Plastic Free July underscored by APCO resource toolkit

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) weekly community webinar series will continue throughout July as it commemorates the 10th anniversary of Plastic Free July with  a resource toolkit. 

According to APCO, the  webinars will take a data deep dive into packaging material flows in Australia, a designer’s guide to the circular economy and sustainable packaging, an introduction to Life Cycle Assessments methodologies, and a look at the rise of sustainable investment in Australia. They will also host a session exploring how a behaviour science approach can help to deliver better environmental outcomes around plastic.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said that, “…even during such unusual circumstances, the APCO community is keen to continue growing their collective understanding of the circular economy and sustainable packaging best practice.”

Plastic Free July

The resource toolkit kit contains the latest plastic packaging statistics and 15 case studies showcasing organisations that are championing issues like single-use plastic avoidance and phase out, reusable packaging, community education and recycled content.

Organisations highlighted include Responsible Cafes, Cove by Natures Organics, CHEP Australia, Loop, REDcycle, Plastic Police, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, THE ICONIC, Plastic Free Communities, Take 3 For the Sea and Operation Clean Sweep. A range of APCO-led initiatives are also highlighted, including the ANZPAC program, the Australasian Recycling Label Program and FY21 Priority Projects addressing plastic packaging.

“Plastic Free July is the perfect opportunity to focus on positive solutions to the plastic packaging challenge. We have developed our new Plastic Free July toolkit to recognise some of the good work and innovation already being delivered – and highlight a range of tangible ways that consumers, businesses and governments can drive practical action in their own community,” Donnelly added.

WMRR readies for a strong year ahead

WMRR recently held its 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) welcoming its 2020-2022 Board of Directors. National president, Garth Lamb, told the meeting that, “Over recent years, our sector has had to deal with structural changes in recycling markets, has been battered through media headlines, and has had to find ways to keep delivering essential services through various challenges, including natural disasters and some woeful policy decisions.”

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Waste management facilities are not the same as shopping centres

The Federal government is to be congratulated for overhauling procurement rules to require recycled content in new building and civil works.

The imminent ban on exports of recyclables is going to turn the market on its head. We need to urgently expand markets and build new processing facilities in Australia or we could drown in 1.3 million tonnes (MT) of recyclables that we previously exported.

MRA has estimated that we need to build at least 100 new pieces of kit to meet the existing State Government waste targets and process the new 1.3 MT of exported materials. Industry is keen to invest and there is plenty of superannuation money looking for a secure home right now.

With the stage set, all that remains is getting the kit approved and built. How hard can it be?
Quite hard… And time consuming… And expensive…
So here are a few pointers from a waste planning consultant, for proponents:

1. Choose your site carefully
Sites located too close to people, water or other special places require in-depth assessment (environmental impact statement; EIS). And ensure the zoning is right – preferably “Industry” zoning, but some other zones work as well.
2. Understand Thresholds
EPA and Council Thresholds (t/yr) determine planning and licensing requirements. They should be used to define short term and long term goals for the project and options for future expansion.
3. Be practical in scale
Be aware that the more tonnes through a facility, the greater the requirement for environmental controls from the regulators. So be realistic about how big you need it. There are pros and cons of going big early vs late.
4. Prepare a professional planning application
Waste facilities have the potential to locally pollute the environment (even though they ultimately contribute to a cleaner and better world).
A good application will provide a robust assessment of everything from stormwater to truck movements to waste classification and stockpiling of materials. Providing information up front results in quicker assessment timeframes with less wrinkles to be ironed out and happier regulators.
5. Use a waste planner not a town planner
A professional planning application requires a good understanding of the business of waste. Most general planning companies do not understand waste. That means waste supply, market demand, Government policy, recycling, offtake agreements, social licence, environmental footprint and diversion targets etc. These are critical to your application but don’t generally apply to housing or shopping centre applications. The regulators want to know in much more detail about the role and function of the facility in a broader policy context. So recommending a waste planner may sound self-serving but it nonetheless, makes a difference.
MRA often sees rejected proposals done by non-waste town planners. It is good for our business but a waste of your money. Get it right the first time. It may mean slowing down a bit at the start to get the context right, but better that than being interminably stuck in planning revisions, appeals, the Courts or ultimately a refusal.

Esther Hughes is a principal environmental planner at MRA Consulting Group.