Potato waste mashup building a new industry

The Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) comprising four of the largest potato producers in Australia, intends to convert 100% of its potato waste into commercial benefit.

Over the next three years, The Mitolo Group, Zerella Fresh, Thomas Foods International Fresh Produce, The South Australian Potato Company, together with Industry Association, Potatoes South Australia Inc, and The University of Adelaide will invest nearly $1million in this research and development. The goal is to save up to 100,000 tonnes of potatoes currently going to waste every year.

Potatoes South Australia, chief executive Robbie Davis said that this is a powerful opportunity for Australia, particularly South Australia which is the largest potato growing state.

“We are seeing up to 40% of potatoes rejected because they do not meet retail specifications. At the same time Australia is importing 20,000 tonnes of potato starch each year, and it just doesn’t make sense that we’re not using these huge volumes of potatoes for alternative purposes,” she said.

Potato starch industry

According to Davis, a large focus of this project is the potential development of an Australian potato starch industry which would provide additional revenue for Australian potato companies. This could generate potentially $1000 a tonne for extracted starch instead of the current value of $0-10 a tonne for the waste.

“Potato starch is used broadly across the food industry, from bioplastics and packaging, to coatings and adhesives. We also want to use the waste from the waste, so after extracting the potato starch, there will be further opportunities using the residual waste from this first stage,” Davis said.

Professor Vincent Bulone from the University of Adelaide is leading this research project from his analytical centre for complex carbohydrate analysis, Adelaide Glycomics.

The project is in line with the University’s industry engagement priority on agrifood and wine. “There are different forms of starch in potatoes that can be used in different products. For example, existing research suggests that the less digestible starches in potatoes, the so-called ‘resistant starches’, can be used to make superior pre-biotics that help prevent infections,” Bulone said.

“Another known starch component can be used to engineer low GI foods, and the skins of the potatoes themselves contain bioactives that can be used for a range of commercial products like nutraceuticals.”

Early start

Fight Food Waste CRC CEO, Dr Steven Lapidge said that the early start that this project had made in the Fight Food Waste CRC’s journey was notable and he considered that the partnership between all of the potato producers was a great example of what CRCs can achieve.

“We’re looking to develop new products from current waste streams that will deliver additional profit to potato producers through domestic and export sales.

“Through investing in research and development we aim to deliver new high-value commercial opportunities for the participants of this project.




Grease trap industry challenged by shuttering economy

The grease trap collection industry is expected to continue to be negatively impacted by the general downturn in tourism and fewer people at events, stadiums and in public places. The directive for all restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs to only serve take-away food is now expected to exacerbate its financial viability.

Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW executive director Tony Khoury told Inside Waste that this will lead to a decline in grease trap servicing as a result of lower food sales, and less grease being generated.

He said it was unlikely that these hospitality venues would plan ahead and contact Sydney Water to cancel or request some form of change to their grease trap collection service.

Khoury outlined a series of issues that he anticipated that his members would face:

These included:

  • Declines in grease trap waste volumes
  • Grease trap scheduling that would not decrease in Wastesafe and the transporter would still service the trap
  • Once the owners received a tax invoice, the charge would be disputed if their trade had reduced or the business had temporarily shut-down
  • In these situations, the transporter would be exposed to a possible bad debt

“As Sydney Water controls the scheduling of these collections, we have requested their urgent consideration to assist us to minimise the impact on our industry.

“The Association calls on Sydney Water to at least guarantee that they will reimburse licensed waste transporters for any bad debts that are incurred.”






Government assistance needed now, says NWRIC

The National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on state governments to provide waste and landfill levy relief to the sector. NWRIC CEO, Rose Read has said this is an obvious and necessary measure that can be implemented quickly.

Read described several measures that could be taken now, beginning with the waiver of landfill levy doubtful debts. Next, she suggested that all planned levy increases could be put on hold for at least six months while current waste and landfill levies for the next three months could also be waived.

“We are also asking state and local governments to be more flexible on certain facility license conditions so that social distancing to protect staff can be maintained and collection time curfews be lifted so that bins and continue to be collected,” Read added.

Substantial cost

Although the NWRIC acknowledged the substantial support the commonwealth and state governments have announced so far for businesses, Read highlighted that levy fees are a substantial cost to the sector. She said that relief in this area will be very important to ensure that the sector keeps its staff in jobs delivering this essential service to the community over the coming months.

NWRIC members comprise both national waste and recycling companies, and state and territory affiliates. According to Read, they are doing everything possible to ensure that bins will continue to be collected and waste and recycling safely processed during these extreme times.

“Our members and state affiliates have been actively adopting measures over the past few weeks to protect their staff and maintain services to local communities, businesses and the health sector”.

“However, like all businesses the waste and recycling sector is experiencing financial stress as business customers shut-down, demand reduces and segments of the economy slow,” she explained.



