claire moffat

May industry conference finds revival on Zoom

The annual Waste 2020 Conference which was scheduled for the first week of May in Coffs Harbour, has been re-engineered into a series of webinars.

Conference organisers Impact Environmental Consulting (IEC) have been working with the Waste Management & Resource Recovery Association (WMRR) to develop a weekly webinar series. According to IEC the aim is to keep the industry informed and up-to-date by using digital video tools. A selection of the content from the conference will be streamed live using the Zoom platform which is already being used by WMRR for its member sessions.

Conference and Exhibition Director Connie Button, told Inside Waste the organisation has received around 75 responses, indicating a strong interest from participants towards engaging in a selection of online paid webinars.

“We have also had direct contact from a range of delegates encouraging us to take the step and utilise the content that was already prepared for the conference,” Button explained.

She added that, the key benefits for participants are up-to-date information and perspectives on 12 key topic areas drawn from the Conference program as well as an opportunity to participate in a Q&A format.

“We considered it better to ‘drip feed’ the information over a longer period of time, rather than provide in in a condensed format, as there is a lot on people’s minds at the moment and this webinar series may become a welcome learning option while we are rather isolated. This weekly series also gives people the option to tailor their own learning by picking and choosing the sessions most relevant to their learning needs.”

The webinars will begin on Wednesday May 6 at 10.30am and will run for approximately 10-12 weeks. The first four webinars are listed below:

  • Week 1 – Keynote addresses from Waste 2020 (Wed 6th May)
  • Week 2 – Organics and FOGO (Wed 13 May)
  • Week 3 – Social Enterprise Role in a Circular Economy (Wed 20 May)
  • Week 4 – COAG Panel Discussion (Wed 27 May)

The cost for each weekly session will be $75 for members (WMRR) and $85 for non-members. IEC said that further information on presenters, content and the registration process will follow shortly.

Button also pointed to a quote that came from the survey:

“Keep up the good work. I really value the waste conference and am disappointed like many others that we cannot meet together. However thank you for continuing to work out ways to share information.”

 

Where to with food waste?

There is undoubtedly a connection between the recent catastrophic fire season and increasing global warming leading to climate change.
And we might feel powerless as individuals to do anything about it. But one thing we can do as individuals, households, local councils, state governments and federal governments is address food waste in landfill. Why and how does this relate to climate change?

Read more

NSW government releases COVID-19 guidance for waste and recycling industry

The NSW government has advised the waste and recycling industry and councils that it will continue to work closely with them to ensure critical waste services continue. It has also issued a set of guidelines for staying healthy and safe during COVID-19.

In a joint statement, the government and the EPA said that although the risk of transmission of COVID-19 when handling waste was low, waste handling should continue using safe routine procedures.

Despite public health orders listing restrictions to activities and places that are closed, the government acknowledged that the waste and recycling industry provides an important service for the community and businesses.

Worker health and safety

It advised that it was still possible to go to work in the waste and recycling industry if it wasn’t possible to work from home and that workers can continue to travel for the purposes of work.

However, it suggested that workers could carry identification, wear a uniform or carry a letter from their employer to assist with COVID-19 compliance checks.

Under the model work health and safety laws, the government said that employers must have measures in place to eliminate or manage risks arising from COVID-19. These include providing workers with appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves and eye protection, and information and training on how and why they are required to use them.

SafeWork NSW has also advised that although employers may not be able to eliminate the risk of workers contracting COVID-19 while carrying out work, they must do all that is reasonably practicable to minimise that risk.

The statement pointed to the latest COVID-19 information and advice from SafeWork NSW and advised operators to keep up to date to ensure that any action taken is appropriate.

Disposal of household waste

Meanwhile, the government is clear that waste items from people in isolation with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in nonhealthcare facilities, such as homes and other lodgings, should be placed in the red-lidded rubbish bin.

