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.
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.
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.
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.
Greening the Green is a three-year program resulting from a partnership with PepsiCo and Clean Up Australia to educate consumers on recovering soft plastics and increasing soft plastic recycling.
The Loop service developed by the recycling company TerraCycle will launch online in Woolworths in Sydney in June, 2021. The concept, currently operating in the US and France was presented to recycling and reuse stakeholders in Sydney last week by TerraCycle CEO, Tom Szaky.
PAR Recycling Services P/L (PAR) based on the New South Wales Central Coast is disputing a $15,000 fine issued by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). The EPA has said that the business did not follow orders to store chemicals safely to prevent potential pollution reaching local waterways.
Infrastructure Australia (IA) has identified resource recovery as one of 6 High Priority Projects within the latest edition of its Infrastructure Priority List and called for a national waste and recycling management strategy. The organisation said that this initiative would boost Australia’s recycling rate from its present level of 55 per cent to the target of 70 per cent set out in the 2014-21 waste avoidance and resource recovery strategy.
Infrastructure Australia proposed that the national strategy would involve co-ordination between all levels of government and the market to identify a program of investment in new waste recovery and reprocessing infrastructure.
The organsation said that this aims to meet the long-term needs of Australians and to foster innovation and adoption of emerging technologies.
The inclusion of resource recovery in the High Priority List was based on these constraints:
- Lack of space for transfer facilities.
- The ability of material recovery facilities to process and sort co-mingled, highly contaminated waste (particularly for communities in remote and regional Australia).
- Underdeveloped domestic reuse markets as a result of previous over-reliance on the export of waste to international markets.
The List said that the environmental costs of greenhouse gases and leachate from recyclable waste entering landfill are significant and are set to rise with a growing population.
In addition, limited landfill capacity and sorting facilities are increasing logistics costs as waste is being transferred greater distances for processing and disposal.
IA chair Julieanne Alroe, explained that the Priority List was supported by a robust evidence base, developed using data from the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit which included more than 200 received in the past twelve months.
“In the wake of the bushfire crisis, the floods of early 2019 and the drought, a new wave of infrastructure investment was critical to rebuilding for affected communities. She added that as we enter a new decade of infrastructure, it is essential that we plan for resilience in our infrastructure network based on a stronger understanding of these risks.”
Alroe added that compared to the 2015 Audit, the 2019 Audit took a greater focus on user outcomes, in terms of access, quality and cost for Australian communities, and an expanded scope that considered social infrastruture.
IA chief executive, Romilly Madew said the Infrastructure Priority List also reflected the diversity of our nation’s future infrastructure needs.
“Resilience was a key theme of our 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit and this focus continues to be reflected in our latest edition of the Infrastructure Priority List,” she said
“As an independent advisory body, it’s our role to bring these problems and opportunities into the national spotlight to spark investment and coordinated action from industry and government.”
The latest edition of the Priority List identifies a project pipeline worth more than $58 billion –including 6 High Priority Projects and 17 Priority Projects.
The Andrews Government will create a $71.4 million funded Waste Crime Prevention Inspectorate within the Environment Protection Authority, which will work closely with WorkSafe Victoria, emergency service agencies, councils and other regulators to improve information sharing and coordination. The initiative is part of Recycling Victoria the government’s 10-year vision.
Speaking at CEDA in Melbourne yesterday, February 26 the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio explained that the strategy would tackle waste crime and keep Victorians safe, with more resources to stop illegal dumping and stockpiling, and deal with high-risk sites and high-risk substances.
“For too long, waste crime has undermined Victoria’s recycling sector with dangerous and illegal stockpiling. Our investment will help to clean up the industry and make it fairer for businesses that do the right thing,” D’Ambrosio said.
The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), has responded positively to the initiatives.
WMRR CEO, Gayle Sloan said that she considered Victoria’s Government was again leading the way by committing significant new funds towards our essential industry to help solve the challenges that we continue to face.”
Recycling Victoria will completely overhaul Victoria’s recycling sector, create 3,900 jobs and reduce waste going to landfill.
The primary purpose of the $300 million plus package is to bring together a suite of landmark reforms, dedicated to shifting Victoria to a circular economy, including a state-wide four-bin recycling system, a container deposit scheme and nearly $100 million to support businesses, drive innovation and create local jobs.
Victoria’s landfill levy is significantly lower than our neighbouring states, meaning Victoria is too often used as a dumping ground for waste coming from New South Wales and South Australia.
The change reflects an agreement reached by state and territory Treasurers to work towards the harmonisation of landfill levies and will provide a strong incentive to reduce and recycle waste and drive innovation in new waste technologies.
Australia’s first plastics summit opens on Monday March 2, with a specific focus on the progress of the 2018 National Waste Policy Action Plan which has a target of phasing out problematic and unnecessary plastics by 2025. Department of Agriculture, Water and The Environment Minister, Sussan Ley is hosting the Summit at Parliament House in Canberra.