claire moffat

NSW EPA re-assures industry that it will raise engagement

The NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has appointed Nancy Chang to head up the new EPA Regulatory Practice and Advice section within the organisation. She previously held the position of director regulatory strategy and performance within the NSW Department of Education.

In her role as EPA executive director regulatory practice, Chung said that she is focused on translating the NSW government’s 20-year waste strategy into operational themes. She addressed members of the Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association (WCRA) attending a breakfast briefing in Sydney this week, aimed at reviewing key issues facing the industry.

After listening to a series of updates from Anne Prince, APC Consulting; David Clancy, Cleanaway; Brent Lawson, Concrete Recyclers; and Ros Dent, Bingo, who all called for a stronger and functional relationship with the EPA, Chung acknowledged that they had been heard.

“I have a clear remit to re-invigorate industry engagement,” she said.

This was underlined by NSW EPA chair, Carolyn Walsh who said that the EPA will organise to meet with the industry before the deadline for submissions on the 20-year waste strategy on May 8.

WCRA executive director, Tony Khoury welcomed the prospect of stronger engagement with the EPA following his opening statement at the breakfast.

“Businesses are looking for answers, I have never seen our industry so confused about its future,” he said.

Inside  Waste will be following up with the EPA’s plans regarding industry engagement and the 20-year waste plan.

Caption: Attending the WCRA breakfast briefing were l-r:  Harry Wilson (WCRA president) Anne Prince (APC Consulting) Tony Khoury (WCRA executive director) and Carolyn Walsh (NSW EPA chair).

$24m push to councils to stem organics in landfill

Local councils along with the alternative waste industry, will receive $24 million from the NSW government to support improved kerbside separation of food and garden waste and encourage other better uses of waste.

According to NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, the funding will help local councils and industry adopt and improve sustainable management of organic waste while the government undertakes consultation. He said that the initiative would help reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, is financially viable and will create a beneficial product that helps improve soil health.

“We know from the $105 million investment currently provided under the Waste Less Recycle More initiative that recycling food and garden waste through a dedicated kerbside bin works,” Kean said.

“Already more than 40 councils across NSW have food and garden kerbside collections with good results. To help make this change, we’re investing $24 million to support local councils and industry operators which were putting organic waste in red bins to produce mixed waste organic outputs, Kean said.

The $24million investment includes:

  • $6.26 million Research and Development grant – available for alternative waste treatment operators to develop new products, purchase new equipment, undertake infrastructure and technology upgrades and develop new end markets for waste-derived products.
  • $5 million Local Council Food Organics Garden Organics (FOGO) grant – to support councils previously producing mixed waste organic outputs to plan for or improve FOGO collections through community education.
  • $12.5 million Local Council FOGO Infrastructure grant – to support councils previously producing MWOO to implement kerbside organic collection bins.
  • $240,000 The Greenlight Organics research package – to strengthen the evidence base and create momentum for kerbside source separation of organics.

According to an EPA spokesperson, along with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, the EPA will also undertake research into organics to improve investor confidence in collection and processing.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) is working to have grant documentation available soon, with grants due to open by mid-2020.

Funding may be continued

If the funding is not exhausted in the initial rounds funding may be continued, depending on demand. This is an interim boost while the 20-year Waste Strategy is under development which will bring industry, councils and the community together to find the best, long-term solutions for waste management and resource recovery in NSW.

The spokesperson added that, the NSW Government will provide stimulus funding to support local councils and the alternative waste industry with improving kerbside separation of food and garden waste and other better uses of waste.

“Organic waste can be a valuable resource and we want to make the best use of it. We also want to encourage innovative solutions to waste management,” he said.

Inside Waste spoke with Morne Hattingh, Tamworth Regional Council manager, waste and resource recovery who acknowledged the high associated costs of improving kerbside separation of food and garden waste and encouraging other better uses of waste.

“There are also many aspects involved in creating a circular economy where good quality resource recovered products move from kerbside collection to the open market. The recent funding announcement by the NSW government will assist Tamworth Regional Council in improving the separation of food and garden waste within our Local Government Area. Whilst this a welcome first step in the right direction further funding will be necessary to materialise the circular economy,” Hattingh explained.

She added that the council will utilise the funding provided by the government to off-set the cost of implementing basic auditing systems and communication campaigns that will help educate residents on the importance of separating waste.

“Source separation is the first intervention point in the recycling system. Focusing on effective waste separation is imperative as it has a knock on effect that, if done well, can positively influence consumer behaviour.”

NSW signals imminent plastic bag ban

Two weeks after the Victorian government released a comprehensive resource recovery strategy and a week after Australia’s first Plastics Summit, the NSW Government has called on the state community to contribute to its plan to tackle single-use plastics, reduce waste and pollution and increase recycling across the State.

