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. It’s aim is to develop a common vision of the circular economy for plastics.

ANZPAC will provide the significant intervention required to meet Australia’s national plastic packaging target that 70% of all plastic packaging will be recycled or composted by 2025.

Aligned with the other initiatives of the Plastics Pact network, the ANZPAC Plastics Pact will work towards a set of ambitious, time-bound targets in these areas:

  • elimination of unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging through redesign and innovation
  • ensuring all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable
  • increasing the reuse, collection, and recycling of plastic packaging
  • increasing recycled content in plastic packaging

The exact targets will be released towards the end of 2020, and progress will be reported annually.

The initiative was announced at the National Plastics Summit, where APCO was joined by representatives from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), and the Australian Food and Grocery Council and industry and government was officially invited to participate in the program.

Assistant Minister for waste reduction and environmental management, Trevor Evans, said that the government welcomed industry led approaches which were fundamental to bringing about better recycling outcomes.

“We look forward to actions that will significantly increase recycled plastic content beyond current levels.”

According to APCO CEO, Brooke Donnelly, plastic is a global supply chain problem and in order to manage it effectively, Australia needs an international approach.

“The Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s Plastic Pact network is a proven, effective model being rolled out across the world, and I’m very pleased that APCO Members and key stakeholders will be leading the delivery of this program for our region,” she said

Circular Plastics Research Initiative

In 2020, APCO will be developing the program in close consultation with local industry representatives in all regions. Initiatives will include a series of plastics-focused projects, and the creation of the Circular Plastics Research Initiative, a new innovation hub that will bring together researchers, investors and industry to share knowledge and align efforts.

Companies which have already shown strong engagement with the program include Woolworths, Australia Post, Unilever, Mars, Nestlé Oceania, Pact, CHEP, Amcor, Kmart Australia, Officeworks, Detmold Group, Veolia, SUEZ, Fonterra and Mondelēz International. The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) and Planet Ark Environmental Foundation are also strongly supporting the program’s development.

According to AFGC Acting CEO Dr Geoffrey Annison, “The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) is collaborating to develop whole-of supply chain solutions so our sector can meet the National Packaging Targets to benefit the community and the environment.

“We are proud to be supporting the development of the new ANZPAC program, alongside the ongoing work of APCO and the vital role the organisation is playing in developing a circular economy for packaging and increasing recycling rates across our region.”

Officeworks, head of sustainable development, Ryan Swenson added, “Addressing the challenges relating to plastic packaging requires collaboration across all sectors, and the approach outlined by APCO provides the mechanism to facilitate the systems level change that is needed.”

Ellen MacArthur Foundation, new plastics economy lead, Sander Defruyt said, “We look forward to working together with the governments and industry of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands to drive real change towards a circular economy for plastic. By eliminating problematic and unnecessary plastic items, innovating to ensure that the plastics they do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and circulating the plastic items they use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment, we can create a world without plastic waste or pollution.”

WRAP head of international resource management UK, David Rogers said, “WRAP is delighted to see APCO announce plans for an ANZPAC. The UK Plastics Pact has been very successful in transforming the plastics landscape in the UK. WRAP, who developed the UK Plastics Pact in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, have been involved in supporting a number of Plastics Pacts around the world as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network. This has the power to completely transform how we produce, use and dispose of plastics.”

Harmonisation and collaboration: key themes of first Plastics Summit

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.

