We say thank you

Waste Management Review and Australia’s waste management associations would like to give a big thank you for all those out there working hard amid challenges.

This article provides a list of some lifetime members that have made a significant contribution to the sector.

While some state-based associations are less than five years old, others such as the Waste Contractors and Recycling Association NSW (WCRA) are some of the oldest waste associations in the world.

Newer associations such as the Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ), maintain a rich history spanning just over a decade, while the Victorian Waste Management Association’s (VWMA) has over 30 years under its belt.

Associations that have existed for many years have a number of lifetime members. In WCRA’s case, life members means persons who have been appointed by the executive for an outstanding service of a minimum of 10 years to the industry.

These hard working members have consistently put the interests of the association and industry ahead of their own commercial and person interests. Additionally, they have enhanced the operation and reputation of the association and industry.

Tony Khoury, WCRA Executive Director, would like to acknowledge the following life members for their service to the waste management industry and the association:

— Arthur Baker

— Bernadette Byrnes

— Terry Dene

— Mike Noble

— Barry Thomas

— Harry Wilson

“Through their involvement with WCRA, these wonderful people enhanced the operation and reputation of the association and the industry,” Mr Khoury said.

“They consistently put the interests of the association and the industry ahead of their personal and business interests in the discharge of their respective duties and responsibilities.”

In Victoria, the VWMA recognised Graham Lenthall at their annual general meeting for his contribution to the industry.

Graham, who retired from the industry in 2018, has accumulated over 40 years of experience across many of today’s well known waste and recycling operators.

The association congratulates and thanks Graham for his service.

Graham joins other industry greats such as:

— Edward (Ted) Smith

— Harry Gooden

— Neil Stow

— Tony Whelan

VWMA CEO Peter Anderson said the industry has improved and developed with the assistance of the above individuals who have consistently displayed their passion, commitment and dedication.

“It is with enormous pride that they be recognised and forever be remembered for what they have done for our industry,” he said.

WRIQ would like to acknowledge the following lifetime members:

— Bob Eggleton

— Nev Brownlow

— Grant Stockwell

WRIQ CEO Mark Smith said it is so important we acknowledge those industry greats that have contributed so much to our sector.

“In Queensland we also look to acknowledge the great work happening across our state through our annual award,” he said.

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) was formed in early 2017 and represents major companies like Alex Fraser Group, Cleanaway, J.J. Richards and Sons, Solo Resource Recovery, Sims Metals Management, Suez, Toxfree, Remondis, ResourceCo and Veolia.

The NWRIC would like to acknowledge Doug Dean and Max Spedding, former CEOs of Veolia and NWRIC respectively.

Mr Spedding recently spoke to Waste Management Review about his vast experience and provided some sentiments about the potential future direction of the waste and resource recovery sector.

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Recycling Victoria: a new economy? Part three

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 is the final article in a three part series: part three will explore Recycling Victoria’s organics recovery targets, the state government’s Social Procurement Framework and efforts to support safe and effective high-risk and hazardous waste management. To read part two 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.

REDUCING METHANE MECHANISMS

 Listing organics as a priority material, Recycling Victoria seeks to cut the volume of organic material sent to landfill by 50 per cent between 2020 and 2030, with an interim target of 20 per cent reduction by 2025.

The strategy also aims to ensure every Victorian household has access to food and garden organic waste recycling services or local composing by 2030.

Furthermore, the Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund will encourage investment in organic waste sorting and processing infrastructure, while the Recycling Markets Acceleration package aims to build strong markets for products made from recovered organic waste such as compost.

The Victorian Government will also introduce new rules requiring businesses to sort commonly recyclable materials and organic waste from unrecoverable waste.

Frank Harney, Australian Organics Recycling Association Victoria Chair, says that while the strategy broadly represents positive movement for the organics sector, particularly in regard to state-wide FOGO collection, more work needs to be done to stop organics ending up in landfill. Frank adds that were it up to him, organics in landfill would be banned immediately.

“We don’t have the capacity in composting facilities to handle more material. We’re currently processing 700,000 tonnes and that will at least double. We’re already at processing capacity now, so there needs to be a lot of initiatives directed at decontamination and getting sites licensed,” he says.

Frank highlights decontamination as critical, suggesting that while councils are working at further educating the public, a certain level of contamination will always be present at kerbside.

“The system needs to be designed in a way where it comes in the front gate, gets decontaminated, gets chipped and into the vessels, and then goes out to maturation sites,” he says.