The government has released two papers which include a Plastics Plan aimed at managing plastic waste and pollution in the state, and an issues paper that will shape the 20-year waste strategy.

NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian said that the community had high expectations and the government needed to ensure it created the best plans for the future.

“We know that we need to do a better job of dealing with our waste and delivering sustainable solutions. The NSW Plastics Plan and 20 Year Waste Strategy will be key to ensuring that NSW is a leader when it comes to reducing waste, maximising recycling and protecting our environment,” Berejiklian said.

“We also want to make sure any businesses potentially affected by phase-outs have enough time to adjust and source sustainable alternatives.”

Clear pathway

The NSW Plastics Plan discussion paper Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW, outlines a clear pathway to reduce single-use, unnecessary and problematic plastics in NSW and help build its circular economy. Feedback can be made on the discussion paper until Friday, May 8.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean explained that the Plastics Plan set the stage for the phase-out of priority single-use plastics, tripling the proportion of plastic recycled by 2030 and reducing plastic litter by a quarter.

“Lightweight plastic bags are proposed to be phased out six months from the passage of legislation with other timelines to be determined after feedback from the public consultation process.”

Meanwhile, the waste strategy canvasses options to reduce waste and increase recycling, outlines the opportunities and strategic direction for future waste and recycling infrastructure, and for growing sustainable end markets for recycled materials.

Government delay

NSW Labor shadow minister for environment and heritage, Kate Washington pointed to the state government’s delay in addressing the state plastics crisis with its decision to block a Labor bill to ban single use plastic bags in October 2019.

“This came despite broad support for action within the government and state parliament,” Washington said. She also voiced concern that this consultation would continue a cycle of inaction by the government.

However, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO, Gayle Sloan said that the NSW Plastics Plan and 20 Year Waste Strategy were encouraging and would  assist with getting the industry back on track in the state.

“Australia absolutely needs to transition away from the current take, make and dispose approach and recognise that valuable natural resources must be designed and used in such a way to manage out waste, and ensure the ability to re-use, repair and recycle. Unless this transition occurs, industry agrees with the government’s sentiment that we will never be able to achieve the targets set, or sadly, create the environment in which we want to live in,” Sloan said.

“Plastics remain at the forefront of the community’s mind and it is encouraging that NSW is looking to align with other jurisdictions to design out unnecessary single–use items. It also appears that NSW is prepared to go further, with mandated recycled content of 30% by 2025 and emphasis on designing out waste and making producers take greater responsibility for collecting and recycling in NSW, including the possible use of more extended producer responsibility schemes. These are all positive policies that may result in less reliance on councils and householders to meet the costs of these schemes,” she added.

Industry remains under pressure

Sloan also acknowledged that the papers’ discussions and plans for market development and infrastructure, were both important, particularly as NSW’s waste and resource recovery industry remained under immense pressure.

Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA) executive director Tony Khoury told InsideWaste that the NSW waste and recycling industry was currently facing many challenges, including increased regulations leading to complexity and higher compliance costs, increasing insurance premiums, tightening end-product specifications, with decreasing end markets, loss of kerbside materials to CDS, decreasing revenues for commodities and compliance costs for C&D recycled products.

He added that there was also no agreed procedure for dealing with a small piece of asbestos in C&D recycling and that fires, fatalities and accidents had led to the formation of a WCRA WHS Group.

Key issues

Khoury was clear in describing these detailed requisites that the industry needed from its regulators:

  • a level commercial playing field
  • regulations that provide certainty
  • consultation and acknowledgment of the content of discussions
  • a regulatory environment that allows waste and recyclables to be managed in a safe, sustainable & environmentally sound manner
  • regulations, laws and proper practices to be enforced by all bodies
  • funding

“It is our hope that the much-anticipated NSW Government’s 20-year waste strategy addresses these key issues,” he said.

 

 

 

ANZPAC Plastics Pact expands

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) will lead the development of the ANZPAC Plastic Pact, the latest to join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global plastics pact network.

The Pact will launch to the public in late 2020 and will work with businesses, governments and NGOs from across the plastics value chain in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island nations. Its aim is to develop a common vision of the circular economy for plastics.

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Engineers aim to turn Australia’s rubbish into a resource

Leading engineers have predicted that, with the help of sustainable engineering, Australia’s rubbish will be transformed into a key resource and generate new industries. This was highlighted on March 3, when the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) celebrated UNESCO’s World Engineering Day by bringing together expertise from industry, universities, and the public sector to build the keys to turning waste streams into income streams.

