projects across the state, there are significant opportunities to grow the use recycled and reusable materials in construction projects.

In early March, the Victorian Government announced the Recycled First program. Recycled First will build new requirements into future projects under the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority, with the goal of bringing a uniform approach to the use of recycled products.

The program will mean recycled and reused materials that meet existing standards, whether it be recycled aggregates, glass, plastic, timber, steel, reclaimed asphalt pavement or organics, take precedence over new materials.

The program complements the Victorian Government’s Recycling Victoria: A new economy policy, which includes the introduction of a four-bin system, supported by a planned Container Deposit Scheme (CDS), waste-to-energy investment and a dedicated waste authority and new Act.

Recycled First doesn’t set mandatory minimum requirements or targets, it focuses on a project by project basis. In this way, the aim is to allow contractors to liaise with recycled material suppliers and determine if there are adequate supplies of the products needed for their project.

For these projects, bidders will need to demonstrate how they’ll optimise the use of recycled materials. Additionally, contractors must report on the types and volumes of recycled products they used.

Organisations interested in delivering major transport infrastructure projects will need to demonstrate how they will prioritise recycled and reused materials while maintaining compliance and quality standards.

According to the Victorian Government, work is already underway with current construction partners to get more recycled content used on major projects, in addition to the new Recycled First requirements.

The M80 Ring Road, Monash Freeway and South Gippsland Highway upgrades are using more than 20,000 tonnes of recycled materials and 190 million glass bottles are being used on surfaces of the $1.8 billion Western Roads Upgrade.

Recycled demolition material has also been used in recent months to build extra lanes along 24 kilometres of the Tullamarine Freeway, as well as the Monash Freeway and M80 Ring Road.

Around 14,000 tonnes of excavated soil from the Metro Tunnel site in Parkville is being applied on pavement layers on roads in Point Cook.

Alexis Davison, Director, Program Services and Engineering, Major Road Projects Victoria, says Major Road Projects Victoria is working closely with the Department of Transport to review the current specifications for recycled and reused content to allow for greater use and remove barriers to their implementation.

“We’re aiming to deliver sustainable and innovative transport infrastructure for Victoria – and Recycled First will explore new and better ways to do that,” Alexis says.

“Specifications already allow the use of some recycled materials, and we’re compiling reference guides for road and rail infrastructure to ensure our project teams and contractors are aware of them.”

Claire Ferres Miles, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainability Victoria (SV), says the first-of-its-kind policy builds on SV’s ongoing work in research and market development to find new uses and create markets for recovered materials in the construction sector.

She says that SV will expand its work to support the groundwork for new recycled products and materials, through testing, trials and commercialisation.

“Through Major Roads Project Victoria and Recycled First, we now have a direct line for these products to be utilised in major Victorian Government projects, and in parallel, SV will work in partnership with the local government sector to increase the use of recycled content in their procurement,” she says.

Claire adds that SV will continue to build on its partnerships with the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) and the university sector to ensure performance-based standards and specifications are in place.

Claire points to the state government’s 10-year Recycling Victoria plan, which includes a landmark $300 million industry package.

“The introduction of Recycled First by the Victorian Government sends strong, positive signals that align with SV’s successful Research, Development and Demonstration program. This has achieved a significant increase in the use of crushed concrete, crumb rubber and recycled glass sand in construction projects,” she says.

Alex Fraser remains one of Victoria’s leading suppliers of recycled construction materials: recovering, recycling and supplying up to three million tonnes of construction materials made from recovered, construction and demolition and glass waste each year.

The use of these materials is reducing the carbon footprint on new infrastructure projects by up to 65 per cent. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, the company’s efforts are reducing construction materials to landfill, truck traffic and extraction of limited natural resources.

With its Melbourne sites in Clarinda, Laverton and Epping, Alex Fraser’s network of facilities circumference the city and are ideally placed to reliably supply major projects.

From the Western Roads Upgrade, the Southern Roads Upgrade, Level Crossing Removal Authority projects, and freeways like the Monash and Mordialloc Freeway and North-East Link, the company is poised to support Recycled First.

Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy says recycled construction materials are being used in great quantities in all sorts of projects throughout Victoria, and increasingly in other states.