The session Addressing plastics at its source discussed ways to reduce the amount of plastic produced. The suggestions from delegates included:

  • acknowledging the potential of design
  • improved consumer education to reduce confusion
  • addressing the high demand for recyclate and the low supply

Plastics and our daily life considered how we can better help households and communities manage their plastic needs and waste. The suggestions included:

  • scale really matters on several levels such as recycling plants and communications
  • develop demand for recycled products and other outcomes will flow
  • standardisation and national specifications will simplify processes

The Plastics Revolution discussed opportunities to harness the latest technologies for recycling plastic types, plastic material standards, products design solutions and processing solutions. The suggestions included:

  • our systems problem needs a system solution and collaboration across the supply chain
  • incentivisation is required to attract long term contracts if we don’t penalise operators (as they do in the UK)
  • there needs to be harmonisation across the collection process and local governments need to develop a mature mindset

Plastics in the Economy discussed how we can better connect the different stages of the plastic value-chain. The suggestions included:

  • we need a vision to mainstream resource recovery
  • serious investigation into the important role of legislation to lift recycling rate
  • new modes of collaboration and de risking required

Oceans and Waterways discussed ways to reduce plastic marine debris and microplastics/beads entering our oceans and what needs to be done to reduce this impact on the environment. The suggestions included:

  • education is key and we need another contemporary campaign similar to Keep Australia Beautiful
  • ban single use plastics
  • make clothes that ensure that we aren’t shedding microfibres

Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Water and Environment Trevor Evans, who also received suggestions from school children attending the event, wrapped up the presentation at the end of the day.

“Before markets are formed and we begin to take action, we have to carefully look at the impacts on both supply chains and consumers,” he said.

This was followed by Minister Ley who acknowledged the industry for the ongoing commitment to reducing the environmental impacts of waste plastics and making fundamental changes to their business operations to help transition Australia to a circular economy by turning waste into a resource.

Pledges lift investment

A raft of industry pledges were also made throughout the Summit and kicked off by $500 million commitment from the Pact Group into sustainable packaging, reuse and recycling initiatives that will create new jobs. Pact non-executive chairman Raphael Geminder said the commitment by Pact would involve significant investment in existing and new facilities over the next five years, with the company working collaboratively with government and like-minded partners.

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) said it will lead the development of the ANZPAC Plastic Pact, by joining the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network.The ANZPAC Plastics Pact, which will launch to the public in late 2020, will work with businesses, governments and NGOs from across the plastics value chain in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island nations to develop a common vision of the circular economy for plastics.

Australia Post committed to making 100 per cent of its plastic satchel range from recycled content by 2021. Australia Post executive general manager community and consumer, Nicole Sheffield, said the commitment underlined Australia Post’s drive towards a sustainable future.

Nestle and Australian recycler iQ Renew will trial a project to collect soft plastics from over 100,000 homes through kerbside recycling and diverted from landfill. iQ Renew CEO Danial Gallagher said there is an opportunity in turning soft plastic from a waste to a resource.

McDonalds will remove 585 tonnes of plastic cutlery from their Australian stores by the end of the year on top of its previous commitment to removing 500 million plastic straws.

Qantas has also pledged to remove 100 million single-use plastic items, such as cups, cutlery and meal boxes by end 2020 replacing them with compostable items.

Unilever will halve the amount of virgin plastic it uses by buying more recycled plastic and reducing the amount of plastic it uses in its packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes.

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.

A representative of PAR told Inside Waste that “PAR respects the EPA and its commitment to the legislation, and PAR did its best to comply.”

According to the EPA, the company had been directed to take immediate action to appropriately store drums, bags and containers holding 18 different chemicals on November 14, 2019. Following an inspection, the EPA said it had found 15,265 litres of liquid chemicals and 6,550 kilograms of solid chemicals stored in an area that did not have a bund or spill containment system.

The EPA added in a statement that officers also discovered PAR Recycling did not have spill kits nearby to contain the chemicals in the event of a spill. PAR disputes this statement, claiming that spill kits were in place nearby the bunds that were constructed to store the chemicals.

The chemicals were removed from the premises on January 10, 2020.

EPA director Regulatory Operations Metro North, Adam Gilligan explained that the impact of not installing environmental and pollution controls could include wide-ranging harm on the surrounding water, land, air and human health.

“If the chemicals had spilt without containment, they could have entered the stormwater system and flowed to Piles Creek.

