NSW signals imminent plastic bag ban

Two weeks after the Victorian government released a comprehensive resource recovery strategy and a week after Australia’s first Plastics Summit, the NSW Government has called on the state community to contribute to its plan to tackle single-use plastics, reduce waste and pollution and increase recycling across the State.

The government has released two papers which include a Plastics Plan aimed at managing plastic waste and pollution in the state, and an issues paper that will shape the 20-year waste strategy.

NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian said that the community had high expectations and the government needed to ensure it created the best plans for the future.

“We know that we need to do a better job of dealing with our waste and delivering sustainable solutions. The NSW Plastics Plan and 20 Year Waste Strategy will be key to ensuring that NSW is a leader when it comes to reducing waste, maximising recycling and protecting our environment,” Berejiklian said.

“We also want to make sure any businesses potentially affected by phase-outs have enough time to adjust and source sustainable alternatives.”

Clear pathway

The NSW Plastics Plan discussion paper Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW, outlines a clear pathway to reduce single-use, unnecessary and problematic plastics in NSW and help build its circular economy. Feedback can be made on the discussion paper until Friday, May 8.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean explained that the Plastics Plan set the stage for the phase-out of priority single-use plastics, tripling the proportion of plastic recycled by 2030 and reducing plastic litter by a quarter.

“Lightweight plastic bags are proposed to be phased out six months from the passage of legislation with other timelines to be determined after feedback from the public consultation process.”

Meanwhile, the waste strategy canvasses options to reduce waste and increase recycling, outlines the opportunities and strategic direction for future waste and recycling infrastructure, and for growing sustainable end markets for recycled materials.

Government delay

NSW Labor shadow minister for environment and heritage, Kate Washington pointed to the state government’s delay in addressing the state plastics crisis with its decision to block a Labor bill to ban single use plastic bags in October 2019.

“This came despite broad support for action within the government and state parliament,” Washington said. She also voiced concern that this consultation would continue a cycle of inaction by the government.

However, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO, Gayle Sloan said that the NSW Plastics Plan and 20 Year Waste Strategy were encouraging and would  assist with getting the industry back on track in the state.

“Australia absolutely needs to transition away from the current take, make and dispose approach and recognise that valuable natural resources must be designed and used in such a way to manage out waste, and ensure the ability to re-use, repair and recycle. Unless this transition occurs, industry agrees with the government’s sentiment that we will never be able to achieve the targets set, or sadly, create the environment in which we want to live in,” Sloan said.

“Plastics remain at the forefront of the community’s mind and it is encouraging that NSW is looking to align with other jurisdictions to design out unnecessary single–use items. It also appears that NSW is prepared to go further, with mandated recycled content of 30% by 2025 and emphasis on designing out waste and making producers take greater responsibility for collecting and recycling in NSW, including the possible use of more extended producer responsibility schemes. These are all positive policies that may result in less reliance on councils and householders to meet the costs of these schemes,” she added.

Industry remains under pressure

Sloan also acknowledged that the papers’ discussions and plans for market development and infrastructure, were both important, particularly as NSW’s waste and resource recovery industry remained under immense pressure.

Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA) executive director Tony Khoury told InsideWaste that the NSW waste and recycling industry was currently facing many challenges, including increased regulations leading to complexity and higher compliance costs, increasing insurance premiums, tightening end-product specifications, with decreasing end markets, loss of kerbside materials to CDS, decreasing revenues for commodities and compliance costs for C&D recycled products.

He added that there was also no agreed procedure for dealing with a small piece of asbestos in C&D recycling and that fires, fatalities and accidents had led to the formation of a WCRA WHS Group.

Key issues

Khoury was clear in describing these detailed requisites that the industry needed from its regulators:

  • a level commercial playing field
  • regulations that provide certainty
  • consultation and acknowledgment of the content of discussions
  • a regulatory environment that allows waste and recyclables to be managed in a safe, sustainable & environmentally sound manner
  • regulations, laws and proper practices to be enforced by all bodies
  • funding

“It is our hope that the much-anticipated NSW Government’s 20-year waste strategy addresses these key issues,” he said.

 

 

 

Government will strengthen procurement guidelines to energise plastics sector

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison opened the inaugural Australian Plastics Summit at Parliament House yesterday, March 2 telling around 200 stakeholders within the industry that his government would strengthen Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines to energise the sector as it tackles the National Waste Action Plan.

Referencing the success of Australia’s Indigenous businesses, Morrison said that the government would change Commonwealth guidelines to ensure every procurement made by a government agency would examine recycled content as well as environmental sustainability to determine value for money.

“By focusing on these practical steps, we will be able to see progress as we did with our procurement policy to energise our Indigenous businesses,” he said.

