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Relief arrives with Jobkeeper package

Vital businesses that support and serve the WARR industry will feel some relief following the release of a $132 billion Jobkeeper package by the federal government late yesterday.

Designed to assist workers who have been stood down, the package offers a lifeline to employers whose business have experienced a 30% revenue decline since March 1. By 8am this morning more than 60,000 operators had registered for the subsidy through the Australia Taxation office.

Any worker who was laid off since March 1 can talk to their employers to re-employ them so that they can receive the $1,500 fortnightly payment while the employer will be reimbursed from May.

Even employers whose business has been shut down on government orders will receive money to pay employees who cannot do any meaningful work or attend their workplace.

Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA) executive director Tony Khoury told Inside Waste that it welcomed the government’s Job Keeper $1,500 payment per worker per fortnight.

“Any waste & recycling business that incurs a significant financial hit of 30% revenue reduction caused by COVID-19 will be eligible. This announcement will ensure that a business will continue to directly pay its workers and therefore maintain a connection to those workers.

“In so doing, waste management operators will hang onto their valued, experienced staff,” he said.A statement by Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, and AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said that they had joined forces to urge that every effort is made to ensure Australian manufacturing businesses remain safe and can continue to supply the needs of Australian households, businesses, community organisations and health providers.

Limiting business closures

“It is crucial that businesses in vital areas keep operating through these difficult times and that people remain employed as much as possible.

“This includes businesses involved in manufacturing such as food processing, packaging, pharmaceuticals, chemicals (including sanitising and cleaning products), and health industry supplies. It also includes industries necessary for these activities to continue – those in their supply chains and service partners,” the statement said.

However, they acknowledged that many manufacturing businesses cannot be turned off and on with the flick of a switch. Closures can take time; they are costly and often hazardous.

“Restarting many manufacturing processes is similarly time-consuming, costly, and dangerous. These extra costs and risks need to be weighed in any assessment of a shut down. If they can operate safely they should remain open,” they said.

Retaining employment

They also noted that many workers are employed in industries that supply basic needs. Many more are employed in businesses that can continue to operate safely and without increasing risks of community transmission of COVID-19.

History suggests unemployment rises much faster than it falls. The costs of unemployment – both human and economic – last for many years beyond the passing of the economic downturn. Many people, particularly those who are older and less skilled, will never be re-employed.

Both the AWU and Ai Group welcome the measures the Government has introduced to improve the provision of mental health services in Australia. Avoiding unnecessary business closures will help avoid further escalation of the adverse mental health outcomes associated with unemployment.

EPA stays fixed on regulation despite challenges

The NSW EPA has assured the waste and environment industries that it will continue to fulfil its responsibilities as the state’s primary environmental regulator while maintaining the health and safety of staff, communities, industry and other partners.

In reference to the evolving situation with COVID-19, the agency explained in a statement that this includes working to minimise any disruptions to its regulatory activities, offering the industry guidance if required, and asking for cooperation from industry and partners.

“Please be assured that the EPA will continue to be guided by the latest advice from NSW and Commonwealth health authorities and will consider the impact of that advice in the delivery of our regulatory functions,” the EPA said.

Business continuity plan

The EPA said that it has a business continuity plan in place which is being reviewed regularly in light of the most up-to-date advice, to enable us to meet our regulatory responsibilities. That includes planning to allow staff to work remotely where appropriate so that we maintain our compliance, enforcement and pollution response activities as best we can to prevent environmental and community harm.

That means that compliance with licence conditions and issue clean-up notices and prevention notices where necessary will continue to be required.

However, the EPA may consider requests for exemptions on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the provisions of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

“As we continue to closely monitor the situation, we are providing on-going, up-to-date and appropriate communication with our employees, regulatory partners and government,” the statement said.

Expectations from the regulated community

As the country face the current unprecedented situation together, the NSW EPA has strongly recommended the implementation of a business continuity plan, if one is not already in place.

“That plan should take into account the updated advice being provided by NSW and Commonwealth health officials, including any sector-specific advice. Now is also the right time to check you have everything in place to enact your pollution incident response management plan,” it explained.

The EPA has asked all licensees to assist in managing risks during this period notifying it by email to info@epa.nsw.gov.au:

  1. If you anticipate any significant risk to your ability to comply with your licence or licences under which you operate.
  2. If you need advice on business continuity preparedness for your operations.

The EPA stressed that this is not a legal obligation but, rather a request to assist the EPA and the NSW Government in managing the current situation in the public interest.

It explained that a business continuity plan would help meet responsibilities for any environmental impacts from activities because as licence conditions and other regulatory responsibilities remain in place, associated obligations will also remain in place.

These include the priority responsibilities of maintaining and operating pollution control equipment, and storing, transporting and disposing of waste appropriately. The EPA said that it expected licensees in the waste industry to continue to maintain good communications with clients and the EPA, particularly around any predicted service disruptions. Licensees must continue to notify the NSW EPA of pollution incidents and other regulatory or compliance issues.

