As companies inside and out of the resources recovery industry adapt to new ways of conducting business, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) is aiding members to stay engaged by utilising digital communications.
A weighbridge at the Waste 360 waste transfer station on Cosgrove Road, Strathfield will now be installed after the organisation received a grant of $66,496.
The grant has been awarded under the Weighbridge Fund, part of the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative and will enable Waste 360 to collect valuable data that helps to provide more accurate information on the volumes of waste and recyclables generated in NSW and supports improved environmental performance across the state.
However, this grant has exhausted the Weighbridge Fund and the program is now closed, according to the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
“This is the final round of funding under the Weighbridge Fund grants program which is part of the $48 million Waste and Recycling Infrastructure Fund, targeting household, business and industry waste,” EPA Executive Director Circular Economy and Resource Management Sanjay Sridher said.
More than 35 waste and recycling facilities have received over $2 million in grants under the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative to support the installation of weighbridges.
Sridher said that this program has played an important role to support the modernisation of the waste sector in NSW.
According to Sridher, the program has enabled better data collection through the use of weighbridges at licensed facilities and improves understanding of the volumes of waste and recyclables and facilitates the collection and payment of the waste and environment levy.
The annual Waste 2020 Conference which was scheduled for 5-7 May in Coffs Harbour has been cancelled with Impact Environment conference convenor Greg Freeman advising the industry yesterday.
“We have been monitoring and evaluating the situation with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) over the past few weeks to ensure we were taking proper steps to protect the health and wellbeing of all stakeholders,” Freeman said
On the afternoon of 13th March Australia’s chief medical officer has told premiers, chief ministers and the Prime Minister that mass gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled amid fears about the spread of coronavirus.
“As such, and in light of all the information and advice given to date, we have unfortunately had to make the difficult decision to cancel the upcoming Waste 2020 Conference which was scheduled for 5-7 May in Coffs Harbour.
“This decision is one that was not taken lightly, and we understand that there will be much disappointment within the waste industry as many of you look forward to this conference each year.
Freeman explained that the decision was also impacted after a significant number of attendees, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors notified the organisers that they were unable to take part in the event due to stringent travel restrictions imposed, making it not viable to run at a reduced capacity.
“We will make contact with all registered delegates, presenters, sponsors and exhibitors to discuss the next steps over the coming days,” he said.
Freeman advised that questions or concerns regarding the conference can be emailed to either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and the team would respond as soon as possible.
“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and our sympathies are with those affected by the virus,” he said.
The COAG Waste Response Strategy has drawn mixed response from senior leaders who, on the whole welcome the strategy, but are concerned that the implementation is unclear and that fast-tracking of specific actions was essential.
The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) said it applauded the strategy, stating that it illustrated a depth of understanding and recognition of the needs of sustainable waste and resource recovery industry in Australia. WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan, said that members felt encouraged to see that governments were in it for the long haul.
Processing facilities needed now
However, she added that it was imperative to fast track infrastructure because there was only two years until the roll-out of the plastics ban and a significant volume of waste plastic to be managed. As a result, Australia needs to start building processing facilities now for them to be up and running ahead of 2022.
“The strategy not only acknowledges that waste plastic is a significant and complex issue, it also takes positive initial steps in mapping out what all jurisdictions must do to tackle this challenge.
Beginning with harmonising policies and programs to phase out single-use and hard to recycle plastics, to the Commonwealth supporting industry to invest in new plastics processing capacity through competitive grant funding, and commercial and concessional loans. These are all incredibly positive steps,” Sloan said.
She added that WMRR also welcomed the funding commitments by states, including WA’s $15 million provision to support local processing of plastics and tyres and $5 million for access to industrial zoned land, and ‘Recycling Victoria’ announced prior to the COAG meeting.
“WMRR appreciates that the federal, state and territory governments are listening and that our essential waste and resource recovery sector remains firmly on the agenda. As we work through the strategy, the industry is committed to working closely with all levels of government to ensure a smooth and successful implementation of the bans, and ultimately, to develop a strong re-manufacturing and reprocessing sector in Australia, driving the country towards a more circular economy,” Sloan said.
However, Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA), executive director Tony Khoury, was more circumspect. He told Inside Waste that he couldn’t find anything in the documentation that detailed how the export bans would be enforced.