Frank also suggests that more work needs to be done on the classification of waste, so organic material can be more efficiently composted. He adds that while he isn’t sure why a lettuce leaf needs to go through maturation, “that’s the rule.”

The structure of contracts also needs to change, Frank says, suggesting that awarding large scale council contracts to single entities creates a number of logistical market challenges.

PROACTIVE PROCUREMENT

As a large buyer of goods and services, the Victorian Government has committed to creating strong markets for recycled materials. As such, Recycling Victoria states that the state government will seek new opportunities to purchase products containing recycled materials and use recycled materials to build roads, railways and other public infrastructure.

“The Victorian Government’s Social Procurement Framework requires government buyers to consider opportunities to deliver social and sustainable outcomes in every procurement activity. This includes sustainable material choices and buying products made from recycled content where appropriate,” the strategy reads.

Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Outgoing Executive Officer, highlights that the Victorian Government is simultaneously the state’s largest employer and its largest procurer of goods and services.

“It’s great to see the government playing an essential role in driving circular economy outcomes through the policy,” he says.

According to Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser Managing Director, the strategy is a sign of support for resource recovery and recycled content infrastructure.

“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,” he says.

“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.”

It should be noted however that Recycling Victoria lists no concrete targets. Rose Read, National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO, says this is cause for concern, and reflects a limited level of understanding as to where the real opportunities to procure recovered materials are.

“The upside however is that state agencies such as the Major Roads Projects are getting the message to increase recycled content in their procurement. This shift in behaviour has to be adopted more widely across government,” Rose says.

“To do this, the government has to remove the perceived risk of substituting virgin materials with recovered materials by fast tracking standards, working with industry to address supply chain issues and providing practical guidance in specifying state and local government tenders.”

On the flip side, Rose says the resource recovery industry has to step up to ensure quality materials can be supplied in line with construction and manufacturing standards and timelines.

“Working together is critical here, and government should establish supply chain groups to resolve these barriers to increasing the use of recovered materials,” she says.

TRACKING REGULATION:

To support safe and effective high-risk and hazardous waste management, the state government has committed to implementing stronger regulation, policy and planning. Industry investment in better hazardous waste management, including opportunities to maximise the safe and cost-effective recovery and recycling of these wastes will also be encouraged.

Furthermore, the Victorian Government will consider the potential introduction of new levies for waste being stockpiled for long periods. A Waste Crime Prevention Inspectorate within the EPA will also be established to work across government with WorkSafe Victoria, emergency services agencies, local government and other regulators.

Rose says the NWRIC is pleased to see resources being committed to support a waste crime prevention inspectorate. She adds that for too long, unlicensed and illegal waste activities have been allowed to occur across the state, harming the environment and putting the community at risk and undeservingly damaging the reputation of good operators.

“Together with the recent changes to the environment protection Act, this resource will provide the EPA with the necessary tools to stop unlicensed and illegal waste management activities,” Rose says.

“The NWRIC considers that all waste and recycling operations must be conducted in accordance with state, national and international environmental, health and safety regulations. Failure to do so is not acceptable.”

The moves come of the back of a 2019 $5.5 million investment to switch to a GPS electronic tracking system, following a series of high-profile illegal stockpile fires. With improved data analytics and reporting, the system is designed to better record the production, movement and receipt of industrial and high-risk waste.

According to Mark, the VWMA is supportive of the state government’s intention to level the playing field.

“Illegal operators undermined confidence in the system and undercut legitimate businesses. Illegal sites have chewed up millions of dollars in clean-up costs, and I’m hopeful all these investments will begin to tackle upstream and downstream players that feed this underbelly,” he says.

“Essential to the success of this program will be recognising the role compliant operators can play, and the broader onboarding of industry.”

Mark says the VWMA sees itself as a partner with the EPA on that process.

“The EPA has been really supportive of us in helping build businesses capability and capacity to understand their duties and obligations. It is a big task and we want to work with the government on this,” he says.

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WRIQ appoints new CEO

After more than 14 years at the helm, Rick Ralph will be handing the reigns as CEO of Queensland’s largest industry and business body representing the waste and recycling sector to newly appointed CEO Mark Smith.

Rick has made an enormous contribution to the sector nationally but in particular in Queensland where he founded WCRA (Qld) which evolved to WRIQ that many know today.

In his time as CEO, Rick’s delivered initiatives and programs that have strengthened the industry in Queensland and has  advocated for the many WRIQ members who are delivering essential services to every single Queensland business and household.