“The vast majority of the construction industry is well aware of the consistent high quality of recycled materials, as well as the many commercial and environmental benefits they offer,” Peter says.

“An initiative like Recycled First sends an important message from government to industry that investing in Victoria’s circular economy and reducing the environmental impact of construction through responsible product choices is a priority.”

Peter says that now more than ever, it’s important that those building our cities are aware of the sustainable options available to them.

He cites the Joint Ministerial Statement on Extractive Resources – which highlights the Victorian Government’s priorities to address constraints in virgin extractive resources, including by facilitating substitution with recycled product.

“Virgin material close to Melbourne is already limited. Switching to recycled not only attracts environmental savings but reduces the strain on metropolitan extractive industries,” he says.

Major works such as the Tullamarine Freeway, the M80, The Dingley Bypass and the Monash Freeway have exemplified the Recycled First concept, as they have included large quantities of recycled materials.

“Current projects like the Mordialloc Freeway, many Level Crossing Removal projects, the Monash Freeway upgrade, and the Western Roads upgrade include masses of recycled content, including millions of glass bottles from kerbside collections,” Peter says.

Additionally, Peter says forward thinking municipalities like Bayside, Monash, Yarra and Maribyrnong are actively seeking out sustainable materials to build greener roads in their cities.

When it comes to the debate on mandatory targets, Peter says Alex Fraser does not advocate for mandating the use of recycled materials across the board. He says project managers should make decisions based on quality, timelines, cost and environmental factors.

“We’ve seen mandated approaches in other jurisdictions result in perverse outcomes. For example, there may not be much benefit in mandating the use of recycled material on a project that is many kilometres from a recycling facility, but only around the corner from a quarry.”

He says it would be encouraging to see a stronger policy position on the protection of critical resource recovery infrastructure.

“We know for recycling to work at all, facilities need to be positioned close to where recyclable material is generated and close to where markets exist for recycled products,” he says.

“Planning policy has to support other policies to ensure continued investment in resource and recovery infrastructure in Victoria is viable.”

Peter points out that even with the introduction of recycling schemes like the CDS and a glass bin, recycling glass fines in construction remains critically important to the effective management of glass waste.

He says that experience with the rollout of the CDS interstate indicates that higher overall glass recovery volumes are achieved but recycling options need to be found for the kerbside glass that is seen to be inferior to the cleaner CDS derived glass.

“More than 40 per cent of recovered glass is unable to be traditionally recycled back into bottles, because the fragments are either too small to be optically sorted, opaque, or covered in paper and plastics. In Victoria this equates to around 140,000 tonnes per annum,” he says.

“Recycling this mass of glass fines into construction sand will be important in reducing landfill and providing the construction industry with a sustainable alternative to already limited supplies of natural sands.”

Peter says Victoria has long led the way in the use of recycled material in infrastructure.

“It would be great to see the same enthusiasm in other states, where greater barriers to the uptake of recycled material exist. It’s especially encouraging to see other states drafting improvements to their specifications” he says.

“The quality and performance of recycled material has been well proven over decades. Clear policy positions from government along with supportive and straight forward specifications will make a significant difference to the use of recycled materials in major projects beyond Victoria.”

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) focuses on supporting the commercialisation of intelligent transport solutions.

As sustainability becomes an increasing priority for the roads sector, it has had an increasing recycling focus over the past few years.

Through its Port Melbourne research lab and partnerships with the roads sector, ARRB has been testing recycled crushed glass, crumb rubber asphalt, reclaimed asphalt pavement and a range of other materials. ARRB CEO Michael Caltabiano says stakeholders are focused on ensuring they can do their best to reinforce circular economy principals.

“For the roads sector that means using recycled product as much as we can,” Michael says.

ARRB is involved in a number of key Victorian projects, including a trial of recycled crushed glass in asphalt on local roads in west Melbourne with Brimbank City Council. Additionally, Tyre Stewardship Australia, ARRB and the Victorian Department of Transport are conducting the first crumb rubber asphalt trial on an arterial road.

Michael says ARRB has also been funded by Queensland and WA state road agencies to look at the polymer characteristics of the plastic waste stream and how it might be incorporated into bituminous projects.

“The flame burns brightly in keeping the recycled products agenda going in the roads sector,” Michael says.