Without proper enforcement, he explained, there was a high probability of non-compliance, with good recycling operators placed at a significant disadvantage.
Lack of reference
Khoury also pointed to a lack of reference or commitment to any specific form of funding, stating that as there are three levels of government involved, querying the funding for infrastructure, public education, consistency, and enforcement. He said that the document ignored the issues of existing contracts and, if these bans proceeded, collection and processing contracts could require variation and again, it was unclear who would fund the variations.
“Industry has long argued that a greater proportion of NSW waste levy revenue be committed to support recycling. WCRA recently presented DPIE and the NSW Government with recommendations on how NSW waste levy funds can be used to better support recycling, “Tony Khoury.
At this time, WCRA has not received a reply to these recommendations.
“The COAG documentation is silent on the impacts that these export bans will have on competition in the Australian recycling market. In some cases, the export bans will result in market control by one processor, for example mixed paper & cardboard. WCRA supports the referral by NWRIC to the ACCC for the competition watchdog to investigate this matter.
“There is no commitment in the documentation to government procurement policies that will give preference to Australian recycled content. On one-hand the COAG decision seeks to control what can or cannot be exported from Australia, whilst ignoring what is being imported into Australia.”
“WCRA supports the intent of COAG’s objectives and we also do not support the export of waste products. We applaud COAG for its decision in allowing the export of clean paper/cardboard and that bus, truck and aviation tyres be exported for re-treading to a verified re-treading facility.
But he concluded that the key answered question is which Government Department in Australia would be responsible for signing-off on whether a tyre re-treading facility is lawful, legitimate or otherwise?”
National Waste Recycling Council (NWRC) CEO Rose Read also told Inside Waste that the strategy was a positive move to bring all states together and align with national plans.
“The national response is a very positive initiative by COAG and it clearly puts waste into the category of an essential service. Waste recovery is now being viewed as a supply chain resource and this response acknowledges that business can get materials back into the stream which are delivering added value.
Read said that the national change in thinking about waste as a resource instead of a problem, was a significant paradigm shift that now needed to permeate all levels of government, councils, business and the community.
“Sequencing the demand for these resources in time for industry to use recycled products in construction is critical.”
Despite the funding challenges faced by the governments with the existing COVI-19 crisis, Read was confident that there was enough investment capability within the private sector and from the landfill levy that could underwrite the actions required to more the strategy forward.
Members of the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association (WCRA) have being alerted to their responsibilities to employees who may be exposed to Covid-19.
Fishburn Watson and O’Brien (FW&O) law specialists have advised WCRA that members should remind workers of their obligations of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. FW&O principal, Ross Fox advised that waste contractors and recycling employers with large workforces should consider preparing a written Covid-19 policy and circulating it to their workers.
He explained that employers in NSW had an obligation to ensure a safe workplace and this meant providing employees with personal protective equipment such as hand sanitiser and gloves.
“It may be prudent for employers to provide personal protective equipment to their employees, particularly those with public-facing duties,” Fox said. He added that many contractual obligations may become difficult to meet as a result of the pandemic.
“This may result in members being unable to comply with contractual and service obligations, such as a lack of staff to drive trucks. It’s important to get legal advice up front on these matters,” he advised.
Fox referred to a Force Majeure clause within many agreements that gives parties special rights if circumstances arise that make it impossible to perform the agreement. The text of each Force Majeure clause is different, so it is important to check specific agreements.
“If the Covid-19 pandemic makes performance of a contract impossible, then it is possible that Force Majeure clauses may apply. Alternatively, the doctrine of frustration of contract may apply to relieve parties of obligations.
“We recommend that any organisation that is considering invoking a Force Majeure clause, seeks specific legal advice as there are often specific requirements and legal impacts,” he said.
Unpaid carers leave
Meanwhile, Fox said that workers without personal or carers leave such as casuals can take leave, but they are not entitled to be paid for it.
“Workers with no accord paid personal/carer’s leave may wish to take paid annual leave instead. Annual leave must be taken by agreement between the worker and the employer, but employers are not entitled to unreasonably refuse a request for annual leave.
Fox has gone further and alerted members to the serious financial impacts on the supply chain and that some may need to delay projects and investment.
“Where members businesses are experiencing financial distress, it is critical to seek advice on protection from creditors and legal obligations to avoid default and personal liability. At this time, personal asset protection is also likely to become critical for members,” he said.