Stepping into the role of CEO will be former Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Executive Officer Mark Smith.

Rick Ralph

In his time as Executive Officer of the VWMA, Mark raised the profile and membership base of the association creating new member services, training and events calendar while advocating for more effective regulation and engagement by the EPA and further investment into the sector by the Victorian Government.

Mr Smith said he was proud of the contribution he had made, including advocating for a number of policy measures included in the Recycling Victoria policy, but it was time for a new challenge.

“I’m really looking forward to supporting WRIQ members. As it is an election year in Queensland, our advocacy will be really important in shaping the state’s future in waste management and resource recovery,” Mr Smith said.

“I’m standing on the shoulder of a giant coming into the role and really excited to build on the strong foundations that have been created by Rick and the WRIQ Board.”

He added that it is no doubt a challenging time for WRIQ members, but they remain determined to deliver essential services to Queenslanders and those business that are still opening and operating.

As the transition to new CEO is currently underway, Mr Smith and outgoing CEO Rick Ralph both agreed that COVID-19 would not impact how WRIQ supports its members.

“We hear a lot of people talking about how this is unprecedented times – and this is most certainly true, but we can only get through this if we work together with government, business, community and elected representatives,” Mr Smith said.

“While there are a lot of unknowns, for our sector it doesn’t change the fact that we still need to go out and deliver services. We do this well and what I’ll be advocating to the Queensland Government will be for tangible outcomes that support our sector’s future growth”

Mr Smith said that although Rick was retiring from the role, he was confident Rick would remain a close ally for WRIQ.

WMR recently sat down with Rick to talk about his contribution to the sector you can read that article here.

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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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Recycling Victoria: a new economy? Part one

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 first in a three part series: part one will explore Victoria’s landfill levy increase and four-bin kerbside system. 

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.

Key highlights include a $100 million investment in the state’s recycling system to drive research and expand local processing and manufacturing and the introduction of a state-wide four bin kerbside system.

When announcing the policy, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Recycling Victoria would help local businesses “give new life to old rubbish” and drive positive environmental outcomes for the state.

According to Rose Read, National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO, the policy is a signal that government has listened to industry and the community.

“From cleaning up what goes into the bins, improving local processing capacity and remanufacturing and growing local market demand for recovered materials, through to more resources to stop illegal waste activities and a recognition that waste and recycling is an essential service, the state government is committed to addressing the basic systemic issues facing Victoria,” she says.

Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Outgoing Executive Officer, is similarly supportive, with the policy making headway into key areas VWMA has long advocated for.

“In particular, it’s promising to see Victoria commit to catching up with other states and territories on the container deposit scheme (CDS) front and making important investments into a level playing field by strengthening the EPA’s waste crime capabilities,” he says.

Mark is cautious about implementation however, suggesting Recycling Victoria does not allocate enough money to the private sector.

“We’ve seen VAGO report after VAGO report highlighting the deficiencies in government agencies to deliver waste and resource recovery programs. One way I think we can improve is by government seeing the private sector as a true partner for community engagement and education,” he says.

“It would be appropriate that we see quarterly reporting back to industry on the progress of this ambitious policy, as a way to hold government accountable for the delivery of the relevant actions”.

LOOKING TO THE LEVY

Under Recycling Victoria, the state’s landfill levy is set to almost double, jumping from $65.90 to $125.90 per tonne over three years. Recognising the challenges associated with the ‘tyranny of distance’, the strategy notes proportional increases will be reflected at regional landfills.

While the move prompted some mainstream media critique, with claims it would “hit ratepayers hip pockets”, industry reaction has been favourable.

Bingo Industries Managing Director Daniel Tartak, for example, suggests the increase will prompt technology investment and move Victoria towards international best practice diversion rates.

According to State Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, the increase will help support recycling reforms and provide strong investment incentives. Furthermore, Ms D’Ambrosio highlights the increase as a mechanism to stop cross-border dumping, with Victoria’s levy historically lower than neighbouring states.

According to David Cocks, MRA Consulting Victoria Manager, harmonising Victoria’s levy with other jurisdictions is an essential move to help the state meet its resource recovery targets.

“The risk of significant impacts on our waste management system through the transportation of waste is absolutely critical. Plus, from the perspective of supporting investment in recycling, there is nothing like a good economic incentive, and the waste levy certainly supports that,” he says.

 “Additionally, when hypothecated, levies provide a significant opportunity for investment back into the sector to support higher order activities.”

