Plastic Pollution - another cost on business

Plastic Pollution – another cost on business

When the United Nations Environment Program describes it as “alarming” and the G20 group of nations recognises “the urgent need for action to prevent and reduce marine litter in order to preserve human health and marine and coastal ecosystems, and mitigate marine litter’s economic costs and impacts”, then some pretty tough action is going to be on the agenda. Read more

MWRRG shares flexible plastic kerbside collection learnings

MWRRG shares flexible plastic kerbside collection learnings

The ‘Introduction of flexible plastics packaging into kerbside recycling services’ project was aimed at recovering flexible plastic packaging through existing kerbside collections from four partner councils: Cardinia, Hobsons Bay and Nillumbik, launched in November 2016, and Boroondara launched in February 2017 (after council elections).

The area’s 170,000 households were sent information packs which among other explanatory information included 10 sample plastic bags which could be used by residents to start bagging their flexible packaging in their kerbside recycling bin. Printed text on the bags also listed what could and couldn’t be included. These council-provided plastic bags are not necessary to enabling flexible plastic collection, but rather were part of the first steps in communicating the initiative and encouraging household behaviour change

The ‘bag in bag’ technique stemmed from a 20-week trial run by the MWRRG with the City of Darebin and Sustainable Research Use in 2012, where it was found to be an effective method for the project’s establishment phase. MWRRG program coordinator, Nina Thomas, told Inside Waste the learnings from this initial trial (funded by round one of the Metro Fund) lay the foundations for this most recent project.

The 2016 project was also facilitated by the fact that the four councils all had existing recycling contracts with SKM Recycling. Flexible plastics collected at the kerbside are transported to SKM Recycling’s materials recovery facility where the material is sorted, compacted and baled for recycling either locally or overseas. The sorting process is currently conducted manually however, the company has committed $280,000 towards installing automated optical sorting equipment (supported by a further $10,000 from the Australian Packaging Covenant) at their new materials recover facility in Laverton which is currently under construction.

When asked about the long-term viability of flexible plastics collection – in the context of limited end market demand in Australia where it is still cheaper to import virgin plastic – Thomas acknowledged the issues, describing the situation as a “chicken and egg scenario”.

“There is a lot of interest [in this project] which is great, but you don’t want to jump in too quickly without having those end markets established and everyone on board. We need to take a step back before any sort of further project expansion,” she said.

“We can’t boost that local plastic reprocessing capacity until we have those end markets established, but then it’s difficult to establish those end markets without having the capacity. So this is where we need to consult with state and local government, industry, reprocessors and collection groups. We need to have those discussions and conduct research before we look at boosting the capacity and also before we look at what markets are available for those recovered plastics.”

The results of the project can be gauged by its fairly successful household participation rates and very low contamination rates. While kerbside recycling bin audits suggested 28% of households were engaging in the project, household survey responses indicated 60% of homes were using the service.

“We are assuming that this difference is because not everyone that’s participating in the program is putting a full bag of flexible plastics in their recycling bin every fortnight, so some of those audits wouldn’t have captured everyone participating in the program. Some people might have those bags of flexible plastics still in their home and still be filling them up before they put them in the recycling bin,” Thomas said.

“We had really low levels of contamination of 1% or less which also indicates the success of the information that went out. It just goes to show how residents really understood the education material. Some of the contamination items were things like foil wrappers of a chip bag which can be recycled through other flexible plastics recycling programs, but not this program,” she added.

The information material did present one of the program’s biggest challenges as each council had to have the material approved through their own internal communications teams.

“We didn’t expect to at the start of the project but our organisation ended up stepping in and playing a key role in the communications side of things to make sure that everyone was across all the communications materials that were going out,” Thomas said

Significantly, the project’s communications generated a lot of positive community feedback, including unprecedented social media activity and direct positive feedback to councils.

Bag audits show the material recycled is a broad mix of packaging: product packaging (40%), HDPE carry bags (25%), fresh produce bags (10%), trays and punnets (10%), other film such as stretch wrap and bubble wrap (10%), and LDPE carry bags (5%). Based on the conservative average of a 28% recycling rate and a yield per household of 6.5 kg per year, the project’s final reports estimates a yield of 371 tonnes in its first year, growing to a total of 1696 tonnes over the first three years.

Thomas will be joined by Sam Di Giovanni, coordinator waste management, City of Boroondara, to deliver the ‘Flexible Plastics Recycling’ talk on Wednesday, October 10 from 11am to 12pm at Waste Expo Australia, held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Attendees can expect to hear about what was achieved, barriers and opportunities, risks and how they were mitigated, lessons learned, and next steps for increasing recovery of flexible plastics.

