ACT transitions single-use plastic phase out

The ACT Government  will transition the phase out of certain single-use plastic following the recent tabling of the exposure draft of the Plastic Reduction Bill 2020. The Bill would also see the ACT become the first jurisdiction to declare public events single-use plastic free, with a focus on designated large-scale events, and in close consultation …
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$10 million grants for NSW solar panel and battery storage

The NSW Government is investing $10 million to help improve environmental performance by diverting end-of-life solar panel systems from landfill, with the first round of grants now open.

Although current waste volumes are relatively low, this emerging waste stream is expected to rapidly increase over the next decade as installed systems reach their end-of-life.

Waste stream expected to grow

In NSW it is forecast that this waste stream could generate up to 10,000 tonnes per year by 2025 and up to 71,000 tonnes per year by 2035.

EPA Director Circular Economy Kathy Giunta said the investment in recycling through this Circular Solar grants program would help NSW meet its commitment of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

“While current amounts of waste are low, now is the time to invest in developing systems for collecting and recycling these valuable resources like scarce and rare metals, including lithium batteries.

“We want to recycle and re-use the materials in solar panels and battery systems as NSW transitions towards cleaner energy and this program is an important step in building a productive circular economy in NSW.

“It will see NSW well placed to manage waste solar systems over the coming years and will stimulate much needed job creation in the solar power and recycling sectors,” Giunta said.

The NSW Government is inviting Expressions of Interest for grants to run trial projects that increase the collection, reuse and recycling of solar panel and battery storage systems. Applications for projects that trial whole of supply chain approaches to collecting and reusing and/or recycling can be made until 17 September 2020.

$2 million is available in this funding round, with the remaining funding to be made available following evaluation of this EOI process.

For more information visit https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/working-together/grants/infrastructure-fund/circular-solar-trials-expression-of-interest or email infrastructure.grants@epa.nsw.gov.au.

Getting smarter with $10 million CRC-P grants

For an industry hungry for solutions to accelerate the journey to recycling sustainability, $10 million funding for inventive ideas for recycling and reuse of plastics, paper, glass and tyres will satisfy, somewhat. The funding launched today, by minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews lies in the latest round of the Cooperative Research Centres …
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How Sustainability Victoria is tackling priority recycled waste

Victorian infrastructure projects which use recycled materials and create local jobs are being boosted by $2.6 million Sustainable Infrastructure Fund grants. Local Victorian governments are expected to spend more than $8 billion on infrastructure projects over the next three years, presenting a significant opportunity to increase their use of recycled materials.

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Study:Is chemical recycling just making fuel?

A new report from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) has examined the efficacy of chemical recycling facilities, finding shallow results.

Chemical recycling is a recycling process where plastic waste is processed into fuels or back into the chemical building blocks that originally form the plastics. It’s considered key to the circular economy where there is no such thing as waste, just feedstock for new plastics.

GAIA looked at the 37 chemical recycling facilities proposed since the 2000s and found that only three were actually operating, and that none of them were actually recovering plastic in any way that could be considered “circular.”

Instead, it appears they are pushing “plastic to fuel” (PTF) using pyrolysis or gasification, and just burning it. US experts say that PTF is often considered a good thing because plastic is, a solid fossil fuel, so we can get double use out of it. But that’s not the case, the researchers argue, primarily because “PTF carries a large carbon footprint that is not compatible with a climate-safe future. It only adds to global carbon emissions created by the fossil fuel industry.”

Toxic PTF

This is due to the fuel and resources used to pick it up, process it, cook it, and then burn it. Making PTF is also toxic, they claim.

According to the study, plastic often contains toxic additives and contaminants that are known to be harmful to human health and are not effectively filtered out from the “chemical recycling” process or may form during the process, risking exposure to workers, communities near facilities, consumers, and the environment. For example, hormone disruptors and carcinogens such as bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, benzene, brominated compounds, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are found in plastic and not effectively filtered out from end-products including fuel. Depending on the type of plastic being processed, other chemicals may form and end up in the final product, such as benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, hydrogen cyanide, PBDEs, PAHs, and high-temperature tars, among many others.

Making waste disappear

What it is really doing is making waste plastic disappear, so that new plastic cheaper and easier to use can be made in the new petrochemical plants.

The petrochemical industry has pushed back on plastic bans and other policies to curb plastic use, 46 have used the COVID-19 pandemic to claim that single-use plastic was safer and more hygienic than plastic alternatives.

Meanwhile, many petrochemical companies point to PTD and “chemical recycling” as key solutions to the plastic waste crisis and the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Dow, Shell, and others give financial backing to projects like Hefty Energy Bag.

According to Gaia, “As policymakers push industry to move away from fossil fuels and plastic, the future of the plastic-to-fuel industry is at best questionable and at most a distraction from addressing the root cause of the world’s plastic waste crisis.

“The “chemical recycling” industry has struggled with decades of technological difficulties and poses an unnecessary risk to the environment and health and a financially risky future that is incompatible with a climate-safe future and circular economy.

“Chemical recycling, at least as is happening now, is just an elaborate and expensive version of waste-to-energy. There is no point, other than it makes waste disappear. Given the amount of CO2 it generates, from a climate point of view, we would be better off just burying it, and we are not going back there. The only real way to deal with this is to stop making so much of the stuff in the first place, to reuse, refill, and to go truly circular,” GAIA concludes.