While David says the strategy flags the role of hypothecation, the “sting in the tail” is that investment needs to come through.

“At the moment, circa $300 million has been foreshadowed as additional investment in the sector. But in three years time, the levy increase will produce an additional $240 million per annum – on top of what is already collected,” he says.

“Over the 10-year period of the strategy, these levy increases will realise $2 billion in additional revenue for the state. What is the proportional amount of this revenue to invest back into the sector? Is it 15 per cent or $300 million? I don’t think so.”

Rose says the increase is well overdue, highlighting that the NWRIC has consistently advocated for levy harmonisation to prevent inappropriate movement and disposal of waste.

“The proposed increase will reduce the gap in levy prices between states and encourage greater recovery of recyclable materials. It will also enable energy recovery from waste that can’t be recycled but does have a significant calorific value,” she says.

Furthermore, while Rose says staging the implementation over three years is sensible, NWRIC is recommending that the price increase be deferred for up to six months due to the impacts of COVID-19.

However, like David, Rose stresses the importance of hypothecation.

As highlighted in the NWRIC’s review of all state landfill levies last year, Victoria collected an estimated $215 million in levies in 2017-18, of which only $35 million or 16 per cent was invested back into local council, community and industry waste projects via the Sustainability Fund.

An estimated $104 million (50 per cent) was used to fund the Victorian EPA, Sustainability Victoria and Regional Waste Groups.

“In reviewing the Victorian state government budgets and financial reports, it is extremely difficult to get a clear view of where the levy funds are spent and what is achieved. As part of its landfill levy review, the NWRIC is calling on each state government to establish a separate trust fund and report annually on funds raised, spent and outcomes achieved,” Rose says.

“For too long these funds have been used to support other government activities outside the waste and resource recovery sector, rather than supporting better waste management practices and greater reuse of recycled materials.”

According to Mark, industry is supportive of the increase, under the caveat that the state government delivers the increase while monitoring compliance.

“In recent years we’ve seen government invest more money cleaning up illegal activity than what flows back to private operators who are the main employer and investor in the waste and resource recovery sector,” he says.

“It would be great to have more transparency on landfill levy collection and in particular distribution, including being transparent about what amount the government puts down compared to the private sector. Who gets what exactly shouldn’t be so hard to decipher. I think the NSW Government does this well, and it’s something Sustainability Victoria and DELWP could replicate.”

KERBSIDE REVAMP:

While the levy increase attracted much of the waste sector’s initial attention, scaling outward, it was the four bin kerbside roll-out that peaked major public interest.

The new system will include bins for combined food and garden organics (FOGO), glass, combined paper, plastic and metals, and residual waste. Additionally, all services and bins will be standardised, including lid colours, to simplify the system across councils.

Reforms will be implemented gradually, with the Victorian Government supporting the rollout of new glass bins and bin lids from 2021. According to the strategy, all Victorians will have a new glass bin or access to glass services by 2027. Mandatory rollout of FOGO recovery will commence in 2026-7, with all Victorians to have access by 2030.

“To support the reforms, the Victorian Government will review relevant existing guidelines, policies and regulation to make sure people living in diverse dwelling types, including multi-unit developments, have equitable access to best practice recycling,” the strategy reads.

Mark says while it’s great to see a commitment to standardising bins, the program should be brought forward.

“As I understand it, consistency across Victoria is unlikely to happen until 2025,” he says.

Furthermore, Mark says changes to the kerbside system should be well-funded and accompanied by a consistent public education campaign.

“I hope the agencies rolling out these reforms give the private sector the appropriate opportunities to inform and shape messaging, as the private sector has far more direct contact with the public then the state government does on this front,” he adds.

While the announcement might seem novel to the general public, it follows years of industry discussion over the viability of greater source separation. In the last two years for instance, Macedon Ranges Shire Council, Yarra City Council and Hobsons Bay have introduced and/or trialed four kerbside bins, to positive results.

Speaking with Waste Management Review in 2019, Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council Director City Works and Assets, said the council’s 2018 FOGO trial identified Yarra residents as willing to engage in new kerbside recycling systems. The trial was so successful, he said, that Yarra saw a 40 per cent increase in diversion from landfill, “with current FOGO contamination rates now averaging less than one per cent.”

A spokesperson for the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) highlights the new system as a positive initial step to ensure better material separation.

“Cross contamination of resources is a barrier to effective resource recovery, and the separation of glass is an effective way to reduce that cross contamination,” the spokesperson says.

