UNSW research team develops process that converts old clothing, textiles and glass into high-quality construction materials like flat panels.
SUEZ has proposed to expand its Elizabeth Drive Landfill at Kemps Creek in Sydney.
The expansion would increase the current height of the landfill by up to 15 metres which could increase by around 5 million cubic metres. No changes to the existing cell design, cap design or waste disposal methods are involved in the project plan.
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Proposed changes to the capacity of the landfill are estimated to extend the life of the landfill by approximately six years to 2030.
The proposal comes in response to an anticipated increase in waste generation from Sydney’s growing population and several large infrastructure projects in the areas.
Elizabeth Drive Landfill is one of the only sites in the Sydney Basin that is able to receive general construction and demolition waste, according to SUEZ.
SUEZ is currently preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the approval that will assess the likely impacts of the construction and operation of the project.
It will focus on topics including waste management, air quality, hazards and risks, noise and vibration, soil and water, traffic and transport, biodiversity, fire and incident management, visual amenity and heritage.
The EIS is expected to be put on public display for comment in late 2018 or early 2019 by the Department of Planning and Environment.
Approval from the Sydney Western City Planning Panel is required following this step before SUEZ can proceed with construction.
Project approval is expected to be decided by mid 2019 with construction aimed to begin in late 2019.
Sydney has been ranked Australia’s most sustainable city in 2018, according to the Sustainable Cities Index from Arcadis.
The index ranks 100 cities on three pillars of sustainability which it defines as people, planet and profit.
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Australian cities were mostly located in the centre of the list, with Sydney and Canberra reaching 34th and 35th place. Brisbane was listed as the 44th most sustainable while Melbourne trailed behind at 56.
All of the cities on the list performed well on people focused measures, scoring high in health, education and digital enablement. Cities performed moderately well when it came to profit due to employment and ease of doing business.
However, each Australian city scored worse in the planet pillar, with greenhouse gas emissions and waste management common issues across all four cities.
London was ranked the most sustainable city, with eight of the top ten spots being European cities.
The 2018 Sustainable Cities Index emphasised the impact of how digital technologies have impacted on citizen’s experience of the city, but it found that technology is not yet able to mitigate things like traffic jams, unaffordable transport options, the absence of green space or the uncertainties caused by ageing infrastructure.
Arcadis Australian Cities Director Stephen Taylor said with no Australian city cracking the top 30, there is a need to improve the long-term sustainability, resilience and performance of our cities.
“Across our cities, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, we’ve seen a real shift over the last few years beyond green sustainability to social sustainability. Both government and private developments are increasingly focusing on how projects can better improve communities, including financial gains and community wellness,” Mr Taylor said.
“Despite the middle of the road rankings, the nation’s strong focus on developing integrated transit systems, addressing affordability and embracing sustainability in construction are all positive signs for future improvement across the three pillars,” he said.
Most Australians across all states and demographics believe the recyclables they put into their council bins are ending up in landfill, according to new research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
The series of surveys has also found that 49 per cent of people believe that green and eco-friendly efforts will not have an effect in their lifetime, with 63.8 per cent of those older than 65 seeing no benefits being realised.
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Key findings also report that 72.4 per cent of people would recycle more of the material if it was reliably recycled.
Confusion also surround which level of government is responsible for residential waste and recycling services, with some people thinking industry instead of government is responsible for waste management.
UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Director Veena Sahajwalla said rising stockpiles and increasing use of landfill, in the absence of a coordinated government solution to a waste problem, had not been lost on consumers.
“Each council is fending for themselves right across Australia and while the meeting of federal and state environment ministers earlier this year made an important announcement about a new National Waste Policy stating that by 2025 all packaging will be re-usable, compostable or recyclable, we don’t have to wait another seven years for this decision to come into effect,” Dr Sahajwalla said.
“It is clear on this issue that people want action, and they want governments to invest and do something now.
“A number of councils and private business are interested in our technology but unless there are incentives in place, Australia will be slow to capitalise on the potential to lead the world in reforming our waste into something valuable and reusable.”
UNSW’s SMaRT Centre launched a demonstration e-waste microfactory in April, which is able to recover the components of discarded electronic items for use in high value products.
UNSW is also finalising a second demonstration microfactory, which converts glass, plastics and other waste materials into engineered stone products, which look and perform as well as marble and granite.
