Victoria gets on with the weeding despite COVID

A small army of Victorians will clean up litter, remove weeds and help make local rivers and creeks more beautiful as part of the Victorian Government’s plan to keep Victorians working through the coronavirus pandemic.

Over 110 people will take on roles cleaning and protecting Melbourne’s suburban waterways through the Government’s $500 million Working for Victoria fund.

Victorian Minister for Water Lisa Neville said that the fund will create employment for people who have lost their jobs due to the impacts of coronavirus, while delivering valuable community services. The program has placed almost 7,000 workers since its launch in April.

More than 90 employees will remove rubbish, undertake invasive weed management and improve vegetation along the Yarra, Maribyrnong and Werribee rivers, as well as throughout the Dandenong and Bayside region.

The improvement works will be delivered in collaboration with the Yarra River Keeper Association, along with community groups and local councils along urban waterways.

A recent series of litter clean-up ‘blitz’ events along the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers saw almost 40 tonnes of rubbish cleaned out, improving the health of the waterways and making them more enjoyable for Victorians getting out for essential exercise during coronavirus restrictions.

In addition, more than 20 new employees will work in administration roles for Melbourne Water, supporting the waterway health blitz and other important projects in the greater Melbourne catchment area.

The initiative builds on the $48 million for shovel ready water projects announced recently under the Government’s $2.7 billion Building Works program. These projects will modernise irrigation, secure water supplies through recycling and stormwater use and assist with bushfire recovery.

People looking for work and businesses searching for staff can register with Working for Victoria at vic.gov.au/workingforvictoria.

How Amsterdam is future proofing its waste management

An Automatic Waste Collection System (AWCS) is being installed in a residential area in Sluisbuurt, Amsterdam using energy efficient  technology with non-corrosive pipe networks.

MariMatic which developed the MetroTaifun technology was chosen by tender to deliver the new system to Sluisbuurt, a new neighbourhood comprising 5500 new homes and includes schools, shops and offices. In addition to the automatic waste collection system AWCS system, the area will be equipped with other kind of sustainable technologies, such as district heating from renewable energy.

Waste is collected and transported directly from the buildings through an underground pipe network by using vacuum conveying to a waste transfer terminal, eliminating noisy and polluting traditional waste trucks from the area.

Four different waste fractions are collected to separate containers located in the waste transfer terminal. The containers will then later on be picked up for further distribution to recycling centres.

The waste transfer terminal, which is part of the scope of the contract, called The Diamond, will be located in the park. The building is designed with high sustainability in mind, including solar panels, rainwater collection and even a charging point for the service cars. Part of the walls will be glass, giving the public possibility to view the pneumatic collection in action.

The public tender in Amsterdam was focused on technology, reliability, performance, quality, and a technical life cycle of 60 years.

300 mm diameter ‘composite piping’, is being used instead of the commonly used 500 mm carbon steel piping systems. Due to absence of corrosion, longer life cycle of the systems is achieved. Interruptions of possible blockages are minimized, as the waste easier fills up the pipe, giving higher vacuum force for conveying.

Development of MariMatic’s formator technology also enables the use of larger waste bags (150 litre) in 300 mm size piping while the company’s Ring-Line configuration allows change of air flow direction, to facilitate removal of possible blockages.

Study says policy makers need to make proper disposal of compostable cups easier

People are more likely to use re-usable coffee cups if they see others doing it, or if cafe owners charge extra for throwaway coffee cups, new research has found.

A study badged Coffee On The Run: Cultural and Institutional Factors in Waste Behaviours, by a group of Australian academics, has found people would be more likely to properly dispose of compostable cups if councils provided dedicated organic waste bins. Alternatively, councils could provide facilities allowing people to rinse compostable cups before putting them in a recycling bin

The need to find ways to encourage Australians to quit throwaway coffee cups has never been more urgent. The COVID-19 pandemic has reportedly driven a surge in throwaway cup use as many cafes refused reusable cups at the height of the pandemic.

In places where reusable cups are allowed, however, coffee drinkers, cafe owners and local governments can use insights from behavioural science to discourage use of throwaway cups.

Why imitation works…

The study interviewed consumers, café owners and policy makers in South Australia, and observed customer behaviour in cafes for around 50 hours. One finding became very clear: people mimic each other. Customers consistently told researchers that watching their colleagues bring in their reusable coffee cups (such as a KeepCup) made them change their habits. As one coffee drinker told us:

It appears that, as more consumers start using reusable coffee cups, the practice becomes ever more socially acceptable.