“We have also called for the standardisation of bin lid colours in the past, so it is great to see the government taking up our recommendation.”

Furthermore, the spokesperson says greater source separation will result in reduced overheads and operating costs for recyclers.

“Greater separation, and therefore less contamination, means recyclers don’t need to reject as much material, therefore getting a better return based on increased volume of material recovered. This will be beneficial for councils in terms of increased shared returns,” the spokesperson explains.

To support councils through the roll out, VLGA is calling on the state government to support community education and initiatives to increases FOGO diversion.

“We specifically asked the government to fund these initiatives through the landfill levy. We also asked the government to support councils through procurement of products made with recycled materials,” the spokesperson says.

While David shares similar sentiments, calling source separation the most cost-effective way to recover resources, he says the state government needs to show evidence that a fourth bin for glass is the right move.

“They haven’t demonstrated a successful business case for that. They may have done the work, but it hasn’t been put forth. There are numbers stated in the policy, but I would like to see where they’ve done that analysis,” he says.

“Perhaps the fourth bin should be for paper and card, especially considering that a future CDS will remove a lot of glass from the kerbside bin.”

Rose also cautions that Victoria’s fourth glass bin is out of step with other states and territories, “making it nationally inconsistent and confusing for the community at large.”

“The NWRIC believes the majority of glass containers would be better dealt with through a CDS, as is being done by other states and territories. However, the fourth bin does mean better separation at source,” she says.

To help industry processes these materials, Rose says the Victorian Government should align with the WA State-wide Guidelines for Kerbside Recycling.

“In the case of Victoria, only the following items should end up in the yellow lidded bin: plastic containers, paper and cardboard boxes flattened (no shredded paper), aluminium and steel containers. All education messages should be consistently applied by local governments across the state to reflect this,” she says.

“The messaging needs to be simple and clear, reinforcing the right behaviours both within households and businesses. Industry should also have the ability to reject bins and loads that do not meet these requirements.”

From a logistics standpoint, Jillian Riseley, Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) Chief Executive Officer, says MWRRG will continue to work with councils to implement the changes to their services. She adds that each council is in a slightly different situation, from those with food waste recycling and a glass bin collection already in place, through to those with neither.

“We continue to engage with councils and work with them to map and deliver resource recovery and waste services for their communities. Specifically, we are collaborating with councils on their development of transition plans,” Jillian says.

“In March we hosted a workshop with council waste officers to help them outline a process for the development of transition plans. Our collaborative procurement, contract management, education, training and marketing and communications expertise will support councils throughout the transition.”

Jillian adds that Recycling Victoria is a once in a generation investment.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to ensure we build a more sustainable, resilient sector with new jobs and opportunities for locally delivered resource recovery,” she says.

“Increased kerbside consistency and future state-wide education and behaviour change campaigns will reinforce the work councils already do to engage with their communities.”

Next week’s instalment will explore the forthcoming CDS, waste as an essential service and Victoria’s proposed waste-to-energy cap. We’ll also hear from Claire Ferres Miles, Chief Executive Officer, Sustainability Victoria. 

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Industry responds to COVID-19 support packages

Waste Management Review will be running a four-part series throughout April on conquering waste industry challenges amid COVID-19 and possible future opportunities. In this first part, we highlight a summary of support packages available to the sector across each jurisdiction and what industry groups are hoping to see going forward.

Read moreIndustry responds to COVID-19 support packages

VWMA and EPA host waste tracker workshops

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), in collaboration with the Victorian EPA, recently carried out workshops to help inform and shape upcoming engagement activities related to EPA’s new integrated waste tracking tool.

In April 2019, the Victorian Government announced it would invest $5.5 million to switch to a GPS electronic tracking system on the back of a series of high profile illegal stockpile fires. With improved data analytics and reporting, the system is designed to better record the production, movement and receipt of industrial and high risk waste.

The new system will enable the EPA to monitor the movement of waste more quickly and accurately, with additional modern surveillance devices and tougher penalties. This will deliver insights on sector activity, trends and highlight potential illegal activity.

Victoria will see the biggest overhaul of environmental laws taking place from July 1, when the Environment Protection Act and related subordinate legislation comes into effect. For more information about these incoming laws click here

According to EPA Executive Director Regulatory Standards Assessments & Permissions Tim Eaton, the system is designed to enable businesses to comply with new laws.

