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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Sustainability Vic seeks Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund EOIs

Sustainability Victoria is seeking expressions of interest for the state government’s new Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund.

The fund is designed to ramp up recycling infrastructure, improve the recovery of valuable recycled materials and divert waste from landfill. It will initially focus on stimulating investment in infrastructure that can sort and process organic, plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, textile, and tyre waste into high-value material streams.

According to a Sustainability Victoria statement, expressions of interest are now being accepted for two grant streams: Materials (paper, cardboard, plastic and glass) and Hazardous Waste (solvents).

The Materials stream includes $28 million to target infrastructure projects that will reprocess, remanufacture and build end-market capacity for priority recovered materials. While the Hazardous Waste stream includes $11.5 million to target infrastructure projects that can improve the recycling of solvents from liquid hazardous waste.

“This immediate investment will provide support for the government’s transformation of the state’s waste and recycling system, complementing the introduction of a new four-bin system across households and a state-wide container deposit scheme,” the statement reads.

“The Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund will drive innovation and improve the capability of Victoria’s recycling sector. This builds on the $28 million already committed in the 2019–20 budget delivering a record investment in Victoria’s recycling infrastructure as the state embraces a circular economy and a sustainable future.”

Expression of interest will close 3pm May 8.

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Sustainability Victoria opens packaging investment grants

Sustainability Victoria is offering grants of up to $50,000 to support organisations in Victoria to reduce packaging waste disposed in landfill.

According to a Sustainability Victoria statement, significant policy shifts in key markets for Victoria’s packaging waste have had a considerable, negative impact on the markets for these materials, primarily impacting plastics, paper and cardboard.

“The Investment Support Grants – Packaging will support small to medium sized enterprises, not-for-profits and social enterprises to overcome financial barriers associated with investing in projects that lead to packaging waste reduction, recovery and reuse,” the statement reads.

“To reduce the amount of packaging materials disposed of in landfill, we are supporting generators, recyclers and those that reuse packaging waste in Victoria to reduce waste generation, increase the quality and quantity of materials recovered and to grow demand for reuse.”

Eligible projects must be completed within 12 months, with a financial contribution ratio of 1:1.

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VIC offers $2M in grants to improve e-waste infrastructure

The Victorian Government is offering $2 million in grants for local councils and industry to improve e-waste infrastructure across the state.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the funding will work to strengthen Victoria’s collection, storage and reprocessing of electronic goods.

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the new round of funding will focus on building e-waste reprocessing capability and capacity, while continuing to ensure the collection of e-waste is conducted to the highest standard.

“The state government introduced a ban on e-waste to landfill in July 2019 to pave the way for electronic items to be safely disposed of and reduce the harm these items have on the environment and human health,” she said.

“We’re supporting local councils and industry to keep potentially toxic e-waste out of landfill. This funding will allow e-waste to be reprocessed locally into valuable products – boosting jobs, supporting local businesses and helping divert more waste from landfill.”

Sustainability Victoria CEO Claire Ferres said the latest round of funding is a part of the state government’s $16.5 million investment to strengthen the e-waste sector and raise public awareness about how to dispose of e-waste correctly.

“With e-waste growing three times faster than standard municipal waste, it is vital we build a strong Victorian e-waste sector that our community trusts to deliver safe and secure management of e-waste,” she said.

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Sustainability Victoria opens Chairperson EOI’s

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio is seeking expressions of interest for the role of Sustainability Victoria Chairperson.

According to a Sustainability Victoria statement, the appointment will be for a term not exceeding five years, as determined by the minister.

“Sustainability Victoria is established under the Sustainability Victoria Act 2005 to facilitate and promote environmental sustainability in the use of resources. The chairperson leads the board in providing strategic direction to, and ensuring the good governance of, Sustainability Victoria,” the statement reads.

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Treading carefully on waste exports

It’s time we transformed into an economy that values all our resources and takes accountability onshore, writes Matt Genever, Director Resource Recovery, Sustainability Victoria.

The announcement by the Council of Australian Governments in August that Australia would ban the export of certain types of waste came as a surprise to most in the industry.

