VIC essential services commences stage two of waste review

The Victorian essential services commission has commenced stage two of its waste and recycling services review, and is now undertaking targeted stakeholder consultation.

Last year, the Victorian Government asked the commission to provide advice on how to address issues of competition, system-level resilience, service quality and greater transparency in the waste and resource recovery sector.

In October 2019, the commission provided initial confidential high-level options for the design of a regulatory regime for the sector.

“In response, the government has asked us to provide further advice on legislative options and explore potential governance arrangements,” a statement from the commission reads.

According to the statement, the commission’s advice will consider the full costs and benefits of options to make waste and resource recovery more transparent, and ensure councils provide these services to expected standards.

Additionally, the commission will assess how a new statutory framework could address identified inadequacies in the sector, and how the government should regulate it.

“We will undertake targeted consultation with stakeholders over the coming months before providing our final advice to the government in August 2020,” the statement reads.

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VIC EPA approves expanded Alcoa Point Henry landfill

EPA Victoria has issued a Works Approval for two new landfill cells to accept waste from the decommissioning and remediation of Alcoa’s Point Henry premises.

Alcoa operated an aluminium smelter and rolling mill at the site for 51 years between 1963 and 2014, when the final operation of the rolling mill ceased.

Alcoa has commenced physical decommissioning, environmental remediation, and long term planning for future use of the site.

As part of the decommissioning and remediation, Alcoa proposes to construct containment cells, as part of an overall strategy that reduces the number of landfills on the site from three to two.

The Works Approval allows the construction of two new cells at the Moolap landfill, but limits them to only accepting waste generated at the Point Henry premises.

“The cells are designed to contain industrial wastes including dross dust, soil, sediment, clay, coke, salt pond residue, carbon spent anodes, concrete and pavers from the decommissioned plant, and the contents of the existing CPL landfill on the Point Henry premises,” an EPA Victoria statement reads.

“The two new cells at the Moolap landfill will be above ground and contain 90,000 cubic metres of waste. They are expected to be filled, capped and rehabilitated by mid-2022.”

Under the Works Approval, the EPA also requires the project to include an independant environmental audit of the site, lining of the cells, environmental monitoring, with reporting to the EPA and plans for prevention and control of fire, litter and weeds.

Along with the Works Approval, the proposal will also require planning permission from the City of Greater Geelong Council and an EPA licence before the landfill can begin operation.

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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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MWRRG opens EOIs for advanced waste processing facility

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) has opened expressions of interest to design, build and operate an advanced waste processing facility for Melbourne’s household rubbish.

According to WWRRG CEO Jill Riseley, the tender is largest of its kind ever undertaken by Melbourne councils.

“Advanced waste processing solutions will play a significant role in achieving the Victorian Government’s new target to divert 80 per cent of household rubbish from landfill by 2030,” she said.

“Sixteen councils from the south east of Melbourne are involved in the tender, and together the councils collected over 490,000 tonnes of residual rubbish in 2016. This is forecast to grow to over 700,000 tonnes a year by 2046.”

Starting with the call for expressions of interest, Ms Riseley said the procurement process would take approximately two years.

“The procurement will focus on the financial, environmental and social outcomes councils want to achieve rather than specify a technology,” she said.

“It will be up to bidders to recommend proven and appropriate solutions, and to demonstrate how they deliver on councils’ objectives.”

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VIC infrastructure projects to prioritise recycled materials

Recycled First, a new initiative from the Victorian Government, is set to boost the use of recycled and reused materials in construction projects.

According to Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan, Recycled First brings a uniform approach to the existing ‘ad hoc’ use of recycled products on major transport infrastructure projects.

“We’re paving a greener future for Victoria’s infrastructure, turning waste into vital materials for our huge transport agenda and getting rubbish out of landfills,” Ms Allan said.

Recycled First will boost the demand for reused materials right across our construction sector – driving innovation in sustainable materials and changing the way we think about waste products.”

The program will incorporate recycled and reused materials that meet existing standards for road and rail projects – with recycled aggregates, glass, plastic, timber, steel, ballast, crushed concrete, crushed brick, crumb rubber, reclaimed asphalt pavement and organics taking precedence over brand new materials.

“Companies interested in delivering major transport infrastructure projects will be required to demonstrate how they will prioritise recycled and reused materials, while maintaining compliance and quality standards,” Ms Allan said.

Additionally, contractors will need to report on the types and volumes of recycled products used.

The policy will not set mandatory minimum requirements or targets, Ms Allan said. Instead, a project-by-project approach will allow contractors to liaise with recycled materials suppliers to determine if there are adequate supplies of the necessary products for their project.

“Work is already underway with current construction partners to ensure more recycled content is being used on major projects, in addition to the new Recycled First requirements,” Ms Allan said.

“The M80 Ring Road, Monash Freeway and South Gippsland Highway upgrades will use more than 20,000 tonnes of recycled materials, and 190 million glass bottles will be used in surfaces on the $1.8 billion Western Roads Upgrade.”

According to Ms Allan, recycled demolition material was also used to build extra lanes along 24 kilometres of the Tullamarine Freeway, as well as the Monash Freeway and M80 Ring Road.

“The state government is also reusing materials created by its own projects, with 14,000 tonnes of soil excavated from the Metro Tunnel site in Parkville now being used in pavement layers on roads in Point Cook,” she said.

“This material weighs as much as 226 E-class Melbourne trams and would otherwise have gone to landfill.”

Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy has dubbed the program an ‘accelerator for Victoria’s circular economy’.

“To have the state government strongly encourage the use of recycled content in these projects demonstrates very powerful support for resource recovery,” Mr Murphy said.