“It’s an important investment in creating more transparency of waste movement and improving usability with modern technology,” he said.

Despite the VWMA supporting the action, VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said government needs to ensure implementation doesn’t result in unintended consequences from rogue operators that will actively look for ways around the system, while at the same time burdening already compliant businesses.

Late last year, the VWMA did a call out to the industry for expressions of interest to join a working group around the topic of Prescribed Industrial Waste (PIW) and the incoming waste tracking system.

“Membership with the association empowers us to act on our member’s behalves. Members have raised concerns with me throughout the year about incoming changes so we decided to form a working group to better understand the industry issues, concerns and opportunities that exist with the incoming changes,” Mr Smith said. 

“Last year, we saw a very rushed engagement process by EPA in the lead up to shifting Victorian businesses from a paper-based waste transport system to an only online system. The process last year let down a lot of businesses and there was room to improve. This year we wanted to be on the front foot and work with EPA to ensure those improvements were realised.” 

Mr Smith added that despite rushed 2019 consultation, the EPA has since changed its approach, recognising the opportunities of early engagement and industry involvement.

“EPA have engaged early – from July last year at our State Conference they began engaging with industry and informing them about the incoming changes. The biggest challenge we have now is that there isn’t much time before going live for EPA 2.0,” he said. 

“This time round, we’ve seen business asked to provide input and feedback in the development of the new waste tracking system and its implementation. It’s great to see EPA recognising the important role that our members play in this process.”

Mr Smith flagged that the new normal for businesses in Victoria will be an expectation that they are taking active steps to understand what compliance means for them.

“In short they need to know and understand their risks and have the appropriate systems and processes in place to eliminate or reduce risk and impacts. The VWMA will provide our members information about incoming changes as they are made available, but I’d encourage members and non-members to subscribe to EPA’s communications via their website,” he said. 

VWMA represents Victoria’s largest collection of waste and recycling operators including private operators, local councils, state government agencies and service providers / suppliers to the industry.

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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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Immersed in industry: VWMA Waste Expo site tours

The Victorian Waste Management Association’s recent industry site tours took delegates through a range of resource recovery and manufacturing facilities.

The partnership between the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) and Waste Expo Australia was particularly significant in 2019, given current challenges facing the Victorian arm of the sector.

While the event had a national focus, Mark Smith, VWMA Executive Officer, says Victoria was lucky to have Waste Expo located in Melbourne.

“We support Waste Expo because of the relevance this national event brings to the Victorian landscape, with thought provoking discussions and presentations on everything important and impactful to the sector,” he says.

As a strategic Waste Expo partner, VWMA ran three concurrent industry tours on the Friday following the expo, a first for the leading waste and resource recovery event.

Hosting a wide range of delegates including representatives from the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group, industry heavy weights such as TOMRA, local government agents and small business owners, VWMA’s tours were designed to educate and stimulate conversation.

The day’s events included a construction and demolition tour, an organics tour and a packaging process tour.

“Working with industry partners Alex Fraser, the Australian Packaging and Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the Australian Organic Recycling Association (AORA), VWMA ran the tours to bring the steps industry is taking to support Victoria’s recycling agenda into focus,” Mark says.

As attendees gathered at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Friday morning, many expressed difficulty over choosing which tour to attend.

After an opening address from Mark, delegates piled into three separate buses, each with an industry specific tour guide.

The construction and demolition tour, sponsored by Alex Fraser, included site visits to Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility, Alex Fraser’s Sustainable Supply Hub, a Level Crossing Removal Project site and the Toll Shipping’s terminal at Webb Dock.

Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility is established on a site acquired 18 months ago by the company, with Bingo pouring $23 million into the facility since then. The site allows Bingo to convert waste into seven different products and has capacity for around 300,000 tonnes per annum. The company aims to achieve a 75 per cent recovery rate on-site.

At Webb Dock, Alex Fraser has worked with contractor Civilex to develop a heavy-duty pavement which incorporates reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) that meets VicRoads guidelines. The pavement base layers are comprised recycled glass sand and recycled concrete.

As part of the Level Crossing Removal Project, the Western Program Alliance used Alex Fraser’s recycled sand as bedding material for the combined services conduit housing the communications and power cables. The grade separation was undertaken at Kororoit Creek Road in Melbourne. The low embodied energy material replaces virgin sand with all 900 tonnes diverted from landfill at a lower cost.