“Government is focused on it and so is ARRB – our task is to design the specifications for the future. We need to understand the science of how these product perform and produce the guidelines and specifications for local governments and state governments to use and put in their tender documents.”

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Entries open for Premier’s Sustainability Awards

Entries are now open for the Premier’s Sustainability Awards 2020 – a program of 11 categories that rewards outstanding achievements by Victorians leading the way in sustainable innovation and practices across all sectors within the state.

Entering their 18th year, the 2020 awards will be judged by a panel of climate change, science and research experts who assess applicants’ answers to five key questions.

Sustainability Victoria CEO Claire Ferres Miles said the awards play a critical role in recognising cutting-edge research, industry innovation, community connections and partnerships.

“The Premier’s Sustainability Awards are an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate outstanding Victorian businesses and individuals who have taken action to transition Victoria to a circular and climate resilient economy,” Ms Ferres Miles said.

“I encourage organisations and individuals in metropolitan and regional Victoria to consider submitting entries for the awards. This year, the application process has been streamlined to be quick and simple to complete.”

Last year’s awards program saw a record number of submissions. Winning entries included an e-waste recycling social enterprise, quality asphalt built from recycled materials and a hospital food waste initiative that collects surplus patient meals for processing and redistribution.

“Finalists take great pride to be recognised for their strategic foresight and hard work by sustainability leaders, sector peers, local communities and customers,” Ms Ferres Miles added.

“Winners tell us they benefit greatly from the increased exposure of their economic, social and environmental efforts in their business operations. The awards are a win-win for the state of Victoria.”

Entries for the 2020 awards close on Monday 20 July at 5pm.

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Recycling Victoria: a new economy? Part two

The Victorian Government’s Recycling Victoria strategy is the largest package of recycling reforms in the state’s history. Waste Management Review explores the policy.

This article is the second in a three part series: part two will explore the forthcoming CDS, waste as an essential service and the Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund. To read part one click here

In recent years, Victoria’s waste and resource recovery system has faced a number of setbacks, from fires at material recycling facilities and illegal stockpiling, to uneven policy regulations and the collapse of major processor SKM Recycling in 2019. Added to this is uncertainty amid COVID-19 ramifications.

The SKM collapse was particularly noteworthy, entering mainstream consciousness after 33 Victorian councils were forced to landfill their recycling: calling the state’s infrastructure capacity into question.

Fast forward just one year, and the state is in better shape, with the release of Victoria’s long-awaited circular economy policy Recycling Victoria: A New Economy presenting widespread opportunity for sector growth.

CASH FOR CANS

Before Recycling Victoria’s February release, Victoria, often touted as the ‘progressive’ state, was the only Australian jurisdiction without a container deposit scheme (CDS) in place or forthcoming.

The state government’s CDS hesitance has been an ongoing point of frustration for industry, with Ms D’Ambrosio telling delegates at VWMA’s August 2019 State Conference that the state government had no current plans to develop a CDS.

Additionally, despite an acknowledgement of demonstrated success in other jurisdictions, Infrastructure Victoria’s October 2019 interim waste report suggested more analysis was needed on how to design an optimal scheme for the state. That said, the times are changing, with Recycling Victoria committing to introduce a CDS by 2023.

Speaking with Waste Management Review in March, Trevor Evans, Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister, said the Victorian commitment means Australia is now fully covered by CDS.

“The next question is whether we can get those schemes operating as harmoniously as possible. We know a harmonised approach between the states and territories would lead to the very best outcomes for Australia,” he said.

While the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) would prefer to see a national CDS, Rose Read, NWRIC CEO, says at minimum, Victoria should work with all other state and territory CDS’ to ensure performance criteria for community access, network distribution, collection and material recovery targets.

She adds that reporting set by governments should be consistent to ensure services can be delivered cost effectively by the industry to the beverage suppliers.

While Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Outgoing Executive Officer, says he is supportive of Victoria’s CDS announcement, he similarly stresses the need to select a model that puts community access, ease of use and accessibility first, and doesn’t put remote and regional communities at a disadvantage.

“I’m optimistic that government will appropriately consultant with all the key stakeholders about a CDS role out including the VWMA members. Our association is here to advocate for our members and I’d really encourage the teams working on CDS to engage with us, Victoria’s peak body representing the sector” he says.