“We know that a strong market for recycled materials supports resource recovery, which diverts more material away from landfill and reduces stockpiling. It also preserves valuable natural resources which are increasingly difficult to access and costly to transport.”

According to Mr Murphy, Recycled First provides clarity for decision makers on Victoria’s Big Build, which includes more than 100 major road and rail projects.

“Many Big Build projects are located close to Melbourne, making recycled material from metropolitan areas the ideal supply choice. The use of locally sourced recycled content substantially reduces heavy vehicle use, which reduces congestion and carbon emissions,” he said.

“Victoria has long led the way when it comes to using recycled material in infrastructure. Having assessed other jurisdictions in Australia and overseas, I know Victoria is the envy of many. Many local governments are making good progress, and this initiative sets a great example.”

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VIC to introduce CDS and four bin kerbside system

The Victorian Government will introduce a container deposit scheme (CDS) by 2023, as part of a new suite of initiatives to reduce waste to landfill by 80 per cent over 10 years.

A four bin kerbside system will also be rolled out as part of a $129 million overhaul of the state’s waste and recycling sector, with seperate bins for glass, food and garden organics, household waste and plastic, metal and paper.

Premier Daniel Andrews said that by collecting glass separately, Victoria can ensure effective recycling, with jars and bottles transformed multiple times into different products, including new roads and footpaths.

“Separate glass collection will also make recovery of other recyclables – like plastic, metal and paper – simpler, with the food and organic bin significantly reducing the amount of waste going to landfill,” he said.

According to Mr Andrews, the bin rollout will begin gradually next year – informed by the needs of local communities and existing council contracts.

“There will also be special arrangements for remote regional households and people in apartments, to ensure everyone gets access to the new four-bin system,” he said.

“This represents a holistic approach to reducing, reusing and recycling our state’s waste. That’s good news for Victoria’s environment and good news for Victorian jobs.”

Waste management will also be classified as an essential service under the new system, to ensure a basic standard of service across the state.

Additionally, a dedicated waste authority will be established to help the state better govern its recycling system and hold waste service providers to account.

“An education and behaviour change campaign will support the rollout of the initiatives. It will target households, businesses, councils, community groups and charities – helping them transition to the new system,” Mr Andrews added.

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has welcomed the changes, highlighting Victoria as the only Australian jurisdiction without a CDS currently in place.

VWMA CEO Peter Anderson said the association sees tremendous benefits for Victoria through the introduction of the scheme, including less rubbish sent to landfill, less litter from single use items covered by the scheme and the opportunity to further build public awareness about waste and recycling.

“The Victorian Government is to be congratulated for listening to stakeholders from the waste and recycling sector on the development of this CDS, which will transform how Victorians dispose of certain materials,” Mr Anderson said.

“It’s important that Victorians understand that this is not about imposing additional costs or inconvenience when it comes to disposal of recyclables. It’s about dramatically increasing the amount of waste that gets recycled and, conversely, reducing how much we send to landfill.”

The VWMA has worked closely with the Victorian Government to establish the scheme, Mr Anderson said, and looks forward to further engagement and consultation.

“As part of the transition to a CDS, change and adjustment will be required of every Victorian household and we may need to do things differently,” he said.

“Changes to the size of our bins and frequency of collection will be likely, and we look forward to working with the Victorian Government to help educate Victorians on the many environmental and economic benefits a CDS will deliver.”

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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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Landfill levy waived for bushfire victims

Landfill levies have been waived for residents in bushfire affected areas across Victoria, following an announcement from state Premier Daniel Andrews.

“As Victorians begin returning to their homes and land following the recent bushfires, the state government will make sure people can dispose of their bushfire waste without paying the landfill levy,” Mr Andrews said.

“This is practical and immediate support for people who are undertaking the heartbreaking task of cleaning up their homes and properties.”

According to Mr Andrews, bushfire waste includes debris from homes, businesses, sheds, stock, fencing and equipment that has been damaged.

“The levy waiver will also make it easier for people to dispose of dead livestock,” he said.

The Victorian EPA will work with landfill operators and councils in fire-affected areas to apply for the exemption.

“If residents or business owners have any questions or concerns about bushfire waste clean up and disposal, they can contact EPA for further information,” Mr Andrews said.

The exemption follows similar measures in NSW, with the state government waiving the levy in bushfire natural disaster areas in November 2019.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said thousands of people across NSW are reeling from the effects of the November bushfires, which are still burning.

“We know that the effects of these bushfires will be felt for months, and even years to come, and we hope that this streamlined waste process can provide a little relief for those coping with the effects of these horrible bushfires,” he said.

The NSW exemption will apply until 29 February 2020.

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VIC EPA extends battery plant consultation period

The Victorian EPA has extended its consultation period for a battery recycling plant works approval, due to a high level of local interest.

The consultation period has been extended to 52 days, with two extra information sessions held in January.

The development proposal, received from Chunxing Corporation, seeks to recycle the material into 28,000 tonnes of refined lead each year.

The proposal estimates 98 per cent of the lead, plastic and electrolyte (sulfuric acid) in batteries will be recycled.

According to the Chunxing Corporation application, Australia generates roughly 150,000 tonnes of used lead acid batteries a year, most of which is sent to four existing facilities.

The application highlights that of the four facilities, only one conducts secondary lead smelting to produce lead product.

“We believe such incomplete ‘recycling’ is unsustainable, and vulnerable to overseas demand and policy changes, similar to the export of kerbside recycling, which collapsed after China introduced its China National Sword Policy,” the application reads.

“We also see this low penetration of ‘full recycling’ in the market as an opportunity.”

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City of Yarra phases out single-use plastic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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