Fuelling the market

Waste Management Review speaks with key industry stakeholders about the potential tyre-derived fuel flow-on effects of the Council of Australian Governments’ proposed export ban.

In early August, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) released a communique detailing its decision to ban the export of waste materials including plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

Specifics of the ban have not yet been released, with government stating that it would develop a ban timeline and action plan in due course. Despite this, industry responses have been swift and overwhelmingly positive, with particular focus given to the potential waste-to-energy flow-on effects of a ban on tyre exports.

Gayle Sloan, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO, says Australia has a robust and sustainable non-baling tyre recycling industry, which processes roughly 23 million used tyre units per annum.

“A ban on the export of whole-baled tyres will further drive the industry, which will create Australian jobs while ensuring human and environmental health are protected,” she says.

Pete Smigel, Australian Council of Recycling CEO, says consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable end-of-life disposal and recycling of products that offer sustainable environmental and human health outcomes.

“Australia has a great opportunity to develop a strong, sustainable and profitable tyre recycling industry that delivers significant environmental benefits and as well as job creation across the new manufacturing industry,” Pete says.

“It’s imperative this is supported by responsible government policy, and the COAG communique is a great step towards that.”

Tyrecycle, one of Australia’s largest collectors and recyclers of end-of-life tyres, operates numerous collection and processing facilities across the country, including Australia’s largest crumbing plant based at Somerton in Melbourne. It also has full chain-of-custody reporting.

Jim Fairweather, Tyrecycle CEO, says COAG’s signalled intention to ban the export of waste tyres is a win for the environment and the circular economy.

“The proposed ban presents the best opportunity to turn all end-of-life waste tyres in Australia into value-added commodities such as rubber crumb, rubber granule, tyre-derived fuel (TDF) and high-tensile steel, creating more sustainable jobs in Australia,” he says.

“A ban on the export of waste tyres should include both whole-baled tyres, which are sent unprocessed to countries such as India and Malaysia, as well as casings from old truck tyres sent into overseas markets for use as seconds or in retreading.”

Jim says these elements go hand-in-hand, given the ban on whole-baled tyres will require the establishment and growth of new markets for re-purposed tyre-derived products.   

Australia currently exports approximately 70,000 tonnes of whole-baled tyres per annum, which are then used in open burning as a fuel to heat drying kilns and in low-grade pyrolysis plants.

Rob Kelman, Australian Tyre Recyclers Association (ATRA) Executive Officer, says operations like this are controversial, do not comply with environmental, health and worker regulations and are associated with high levels of pollution.

ATRA members agreed to ban the practice of exporting whole-baled tyres in 2014, due to poor environmental outcomes and a direct association with water borne diseases.

“The World Health Organization specifically identifies international movement of whole tyres as a key factor in the increase in Dengue incidence,” Rob says.

Australia’s tyre recycling sector is largely dominated by traditional recycling methods, which use a series of shredders, screens and granulators to separate waste tyres into commodities.

Jim says these commodities, which are valued commensurate with their level of refinement, are used as raw material in the manufacture of new products such as soft fall surfaces and asphalt, as well as civil work applications such as roads and infrastructure.

“Waste tyres are also used in TDF – a globally traded commodity, which fuels sophisticated, high-energy manufacturing environments and power generation plants overseas,” Jim explains.

“The technology is proven, and TDF has excellent environmental credentials that include a reduction in landfill, improved emissions and reduced use of fossil fuels.”

Jim adds that for every tonne of TDF used, one tonne of CO2 is displaced.

“It burns cleaner than coal and has twice the energy value of brown coal,” he explains.

“The global TDF market, which includes South Korea and Japan, is hungry for more and could easily consume all of Australia’s waste tyres as TDF, but there should also be a gradual push to increase the domestic uptake of TDF, most likely in cement kilns.”

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Environment Minister discusses export ban with industry

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has hosted a waste and resource recovery roundtable in Sydney, with Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

According to a WMRR statement, executives from Australia’s leading waste, recycling, and resource recovery firms shared their insight with Ms Ley on current barriers to growth and success, including the lack of a nationally consistent and harmonised policy and regulatory framework.

“The minister was keen to hear about the current challenges and opportunities, and importantly, the key elements that would give the export ban, announced at the COAG meeting in August, the greatest chance at success,” the statement reads.