The first target of the Waste Response Strategy issued by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) last week is to ban the export of plastic, paper, tyres and glass waste between July 2020 and December 2024.
All waste glass will be banned by July 2020, mixed waste plastics by July 2021, all whole tyres including baled tyres by December 2021 and remaining waste products, including mixed paper and cardboard, by no later than 30 June 2022.
COAG clearly stated that the Commonwealth has committed to improving the quality of waste streams, driving demand, supporting investment and leading by example in projects to significantly increase Australia’s recycling rates. It has also committed to collaborating with states and territories that do the same.
It said that our domestic waste and recycling sector needs to be futureproofed and resourced to deliver the waste reduction and recycling outcomes that the community expects.
“Without changes driven by all Australian governments, there is an ongoing risk of stockpiling and illegal waste dumping, rising landfill rates and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions, and business closures as trading markets and the value of materials change,” the statement said.
COAG said that the response strategy is intended to do two things: the first is to explain what the export ban involves, which materials are affected, and the timeframes for implementation.
The second is to set out the system-level and material-specific challenges and complementary actions needed by all levels of government and industry to support transition to the ban and drive broader long-term change in Australia’s waste and recycling sector. Based on the challenges and opportunities outlined in this document, Commonwealth, state and territory governments will announce specific commitments in the lead up to the ban’s commencement.
According to the strategy, market analysis demonstrates that a key benefit of the export ban is the certainty that it creates for industry. It said that a predictable phased ban, rather than sudden and unpredictable changes in export markets, can assist to reduce further shocks to the waste and recycling sector.
Already there has been a flurry of federal and state initiatives released in the past month and the strategy also stated that, based on the challenges and opportunities outlined in this document, Commonwealth, state and territory governments would announce specific commitments in the lead up to the ban’s commencement.
Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley described the strategy as representing an historic change for the environment and the recycling industry. She said that the ban signaled a generational transformation of the recycling industry that could generate $1.5 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years and more than 2000 jobs.
Ley added that the ban was the result of months of consultation with industry, state and local governments, and it represents a fundamental change that recognises waste as resource instead of a problem.
“This is about waking up to an issue that has been buried in landfill for too long,” Ley said.
“Most importantly, it is about Australia saying it is our waste and our responsibility and it is about industry and government being prepared to invest in change,” she added.
The strategy was also clear regarding the challenges facing the waste industry, the governments and the community in pivoting to a new paradigm. It has detailed initial steps in mapping out what all jurisdictions (Inside Waste will detail these in our April/May magazine) must do to tackle these challenges:
- Address waste origins and generation
There are opportunities for industry and governments to contribute to changing the materials we use in everyday products, in order to reduce the total volume of low-value or hard to recycle material in the waste stream. Where possible, the best outcome is for waste to be managed, processed and returned to productive economic use close to its point of generation.
- Kerbside waste collection
This is a significant issue which impacts on the sustainability of collection systems, the value of recycled materials, and the ability for materials to go to their highest value use.
Despite strong community interest and willingness to support strong recycling outcomes, consumer awareness of the ‘right’ way to recycle is limited and there is no consistent approach to labelling to assist the community to determine whether a product is recyclable in Australia.
Additionally, it said that households face mixed messages about what materials can be recycled, as requirements are often local government specific based on which materials recovery facility receives the recycling.
- Drive domestic demand for recycled products
Increased demand for recyclable materials as inputs for processing, and for products manufactured from these materials, is needed to make new recycling capacity cost effective. Consistent quality and performance standards and specifications can assist in driving industry and household confidence in the use of recycled content and the value of recycled products.
- Understand resource volumes, value and movement
Governments have been working collaboratively for several years to improve the availability, consistency and specificity of waste data collection and information, including through the National Waste Report and National Waste Account. The movement of waste through metropolitan and regional areas and states and territories and reporting on imports and exports have been identified as a data gap by all Australian governments.
- Invest in new technologies and infrastructure
Market research to assess national infrastructure capacity has identified significant processing gaps for some materials and new capacity coming online for others. There is a substantial capacity gap in Western Australia, particularly for paper processing.
For high value plastics such as HDPE and PET, there has been investment in new facilities in the past two years and some of these facilities appear to have spare capacity.7 The need to fill existing processing gaps should guide investment decisions in all jurisdictions.