Federal Government releases $100billion to save business

Minutes after the Reserve Bank lowered the cash rate by 0.25%, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg this afternoon, said they were accessing up to $100billion to “get Australian’s across a bridge” during the COVID-19 crisis. The details of the spend are sketchy however, both leaders and then the Reserve Bank Governor, Philip Lowe then outlined the financial mechanics to sustain the economy.

This followed an initial stimulus package announced by the Federal government last week. The state governments have also released a series of stimulus packages in the last few days aimed at putting a financial floor under businesses to enable them to survive the impact of Covid-19. The Federal government released a significant package for business and organisations late last week and another is expected shortly.

These are the details of the first package:

Incentive for purchases more than $150K

  • Instant asset write-off for any machinery purchase made up to $150k
  • Asset can be new or used
  • No limit on number of assets
  • Only available until June 30, 2020

Incentive for purchases less than $150K

  • Accelerated depreciation deduction incentive
  • 50% immediate deduction followed by normal depreciation rules applied to the balance
  • Asset must be new
  • Also available for assets <$150k but purchased after June 30, 2020
  • Available until June 30, 2021

NSW to waive payroll tax

The NSW government has allocated $450million to waive payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months. The should deliver immediate relief as these businesses would not have to pay the tax for the rest of this financial year.

The government has also bought forward the next round of payroll tax cuts effectively raising the threshold limit to $1million for the next financial year.

“The Government stands ready to do whatever it takes to keep people safe and ensure our economy withstands this storm,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.

The Treasurer added that he will drawing on the state infrastructure as part of his plan to stimulate the economy, with more than $750 million will be spent on capital works and maintenance of public assets.

WA grants for business

In WA small to medium enterprises (SME’s)  with a payroll of between $1 million and $4 million will receive a one-off grant of $17,500. It’s anticipated that this will bolster 7,400 businesses in and cost the Government $114 million.

Changes to the payroll tax exemption threshold are also being brought forward, in an effort to support 11,000 businesses.

The threshold was previously lifted from $850,000 to $950,000, with an increase to $1 million scheduled for January 2021 but this will now happen earlier on July 1, 2020.

SME’s which pay less than $7.5 million in taxable wages each year can apply to defer their payroll tax payment to July 21, 2020.

The ACT government is prioritising support for small business owners, contractors and “gig” economy workers in the first tranche of a multi-stage stimulus package to help the territory weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said smaller infrastructure projects would also be fast-tracked in a bid to keep the economy moving amid the rapidly escalating global emergency.

Victorian business hotline

The Andrews Labor Government today launched a hotline for businesses dealing with the significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses across the state can now access information on dealing with COVID-19 by calling the Business Victoria hotline on 13 22 15.

Operators calling the hotline will be able to get information about support services, including those available through Business Victoria, which offers mentoring to help operators develop business continuity and recovery plans.

The hotline will provide the latest information on the response to COVID-19 and how this affects businesses, including how to access financial support available through the national stimulus package.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is hurting Victorian businesses and an important way that we can help is by giving them access to the information they need to make key decisions. This dedicated hotline will help businesses of all sizes get the facts and connect them with support services so they can best weather this storm,” Andrews said.

Packaging and e-waste grants open in Victoria

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:
    • key requirements of the AS/NZS 5377: 2013
    • all relevant building codes
    • all OH&S Act requirements including Section 28
    • all relevant EPA requirements
    • any other relevant requirements that may not be listed.
  • 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.

NSW EPA re-assures industry that it will raise engagement

The NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has appointed Nancy Chang to head up the new EPA Regulatory Practice and Advice section within the organisation. She previously held the position of director regulatory strategy and performance within the NSW Department of Education.

In her role as EPA executive director regulatory practice, Chung said that she is focused on translating the NSW government’s 20-year waste strategy into operational themes. She addressed members of the Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association (WCRA) attending a breakfast briefing in Sydney this week, aimed at reviewing key issues facing the industry.

After listening to a series of updates from Anne Prince, APC Consulting; David Clancy, Cleanaway; Brent Lawson, Concrete Recyclers; and Ros Dent, Bingo, who all called for a stronger and functional relationship with the EPA, Chung acknowledged that they had been heard.

“I have a clear remit to re-invigorate industry engagement,” she said.

This was underlined by NSW EPA chair, Carolyn Walsh who said that the EPA will organise to meet with the industry before the deadline for submissions on the 20-year waste strategy on May 8.

WCRA executive director, Tony Khoury welcomed the prospect of stronger engagement with the EPA following his opening statement at the breakfast.

“Businesses are looking for answers, I have never seen our industry so confused about its future,” he said.

Inside  Waste will be following up with the EPA’s plans regarding industry engagement and the 20-year waste plan.

Caption: Attending the WCRA breakfast briefing were l-r:  Harry Wilson (WCRA president) Anne Prince (APC Consulting) Tony Khoury (WCRA executive director) and Carolyn Walsh (NSW EPA chair).

ANZPAC Plastics Pact expands

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) will lead the development of the ANZPAC Plastic Pact, the latest to join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global plastics pact network.

The Pact will launch to the public in late 2020 and will work with businesses, governments and NGOs from across the plastics value chain in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island nations. Its aim is to develop a common vision of the circular economy for plastics.

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Central Coast recycler disputes EPA claim

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.

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