It has also issued this advice for people in isolation is as follows:

  • Dispose of all used personal care items such as tissues, disposable masks and gloves in a rubbish bin that’s lined with a plastic bag.
  • When the bin is three-quarters full, tie-off the plastic bag to prevent spillage of the contents. Avoid touching the inside of the bag and dispose of the bag into the general household red-lidded rubbish bin.
  • Hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitiser can be used if hands are not visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Disposal of clinical waste

Waste generated from clinical settings such as hospitals, nursing homes or mobile clinics, must be Coronavirus (COVID-19) 9 April 2020 Information for the waste and recycling sector Supporting NSW during COVID-19 stored and processed as per usual.

This includes clinical waste, cytotoxic waste, pharmaceutical, drug or medicine waste, and sharps waste. If waste managers and operators who transport, store, treat or dispose of clinical and related waste are unsure, they should refer to the following NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) advice:

  • Schedule 1 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 for licensing requirements
  • Part 11 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014 for requirements relating to the storage, transport and disposal of clinical waste.

Retail waste disposal

The government said that it has allowed for waste disposal from retail premises at any time, under the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development – Extended Operation) Order 2020.

By working with councils to support communities across the state in response to COVID-19 the government said it is making orders to allow for development to be carried out without the normal planning approval in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of everyone.

Interstate transport of waste

The government is also working with the transport industry to ensure uninterrupted movement of goods and other materials across state borders. NSW has not imposed any state-based restrictions on the movement of waste although in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Queensland government has tightened restriction on entry into the state.

These restrictions provide for the continuation of essential goods and services. Transporters can apply for an entry pass into Queensland at qld.gov.au/border-pass and regulations for tracking waste out of NSW or overseas still apply.

 Business continuity plans

The government has clearly stated that operators responsible for providing waste and recycling collection services and facilities should have a business continuity plan in place.

Plans should include the priority responsibilities of storing, transporting and disposing of waste appropriately, as well as measures to continue essential waste services like kerbside collection. Plans should be assessed and revised to account for changing circumstances, such as reduced staff numbers or the loss of key personnel, with focus given to high-risk activities.

Licence holders and other entities regulated by the EPA should also have environmental risk management procedures in place to assist in minimising risks to the environment and human health and meet regulatory requirements.

They must also continue to immediately notify the EPA of pollution incidents and compliance issues. Operators should maintain good communications with clients and the EPA, particularly around any predicted service disruptions.

Where social distancing requires the extension of operating hours, waste operators should contact the EPA for further assistance.

Key contacts

  • Environment Line on 131 555
  • Service NSW – for information and advice for NSW businesses go to service.nsw.gov.au.
  • Health – follow the COVID-19 health advice at NSW Health at health.nsw.gov.au.
  • Worker health and safety – follow SafeWork NSW advice at safework.nsw.gov.au.
  • Waste – for information about transport and disposal of waste visit epa.nsw.gov.au or call the Environment Line on 131 555.

 

$5m round for Regional Growth Fund now open

The opening of South Australia’s third funding round of the Regional Growth Fund has been brought forward in a move designed to provide economic stimulus to the state’s regions impacted by bushfires, drought and ongoing impacts of coronavirus.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said that the current round for projects will strengthen regional economies and provide tangible social benefits to local communities. The last round of funding unlocked $14.6 million investment across 10 projects, which are expected to create 160 jobs.

Whetstone added that by bringing forward applications for the Regional Growth Fund the state government’s $350 million stimulus package aimed at safeguarding the economy and protecting jobs will be supported.

“The Marshall Government recognises that supporting our regions is crucial to the future prosperity of our state,” Whetstone said.

“The Regional Growth Fund helps unlock new economic activity in our regions and by bringing applications forward we will help fast-track the recovery of our regional economies, which have been hurting as a result of the recent bushfires, drought and the ongoing impacts of coronavirus.”

10 year commitment

The Regional Growth Fund is a 10-year commitment offering $15 million in grants annually to support projects that will deliver tangible benefits to regional South Australia and most importantly creates jobs.

“Successful projects will be those that not only strengthen the economies of our regions, but also provide real community-wide benefits to the area. The first two rounds of funding are supporting projects that are creating stronger and more resilient regions.