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Eurobodalla Council moves to clear bushfire waste

Eurobodalla Council has struck a deal with the NSW government to remove bushfire demolition waste from residents’ land. The government will also establish and operate a new waste transfer and recycling depot for non-contaminated bricks and concrete at the adjacent Surf Beach quarry.

The agreement means waste contractors can dispose of fire affected waste at the shire’s three tips, which will be managed and operated by NSW Government contractors for the duration of the clean-up.

Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes explained, “Laing O’Rourke are here to start the government-funded clean up with nowhere to put demolition waste. We helped them to trial waste disposal at our tips to ensure this is a workable solution,” Innes said. However, she added that it had been frustrating because Council first presented a solution five weeks ago. She thanked her staff for persevering to get this agreement across the line.

“I urge the NSW Government to act quickly and bring in the machinery and contractors needed so we can really get this clean-up moving,” Innes said.

The arrangement will see Brou landfill, located off the highway between Bodalla and Narooma, used for disposal of Eurobodalla’s asbestos contaminated clean-up waste. Air monitoring, vehicle wash down facilities and specialist staff, plant and equipment are part of the deal.

At Surf Beach tip near Batemans Bay, permission for a three-metre high overtop will create an additional 100,000 cubic metres of landfill, or the equivalent of four years’ capacity under normal circumstances.

Potential exists for some asbestos demolition waste to be accepted in the second landfill at Surf Beach if required, and only once the fire-damaged cell has been repaired.

Council’s director of planning Lindsay Usher added that the arrangement enables the bushfire clean-up to take place efficiently while ensuring the community’s regular waste management needs are also met in the coming years.

“The sheer volume of bushfire demolition waste would deprive Eurobodalla of long-term waste-management capacity. We expect to receive seven years’ worth of waste in four months,” he said.

“The extra capacity the NSW Government has made available at Surf Beach addresses this for now, however, volumes will be monitored closely and if the amount of waste looks like exceeding agreed site capacities, the deal allows excess to be taken to approved sites outside the shire.”

Eurobodalla’s third waste management facility, a smaller waste transfer station at Moruya, remains closed due to fire damage. Green waste and scrap metal will be recycled there once it reopens within the next few weeks. Council staff will continue to manage Surf Beach landfill for non-bushfire waste and assist contractors at Brou and Moruya.

Residents can continue to use Brou and Surf Beach tips normally for now.

Usher acknowledged community cooperation will be important while the clean-up is underway. “There are still things we don’t know and its possible visiting the tip might not but as convenient as usual while we help fire-impacted residents get their properties cleaned up. As soon as we have more details, we’ll let the community know.”

Council staff will continue to manage Surf Beach landfill for non-bushfire waste and assist contractors at Brou and Moruya for the duration of the government clean-up. Contractor Laing O’Rourke has said it expected to finish most of the clean up by the end of June.

 

Harmonisation and collaboration: key themes of first Plastics Summit

Councils, industry and non-governmental delegates attending the Plastics Summit in Canberra yesterday, heard a strong call for the creation of national collection specifications and standards to simplify the challenge of plastic waste. This issue was amongst several which emerged from a series of roundtable discussions led by specific industry experts.

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Government will strengthen procurement guidelines to energise plastics sector

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison opened the inaugural Australian Plastics Summit at Parliament House yesterday, March 2 telling around 200 stakeholders within the industry that his government would strengthen Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines to energise the sector as it tackles the National Waste Action Plan.

Referencing the success of Australia’s Indigenous businesses, Morrison said that the government would change Commonwealth guidelines to ensure every procurement made by a government agency would examine recycled content as well as environmental sustainability to determine value for money.

“By focusing on these practical steps, we will be able to see progress as we did with our procurement policy to energise our Indigenous businesses,” he said.

However, Morrison did advise that the delegates from various sectors of the industry who were sitting in the room, were definitely part of the solution.

“There’s no doubt that the misuse of plastics is a scarring on our lands and oceans but, just as scientists and engineers solved the problem of human waste going into ocean outflows, you are also in a position to deliver a similar outcome,” he said.

He added that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in two weeks was significant as the federal government, along with state and territory leaders would then finalise a ban on the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

An announcement would also be made in May’s budget aimed at improving Australia’s recycling and collection systems. He also noted that the Report released last week by Infrastructure Australia had made resource recovery a High Priority Project.

“We will work with the states to build partnerships to grow the recycling market. This is particularly good news for regional Australia as it will deliver more jobs.

I am excited about the opportunities to build markets and increase demand for recycled products.”

Minister for Agriculture, Water and the Environment Sussan Ley, who hosted the event, said that the one-day summit was designed to ‘walk the talk’ and that a major focus would be getting people and companies interested in making waste valuable.

“Our key purpose is to connect key players, to find new ways of doing business and to spur action,” she said.