Finally, Waste Management Review got to explore where Alex Fraser’s recycling happens, touring its Laverton North supply hub where more than one million tonnes of C&D waste, and one billion bottles of glass waste is reprocessed to make the quality construction materials needed to build greener roads.

A climb to the top of Alex Fraser’s high recycled technology asphalt plant topped off the excursion. The new $18 million faciliity is capable of producing over half a million tonnes of green asphalt per year, utilising the recycled glass sand and RAP produced in its collocated recycling facilities.

Shifting material focus, the Organics and Composting Tour’s first stop took attendees to the South Melbourne Market, where they were told about the market’s 32 tonne a year dehydrating compost initiative.

From there, VWMA and AORA directed the tour bus to Sacyr’s new indoor compositing facility. Michael Wood, Sacyr Environment Australia Consultant, guided the group through the 120,000 tonnes per annum facility, and explained the challenges associated with adapting a European model to an Australian environment.

The group was then guided through Cleanaway’s South East Organic Processing Facility and food depackaging unit.

Melinda Lizza, Cleanaway Development Manager, explained the depackaging unit’s 150,000 tonnes per annum capabilities, before handing the tour over to Michael Lawlor, Cleanaway Operations Supervisor.

After the tour, the group had lunch with the Cleanaway crew and discussed interactions with the EPA and growing levels of scrutiny on the compost industry.

From there, the group was driven to Bio Gro’s Dandenong South Facility, where Sage Hahn, Bio Gro General Manger, explained the company’s approach to organics diversion and composted mulch production.

After taking the group through the Bio Gro site, Sage fielded a range of technical questions and detailed the mineral additive process of mulch manufacturing.

Doug Wilson, AROA Victoria Admin Officer and compost group tour guide, says the day allowed delegates to closely inspect organics processing.

“At the very time when the state government is bringing the circular economy into focus, the organics tour took delegates on an interactive experience with some of Melbourne’s most exciting and innovative organics recovery technology,” he says.

The APCO packing tour, which was delivered in partnership with the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Australian Institute of Packaging, took attendees to Ego Pharmaceuticals, the South Melbourne Markets and recycled plastic manufacturer Replas’ Carrum Downs site.

Of the APCO tour, Mark says industry is at a critical time where collaboration is essential to address challenges in the packaging supply chain and achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“Great stuff happens all across Australia by the waste and recycling industry and many organisatsions that we partner with,” Mark says.

He added that these were areas of interest that were not spoken about enough.

“It was exciting to see demonstrations of the circular economy in action. Parts of our sector are leading on this front and there are scale interventions that only really need the appropriate government policy to delivery environmental, economic and social benefits to Australia.”

He says this was clearly demonstrated on the tours in the Victoria context.

“Industry is leading on parts of this and it’s important to acknowledge the good work being done locally.

“A big thanks to all our partners for coming on board and collaborating with us.”

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

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Waste talks

Last year’s Waste Expo Australia saw a record number of delegates converge on the Melbourne Exhibition Centre to examine new opportunities in a changing sector.

At last year’s Waste Expo Australia, Pete Shmigel, Australian Council of Recycling, opened his presentation with a question: when you think about the waste and resource recovery industry over the last 12 months, would you give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

Audience reactions were mixed, with one delegate calling the system a mess, and another applauding the sector’s ability to acknowledge its problems and move forward. For an industry in a state of flux, this lack of consensus should come as no surprise.

But Mr Shmigel was positive, highlighting rising construction and demolition (C&D) and commercial and industrial (C&I) recovery rates.

“What kind of animal would I use to describe recycling? I’d say a bear, and what’s a bear? It’s surprisingly fast, it grows really fast and it sleeps for about half the year,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Amazingly fast growth in C&D and C&I, and then we look at kerbside recycling and it’s asleep.”

A solution for kerbside’s slumber, Mr Shmigel said, is further funding and harmonisation across jurisdictions.

According to Mr Shmigel, the Australian Council of Recycling recently conducted an analysis across 110 councils in NSW, finding 3824 collection and recycling process variations.

“There’s an argument for standardising the types of packaging that goes in, and there’s an argument for standardising the types of systems councils themselves run,” Mr Shmigel said.

“If Canada can do it, why can’t Australia?”

Supporting a stronger kerbside system was the focus of multiple Waste Expo Australia presentations, with over 100 speakers and 120 exhibitors navigating opportunities in the changing market.

According to Event Director Cory McCarrick, 2019 saw record attendance, with early reports indicating a 33 per cent increase from 2018.