However, Morrison did advise that the delegates from various sectors of the industry who were sitting in the room, were definitely part of the solution.

“There’s no doubt that the misuse of plastics is a scarring on our lands and oceans but, just as scientists and engineers solved the problem of human waste going into ocean outflows, you are also in a position to deliver a similar outcome,” he said.

He added that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in two weeks was significant as the federal government, along with state and territory leaders would then finalise a ban on the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

An announcement would also be made in May’s budget aimed at improving Australia’s recycling and collection systems. He also noted that the Report released last week by Infrastructure Australia had made resource recovery a High Priority Project.

“We will work with the states to build partnerships to grow the recycling market. This is particularly good news for regional Australia as it will deliver more jobs.

I am excited about the opportunities to build markets and increase demand for recycled products.”

Minister for Agriculture, Water and the Environment Sussan Ley, who hosted the event, said that the one-day summit was designed to ‘walk the talk’ and that a major focus would be getting people and companies interested in making waste valuable.

“Our key purpose is to connect key players, to find new ways of doing business and to spur action,” she said.

 

 

Resource recovery named as a High Priority by Infrastructure Australia

Infrastructure Australia (IA) has identified resource recovery as one of 6 High Priority Projects within the latest edition of its Infrastructure Priority List and called for a national waste and recycling management strategy.  The organisation said that this initiative would boost Australia’s recycling rate from its present level of 55 per cent to the target of 70 per cent set out in the 2014-21 waste avoidance and resource recovery strategy.

Infrastructure Australia proposed that the national strategy would involve co-ordination between all levels of government and the market to identify a program of investment in new waste recovery and reprocessing infrastructure.

The organsation said that this aims to meet the long-term needs of Australians and to foster innovation and adoption of emerging technologies.

The inclusion of resource recovery in the High Priority List was based on these constraints:

  • Lack of space for transfer facilities.
  • The ability of material recovery facilities to process and sort co-mingled, highly contaminated waste (particularly for communities in remote and regional Australia).
  • Underdeveloped domestic reuse markets as a result of previous over-reliance on the export of waste to international markets.

The List said that the environmental costs of greenhouse gases and leachate from recyclable waste entering landfill are significant and are set to rise with a growing population.

In addition, limited landfill capacity and sorting facilities are increasing logistics costs as waste is being transferred greater distances for processing and disposal.

IA chair Julieanne Alroe, explained that the Priority List was supported by a robust evidence base, developed using data from the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit which included more than 200 received in the past twelve months.

“In the wake of the bushfire crisis, the floods of early 2019 and the drought, a new wave of infrastructure investment was critical to rebuilding for affected communities. She added that as we enter a new decade of infrastructure, it is essential that we plan for resilience in our infrastructure network based on a stronger understanding of these risks.”

Alroe added that compared to the 2015 Audit, the 2019 Audit took a greater focus on user outcomes, in terms of access, quality and cost for Australian communities, and an expanded scope that considered social infrastruture.

IA chief executive, Romilly Madew said the Infrastructure Priority List also reflected the diversity of our nation’s future infrastructure needs.

“Resilience was a key theme of our 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit and this focus continues to be reflected in our latest edition of the Infrastructure Priority List,” she said

“As an independent advisory body, it’s our role to bring these problems and opportunities into the national spotlight to spark investment and coordinated action from industry and government.”

The latest edition of the Priority List identifies a project pipeline worth more than $58 billion –including 6 High Priority Projects and 17 Priority Projects.

 

Vic government creates waste crime body to clean-up industry

The Andrews Government will create a $71.4 million funded Waste Crime Prevention Inspectorate within the Environment Protection Authority, which will work closely with WorkSafe Victoria, emergency service agencies, councils and other regulators to improve information sharing and coordination. The initiative is part of Recycling Victoria the government’s 10-year vision.

Speaking at CEDA in Melbourne yesterday, February 26 the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio explained that the strategy would tackle waste crime and keep Victorians safe, with more resources to stop illegal dumping and stockpiling, and deal with high-risk sites and high-risk substances.

“For too long, waste crime has undermined Victoria’s recycling sector with dangerous and illegal stockpiling. Our investment will help to clean up the industry and make it fairer for businesses that do the right thing,” D’Ambrosio said.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), has responded positively to the initiatives.

WMRR CEO, Gayle Sloan said that she considered Victoria’s Government was again leading the way by committing significant new funds towards our essential industry to help solve the challenges that we continue to face.”