“I’d encourage any of our members who are concerned about CDS in Victoria to reach out and voice those concerns directly with us, so we can consider them when engaging with the government in coming months.”

ESSENTIAL REGULATION

Recognising that major reforms are needed to lift the performance of Victoria’s recycling sector, the state government will establish a new dedicated Waste and Recycling Act to govern all aspects associated with waste and recycling services. And in effect, regulate waste as an essential service.

“This new Act will address current gaps by requiring improved data collection from waste and recycling organisations (including material recovery facilities) to provide transparency and accountability for what happens to our waste,” the strategy reads.

Nick Harford, Equilibrium Managing Director, says regulating waste as an essential service represents sensible reform. He notes that in 2019, the Essential Services Commission was asked by the state government to review the waste and resource recovery sector.

“They provided a confidential report to government last year, and obviously we don’t know what was in it. But they indicated at the time that they saw a limited availability of recycling markets and additional capacity constraints,” he says.

According to Nick, the Essential Services Commission also indicated that they wanted to explore contractual arrangements, barriers to market and community and business expectations.

“I think these are the sorts of things they will now examine, and given the nature of those things, I expect there will need to be some consultation with stakeholders, if not the broader Victorian community,” he says.

Nick notes that responsibilities are likely to change under the Act, highlighting that local government currently holds authority for MSW waste, with different systems and kerbside compositions across local government areas.

“I think government is signalling that these new powers may enable a state-wide approach. It may be outcomes focused, for instance, the state government sets its expectations and it’s up to local government or other authorities to achieve that. Or it could be a more mandated approach,” he says.

The state government will also establish a new waste authority in 2021, with the aim of better governing Victoria’s waste and recycling systems, and holding waste service providers to account. This will ensure, the strategy suggests, that recent recycling disruptions are not repeated.

In terms of how these changes will affect the private sector, Nick forecasts that it will lead to increased accountability.

“It’s flagged in the policy that greater data collection and reporting is expected. Which I assume is another driver for legislating as an essential service, because it gives the state power to demand reporting from the sector,” he says.

“That will potentially lead to more costs, but we’ll have to see how it pans out. Recycling companies have been getting better and better in terms of tracking and reporting their materials handling. So really, it’s just business as usual. I think the general principle is that an informed market is an efficient market.”

Nick highlights that if the Essential Services Commission informs the purchase of waste and recycling services in a more effective manner, it could lead to increased competition, and as such, more innovation, as companies look for opportunities and competitive advantages.

WASTE-TO-ENERGY CAP

In addition to essential services regulation, Nick highlights Recycling Victoria’s waste-to-energy (WtE) commitments as significant, albeit vague.

“This is an area where we as an industry need to see more detail, because the state government mentions giving priority to aerobic digestion as a technology, as well as putting a cap on the amount of material that can go to WtE via thermal technology,” he says.

Despite a recognition of the role WtE plays in a functioning resource recovery sector, the state government has placed a cap of one million tonnes a year on the amount of residual waste that can be used in thermal WtE facilities, until 2030.

“The cap will be implemented through new rules which will be given effect by legislation or regulations. The cap will include all thermal WtE facilities and apply to the quantity of waste they use as feedstocks,” the strategy reads.

In reference to the cap, Nick says he isn’t sure how it will play out.

“Does that include facilities that are already approved, even if they are not up and running? Australian Paper for example is already approved, which is 700,000 tonnes per annum of material earmarked for thermal processing. They haven’t secured that material yet, but it is on the drawing board,” he says.

According to Rose, applying a volume cap provides certainty to industry, and importantly, gives the community confidence that genuine recyclables won’t be used as feedstock.

“However, the NWRIC does not believe a cap of one million tonnes is appropriate, as currently there is over 4.2 million tonnes going to landfill, of which between 40 per cent to 50 per cent of this material would be considered eligible residual waste,” she says.

Under Recycling Victoria, the state government has also committed to supporting early entrants into Victoria’s WtE market, including facilities that use organic waste to make bioenergy or provide precinct-scale energy.

Investment support will include grant or loan funding, and investment facilitation to help proponents navigate regulatory and financial processes. The government will also fund research to develop safe end uses for residual products such as ash and digestate.