The roundtable was attended by executives from SUEZ, Cleanaway, Veolia, JJ Richards, ResourceCo, Tyrecycle, Visy Industries, Re.Group, Bingo Industries, Alex Fraser, and O-I.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said industry certainty is lacking in Australia, due to different policies, strategies, regulations and specifications across jurisdictions, and the lack of markets.

“The goal posts are constantly changing and often, our industry is a political football which exacerbates the challenges because it causes greater instability and uncertainty,” Ms Sloan said.

“The minister listened intently and said she had a clear idea of the current landscape and need for greater harmonisation, which we appreciated.”

Ms Sloan said Ms Ley advised that the forthcoming export ban on waste paper, plastic, glass and tyres would be on the agenda at the 8 November Meeting of Environment Ministers.

According to the WMRR statement, industry leaders said they would applaud the ban if it was coupled with the expansion of reprocessing and recycling, and the development of domestic remanufacturing.

“Sure, we can stop shipping these materials, and industry does not want to export – we absolutely want to reprocess and recycle right here in Australia – but if there’s no buyback or take up of the recycled products, where does that leave us?” Ms Sloan said.

“The ban must be supported first and foremost by sustainable and mandated procurement at all levels of government, with the Commonwealth leading the way.”

In a separate statement, Ms Ley said the Federal Government would work with Australia’s leading recyclers to achieve the earliest possible export ban time frame.

“The Prime Minister has agreed with all state and territory governments that a ban will be put in place, and we want to establish a clear timetable and clear strategic priorities by working with both industry and the state environment ministers,” Ms Ley said.

“A ban on plastic exports should not lead to higher levels of stockpiling in Australia, and I will be challenging all parties, the states, the industry participants and the community to embark on genuine change in tackling waste.”

Of her meeting with WMRR, Ms Ley said it was clear that policy consistency was needed across the states.

“We need to give industry the confidence to invest in recycling and remanufacturing, and an assurance that markets are being created for their products,” Ms Ley said.

Ms Ley also meet with industry leaders at the Australian Council of Recycling in Melbourne, including senior executives from Visy, Veolia, Orora, 0-I, PACT, Sims Metal Management, Reconomy-Downer, Close the Loop and Tyrecycle.

“The clear message from this and my previous meetings is that the re-cycling industry is in no doubt about the opportunities for re-manufactured products or the ability to generate future investment for expansion,” Ms Ley said.

“Concerns remain, however, about excessive or inconsistent planning regulations that could hamper that growth and the disparate range of collection strategies across local government.”

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WMRR holds EfW conference

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has held the first Energy from Waste (EfW) Conference in Canberra.

Attendees heard from a host of international and local speakers, who tracked the success of EfW facilities globally and the current gaps, challenges and opportunities to drive the technology in Australia.

According to WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan, there are currently more than 2000 EfW plants operating safely around the world.

“EfW technologies have been proven overseas, and at this conference, attendees heard from our international keynotes about the success of EfW working as part of an integrated waste management and resource recovery system,” Ms Sloan said.

“Industry is not touting EfW as the be all and end all of waste management, rather it is a recovery solution above disposal when we are unable to recycle. EfW assists in driving positive diversion and recovery outcomes.”

Ms Sloan said harmonisation was another topic of conversation at the conference.

“At the Around the States panel, comprising senior government officers from QLD, SA, NSW, ACT, WA, and VIC, industry reiterated the need for all jurisdictions to come together, led by the Federal Government, to develop a nationally consistent policy and regulatory framework,” Ms Sloan said.

“That would go a long way in creating certainty for industry and all other stakeholders.”

Ms Sloan said attendees had numerous opportunities to discuss the various presentations.

“At an interactive session led by Arup, attendees were called upon to share their thoughts on what they believed were the gaps that needed to be closed, the opportunities that could be captured and the barriers that stood in the way of EfW development in Australia,” Ms Sloan said.

“From the feedback received at this session, Arup will now develop an industry roadmap to develop and establish EfW within a successful waste management and resource recovery system. WMRR will soon release this roadmap.”

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WMRR releases EfW factsheet

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) and Bioenergy Australia have released the first in a series of energy from waste (EfW) factsheets.