“Chemicals must be stored to prevent, control or minimise pollution and the EPA expects all operators to comply with the safety standards that are in place to protect the environment and the community.”

More updates will follow.

Inaugural plastics summit will address National Waste Policy

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.

The Summit is bringing together a cross-sector of 200 senior executives from government, industry as well a community sectors. The aim of the Summit is to showcase and identify new solutions to the plastic waste challenge and mobilise further action from governments, industry and non-government organisations.

Some of the main issues that the Summit will raise through its opening panel and roundtables includes:

  • changes from reliance on virgin plastic and the impact on our lands and oceans
  • reduction of single-use plastic and problematic plastic, sustainable product design, product stewardship solutions, waste avoidance and increasing recycled content in plastic products
  • support for households to better manage their plastic needs and waste
  • opportunities to harness technologies for recycling plastic types, plastic material standards, products design solutions and processing solutions
  • improve connectivity of the different stages of the plastic value-chain including collection, sorting and processing and national standards.
  • reduction of plastic marine debris and microplastics beads entering the ocean

Review into Australia’s recycling standards calls for improved communications and leadership

A Review of standards and specifications for recycled content products released by the Department of Environment and Energy highlights a diverse range of issues. The Review includes details on current documentation for the use of recycled materials in product manufacturing, buildings and infrastructure work.

Equilibrium, an environment and sustainability strategy and management company, prepared the Review and consulted with key stakeholders. The Review found that the absence of any particular standards or specifications may be obstructing the take-up of recycled materials.

Equilibrium researchers said that they communicated with relevant industries and sectors as opposed to specific professional roles and disciplines. Those who gave feedback included professionals and managers across several key disciplines including engineering and applied technology, environment and sustainability, policy procurement, commercial and business development.

The Review stated that key parties haven’t always communicated effectively, with stakeholders being very dispersed. A significant lack of national leadership and harmonisation by government was seen as a major barrier. Slow pace, intangible outcomes and soft targets challenged the industry’s ability to progress the development and uptake of standards.

Stakeholders  felt that the lack of certainty in markets and regulatory environment prevented investment by the waste and recycling industry in facilities that refine recovered materials into raw materials or recyclate. The lack of demand in Australia for manufactured finished product due to the decline of the local manufacturing industry and minimal consumer demand for products using recycled materials along with no regulated requirement were considered significant issues delaying ongoing development of relevant and widely adopted standards and specifications.

A significant barrier identified within the Review was manufacturers having access to cheaper virgin alternatives resulting in them bypassing recyclate.

Meanwhile, peak bodies agreed on some standards and specifications, while individual engineers and professionals were deemed to be typically risk averse and reluctant to immediately embrace the value and potential of recycled content products when price is the only consideration.

Although the stakeholders who were consulted stated that there is a place for mandatory instruments to ensure higher levels of recycled content in products, buildings, and infrastructure, these need to be identified and assessed on their individual merits and performance. The procurement process was also considered a priority and needs to be taken seriously by all potential stakeholders along the entire supply chain.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan expressed her disappointment with the arrival of another review, pointing to a lack of recommendations, timelines, or targets.

However, Sloan added that WMRR was pleased that at least the National Waste Policy Action Plan called repeatedly for standards, specifications and procurement targets to be in place by this year.

“But instead of getting started with the job, industry is now forced to hear that government agencies believe ‘reputational and organisational risk’ are the major hindrances to using recycled content,” she said.

“We need real leadership and willingness to tackle these vital issues. It all starts with design: designing for repair and reuse, design for material minimisation, designing out waste and designing for stewardship. That way we are not dealing with waste but are recognising resources.”

 

Victorian government steps up with major recycling investment 

The Victorian government will invest $129 million through the state’s Sustainability Fund to support local councils to roll out a new system from 2021. The funding package includes a four-bin kerbside recycling scheme across the state to begin next year and the introduction of a container deposit scheme by 2023. 

Premier Daniel Andrews said that the investment will mean more local recycling, more jobs, and less waste going to landfill.