CAPACITY EXPANSION

The state government has allocated $100 million via the Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund to help local businesses establish and upgrade infrastructure to sort and reprocess recyclables for use in manufacturing. The fund will be administered by Sustainability Victoria (SV).

“The package includes $30 million in grants to make Victoria a leader in recycling innovation – creating new products from recycled materials like glass, plastic, organics, electronic waste, concrete, brick and rubber,” Premier Daniel Andrew said.

“The government will also provide $10 million in grants to help businesses improve resource efficiency, reduce waste and increase recycling in their daily operations – saving them time and money.”

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Claire Ferres Miles

Claire Ferres Miles, SV Chief Executive Officer, says SV are proud to have played a significant role in developing the Recycling Victoria policy.

“Our work to transform the recycling sector is already underway – SV designed and recently launched $39.5 million in grants from the Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund to boost recycling capacity in Victoria,” she says.

“We look forward to supporting all Victorians as together we transition to a circular economy, and ensuring our community has a recycling system that can be relied on.”

According to Claire, widespread disruption to global recycling market has exposed the volatility of Victoria’s recycling system, and the need to invest in industry to increase resilience.

“The Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund is focussed initially on plastics and paper and cardboard reprocessing and glass beneficiation, as there are significant gaps for these materials,” she says.

Claire notes however that the exact processing gap for any material is not clear cut, with many variables.

“Using market intelligence and horizon scan activity, we are proactively working to be aware of how materials are moving through our economy and where government intervention is required,” she says.

“As an example of this, we used our e-waste material flow analysis to identify photovoltaic panels as an emerging waste issue. This data has supported us to develop a national stewardship approach to address this issue.”

In addition to the Infrastructure Fund, Recycling Victoria will see the expansion of the state government’s Investment Facilitation Service.

“SV’s Investment Facilitation Service is available to all Victorian-based resource recovery businesses, and since its inception in 2015, has engaged with over 400 resource recovery projects,” Claire says.

“The service promotes opportunities in the sector, supports business case development and coordinates the investor’s relationship across government.”

The service has also been a critical conduit through which industry concerns and needs informed Recycling Victoria’s development, Claire says. She adds that much of this feedback and insight is reflected in the policy.

“Over the coming months, SV will work closely with industry to define an enhanced role for this service that is high value and fit-for-purpose, for both current and emerging challenges, and opportunities to achieve investment attraction in Victoria,” Claire explains.

In addition to the paper and cardboard, plastic and glass materials fund, SV has opened grants for the Infrastructure Fund’s hazardous waste stream, with expressions of interest sought until 8 May.

“There is an estimated 15,000 – 29,000 tonnes per annum of liquid hazardous wastes containing recyclable solvent that needs to be managed in Victoria. Currently there is limited capacity to recycle these solvents,” Claire says.

“This funding will support the establishment of recycling infrastructure to viably increase the recycling of solvents for use in the Victorian economy.”

Of the Investment Fund, Jillian Riseley, Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) Chief Executive Officer, says there is significant opportunity to improve infrastructure capacity across Victoria.

“It’s exciting as we look to the future and our role in facilitating the delivery of new recycling services contracts for councils,” she says.

Jillian adds that MWRRG is in the final stages of its review into the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan.

“It will make a range of recommendations for the waste and resource recovery sector to ensure we meet our future needs and objectives to reduce waste and increase resource recovery,” she says.

“In reviewing our Metropolitan Implementation Plan, we consulted with industry to understand the capacity and future needs of the sector to ensure we have the right infrastructure in place.”

MWRRG have ensured that the review recommendations align with the objectives of Recycling Victoria, the findings of Infrastructure Victoria’s report on the waste and resource recovery sector and the national waste policy, Jillian adds.

According to Duncan Lummis, ARCADIS Associate Technical Director, Recycling Victoria provides some long-awaited clarity and an outline route map to help steer Victoria away from its current over reliance on landfill and export markets for recyclables.

He adds that currently, multiple government agencies have either recently, or are in the process of, considering the scale of capacity gaps in Victoria’s reprocessing infrastructure.

“Sustainability Victoria’s updated 2018 Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan identified significant gaps across the state. Notably, these included a lack of reprocessing facilities for organic and residual wastes across all regions in Victoria,” he says.