The factsheet references the waste hierarchy, outlining EfW as only suitable when waste can’t otherwise be reused or recycled.

“In Australia general waste is normally disposed of to landfill, without additional value being recovered,” the factsheet reads.

“It is at this stage that diverting the material to an EfW plant for energy recovery can provide for better environmental outcomes.”

WMRR NSW EfW Working Group Chair Miles Mason said interest was building on the role and benefits of EfW in an integrated waste management system.

“There is a growing dialogue around waste issues and media coverage is increasing. However, there is also a lot of misinformation out there,” Mr Mason said.

“The fact sheet answers some of the common questions that often stem due to a lack of easy-to-understand information such as does EfW smell? Is it safe? Does it reduce greenhouse gas emissions? And how does EfW fit in a circular economy? This document is a good starting point in the conversation.”

According to the factsheet, EfW facilities use technology to control emissions by removing chemical contaminants and further filtering the air to remove particulates from gas.

“As part of the planning and permitting process, a comprehensive air quality and human health risk assessment is carried out,” the factsheet reads.

“During operations, exhaust emissions from these facilities are continuously monitored using gas measuring equipment, to ensure they comply with even the most stringent environmental standards.”

WMRR NSW EfW Working Group Vice Chair Shaun Rainford said there are varying levels of understanding around the terms, concepts, suitable waste types and costs.

“There are different definitions and policies across jurisdictions, adding to the complexity of EfW,” Mr Rainford said.

“As the peak body of the waste management and resource recovery industry, it is WMRR’s role to assist in education and provide factual elements to the conversation.”

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Government to release procurement targets

Federal Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans will reportedly unveil ambitious new targets for sustainable procurement by all state governments.

Mr Evans said he would seek agreement on proposed procurement targets at the next Meeting of Environment Ministers, adding the Federal Government would offer funding support to develop Australia’s remanufacturing sector.

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan, who said WMRR had been calling for procurement targets for over 18 months, meet with Mr Evans to discuss what the next steps would be.

“WMRR welcomes the minister’s announcements and it is pleasing to see movement on the federal level, after years of industry advocating for federal leadership on a number of fronts, sustainable procurement being one of them,” Ms Sloan said.

“It became very clear early in the meeting that the minister understands the significance creating demand and markets for recycled products has on driving our industry forward.”

According to Mr Sloan, Mr Evans’ work in the retail industry, as CEO of the National Retail Association, has given him much-needed perspective and experience in supply chain management.

“Mr Evans has a wealth of knowledge on the roles, responsibilities and market demands within a supply chain,” Ms Sloan said.

“WMRR also had the opportunity to discuss the importance of national leadership in creating a level playing field and developing a common approach to levies and industry development as Australia, despite having seven jurisdictions, is one common market.”

Mr Sloan said WMRR also discussed the federal government’s role in driving resource recovery and remanufacturing through harmonised, effective and appropriate regulatory, policy and market settings.

“WMRR looks forward to our continued engagement with the minister and all levels of government, as we look forward and keep our eyes on the circular economy ball,” Ms Sloan said.

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QLD releases energy from waste policy

The public is being invited to comment on the Queensland Government’s Energy-from-Waste policy discussion paper, released earlier this week.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said finding alternative uses for waste was becoming more important than ever.

“The discussion paper is giving Queenslanders a chance to contribute to the development of a new policy, provide feedback on the types of technologies and help us plan for the future,” Ms Enoch said.

“The paper is an important action under the government’s new waste strategy.”

Ms Enoch said the government’s waste strategy outlined priorities and actions to help grow the recycling and resource recovery sector.

“We have set ambitious targets to recover 90 per cent of the waste we generate by 2050 and recycle at least 75 per cent of that waste,” Ms Enoch said.

“But we acknowledge that some wastes cannot be recycled, and it is better to retain the value of these wastes by recovering energy than it is to dispose of them to landfill. This is all part of our broader transition to a circular economy.”

Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) Executive Officer Rick Ralph said WRIQ and its members welcomed the new waste strategy.

“Energy from waste will play an important role in helping to achieve the objectives and targets of the strategy,” Mr Ralph said.

“The release of the Energy-from-Waste discussion paper is a step in the right direction. Industry looks forward to having this discussion with the government in this important initiative.”