A significant challenge raised in industry consultation is the ability for businesses to secure investment for facilities and equipment upgrades, and to develop and test new technologies for creating value-added products from waste.
- Coordinate regional recycling capacity
Cross-jurisdictional actions are needed to address the particular waste and recycling challenges associated with remote and regional areas, such as Northern Australia. The transport costs involved in moving waste long distances from its source to processing facilities can significantly increase the total cost of recycling. Dispersed populations can also reduce the cost-effectiveness of collection services.
- Drive international cooperation
Marine plastic pollution is an issue which goes beyond national borders. Coordination and alignment across the Indo-Pacific region is needed to prevent products like single-use plastic bags from entering the marine environment, and to manage marine plastic debris.
- Streamline approval processes and requirements
For investment in waste and recycling infrastructure to occur in response to material supply generated from the export ban, state, territory and local government approval processes need to be timely, transparent and fit-for-purpose. Industry has raised the length of time for approval processes as a barrier to investing in major infrastructure projects. Planning approval, community consultation, financing and building takes time. It can take several years to meet requirements and construct a new recycling facility. This can represent a significant cost for business, particularly small businesses.
- Consider waste levy settings
Waste levies are currently collected in five states (NSW, Victoria, Qld, SA and WA) and aim to reduce the amount of waste being landfilled and promote recycling and resource recovery. States and territories invest a share of this funding in programs and initiatives to support enhanced waste and resource recovery outcomes. Industry, however, has called for a greater proportion of waste levy revenue to be committed to these programs and initiatives.
Sustainability Victoria (SV) is offering significant grants focused on and packaging and e-waste to build Victoria’s e-waste resource recovery sector.
The largest grant of $2million, which will be capped at $500,000 for each project, is designed to support organisations in Victoria to reduce packaging waste disposed in landfill and is open for small to medium enterprises, not-for-profits and social enterprises with applications open until March 5, 2021.
SA has stated that only projects that address or use a combination of key criteria will be considered:
- reduce generation of packaging waste
- increase or improve recovery of packaging waste
- manufacture packaging using recovered materials
- remanufacture using packaging waste.
To receive the grant, they must primarily reduce, recover or reuse plastics, paper and cardboard, glass and rubber, while those that primarily recover metals are excluded.
The costs that the grants will assist with include piloting new systems, processes or technologies, acquiring additional plant and equipment, expanding facilities to enable increased resource recovery on existing premises, enabling works to house new plant and equipment and research, development and demonstration.
Financial co-contribution is required at a ratio of 1:1 and small to medium enterprises can contribute up to 25% of their co-contribution as in-kind. Funding from other government sources cannot be included in the co-contribution.
Meanwhile not-for-profits and social enterprises can contribute up to 50% of their co-contribution as in-kind. Funding from other government sources can be included in the co-contribution.
E-waste streams of funding
Round two of SA’s e-waste grants will prioritise building reprocessing capability and capacity, and ensure collection and storage of e-waste is conducted to a high standard.
Up to $500,000 is available across two streams of funding for industry and local government and Waste and Resource Recovery Groups (WRRGs) to invest in projects that increase recovery of e-waste materials and/or ensure the safe collection and storage of e-waste.
E-waste reprocessing grant
This has been designed for projects which will increase Victoria’s e-waste processing capacity and capability by delivering e-waste reprocessing solutions and/or upgrades to existing e-waste reprocessing facilities. SV will provide up to $500,000 to purchase and install equipment and/or upgrade infrastructure at existing e-waste reprocessing facilities. Projects must address one or more of the below benefits and be completed by March 31, 2022.
- build e-waste reprocessing capacity and capability in Victoria
- improve the value of e-waste materials through better sorting and reprocessing of e-waste
- increase recovered e-waste materials with secured end markets
- align with the goals and directions in the SWRRIPand relevant regional and metropolitan waste and resource recovery infrastructure plan(s)
- be located in and servicing Victoria
This funding conditional on a minimum co-contribution model towards total project cost. For applications by business/ industry, each $1 of funding must be matched by a $2 co-contribution.
While applications by local government or WRRGS, each $1 of funding must be matched by a $1 co-contribution.
The e-waste Collection and Storage grant
Projects focused on ensuring collection and storage of e-waste is conducted to a high standard are eligible for the collection and storage grant which also closes on March 31, 2022.