“Rather than export our rubbish overseas and to do more landfill for waste, the microfactory technology has the potential for us to export valuable materials and newly manufactured products instead,” Dr Sahajwalla said.
“Through the microfactory technology, we can enhance our economy and be part of the global supply chain by supplying more valuable materials around the world and stimulating manufacturing innovation in Australia.”
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Plastic from around 176,000 plastic bags and packaging and glass from around 55,000 bottles has been diverted from landfill to build New South Wales’ first road made from soft plastics and glass.
Downer and Sutherland Shire Council have partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop, RED Group and Plastic Police to build the road in the Sydney suburb of Engadine.
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Toner from approximately 4000 used printer cartridges with more than 60 tonnes of recycled asphalt were also repurposed to create 220 tonnes of asphalt used in the construction of the road along Old Princes Highway between Cooper Street and Engadine Road.
NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said this achievement demonstrates how committed organisations can find innovative solutions to waste reduction.
“The NSW Government has a comprehensive funding program designed to find more ways to make sure waste is taken out of landfill and put to good use,” said Ms Upton.
“In particular, the Product Improvement Co-investment program and the Circulate program together provide $10 million in funding to help find creative ways to reduce the amount of waste and find better uses than simply throwing it away.”
Sutherland Shire Mayor Carmelo Pesce said Council is committed to showing leadership in sustainability and the use of recycled products.
“Sutherland Shire Council collects over 25 thousand tonnes of recycling in the yellow top bins every year,” Councillor Pesce said.
“Using recycled plastic and glass in asphalt to create new road surfaces is just one of the innovative ways Council can reduce its environmental footprint through the use of recyclable material.”
Downer General Manager Pavements Stuart Billing said the milestone event demonstrated the importance of partnerships with other thought leaders to create economic, social and environmental value for products that would more than likely end up in landfill, stockpiled, or as a pollutant in our natural environments.
“Through our partnerships and desire to make a difference, we’ve shown how to recycle and repurpose waste materials into new streams of use. It’s all about pulling products, not pushing waste.”
“Further to the direct sustainability benefits, this cost competitive road product, called Plastiphalt, has a 65 per cent improvement in fatigue life and a superior resistance to deformation making the road last longer, and allowing it to better handle heavy vehicle traffic,” Mr Billing said.
The project is co-funded through the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative funded from the waste levy.
“Our close partnership with Downer, along with our collaborative partnerships with RedCycle and Plastic Police has allowed us to design, develop and manufacture sustainable products using problematic waste streams. We are very pleased to see soft plastics used for the first time in a NSW road,” said Nerida Mortlock, General Manager of Close the Loop Australia.
A new trial aims to divert spent coffee grounds from landfill and repurpose them into higher value uses.
Planet Ark will begin the Coffee 4 Planet Ark trial in September in Sydney, in collaboration Bingo industries and with leading coffee roasters and members, such as Lavazza. Tata Global Beverages via its Map Coffee brand will collect spent coffee grounds from limited corporate businesses in Melbourne.
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The program aims to roll out around the country in 2019 after it identifies the best and most cost-effective collection method.
Planet Ark undertook a 2016 feasibility study that found almost 2800 tonnes of spent coffee grounds are sent to landfill in Sydney alone.
Once in landfill, the grounds would begin to break down and produce methane. Diverting the spent grounds from Sydney would save approximately 1600 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually, according to the study.
To develop new end uses for coffee grounds, Planet Ark has begun working with the SMaRT centre at the University of New South Wales. It has also secured a partnership with Circular Food to produce a nutrient rich soil fertiliser called Big Bio, which will utilise the collected grounds.
Planet Ark CEO Paul Klymenko said the Coffee 4 Planet Ark program was an important step in ensuring spent coffee grounds were being used to their greatest potential rather than entering landfill.
‘Currently, the vast majority of coffee grounds produced after extracting your coffee are going to landfill. Planet Ark believes in creating a circular economy where all resources are used to their greatest potential,’ Mr Klymenko said.
‘We are thrilled to be working with some of Australia’s leading coffee roasters to trial a collection and repurposing system for coffee ground waste.’
Western Sydney councils have joined up to reduce waste, increase recycling and prevent illegal dumping under a newly launched four-year strategy.
The Western Sydney Regional Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2017 – 2021 is a blueprint for a cleaner and more sustainable future.
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The Regional Waste Strategy has received $120,000 in funding from the NSW EPA under the Waste Less Recycle More initiative, which uses funding gathered from the waste levy.