These gaps, Duncan adds, have the potential to become more significant in light of the new, ambitious landfill diversion and recovery targets.

In the medium term, he says, FOGO processing capacity needs to be increased significantly to manage the newly expanded household services.

“The scale of the gaps, by region and material type, would be clearer with the release of government studies, data and analysis used to support the development of the new policy,” Duncan says.

In terms of Recycling Victoria’s infrastructure funding commitments, Duncan says “time will tell” as to whether the new funding referenced in the policy is adequate.

“Key considerations will be the measurement of future landfill diversion and recovery performance against the policy’s targets, and the ability of future funding priorities to be refocused where required,” he says.

“Flexibility to change future funding priorities is needed to address underperforming areas and sectors. The revamped waste data system in Victoria should also be used to ensure that future funding is appropriately targeted.”

Duncan says the decision to initially focus on organic, plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, textiles and tyre processing is positive.

“In addition, for WtE solutions to process residuals, the indirect support provided through increases in the landfill levy is a game changer that should enable much needed alternatives to landfill to enter the Victorian market,” he explains.

Duncan adds that contaminated soil reprocessing solutions would also benefit from clear, longer term support mechanisms to encourage investment.

“This would help to address the emerging PFAS issues, partly resulting from Victoria’s Big Build agenda, which has resulted in large quantities of contaminated soils being stockpiled” he says.

Duncan expects that specific materials will continue to be prioritised until the trajectory of landfill diversion and recovery performance demonstrates that the new targets are likely to be achieved.

“Confidence in the achievement of the targets is needed, which will not only be gained through the provision of key financial packages, levy increases and regulatory changes, but crucially, will be demonstrated and evidenced through more robust and reliable data,” he says.

“Monitoring of performance against the targets should be ongoing and used to inform future revisions to the policy when required, to help ensure councils, communities, commerce, industry and the waste management sector are collectively kept on track to achieve the targets.”

THE INTERIM WASTE REPORT

Published in October 2019, Infrastructure Victoria’s (IV) interim waste report sought to examine the waste and resource recovery sector through an infrastructure lens.

Evidence from the report suggested Victoria was failing to meet its stated waste policy objectives, including reducing waste to landfill and minimising the impact of waste disposal on human health and the environment.

While two separate documents, Jonathan Spear, IV Deputy Chief Executive, says he is pleased to see an alignment between IV’s report and Recycling Victoria.

“There are lots of themes there and lots of policy directions that government took after this final policy set,” he says.

“It was really good to see, and really good collaboration with IV with industry and with local government and state government to achieve that.”

Following the report, IV was tasked with providing final advice to government, which Jonathan says they have recently delivered.

“The key part of our work was being quite detailed about what the infrastructure requirements are for recycling and resource recovery,” he says.

“What we think government will do is use that to inform the finer details of implementing its policy, especially around what sort of infrastructure investments are meant to be made by industry and local, state and commonwealth governments.”

Jonathan expects IV’s advice will publicly available in the coming months.

Next week’s instalment will explore the policy’s organics recovery targets, the Victorian Government’s Social Procurement Framework and efforts to support safe and effective high-risk and hazardous waste management. 

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SV extends Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund EOI

Sustainability Victoria has extended its Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund expressions of interest period to support projects aimed at improving recycling and local reprocessing of paper and cardboard, plastics and glass.

According to a Sustainability Victoria statement, local government authorities are now eligible for the grant, with expressions of interest extended to 8 May.

“By extending the closing date of the expressions of interest we are optimistic this will be beneficial to all stakeholders and the funding program,” the statement reads.

Funding is available for infrastructure projects (new infrastructure or upgrades) that increase the capacity and capability of Victoria’s resource recovery sector and/or improve the quality of available materials for reprocessing and remanufacturing.

Eligible projects include infrastructure and equipment for new facilities, upgrades or expansions to support greater sorting and decontamination of recovered priority materials.

Additional eligible projects include infrastructure and equipment for new facilities, upgrades and expansion to enable reprocessing of materials to a higher quality suitable for manufacturers and end-markets, and infrastructure and equipment for the remanufacturing of recovered priority materials into new products.

Applicants may submit more than one application, however, each application must meet the eligibility criteria and demonstrate how its project addresses the merit criteria and objectives of the program.