Global markets are already closing their doors to some degree, but Australia is still exporting around four million tonnes of material annually despite import restrictions set by China and other countries. Thus, the decision will certainly have implications for Australia’s domestic sector and the impacts will depend on how the ban is enacted and what materials are targeted.

Waste versus commodity

The intent of the ban is clear and easily justifiable. The images seen across media earlier in the year of mixed Australian waste, including soiled nappies, turning up at multiple Asian ports were not well received by the community. The social license of this great sector is already under siege and these images certainly didn’t help.

However, the situation is much more complex than this. It is unlikely that anyone could successfully argue that soiled nappies represent a tradeable commodity, but it does beg the question of where, and how, we draw the line between a waste and a commodity.

The recyclables being targeted as part of the ban include plastics, paper, glass and tyres.

Over the years, we’ve become more opportunistic in moving large volumes of plastics and paper offshore, which has led to less work being done locally to fully separate or “add value” to these resources.

In the case of tyres, there are valid questions being raised about where whole tyres, in particular, end up and how they are treated.

It’s this idea of “value adding” that offers the greatest opportunity for Australia, and equally where the most work needs to be done from the perspective of defining the boundaries of the ban.

How far does one need to go to add value? Is it simply separating material into different material types or is it fully commoditising it into a manufacturing-ready feedstock?

This is a conversation that Australia, and other nations, has been having for years.

In fact, there is a whole document dedicated to this called: Australian Waste Definitions: Defining waste related terms by jurisdictions in Australia. It is certainly not bedtime reading, but it is worth looking at the many and varied definitions we have for waste across each state and territory.

Words like “rejected”, “abandoned”, “surplus” and “discarded” commonly appear, as does the phrase “where not intended for recycling”.

In a world where one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, there is a fine line that must be walked here in developing these definitions.

Balance is everything

The complexity in defining a waste and how and when it becomes a commodity should not be the driving force that diverts us from this course of action. Like so many things in this system, it’s really all about balance.

We have an obligation to protect human health and as global citizens this needs to extend far beyond our own ocean-locked borders. Having said that, we also have an obligation to ensure that we are positioning our sector to develop its own domestic capacity and have the ability to participate in a thriving global commodity.

The sweet spot in here offers pause for some very optimistic reflection. There are already strong signs that industry is in a state of growth.

New investments are coming online and many businesses have already taken the leap toward commoditising the materials they collect. From hot-washed PET going into new bottles to government procurement of glass sand, the tide is most certainly turning.

So, Australia’s collective decision to ban exports needs to support and accelerate the change underway but at the same time consider our place in a global marketplace – one where we already have high operating costs (energy, in particular) and high
labour costs.

When one door closes, a window opens

Regardless of definitions, the idea of value-adding or commoditising our resources is one that is appealing. The opportunities for economic growth, new skills, new infrastructure and new jobs in the recycling sector are significant, but are only the tip of iceberg.

When we start commoditising our resources domestically, a whole range of opportunities for local manufacturing emerge. I was immensely pleased with the level of interest in Sustainability Victoria’s recent Buy Recycled Conference 2019.

I spoke with a number of manufacturing businesses that have the capacity right now to absorb more recycled content but are unable to source it from the local market. With the door to exports closing, its heartening to see the window into our domestic manufacturing is well and truly open.   

While there are probably more questions than answers in the commentary above (in the spirit of walking a fine line, I too must traverse my own path of balance), there is no doubt in my mind that the rewards here far outweigh the risks.

We’ve got to get the definitions right. We’ve got to get the balance right. But it’s high time we transformed into an economy that values all our resources, takes accountability for their management onshore and is focused on adding value and commoditising material when it reaches end of life.

This article was published in the December 2019 edition of Waste Management Review. 

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VIC councils awarded $1.25M for kerbside upgrades

Five Victorian councils will share in $1.25 million from Sustainability Victoria, to improve collection, separation and recovery of organics and glass from kerbside recycling.

According to a Sustainability Victoria statement, the funding will allow the councils to divert 28,000 tonnes of organic material and 4600 tonnes of glass from landfill each year.