Industry leaders mixed reaction to Waste Response Strategy

The COAG Waste Response Strategy has drawn mixed response from senior leaders who, on the whole welcome the strategy, but are concerned that the implementation is unclear and that fast-tracking of specific actions was essential.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) said it applauded the strategy, stating that it illustrated a depth of understanding and recognition of the needs of sustainable waste and resource recovery industry in Australia. WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan, said that members felt encouraged to see that governments were in it for the long haul.

Processing facilities needed now

However, she added that it was imperative to fast track infrastructure because there was only two years until the roll-out of the plastics ban and a significant volume of waste plastic to be managed. As a result, Australia needs to start building processing facilities now for them to be up and running ahead of 2022.

“The strategy not only acknowledges that waste plastic is a significant and complex issue, it also takes positive initial steps in mapping out what all jurisdictions must do to tackle this challenge.

Beginning with harmonising policies and programs to phase out single-use and hard to recycle plastics, to the Commonwealth supporting industry to invest in new plastics processing capacity through competitive grant funding, and commercial and concessional loans. These are all incredibly positive steps,” Sloan said.

She added that WMRR also welcomed the funding commitments by states, including WA’s $15 million provision to support local processing of plastics and tyres and $5 million for access to industrial zoned land, and ‘Recycling Victoria’ announced prior to the COAG meeting.

“WMRR appreciates that the federal, state and territory governments are listening and that our essential waste and resource recovery sector remains firmly on the agenda. As we work through the strategy, the industry is committed to working closely with all levels of government to ensure a smooth and successful implementation of the bans, and ultimately, to develop a strong re-manufacturing and reprocessing sector in Australia, driving the country towards a more circular economy,” Sloan said.

However, Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA), executive director Tony Khoury, was more circumspect. He told Inside Waste that he couldn’t find anything in the documentation that detailed how the export bans would be enforced.


Without proper enforcement, he explained, there was a high probability of non-compliance, with good recycling operators placed at a significant disadvantage.


Lack of reference

Khoury also pointed to a lack of reference or commitment to any specific form of funding, stating that as there are three levels of government involved, querying the funding for infrastructure, public education, consistency, and enforcement.  He said that the document ignored the issues of existing contracts and, if these bans proceeded, collection and processing contracts could require variation and again, it was unclear who would fund the variations.


“Industry has long argued that a greater proportion of NSW waste levy revenue be committed to support recycling. WCRA recently presented DPIE and the NSW Government with recommendations on how NSW waste levy funds can be used to better support recycling, “Tony Khoury.


At this time, WCRA has not received a reply to these recommendations.


“The COAG documentation is silent on the impacts that these export bans will have on competition in the Australian recycling market. In some cases, the export bans will result in market control by one processor, for example mixed paper & cardboard. WCRA supports the referral by NWRIC to the ACCC for the competition watchdog to investigate this matter.


“There is no commitment in the documentation to government procurement policies that will give preference to Australian recycled content. On one-hand the COAG decision seeks to control what can or cannot be exported from Australia, whilst ignoring what is being imported into Australia.”

“WCRA supports the intent of COAG’s objectives and we also do not support the export of waste products. We applaud COAG for its decision in allowing the export of clean paper/cardboard and that bus, truck and aviation tyres be exported for re-treading to a verified re-treading facility.

But he concluded that the key answered question is which Government Department in Australia would be responsible for signing-off on whether a tyre re-treading facility is lawful, legitimate or otherwise?”

National Waste Recycling Council (NWRC) CEO Rose Read also told Inside Waste that the strategy was a positive move to bring all states together and align with national plans.

“The national response is a very positive initiative by COAG and it clearly puts waste into the category of an essential service. Waste recovery is now being viewed as a supply chain resource and this response acknowledges that business can get materials back into the stream which are delivering added value.

Read said that the national change in thinking about waste as a resource instead of a problem, was a significant paradigm shift that now needed to permeate all levels of government, councils, business and the community.

“Sequencing the demand for these resources in time for industry to use recycled products in construction is critical.”

Despite the funding challenges faced by the governments with the existing COVI-19 crisis, Read was confident that there was enough investment capability within the private sector and from the landfill levy that could underwrite the actions required to more the strategy forward.


Victoria gets moving with household rubbish transformation

Driven by the Victorian Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG), in partnership with sixteen councils, the largest tender for new waste management infrastructure has begun. It’s also the first collective tender on behalf of councils for an alternative solution to landfill.

The procurement for advanced waste processing solutions is expected to play a significant role in achieving the Victorian Government’s new target to divert 80 per cent of household rubbish from landfill by 2030.

The sixteen councils from Melbourne’s south-east collected over 490,000 tonnes of residual rubbish in 2016 and this is forecast to grow to over 700,000 tonnes a year by 2046.