“All streams of funding require a co-contribution from the applicant. Your organisation must make a minimum co-contribution of $1: $3 ratio (Government: Applicant) towards the total project cost,” the statement reads.

“Your project can receive funding from other government sources (including federal, state or local). However, this funding cannot be included in your co-contribution.”

Applicants will receive an outcome notification by June 2020, with successful applicants invited to submit a stage two business case by July. Grant recipients will be announced in December.

Funding limits: 

Paper and cardboard: up to 25 per cent of total project capital cost, capped at $8 million per project

Plastics and glass: up to 25 per cent of total project capital cost, capped at $3 million per project.

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The MUD dilemma

With multi-unit dwellings on the rise, Waste Management Review speaks with industry and government stakeholders about overcoming the associated waste management challenges.

As populations grow and property prices increase, Australian cities are facing a period of unprecedented shift. While the suburban ideal of a detached residence on a block of land might be aspirational to many, under present-day economic and urban planning conditions, multi-unit dwellings (MUDs) are increasingly becoming the norm.

In 2006, Bill Randolph of the University of New South Wales’ City Futures Research Centre said high-density housing, principally delivered by urban renewal and infill development, is expected to be the main source of future residential growth in major urban cities.

Almost 15 years later and Professor Randolph’s projections seem to be coming to pass, with 2018 Housing Economics Group data showing that MUDs rose from five to 25 per cent of total housing commencements between 1998 and 2018.

Whether this shift is positive or negative is a subjective matter, but data does suggest that high-density properties experience greater than average recycling contamination rates.

Contamination comes down to a number of unique challenges, according to research from the University of Technology Sydney. These include physical barriers such as distance to recycling bins, and social barriers such as a sense of anonymity or lack of responsibility for disposal and recovery.

Responding to these challenges, the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) initiated a project to improve MUD recycling in 2018. Specifically focused on reducing contamination through waste infrastructure availability and resident facing engagement, SSROC conducted bin audits at 75 MUDs. While University of Technology Sydney evaluations found the project was well delivered, final analysis was unable to detect any impact on recycling behaviour.

Similar issues are equally present south of the border, with the Victorian Auditor General’s 2019 report Recovering and Reprocessing Resources from Waste suggesting that despite growing recognition of the issue, there is limited guidance or direction on MUD waste management from a planning or legislative standpoint.   

Council kerbside waste collection is unavailable to most existing MUDs, the report notes, with private operators sometimes engaged to ensure new and existing MUDs offer recycling collection services.

This is due to insufficient kerbside space for bins, the report suggests, and an incompatibility between the collection infrastructure needed to manage large multi-storey buildings and council equipment.

Furthermore, the report highlights that while councils can influence how much space new MUDs allocate for waste infrastructure through the planning process, they don’t currently require new or existing MUDs’ serviced by commercial operators to offer commingled recycling services.

As such, the report suggests that as the level of MUDs increases, overall recovery rates will decrease.

“Most MUDs have only one waste collection service – for landfill,” it reads.

PLANNING PROVISIONS

In Victoria, much like the rest of Australia, the prevalence of MUDs has grown significantly over the last 10 years, mainly in the CBD and inner metropolitan Melbourne.

According to Sam Trowse, Sustainability Victoria Land Use Planning Project Lead, this growth has typically occurred without specific waste and recycling guidelines for high-density residential development.

“This has created issues for councils and the resource recovery industry in ensuring correct design and management options are implemented to maximise recycling,” Sam says.

He adds that as a consequence, recycling rates are lower in MUDs than in single residential dwellings. Additionally, while some planning tools and other policy guidelines exist across Victoria, Sam says these differ from council to council.

“This can make it difficult for developers and waste management consultants to design waste and recycling systems effectively across different councils, and highlights the importance of seeking early council input into design,” he says.

To address these issues, Sustainability Victoria (SV) developed its Guide to Better Practice for Waste Management and Recycling in Multi-unit Developments in 2019.

The guide, Sam says, focuses on a number of challenges including limited space for infrastructure and collection services, collection contractor requirements and a disconnect between council waste management officers, land use planners and building officers.