According to a customer, “At first, I would not walk across the road from work holding a cup coming here [to the cafe]. I’d just feel scabby. Because I would have been the minority. It probably was a bit less socially acceptable, but it’s probably more socially acceptable now because when I’m there I do see people walk in with their cups.”

…and discounts don’t

Although many cafe owners offer discounts to customers who bring in their own reusable cups, the findings reveal these are ineffective in changing consumer behaviour.

A cafe owner told researchers described how, despite providing a 20c discount for reusable cups, she didn’t think saving money motivated her customers.

“The regulars were people who’d happily drop in a dollar tip into the jar kept on the counter. They were therefore not that concerned about 20c discount,” she said.

Behavioural psychological literature reports that consumers are more likely to be what’s called ‘loss averse’ as opposed to ‘gain seekers’. In other words, people hate paying extra for takeaway coffee cups more than they like getting a discount for bringing their reusable cups.

Councils need to pivot

Customers often feel uncertain about how and where to dispose them. A council officer told researchers, “In the case of compostable cups, it is not solely a matter of ensuring that the cups end up in any bin, they must end up in the correct bin […] in order for compostable cups to be recycled, they must be placed in a bin dedicated to organic waste or, alternatively, rinsed and placed in a recycling bin.”

However, most cities don’t have enough organic bins or facilities to allow people to rinse compostable cups before putting them in recycling bins. Councils and city governments can address this by introducing organic waste bins as a part of the street waste infrastructure to reduce the number of compostable cups ending up in landfill.

NSW planning reforms arrive

Long-awaited planning reforms for New South Wales will result in reduced planning assessment times, less red tape, and user friendly e-planning tools to help turbo-charge the economic recovery according to Premier Gladys Berejiklian. She revealed the $83 million NSW Planning Reform Action Plan at Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) late last week.

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$2 billion to help one million Australians get work

A previously unimagineable amount of $2 billion has been pledged by the federal government for the now one million Australian unemployed and school-leavers to learn new skills.

$500 million will go to a ‘JobTrainer’ scheme to run new courses for hundreds of thousands of workers so they have the skills that will be in demand when a recovery comes.

The remaining $1.5 billion will go to further wage subsidies for apprentices including this year’s school-leavers. The $500 million component will go towards courses that meet the needs identified by the National Skills Commission, in consultation with the states and territories and in the hope they will match the funding.

The courses are expected to be in fields such as health, retail, social assistance, transport, manufacturing and warehousing.

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read, told Inside Waste that there were always available jobs for women and men as forklift drivers.

“Our members find those roles challenging to fill and now as the industry is growing there are also roles at local processing facilities,” she said.

Read added that auditing jobs in environmental health and safety and customer service were other areas were school and university leavers could up-skill and apply.

Funding will assist long-term

Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA director operations, Tara Diamond said the government investment in 100,000 extra apprentices would assist in arresting the sliding number of apprentices and trainees, but longer-term will help more Australians access diverse, highly-paid and rewarding careers within the resources and energy industry.

However, she cautioned that for the funding to deliver long-term positive outcomes for both employees and employers, it must be targeted to address key areas of skills demand and shortages.

“Understanding and pinpointing the areas of current and future workforce demand must be a priority for the government’s new skills package. Employers want to know specifically how the type of training is determined and what modelling will be used to identify the skills most in demand.”

An AMMA Workforce Modelling report, released a few months prior to COVID-19, estimated that new resources and energy projects would create around 21,000 new long-term jobs in the resources and energy industry by 2024. While the economic environment has changed markedly, Ms Diamond said this modelling provides strong insight into what occupations in the resources and energy sector will become in demand.

“The pre-COVID workforce modelling showed likely demand for 8,660 mining equipment operators, 2,847 heavy diesel fitters and 970 other tradespeople across electrical, mechanical and maintenance trades,” she said.

“This is just operating roles in the mining industry over the next four years. Factoring in construction trades required to build new resources and major public infrastructure projects, and the demands will be far greater.

“More trainees and apprentices with the right skills in the right areas, will be critical for our nation’s economic recovery.

“Additionally, this focus on apprenticeships cannot afford to leave females behind. As we know the majority of trade apprenticeships are males – we must equally encourage both males and females to be skilled and up-skilled in trades.”