“With almost half the contents of a household garbage bin being food or garden waste, there is enormous opportunity to collect and reprocess this resource that will improve the value of soils in agricultural production systems,” the statement reads.

“Surf Coast Shire Council have been trialling using existing garden bins to also collect food waste across 3000 households in Anglesea, which has seen a significant 24 per cent reduction in waste being sent to landfill.”

Both Warrnambool City Council and Yarra City Council have received grants to separate glass from the kerbside commingle recycling bin.

“Warrnambool Shire Council received overwhelming public support for a separate recycling bin for glass,” the statement reads.

“The Warrnambool community want to recycle and keep recycled resources local. A separate glass bin allows glass to be recycled locally and creates jobs.”

Projects 

Maribyrnong City Council: $472,000 to expand its existing garden organics collection to include food waste, and introduce additional collection services.

Yarra City Council: $400,000 to expand on existing collections services that segregate glass and organics.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council: $182,000 to expand its existing garden organics collection to include food waste, and introduce additional collection services.

Surf Coast Shire Council: $150,000 to expand its existing garden organics collection to include food waste, and introduce additional garden and food waste collection services to rural properties.

Warrnambool City Council: $47,000 to provide three seperate recycling collection services, with a new bin exclusively for glass.

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Sustainability Victoria welcomes new CEO

Claire Ferres Miles has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Sustainability Victoria, effective 25 November.

Recognised as a ‘Top 50 Woman in the Victorian Public Sector’ in 2017, Ms Ferres Miles’s previous work in local government, state government and the private sector led to breakthroughs in affordable housing, sustainability, transport and planning, according to a Sustainability Victoria statement.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio congratulated Ms Ferres Miles on her appointment.

“Ms Ferres Miles will lead Sustainability Victoria’s transformative climate and energy programs, as well as continuing to work to strengthen the state’s recycling sector,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

According to Ms Ferres Miles, Victorians are seeking advice and action in response to the challenges of a changing climate, resource recovery and energy efficiency.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure Victoria’s future is one of social, economic and environmental prosperity,” Ms Ferres Miles said.

Welcoming Ms Ferres Miles’s appointment on behalf of the Sustainability Victoria Board, Chair Heather Campbell said the organisation was looking forward to continuing its journey under Ms Ferres Miles’s leadership.

The Board also thanked and acknowledged Interim CEO Carl Muller for his leadership over the past six months.

“His continued commitment during this time has enabled the great work of the Sustainability Victoria team and helped to advance Victoria’s emerging opportunities within the circular economy,” Ms Campbell said.

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ARRB awarded Sustainability Victoria grant

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) has been awarded a $200,000 Sustainability Victoria grant to trial recycled crushed glass asphalt on local roads.

The grant was issued to ARRB in collaboration with Vic Roads and Brimbank City Council in Melbourne’s west.

According to ARRB project lead Doctor James Grenfell, over 250,000 tonnes of glass is recovered in Victoria every year.

“Using finely crushed glass in road pavement materials has the potential to create viable markets for the vast amounts of glass collected in Victoria, especially that which is low-value and not easily recycled back into other glass products,” Dr Grenfell said.

“ARRB has done significant research in this space – much of which was showcased at its recent Smart Pavements Now masterclass event in Melbourne.”

Dr Grenfell said the trial will specifically look at repurposing low-value glass that is not easily recycled back into other glass products.

“The potential for use of recycled glass in asphalt offers great opportunities for councils, especially in helping deal with Australia’s current recycling issue,” Dr Grenfell said.

“The other exciting aspect is the engagement with a local city council, and to have the ability to monitor a field trial for an extended period of time.”

The ARRB grant is one of nine issued under Sustainability Victoria’s research, development and demonstration grants program.

Sustainability Victoria interim CEO Carl Muller said the grants are designed to support Victoria’s growing circular economy.

“We need proven recycled content products and markets for those products to make recycling viable,” Mr Muller said.

“This will build confidence and market demand.”

The grant proposal was developed by Dr Grenfell and ARRB colleagues Melissa Lyons and Lydia Thomas.

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