Translating waste tech from laboratory to local manufacturing

Founded in 2008 by Professor Veena Sahajwalla, the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) at the University of New South Wales, collaborates with industry, global research partners, not-for-profits, and governments to develop innovative environmental solutions for some of the world’s largest waste challenges.

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Victoria boosted with Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre

Victoria now boasts a $7 million Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre with an initial focus on reducing food and organic waste. This work will build off Sustainability Victoria’s Love Food Hate Waste program that has helped reduce the 250,000 tonnes of edible food that is thrown away by households each year – enough to fill Melbourne’s Eureka Tower.

Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio launched the Centre, stating that that it will fast-track Victoria’s recycling revolution. She said the Centre will work with a variety of businesses – from farms and cafes to factories and appliance shops – to streamline the way they operate, reduce waste, and improve efficiency.

“This new centre will spark innovation and help businesses to make sustainable changes and reduce waste.” “This will gather some of the best minds and research about recycling innovation, so that Victorian businesses can get the most out of their materials.”

Expert advice 

The centre will do research and offer expert advice and resources through a virtual hub, facilitate collaboration and events, and offer grants and support for businesses. To mark the launch of the centre, the first round of the $10 million Recycling Victoria Business Support Fund has opened. The fund will help businesses, industry groups and not-for-profit organisations to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste to landfill, increase recycling and reduce their operating costs.

Meanwhile, the first round of the $3 million Recycling Victoria Innovation Fund is also now available. This funding will support partnerships between businesses, industry groups, research institutions, community groups and charities to identify, develop and scale-up more environmentally sustainable opportunities and business models. The centre is part of Recycling Victoria – the Government’s action plan and investment of more than $300 million to transform the state’s recycling sector, create thousands of jobs and set Victoria up for a more sustainable future.

More WARR leaders question NSW budget

Last week WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan rebuked the State Government for failing to address key industry issues. Now the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has labelled the NSW State Budget as ‘short sighted’, with the real economic potential of the waste and resource recovery industry being bypassed for a reliance on landfill levies.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said NSW may claim to be open for business but not when it comes to the economic potential of material and energy recovery from waste.

“The NSW Budget forward estimates show that for 2023-24 there’s an estimated $832 million in revenue being generated from landfill levies, a more than 10% increase on the $751 million projected in the 2020-21 budget. However, only $96 million has been allocated in 2020-21 or less than 13% of the levy collected to help local councils manage waste through the Waste Less, Recycle More program.

“This reliance on landfill levies and delay in finalising the 20-year waste strategy shows the NSW Government’s mind is not open to the economic potential that transitioning to a circular economy will deliver.

“There is nothing here that encourages industry to invest in new material and energy recovery facilities to divert recyclable and residual wastes from landfill that would substantially grow the State’s GDP, create more employment opportunities and greenhouse gas savings,” Read said.

Major opportunity for NSW

She added that according to NSW Circular, over the next 20 years waste generation in NSW is projected to grow from its current 21 million tonnes to over 31 million tonnes.

“The circular economy is a major commercial opportunity for NSW.  Modelling by the Centre for International Economics has estimated that even a 5 per cent improvement in resource recovery would add $1 billion to Australia’s GDP and $644 million to NSW’s GDP.

“There are three times as many jobs in recycling as there are in landfill, and if the NSW Government is focused on economic recovery post COVID it is obvious that growing the material and energy recovery industry will boost the economy as well as create jobs.”

Read said the budget also outlined an extension of the Waste Less Recycle More program which has not shifted recycling rates since 2016.

“This program has been extended for 2021-22, however it is clear that it has not achieved what it set out to do and that needs to be addressed.”

“Landfill space is running out in NSW and the writing is on the wall. The NSW Government would be best placed to urgently refocus its waste management strategy by putting in place the economic and policy frameworks that fast track the growth of the material and energy recovery sector as NSW transitions to a circular economy,”  Read said.

It was disappointing to see the recent NSW 2020 budget announcement. It is obvious to all across the waste management sector that NSW continues to be heavily reliant on waste levy revenue with $750 million projected to be collected in the year to June 2021. And in the year to June 2024 waste levy collections have been projected by Treasury to be $832 million. It is very easy to conclude that NSW is addicted to the revenue from the waste levy.

Anticipating 2021

Meanwhile, Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW executive director Tony Khoury told Inside Waste that The Minister for the Environment Matt Kean has often stated that his vision for NSW is to have a sustainable, reliable and affordable waste and recycling sector.

“In the view of WCRA, that will require the NSW Government to commit to re-investing a much greater percentage of waste levy funds to assist industry and local government. But as we don’t yet have a 20-year waste strategy, let’s all look forward to 2021 and next years’ NSW State Budget when it is our hope that funding will be made available for what we hope will be a well-thought out, suitably funded waste strategy that will make waste and recycling across NSW sustainable, reliable and affordable,” he said.

Inside Waste is waiting for a response from the Minister’s office.