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said energy from waste was a vital part of a sustainable waste and resource recovery system.

“Its technologies are also proven globally, with more than 2000 energy from waste facilities operating safely across the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, many having operated for decades,” Ms Sloan said.

“We look forward to working with the Queensland Government to leverage the technical expertise of our industry to develop a policy that promotes investment in, and growth of, an integrated waste management and resource recovery system that includes energy from waste.”

Public consultation is open until 26 August.

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Tasmania releases Waste Action Plan

Tasmania’s draft Waste Action Plan, released 29 June, sets a framework to develop the state’s recently announced CDS and a statewide landfill levy.

Acting Environment Minister Elise Archer has opened the draft for public consultation.

In a cabinet reshuffle last week, it was announced Treasurer Peter Gutwein would soon replace Ms Archer as Environment Minister.

“With a growing population and the recent restrictions of recycling product exports to China, it is important Tasmania takes a more strategic approach to the way it manages waste into the future,” Ms Archer says.

“Dealing with our waste is a shared responsibility between all levels of government, the private sector, and the community.”

According to Ms Archer, the proposed state wide levy is set to replace multiple council levies already in place, with funds to be reinvested in waste and recycling infrastructure and programs.

“The draft plan also contains a series of ambitious, but achievable, waste management, litter and recycling targets that align with targets in the recently approved National Waste Policy,” Ms Archer says.

Other proposed measures include ensuing 100 per cent of packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, reducing waste generation by 10 per cent per person by 2030 and achieving an 80 per cent average recovery rate from all waste streams by 2030.

Additionally, the plan outlines efforts to ensure Tasmania has the lowest incidence of littering in the country by 2023.

The state government will also work with local government and businesses to phase out problematic plastic by 2030 and reduce the volume of organic waste sent to landfill by 50 per cent by 2030.

Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) CEO Pete Shmigel said the draft illustrated smart and progressive reform.

Mr Shmigel highlighted the CDS, waste reduction goals and the commitment to a new administrative structure for waste management as particularly positive.

“ACOR also thinks it’s terrific innovation that the Treasurer Peter Gutwein will also be Environment Minister,” Mr Shmigel said.

“It helps recognise that recycling is a great way to combine ‘green’ and ‘gold’ as it is both an economic and environmental positive.”

Mr Shmigel is calling on government to set the new levy at a sufficient level to drive positive results and industry investment, and make commitments to the positive procurement of recycled content products to boost local manufacturers.

Additionally, Mr Shmigel has encouraged state government to ensure the proposed resource recovery management body involves both local government and industry experts.

“This new plan can start turning the Apple Isle from a recycling laggard to a recycling leader, and that’s something our industry and no doubt the people of Tasmania support,” Mr Shmigel said.

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said the plan shows a strategic approach to tackling waste, and highlighted its framework for addressing identified priorities.

“WMRR is pleased that Tasmania finally has a waste and resource recovery strategy and in releasing the plan, the minister has acknowledged that waste management is a shared responsibility between all levels of government, the private sector, and community,” Ms Sloan said.

“The minister should also be congratulated for listening to industry about the importance of a levy as an economic tool for prioritising resource recovery, as well as working with industry and the community to design and set the levy. This is a show of great leadership.”

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Industry responds to SA waste levy increase

The South Australian Government’s decision to increase the solid waste levy from $100 to $140 from 1 January 2020 has left the waste industry ‘blindsided’, according to the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR.)

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said while industry supports government action that promotes resource recovery and market development, progress is not as simple as increasing landfill levies.

“Industry was prepared for the original $3 increase, however it has been blindsided by this new amount of $40, which is far greater than planned,” Ms Sloan said.

“The timing and notice of this new levy increase is completely unsatisfactory and does not allow businesses and local government with locked in 2019-20 budgets to prepare for the additional cost.”

According to Ms Sloan, South Australia was previously leading the way in resource recovery, though a blend of policy, guidelines and levy drivers that precluded the requirement for excessive cost structures.

“Part of the reason for South Australia’s success is the strong working relationship between all sectors of industry and the existence of a high-level advisory group to government,” Ms Sloan said.

“The fact that the levy increase was not discussed with this advisory group is extremely disappointing.”