“Waste crime should be addressed by both government and industry, as it impacts the economy and local communities and pays no heed to the value of scarce resources.
I strongly believe that licensed operators within the waste and resource recovery industry do not engage in these practices, however to assist in addressing we do need improved and consistent tracking, management and descriptions of waste nationally.
The crime often starts at the generator stage, be it unintentional (wrong description of waste classification) or intentional.  I think the question one has to ask as a producer is “is this price really too cheap”, and “where is my waste really going”, it really is no longer acceptable to look for the  cheapest disposal prices and no longer care where your waste goes- the community and the environment deserves better.”

Recycling Victoria will completely overhaul Victoria’s recycling sector, create 3,900 jobs and reduce waste going to landfill.

The primary purpose of the $300 million plus package is to bring together a suite of landmark reforms, dedicated to shifting Victoria to a circular economy, including a state-wide four-bin recycling system, a container deposit scheme and nearly $100 million to support businesses, drive innovation and create local jobs.

Victoria’s landfill levy is significantly lower than our neighbouring states, meaning Victoria is too often used as a dumping ground for waste coming from New South Wales and South Australia.

The change reflects an agreement reached by state and territory Treasurers to work towards the harmonisation of landfill levies and will provide a strong incentive to reduce and recycle waste and drive innovation in new waste technologies.

 

Grants awarded to power waste recycling schemes

Around $13 million in Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRC-P) grants for green economy projects has been awarded to researchers and their commercial partners in Sydney and Melbourne to enable Australia to reduce plastic waste and boost plastics recycling.

According to the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews the projects demonstrated the great economic opportunities in waste recycling.

“This funding will support Australian businesses and researchers as they forge new markets to limit the use of plastics and create recycled products,” she said.

Chemically convert unrecyclable plastics

The University of Sydney (USYD) has received almost $10 million in funding across three projects. As a result, the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Waste Transformation Research Hub will work alongside Integrated Green Energy Solutions (IGE) to oversee a project to chemically convert plastics that are currently unrecyclable.

Associate professor Ali Abbas who is leading the project said that the global problem of plastic waste has become a challenge in Australia, due to the lack of facilities to deal with mixed and contaminated post-consumer plastics.

“The objective of our project is to adapt existing process technology to cost-effectively recycle otherwise non-recyclable mixed plastics,” Abbas said.

“Our intent is to focus on chemically recycling the waste plastic back to the manufacturing of virgin plastic, to close the loop on the circular economy.”

IGE Chairman Paul Dickson explained that the outcome of the project is to deliver a further range of products from end of life plastics.

“The unique combination of the IGE knowhow, a government grant and the University’s expertise will surely accelerate the achievement of creating a cleaner planet for the next generation,” he said.

Miniaturised separation bio-polymer reactor

Separtis, a sustainable waste management solution company, is working with Dr Alejandro Montoya, leader of the Waste Transformation Research Hub to design and operate a miniaturised separation bio-polymer reactor. This will then inform the design of a larger plant, to be constructed at an existing waste plastics collection facility at Orange, NSW.

The technology will use patented bio-polymers (derived from renewable sources) to break down co-mingled and contaminated waste plastics without the need to sort the waste stream. The waste plastics can then be reconstituted into other plastics, without any loss in strength.

“The proposed technology operates at atmospheric conditions with catalysts derived from biomass resources without the need for large amounts of external energy. The technology can be expanded across multiple value chains and industries, making it ideal to operate in regional areas,” Montoya said.

Cleaner milk bottles

A CRC-P grant was also awarded to PEGRAS Asia Pacific, the NSW Smart Sensing Network, and the USYD’s Faculty of Science for a project that aims to make the process of recycling milk bottles cleaner and more efficient.

“Presently, when plastic milk bottles arrive at a recycling plant, they are chopped up and put through a washing process aimed at removing glue, labels, and other impurities,”  director of the Key Centre For Polymer Colloids, associate professor Brian Hawkett said.“We are looking at both the physical and chemical ways whereby we can better separate other components from the HDPE so that the resultant product is purer,” he added.

Meanwhile, an additional $2.9m will underwrite the development of a Victorian plant to turn the plastic waste from the rectification work of hazardous building cladding into recycled shoes and prefabricated building elements.

“Once they reach the end of their life, the shoes and building products can again be recycled, supporting the circular economy of waste and recycling,” Andrews said.

“This project demonstrates an enormous opportunity from using the waste materials as a result of replacing hazardous building cladding.”

Applications for Round 9 of the CRC-P grants opened on February 13 and close on March 19.

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.

 

 

 

 

Sydney household waste trends revealed in waste audit

The Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) with 11 members councils representing 1.7 million residents holds the most comprehensive longitudinal data set of household consumption and waste disposal behaviour in Australia. The region is characterised by cultural and socio-economic diversity from the inner-city terraces to the leafy suburbs of Sutherland.
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