SV will provide funding of up to $100,000 for projects delivering fixed, semi-permanent e-waste infrastructure upgrades and alternate non-fixed collection and storage solutions such as an e-waste collection trailer.
Projects that meet the following criteria will be considered by SV for funding:
- collection and storage projects must be designed and constructed in line with:
- projects in identified geographical e-waste collection gaps including:
- eastern suburbs of Melbourne and Warrnambool.
- other geographical locations with a demonstrated need which are located in and servicing Victoria
SA has stated that this funding type is conditional on a minimum co-contribution model towards total project cost. Applications by business/ industry, each $1 of SV funding must be matched by a $2 co-contribution while applications by local government or WRRGS, each $1 of SV funding must be matched by a $1 co-contribution.
South Australia will farewell a waste industry and environmental champion when KESAB environmental solutions CEO, John Phillips retires in July after 31 years’ service.
KESAB chair, Ros DeGaris told Inside Waste that the future CEO would continue to grow KESAB’s role as SA’s leading non-government environmental sustainability educator.
She described John’s service to KESAB as exceptional and personal, that brought about massive growth to the organisation in capacity and value to the state and the nation.
“The work ethic of John Phillips has been truly outstanding across three decades of change and challenge that has enabled KESAB to be flexible, proactive and creative in delivering education programs to reach a wider community here and overseas,” she said.
“KESAB now works and delivers education on the global stage due to John’s excellent management skills and personable natural style.
“With a track record like this, it is imperative that a highly suitable, proactive and well-connected successor is secured. The total remuneration package will be dependent upon the skills, knowledge and experience of the preferred applicant who will start sometime in June.”
Speaking last year on the challenges ahead, Phillips said that KESAB believed that environmental sustainability action in response to all that is happening around us will require a hybrid mix of measures.
“These include measurable community behavioural change, continuing to build community resilience and capacity, sometimes with yet to be tried and tested strategies and actions, the likelihood of increased regulation and legislation to strengthen objectives meeting required outcomes and most importantly, a more urgent approach.”
“Outcomes achieved in the past year demonstrate that environmental sustainability education and engagement are increasingly becoming embedded in our everyday lifestyle, recreational and workplace action and behaviour. Such education is fundamental as the world around us transforms and embraces the circular economy”.
KESAB’s role to grow
Meanwhile, DeGaris said the future CEO would continue to grow KESAB’s role as SA’s leading non-government environmental sustainability educator.
“KESAB’s initiatives will focus on capacity building, professional development and training, underpinned by research and waste auditing which in turn, provide a platform to identify new opportunities to target problematic waste streams.
“The combination of our service agreements with Green Industries SA and Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges NRM and corporate partnerships such as those with Sims Metal Management and SA Water underpin new education materials and resources that allow KESAB to extend the reach and scope of its service,” DeGaris said.
She added that KESAB is increasingly in demand by business and industry to deliver waste and recycling auditing through its trained waste audit specialists to better understand waste streams and opportunities to identify new recycling and implement food waste to resources initiatives.
Driven by the Victorian Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG), in partnership with sixteen councils, the largest tender for new waste management infrastructure has begun. It’s also the first collective tender on behalf of councils for an alternative solution to landfill.
The procurement for advanced waste processing solutions is expected to play a significant role in achieving the Victorian Government’s new target to divert 80 per cent of household rubbish from landfill by 2030.
The sixteen councils from Melbourne’s south-east collected over 490,000 tonnes of residual rubbish in 2016 and this is forecast to grow to over 700,000 tonnes a year by 2046.
MWRRG CEO, Jill Riseley said that population growth meant that the state can’t rely on landfill as the only way to manage its household rubbish.
“Starting with an Expression of Interest, the procurement process will take approximately two years to reach a final tender to design, build and operate an advanced waste processing facility to process household rubbish,” she said.
The procurement will focus on the financial, environmental and social outcomes councils want to achieve rather than specify a technology. It will then be up to bidders to recommend proven and appropriate solutions, and to demonstrate how they deliver on councils’ objectives.
On the eve of COAG, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has called for a national infrastructure plan along with a complementary and transparent funding program. WMRR believes that this will ensure the success of the approaching national waste export bans, and boost Australia’s economy.