“We are thrilled with the large increase in visitation at last year’s Waste Expo Australia, with a number of people travelling from interstate for the event,” Mr McCarrick said.

“Waste Expo Australia has truly cemented itself as the must-attend event for the waste management and resource recovery sector.”

The two-day event was opened with a keynote from Victorian Energy Environment & Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, who outlined actions her department is taking to improve the state’s resource recovery system.

“Our country is facing some major challenges in the waste and resource recovery sector and that, of course, includes restrictions on the export of recyclable materials,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“It has also made us think differently about how we manage our waste domestically, and it’s been a bit of a wake-up call to many of us, because we know that we can do better.”

Ms D’Ambrosio highlighted the state’s forthcoming circular economy strategy and waste infrastructure investments, including a $500,000 grant to Advanced Circular Polymer for Australia’s largest plastics recycling plant.

“We are committed to strengthening and growing the waste and resource recovery sector as we transition to an economy with less waste and better reuse and recycling,” the minister said.

“My commitment to all of you as industry players is to be available and to listen and work with you as we manage the transition the community expects us to undertake.”

Policy drivers that would help Ms D’Ambrosio’s plan to strengthen the sector were then addressed by Rose Read, National Waste and Recycling Industry Council. Ms Read highlighted the importance of market development, landfill levies, product stewardship, environmental regulation, product bans, standards and education.

In reference to product stewardship, Ms Read highlighted the success of the used oil recycling scheme, the National Television and Computer Recycling scheme and state-run container deposit schemes (CDS).

The topic of CDS was further discussed at the Victorian Waste Management Association’s (VWMA) post day one discussion dinner, with presentations from Peter Bruce, Whenceforth Consulting, and David Cocks, MRA Consulting.

Mr Bruce, who recently served as Exchange for Change CEO, presented state-by-state CDS comparisons. He specifically highlighted variations between who owns the collected material, how cashflow is managed and how different schemes designs facilitate convenience.

While attendees appeared largely in favour of a Victorian CDS, questions were raised over long-term efficacy, material recovery facility liability and kerbside glass collection as a CDS substitute.

Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser, also addressed the importance of glass separation.

On the C&D stage, Mr Murphy discussed innovative recycling approaches and the consequence of increased recycled content in pavements and roads.

Following the presentation, Mr Murphy faced a steady stream of questions, highlighting
an understanding of the central role sustainable infrastructure will play in the transition towards a circular economy.

George Hatzimanolis, Repurpose It, expressed similar sentiments, with a presentation on the company’s approach to C&D transformation via best practice technology.

“The principles of our business are based on the concept of industrial ecology, taking a product at the end of a lifecycle and converting it into a product that begins a new lifecycle,” he said.

Mr Hatzimanolis went on to discuss the importance of urban recycling facilities located close to generation points and Repurpose It’s C&D washing process.

The contrast between urban and rural capabilities and needs was further discussed in a session chaired by Mark Smith, VWMA.

With presentations from Matt Genever, Sustainability Victoria, Isabel Axio, Just Waste Consulting, and Joe Agostino, Yarra City Council, the discussion emphasised the multifaceted nature of resource recovery, with distinctions made between what is appropriate in city centres and what works in the regions.

Ms Axio explained how to adapt urban concepts to regional landscapes, and suggested challenges such as low populations and transport costs were enabling characteristics rather than barriers.

Mr Genever then broadened the scope, focusing on what Sustainability Victoria has learnt over the past seven years.

He specifically stressed the importance of closing the market development, sustainable procurement and new infrastructure loop.

Similar arguments were made at day two’s Towards a Circular Economy Partnership Panel, chaired by Toli Papadopoulos from Prime Creative Media.

During the panel, Sebastian Chapman, DELWP, highlighted the importance of data, and said while the department doesn’t fully understand the flow of material in the Victorian economy, it is working to improve.

Pushing the point, Cameron McKenzie, ASPIRE, referenced the axiom that data is more valuable than oil. Without data, he said, waste cannot be sustainably managed.

While each panellist presented different perspectives, the consensus was clear: for a circular economy to thrive, action needs to extend beyond waste to reuse, repair and sharing economies.    

As the expo wrapped up its final day, delegates discussed waste-derived products, destructive distillation and optical sorting.

The extensive and varied nature of the Waste Expo Australia program was perhaps best expressed by Steven Sergi, South Australian EPA: if anyone still thinks waste management involves simply putting material in a hole, they’re behind the eight ball.

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