Blue Mountain, Blacktown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Hawkesbury, The Hills, Liverpool, Parramatta and Penrith councils have all committed to participating in the plan.
Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) Vice President Barry Calvert said waste, like water and electricity, is a critical service for any city, delivered almost solely by local government in partnership with industry.
“Councils are constantly working to deliver safe, sustainable and affordable waste services to the community. This is no easy task in a region experiencing rapid growth, increasing household waste generation, and changing recycling markets,” he said.
“Working together allows councils to share knowledge, find efficiencies and work strategically to meet these challenges.”
Western Sydney’s first regional waste strategy was developed in 2014, which has helped local councils cut the percentage of household waste going to landfill from 49 per cent to 43 per cent.
“Our goal is to reach 30 per cent by 2025,” said Cr Calvert.
“Landfill space in Sydney is filling up fast. At the same time, we have a million additional residents moving into the region.
“We must reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill if council waste services are to remain affordable and sustainable well into the future,” he said.
Cr Calvert said the WSROC is working closely with the community to reduce the amount of waste created and to increase the rates of recycling.
“At the regional level councils will work with industry and the state government to identify and support new recycling methods, investigate new technologies and plan for future waste needs,” he said.
Industry giants, community groups and government bodies came together to tackle the issue of plastic packaging waste in Australia.
Consumer goods manufacturers Coca Cola, Danone, Unilever and Kellogg’s, tech companies Fuji Xerox and Dell, supermarkets Coles and Aldi and senior figures from the NSW Environment Protection Authority met with local community groups to discuss the future of plastic packaging in consumer goods.
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The event was hosted by the Boomerang Alliance with the support of Bloomberg Australia, and examined the infrastructure holes that need to be filled in order to improve Australia’s capacity for waste collection, processing and recycling.
Representatives from Clean Up Australia, Responsible Cafes, Bye Bye Plastic, Planet Ark, Close the Loop and the local Sydney councils of Randwick, Waverly and Inner West Councils also added to the discussion.
A guest panel of speakers shared their expertise and included Australian Packaging Covenant CEO Brooke Donnelly, Waste Management Association Australia CEO Gayle Sloan, Founder of BioPak Richard Fine, and Nature’s Organics CEO Jo Taranto.
Ms Sloan said every council’s waste management has the same definition in their contracts regarding what’s recyclable.
“We have conveyors and depending on the money and infrastructure available, they’ll use infrareds to split out the different types of plastics,” she said.
Most material recovery facilities do this but at a cost and we don’t have enough people buying back [the recycled material]. That’s the problem.”
Mr Fine said it is important that companies are marketing their products as compostable get certified to a recognised standard.
“There’s a lot of greenwashing out there providing vague claims of ‘biodegradable’ which is confusing the consumer and damaging the industry as a lot of these products will simply break down and fragment into small pieces,” he said.
Pictured left to right: Richard Fine, Brooke Donnelly, Justin Dowel, Jo Toranto, Gayle Sloan, Jayne Paramor.
The NSW Government has received $162 million more than expected from its waste and environmental levy, while at the same time committing $196 million reduce waste, strengthen recycling and protect the health of the environment in its 2018-19 state budget.
According to the budget papers, the government received a revised $727 million from its waste and environment levy, which it attributes to strong construction sector activity.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority budget for 2018-19 includes $70 million to improve waste management and resource recovery, $8 million for the management of contaminated land and $5 million for asbestos management and emergency clean-up.
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NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the budget provides support for programs and initiatives to reduce litter and waste, while also strengthening recycling and tackling illegal dumping.
“Diverting waste from landfill is a key priority and the NSW Government has set targets to increase the diversion of waste from landfill from 63 per cent in 2014-15 to 75 per cent by 2021,” Ms Upton said.
“The Premier has also made it a priority to reduce the volume of litter in NSW by 40 per cent by 2020, achieved through Return and Earn, Hey Tosser and council and community litter prevention grants.”
In March, a $47 million support package was also announced for the local government and industry to respond to China’s National Sword policy.
“The support package provides a range of short, medium and long-term programs to ensure kerbside recycling continues and to promote industry innovation.”
Ms Upton said there is also funding for the emergency clean-up of asbestos, managing James Hardie Asbestos legacy sites at Parramatta and support for the Broken Hill Lead program and the management of PFAS.