What does Victoria’s State of Disaster mean for waste?

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced operational changes to industries under the state’s stage four restrictions. Councils and the waste and recycling industry should continue to provide critical waste services to Victorians.

Read moreWhat does Victoria’s State of Disaster mean for waste?

New purpose for waste from Australian wineries

An Australian research project has found the clean and green leftovers from wineries can be transformed into tomorrow’s nutraceutical ingredients and sold as health supplements on pharmacy shelves. 

Led by Swinburne, Swisse Wellness and the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), the project is working to transform surplus Australian fruit and vegetables, such as grape skins and seeds sourced from wineries across Victoria, into nutraceutical ingredients.

Leftover waste from the wine production in the growing region of Yarra Valley and the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas are being recycled into ingredients to formulate potential Swisse vitamin supplements.

Dr Steven Lapidge, CEO of the Fight Food Waste CRC, said that this project has always been the “low-hanging fruit” of industry waste transformation, however it is not a simple project and it will only be delivered through collaboration.

“Through investing in research and development we will deliver new high-value commercial opportunities for the participants of this project while at the same time fighting food waste in Australia,” he said.

Swinburne is the research partner for this project, with their involvement led by Professor Enzo Palombo. 

The professor is aiming to utilise 250 tonnes of Victorian grape marc from this vintage in the production of grape seed extract for Swisse.

“We’ve done laboratory validation, technical feasibility and yield optimisation, therefore the next stage of commercialisation is establishing a pilot plant capable of producing the required quantity and purity of grape seed extract for Swisse,” he said.

Palombo said the work from this research project will produce wine waste into fully traceable Australian grape seed extract for supplement use. 

Justin Howden, Group Head of Global Government Affairs and Industry Development, said that this project will enable Swisse to source their grape seed extract locally for the 2020 vintage to go into the Asian Market as a premium product.

“This is a great opportunity for Swisse, the grape seed extract will be from the seeds leftover from the wine production in the growing region of Yarra Valley and the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas,” he said.

“Using the grape marc in our premium products is a highly sought-after ingredient in the Australian nutraceutical industry with health benefits including collagen formation, skin health, and antioxidant activity.”

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VIC Govt defers EP Act commencement

Commencement of the Victorian EPA’s new Environment Protection Act 2018 has been postponed until 1 July 2021, due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19.

The Act was originally scheduled to commence 1 July this year.

According to a Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning statement, the decision is part of the state government’s focus on delivering a suite of initiatives designed to ease the burden on business, industry and Victorians as they address the impacts of the pandemic.

“As a result of this decision, the EPA will continue to regulate under the Environment Protection Act 1970, including all subordinate legislation (regulations and statutory policies including state environment protection policies and waste management policies) until the new commencement date,” the statement reads.

“The Victorian Government is committed to the EPA’s reforms and the long-term benefits they will provide for all Victorians. This is not a cancellation of the environment protection reforms. As with many aspects of working life at the present time, it is a responsive adjustment to the current circumstances.”

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has welcomed the announcement, with CEO Gayle Sloan noting that WMRR has been engaging with the regulator.

“Originally slated to commence this July, the new Act represents a significant shift in approach towards prevention, as well as a more flexible, risk-based approach to compliance – both of which are welcome, but will take time for industry and government to work through together to get the balance right,” she said.

“Additionally, with the current challenges being faced by all of Australia, including our essential industry, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry is consumed with the job at hand of keeping our services operating and ensuring the safety of our staff and the community, and we need to remain focused on this task at this time and not further regulatory change.”

According to Ms Sloan, the deferral further illustrates that the Victorian Government listens to the needs of industry and considers its concerns and recommendations.

“WMRR appreciates the government’s decision to defer the commencement of the new EP Act by a year, which affords all of us – industry and governments alike – time to work through the sticking points and ensure that the Act meets all its objectives and the industry is given sufficient time to plan for the changes,” she said.

“Importantly, the EPA is keenly aware that now is not the time to be effecting significant regulatory changes, and as we continue to face mounting challenges related to the pandemic, business as usual is unrealistic.”

WMRR is encouraging other government to reconsider the need to progress additional regulations that will place undue financial and operational pressure on operators already facing difficult times.

“We would encourage other jurisdictions to urgently pivot towards a post-COVID-19 world for our essential industry, by actioning strategic policies and plans that will build a solid foundation for a strong and sustainable environment, as well as fast tracking the capital funding, planning, and approval of waste and resource recovery and remanufacturing infrastructure,” she said.

“Doing this now, we hope, will enable us to come out of this pandemic with a strong and viable sector, which will positively offer a much-needed boost to local economies, creating local jobs that will be welcomed now and into the future.”

According to an Engage Victoria statement, the EPA will continue to work with Victorian businesses, organisations and communities to prepare them for the act’s new date.

“This includes finalising and releasing the environment protection regulations and the Environment Reference Standard,” the statement reads.

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ARRB details support for Victoria’s Recycled First program

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) is committed to supporting the Victorian Government’s push to boost the amount of recycled materials used in major construction projects.

Recycled First, a recent initiative from the Victorian Government, will prioritise 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 virgin materials.

According to an ARRB statement, the organisation has significant involvement in research and trials of recycled and alternative materials in road construction.

“Changes to tender processes mean projects such as the $16 billion North East Link in Melbourne may include roads made of partly discarded rubber,” the statement reads.

“ARRB’s state-of-the-art research labs in Port Melbourne offer world-class testing facilities for the use and specifications for recycled and alternative road construction materials.”

Examples of ARRB’s work in the recycled materials space include a trial of recycled crushed glass asphalt on local roads with Brimbank City Council in Melbourne’s west.

“ARRB is also involved in an important new trial – alongside Tyre Stewardship Australia and Victoria’s Department of Transport – involving using crumb rubber on East Boundary Road at Bentleigh East,” the statement reads.

According to Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan, the state’s Recycled First program 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 Recycled First initiative is overseen by the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority, and will include strict quality and safety standards.

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