According to Ms Sloan, the levy increase comes in addition to a raft of new and increased costs including increased licensing fees and new financial assurance requirements.

“South Australia should look to Queensland as a model for implementing such a rapid change in levy amount,” Ms Sloan said.

“The Queensland government also looked to implement such a change on 1 January, however this was moved and a years notice given, with mechanisms put in place to manage such a large impact on councils and households.”

Ms Sloan said while WMRR agrees landfill levies are an integral part of a successful waste and resource recovery policy framework, it cannot be the only response from government.

“Such a large increase, without policy support, has a real potential to lead to unintended outcomes such as illegal dumping,” Ms Sloan said.

“A good levy is a certain levy, with telegraphed changes that industry can plan for and respond to.”

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VIC budget allocates $35 million to waste and resource recovery

The 2019-20 Victorian budget has injected $35 million into the waste and resource recovery industry, using funds raised from the municipal and industrial landfill levy.

According to the offical budget website, proceeds from the levy are first used to fund core activities of environmental agencies, with the remaining balance going towards the sustainability fund.

The budget has allocated an additional $68.8 million in levy proceeds including $15 million to strengthen the EPA, $30 million for the Lara stockpile site rehabilitation and $3.7 million to combat illegal stockpiling and hazardous waste mismanagement.

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said Victoria was leading the way in its financial commitment to assisting the waste industry in developing markets.

“It’s been more than 18 months since China implemented its National Sword policy and its impacts, along with other ongoing challenges, have brought to the fore the need to build and grow domestic remanufacturing,” Ms Sloan said.

“This week’s $35 million announcement is on top of the almost $37 million Victoria provided to industry in 2018 in the wake of China.”

Ms Sloan said developing a sustainable remanufacturing base was dependant on robust government regulation, and policy that supports market development and demand for recycled material.

“With the recent appointment of two federal ministers in the environment portfolio, including for the first time an assistant minister for waste reduction, WMRR is hopeful that Australia will finally have the much-needed national coordination and leadership it requires to grow its domestic remanufacturing sector and develop a consistent policy approach,” Ms Sloan said.

“We know that for every 10,000 tonnes of product recycled we create 9.2 jobs, so this is good news for Victoria.”

Ms Sloan said it was an exciting time to be working in the waste and resource recovery industry.

“WMRR looks forward to continuing its positive collaboration with the Victorian Government, as it fixes and builds its essential waste and resource recovery industry to create a circular economy and build a local remanufacturing industry,” Ms Sloan said.

“We will continue to work closely with Victoria’s leaders to provide feedback and input on the projects, policies, and investment priorities that will drive the sector forward.”

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Waste 2019 hosts industry leaders forum

Waste 2019’s industry leaders forum invited senior industry representatives to discuss their vision for the future of waste management in Australia.

The forum, held on day two of the three day conference, was facilitated by Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association CEO Gayle Sloan.

Ms Sloan said the outcome of the discussion was a unanimous agreement that talk needs to make way for action.

The panel included Re.Group National Business Development Manager Garth Lamb, Cleanaway NSW State Manager David Clancey, Veolia General Manager Resource Recovery NSW Christine Hodgkiss, SUEZ NSW/ACT General Manager Tony Grebenshikoff and Bingo Industries’ CEO Daniel Tartak.

During the discussion Ms Sloan said the waste industry should consider changing the waste management hierarchy to the resource management hierarchy.

“Another area that industry has been calling for is the establishment of national specifications that mandate recycled content, and development of procurement processes that mandate the use of locally-made recycled product,” Ms Sloan said.

“Including the use of glass in road base, which would go a long way in solving the numerous glass challenges Australia is facing.”

Ms Sloan said the panel showed an industry wide desire to continue investing in new technology and facilities.

“Industry is more than willing to collaborate with all stakeholders to drive waste and resource recovery forward,” Ms Sloan said.

“But the next important step comes down to creating value and developing markets.”

According to Ms Sloan, with the federal election only three days away, a potential new Environment Minister was on all panelists minds.

“When asked what was on their federal wish list, everyone on the panel agreed a national approach to waste and resource recovery was key, particularly the harmonisation of the waste levy,” Ms Sloan said.

“It’s time for the government to get on with the job and acknowledge that you can’t regulate your way to success and clearly, business as usual is no longer acceptable.”

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