Click to read the project’s final reportcase study and household survey analysis.

New life ahead for used EV batteries

New life ahead for used EV batteries

A $750,000 early stage equity investment from the Clean Energy Innovation Fund (CEIF) was secured through Relectrify’s recently closed $1.5 million pre-Series A equity round. The fund is expected to expand production and conduct commercial trials for the company’s battery energy storage technology.

With the investment from the CEIF, Relectrify will develop and commercialise control technologies that optimise the use of lithium-ion vehicle batteries. Relectrify’s advanced battery control technology is capable of lowering the cost of repurposing EV batteries, while improving performance and lifetime. The technology combines both power electronics hardware and battery optimisation software.  Read more

Paradigm shift makes waste managers out of water utility

Paradigm shift makes waste managers out of water utility

The facility was strategically constructed next to their Aurora sewage treatment and recycled water treatment plants, as well as local food manufacturers and a wholesale market. It is designed to divert 33,000 tonnes of waste per year from landfill as well as power both Aurora treatments plants. Any surplus energy will be contributed to the grid.

The project emerged at the tail-end of the millennium drought in 2011 as recycled water was becoming a part of Yarra Valley Water’s services, presenting a significant increase in energy costs. Commenting on the business case, manager waste to energy services Damien Basset said electricity generation was critical. This involved taking assets off the grid as feeding directly into the grid did not stack up economically. Read more

Tracking NSW's infrastructure needs

Tracking NSW’s infrastructure needs

Between 2002- 03 and 2010-11, the volume of waste that was recycled rose from 5.3 million tonnes to 10.8 million tonnes. Significant investment in new recycling infrastructure has played a big part in this jump and over the years, independent infrastructure needs analyses commissioned by the NSW EPA has helped inform the development of Waste Less Recycle More (WLRM) I and the approval of the second initiative.

In July, NSW EPA manager waste and recycling infrastructure, Robbie Beale, presented the findings of the regulator’s latest waste and resource recovery infrastructure needs analysis conducted by KMH at the Waste Management Association of Australia’s NSW Branch mid-year industry update seminar. Read more

Legal Eagle: Proposed minimum environmental standards for scrap metal facilities

Legal Eagle: Proposed minimum environmental standards for scrap metal facilities

In a recently released consultation paper, the EPA’s goal is to ensure that, regardless of whether a facility is licensed under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act), all facilities will be required to comply with these new environmental standards.

The proposed EPA minimum standards are aimed at addressing the poor environmental performance of the scrap metal industry. Read more

Perth WtE facility one step closer

Perth WtE facility one step closer

The proposed project at the East Rockingham site will use HZI’s proprietary moving grate combustion technology which has been installed in more than 500 projects worldwide.

New Energy business development manager, Miles Mason, told Inside Waste the joint venture with HZI, formed in October last year, was a logical step after its own gasification technology didn’t meet council requirements. Read more

De.mem expands into Australia with acquisition of Akwa-Worx

De.mem expands into Australia with acquisition of Akwa-Worx

De-mem designs, builds, owns and operates de-centralised, customisable and high-quality wastewater treatment systems for its clients. Established in 2002, Akwa-Worx is a water and wastewater treatment original equipment manufacturing (OEM) business focused on the design and construction of packaged systems for the Australasian market, with customers that include a number of leading corporations from the Australian mining sector.

The acquisition further establishes De.mem as a strong player in the market for de-centralised water treatment in the Asia-Pacific region and provides a number of strategic growth opportunities. Read more

Steward of change: stewardship for safety and environment

Steward of change: stewardship for safety and environment

Consumer appetite for stewardship schemes that meet a clear need and are also equitable in their coverage nationwide, is strong and ever-increasing, but not always uncomplicated and adequately funded. Some are mature and meet community expectations, while others are nascent and in development. Recent history has also shown us that not all product stewardship schemes are straightforward to design, fund and implement. Read more

Battery ban off the table after industry roundtable "consensus"

Battery ban off the table after industry roundtable “consensus”

Standards Australia said it had gathered together a group of senior industry and government leaders to get the introduction of residential on-site battery storage standards back on track, at what is a crucial time of growth for the industry.

“There was unanimous agreement in the room of the need to both encourage the uptake of new technology and manage community safety expectations,” said Bronwyn Evans, Standards Australia CEO.

“The clear path forward set today will see us working hard and working together to get the relevant standards in place as soon as we can.”  Read more