The funding commitment has been positively received by the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR). CEO, Gayle Sloan has described the Victorian Government as “leading the way”.

“Victoria’s government again leads the way by committing significant new funds towards our essential industry to help solve the challenges that we continue to face,” she said.

$49.5m will fund the strengthening of Victoria’s waste and recycling industry and infrastructure, to process more materials locally. This investment includes $28m in funding for businesses to invest in infrastructure through Recycling Victoria Infrastructure fund grants.

The Victorian government will also invest $30.5m to support local, and attract new, manufacturers make new products using recycled materials, through the Recycling Victoria Recycling Markets Acceleration package.

There will be also $10m in funding to help businesses improve resource efficiency, reduce waste, and increase recycling.

A new $7m Business Innovation Centre will be established to bring together industry, universities, and councils to develop new technologies and collaborate on creative solutions to waste challenges.

“We’ll roll out a behavioural change and education program to help Victorians waste less and recycle correctly. We’ll also regulate the waste and recycling sector, as an essential service with a new waste and recycling Act and a waste authority,” Andrews said.

Sloan said that WMRR was pleased that the Victorian government has flagged infrastructure investment as part of this package.

“This will be key to driving success as we work with government to continue to grow markets domestically for these valuable resources,” Sloan said.

By committing funding, the Victorian government gives industry confidence that they are at the table with us, working with us to solve these challenges. Our essential industry alone cannot solve these recent challenges. It is a shared responsibility that requires all parts of the supply chain including government and the community to work together to solve,” she added.

Sloan qualified her comments by stating that Australian market development and remanufacturing demand cannot be achieved by one state alone.

“As we head towards the COAG meeting next month and impending export bans, it is vital that there be national action on creating markets and demand for recycled products, this includes emphasis on design, a mandated product stewardship scheme for packaging and national specifications.”

Victoria has taken the lead in investing in industry, however we are at a cross roads nationally – do we head down the path that creates jobs, builds an Australian  remanufacturing sector, and reduces carbon emissions, or do we continue to act as if business as usual and a big stick will get us there?”

2020 could be an exciting time for our essential industry if all jurisdictions take the lead that Victoria has; commit new and real monies to infrastructure, research, technology, and markets. Let’s hope this happens and our essential industry gets the chance to create an onshore manufacturing industry and real jobs,” she concluded.

 

 

 

 

West Australians invited to contribute to local waste reform

The Western Australian Government has encouraged the community to give feedback on two consultation papers on waste reform in WA – ‘Closing the loop: waste reforms for a circular economy’ and ‘Review of the waste levy’.

Comment on the papers can be provided over a 12-week period via an online consultation at http://www.dwer.wa.gov.au/consultation/waste-reform-consultation

The proposed reforms support implementation of theWaste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030″ aimed at helping the State Government meet its commitment to having at least 75 per cent of waste generated in the State being reused or recycled by 2030.

Closing the loop: waste reforms for a circular economy outlines legislative proposals to improve waste management in WA including:

  • reforming landfill and solid waste storage facility licensing under the Environmental Protection Act 1986;
  • reviewing the application of the waste levy at waste facilities, including new measures to reduce long-term solid waste stockpiling;
  • targeting illegal waste disposal through new compliance and enforcement mechanisms; and
  • strengthening of waste reporting and tracking in WA to ensure the proper disposal of waste.

Meanwhile, the Review of the waste levy canvasses broader strategic issues related to the waste levy’s design, including the geographical area of the levy, and a schedule of future levy rates. To allow time for the review to be completed, the government hold any increases to the waste levy for 2020‑21.

WA Environment Minister, Stephen Dawson explained that becoming a sustainable, low waste, circular economy was key for protecting the environment for future generations.

“The proposed waste reforms outlined in these two papers support the state government’s commitment to increase the reuse and recycling of waste generated in the state and ensure human health and the environment are protected from inappropriate or illegal waste disposal,” he said.