“Thanks to the 2019-20 round of funding, our regional areas will enjoy a wider variety of food and drink experiences, better water and cycling infrastructure, and diverse tourism opportunities, so I’m again looking forward to seeing the range of projects that will make a positive difference in our regional towns and communities.

“I encourage eligible applicants who have a project they feel can strengthen our regional communities to apply.”

Grants up to $2 million

Applicants in the third round can seek grants from $50,000 up to $2 million, with projects to be located within South Australia that offer outcomes and benefits for regional South Australia.

Projects should foster collaboration and demonstrate a commitment to local employment, and purchase local supplies wherever possible. Applications to the Regional Growth Fund will be accepted from local government bodies, incorporated associations and business clusters.

Applications for Round Three of the Regional Growth Fund close at 12pm on Monday May 11, 2020. More information is available at www.pir.sa.gov.au/regionalgrowthfund

Queenslanders poised to decide the future of single-use plastics

Queenslanders have until tomorrow, April 15 to consult with the government on a state-wide ban on single use plastic that will initially focus on straws, drink stirrers, cutlery and plates.

The Government said it has been seeking feedback from Queenslanders and businesses on the proposed bans to ensure an understanding of the impact it may have, consider everyone’s needs and develop the best plan for transitioning to a future free from plastic waste.

Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch said single-use plastic was an increasing problem damaging the environment and marine life and Queenslanders were looking for a positive solution.

Comprehensive perspectives

“It’s time to decide the future of single-use plastics in Queensland. Plastic pollution in our environment affects every aspect of our lives – from the water we drink and the food we consume, to the plants, animals and outdoor places we all love and enjoy,” Enoch said.

“We are looking to limit and, where necessary, ban the supply of most single-use plastic products starting with straws, stirrers, plates, cutlery and cups.”

According to Enoch, the government wants to ensure everyone’s perspectives on single-use plastics has been heard. She said that it wanted to guarantee that the needs of people with a disability and the aged care sector are taken into account.

“Our government has already taken steps to reduce plastic with the ban on single-use plastics bags and the introduction of Containers for Change. Those initiatives have seen hundreds of millions of individual plastic products kept from entering the environment, and now we’re looking ahead, she said.

Banning specific products

Enoch explained that the Queensland Government’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, released in 2019, committed to introducing enabling legislation in 2020, subject to consultation, to ban the supply of specific plastic products. She added that the next step was to consider other forms of single-use items such as coffee cups, heavyweight plastic shopping bags and polystyrene containers.

Queensland Disability Advisory Council chair Sharon Boyce said many within the disability community relied heavily on straws.

“This is a conversation our community welcomes – how those of us with high needs can find a practical solution to plastic straws,” she said.

Queenslanders, stakeholders and the community are encouraged to provide feedback by visiting www.qld.gov.au/reducingplastic.

Enoch confirmed that all submissions will be considered as the government shapes new legislation that helps move the state towards a zero-waste economy by 2050.

Industry leader gives shout out to essential contractors

On the day that Google honoured all cleaning workers globally on its  Google Doodles, the Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA) executive director Tony Khoury, has praised the association’s members who are waste collection contractors.  Khoury described them as both resourceful and operational, saying that this will ensure that the essential work is still performed.

“The issues surrounding COVID-19 have had a major impact across the community. In these tough and uncertain times, the workers and contractors that collect waste and recyclables continue to perform their work albeit in difficult circumstances,” he said.

According to Khoury, the feedback from WCRA’s Members, is that many commercial waste accounts are either on hold, requesting a reduced service or are looking to cancel.

He noted that some members have also highlighted the difficulties associated with having staff work from home.

“Like many businesses at the moment, IT systems are struggling to cope and the problems that were previously solved with a simple office chat and a cup of coffee, are just a little more difficult to resolve,” he said.

Government assistance welcomed

However, he welcomed the initiative by the Federal Government to increase the instant asset write-off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 until 30 June 2020.

“Any waste and recycling contractor that requires a piece of equipment and is in a position to bring forward a purchase decision can do so and obtain instant tax relief,” he added.