“The guide also focuses on emerging themes such as waste generation rates, which enables building designers to understand likely needed storage space and options to increase organics recovery, dependent on the characteristics and size of the MUDs in development,” Sam says.

Another focus is the existence of opportunities for precinct-scale MUDs, such as onsite treatments, like waste-to-energy, and automated waste collection systems such as vacuum waste.

While the guide is extensive and separated into types such as low-rise apartments, mixed use and precinct scale developments, essential requirements include hygiene, system simplicity and indemnity and waste service flexibility.

Examples of design considerations also include adequate storage space for the easy manoeuvring of bins and vehicle access and turning areas free from obstacles.

While they are just guidelines, Sam notes the document was added to the Victorian Planning Provisions in 2020.

“This is a positive move towards reinforcing the guide through land-use planning decision making.

“It also means that developers will need to meet the requirements of the guide when submitting planning permits for MUDs to councils,” he says.

TRICKLE DOWN

According to Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association Chief Executive, MUDs pose an array of challenges to the association’s industry members. The dwellings are problematic, he explains, as there is little consideration of the waste needs of residents, especially in newer builds.

“It’s not uncommon to see beautifully designed buildings that feature elements helping to address energy and water efficiency, but failing on simple considerations like providing space for standard size waste trucks to access the site,” he says.

“MUDs are also great examples of how one or two poor behaving neighbours can have a huge impact on the efforts of the majority, leading to significant contamination issues.”

Recognising that the demographics of MUDs are very different, Mark says in addition to infrastructure concerns, what is often lacking is consistent community education on what goes in which bin. If recent challenges have taught VWMA anything, Mark says, it’s that the community is heavily engaged and passionate about waste management. He adds however that not all communities are afforded the same access to services, which is evident at MUDs.

While the Victorian Government is certainly taking strides in its approach to waste management in MUDs, planning responsibility often falls on council shoulders. As highlighted by Sam, guides and best practice can vary significantly between councils, and as such, harmonised design and education programs can be a challenge.

In an attempt to foster centralisation, the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG), which works on behalf of 31 Melbourne councils, developed its “Improving resource recovery in multi-unit developments toolkits” in 2018.

According to Jillian Riseley, MWRRG CEO, the toolkit is designed to help councils adopt and implement waste management considerations into the planning approvals process.

The toolkit features a waste management plan template, guide and checklist, enabling the user to calculate and record the number of bins required for building development, as well as collection frequency and storage management.

“The standard plan template can also be used as a base to customise and reflect council’s servicing capabilities, before providing it to developers to complete and submit with their planning permit application,” Jillian says.

She adds that MUDs can be a challenge for councils due to poorly designed collection areas, varying levels of collection services and limited opportunity for residents to recycle.

Onsite issues, such as inappropriate collection infrastructure or storage and bin and transportation access, can also limit the number and size of bins available to sort different streams of material, Jillian says. Furthermore, she adds that collection services and contracts vary depending on whether they’re provided by council or commercial contractors.

“In turn, this can make it more challenging to educate residents and standardise the type of materials suitable for collection, as well as manage contamination and compaction rates,” Jillian says.

Developed after extensive consultation and independent analysis, the toolkit helps councils align waste management plans with state objectives. “The toolkit helps councils save time and resources, with waste plan requirements able to be checked during the planning permit assessment process,” she says.

“The straightforward assessment list ensures a basic level of consideration for waste and resource recovery before the waste management plan is sent to a specialist waste management officer.”

Since MWRRG developed the toolkit, Jillian says multiple councils have developed their own parallel MUD guidelines.

“Councils are also trialling and implementing waste and recycling programs tailored to MUD residents including onsite composting, food and green waste recycling collection, hard waste services, onsite furniture reuse and new onsite signage,” she says.

Despite a number of positive movements in the MUD space, Mark says the Victorian Government’s recent four-bin announcement might force the state to reexamine its approach to waste management and MUDs.

“While the Victorian Government instituting a four-bin kerbside system is certainly a positive step, it will pose a number of challenges for MUDs, as space for existing infrastructure is already a challenge for bin placement and pick up,” Mark says.

“The VWMA will be working closely with the Victorian Government on the rollout.”

This article appeared in the April edition of Waste Management Review. We look forward to updating industry on this issues as it relates to current circumstances with many people working remotely.

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