MWRRG CEO, Jill Riseley said that population growth meant that the state can’t rely on landfill as the only way to manage its household rubbish.

“Starting with an Expression of Interest, the procurement process will take approximately two years to reach a final tender to design, build and operate an advanced waste processing facility to process household rubbish,” she said.

The procurement will focus on the financial, environmental and social outcomes councils want to achieve rather than specify a technology. It will then be up to bidders to recommend proven and appropriate solutions, and to demonstrate how they deliver on councils’ objectives.


Recycled First boosts reuse demand across construction

The use of recycled and reused materials in construction projects is about to be advanced by Recycled First, a new initiative from the Victorian Government.

Transport Infrastructure Minister, Jacinta Allan explained that Recycled First would bring a uniform approach to the existing ad hoc use of recycled products on major transport infrastructure projects.

Recycled First will boost the demand for reused materials right across our construction sector – driving innovation in sustainable materials and changing the way we think about waste products,” she said.

The program will incorporate recycled and reused materials that meet existing standards for road and rail projects – with recycled aggregates, glass, plastic, timber, steel, ballast, crushed concrete, crushed brick, crumb rubber, reclaimed asphalt pavement and organics taking precedence over brand new materials.

“Companies interested in delivering major transport infrastructure projects will be required to demonstrate how they will prioritise recycled and reused materials, while maintaining compliance and quality standards,” Allan added.

Additionally, contractors will need to report on the types and volumes of recycled products used.

No mandatory requirements

The policy will not set mandatory minimum requirements or targets, instead, a project-by-project approach will allow contractors to liaise with recycled materials suppliers to determine if there are adequate supplies of the necessary products for their project.

“Work is already underway with current construction partners to ensure more recycled content is being used on major projects, in addition to the new Recycled First requirements,” she explained.

“The M80 Ring Road, Monash Freeway and South Gippsland Highway upgrades will use more than 20,000 tonnes of recycled materials, and 190 million glass bottles will be used in surfaces on the $1.8 billion Western Roads Upgrade.”

Recycled demolition material was also used to build extra lanes along 24 kilometres of the Tullamarine Freeway, as well as the Monash Freeway and M80 Ring Road.

“The state government is also reusing materials created by its own projects, with 14,000 tonnes of soil excavated from the Metro Tunnel site in Parkville now being used in pavement layers on roads in Point Cook,” she said.

“This material weighs as much as 226 E-class Melbourne trams and would otherwise have gone to landfill.”

Accelerator for circular economy

Alex Fraser managing director, Peter Murphy described the program as an accelerator for Victoria’s circular economy.

“To have the state government strongly encourage the use of recycled content in these projects demonstrates very powerful support for resource recovery,” Murphy said.

“We know that a strong market for recycled materials supports resource recovery, which diverts more material away from landfill and reduces stockpiling. It also preserves valuable natural resources which are increasingly difficult to access and costly to transport.”

Murphy added that Recycled First provides clarity for decision makers on Victoria’s Big Build, which includes more than 100 major road and rail projects.

“Many Big Build projects are located close to Melbourne, making recycled material from metropolitan areas the ideal supply choice. The use of locally sourced recycled content substantially reduces heavy vehicle use, which reduces congestion and carbon emissions.”


LGNSW says state government must increase recycling investment

The NSW government has been warned by Local Government NSW (LGNSW) that it must act soon on the state’s recycling problem, if kerbside recycling options are to be maintained and improved and the amount of waste going to landfill driven down.

LGNSW, with the support of NSW councils, has called on the NSW Government to Save Our Recycling by reinvesting the Waste Levy to:

  • allow councils to develop regional waste plans and deliver priority infrastructure
  • increase procurement of recycled goods made with domestic content
  • deliver statewide education campaigns to promote waste avoidance and recycling
  • introduce producer responsibility schemes for problematic materials.

LGNSW president Cr Linda Scott said this four-point plan was also designed to ensure recycling that would have previously been shipped offshore could be dealt with at home, creating jobs and boosting local economies.

She said Victoria had demonstrated the value of increased investment into recycling and the domestic recycling market, by its $96.5 million package this week to help support its state’s waste industry.

“Local governments are working together for a more sustainable future, but we cannot do this alone,” Scott said.

“Local Government NSW, alongside councils across the state, have been advocating for the NSW Government to reinvest the NSW Waste Levy in recycling for over a year.

“Councils are still waiting on the long-promised state waste strategy, meanwhile NSW is generating more waste than ever; household recycling and waste diversion rates are stagnating; and existing regulation and procurement policies continue to stymy innovation and the development of new recycled products and markets.

“With export bans on waste material quickly approaching and stockpiles of recycled resources growing in NSW, it is critical for more effort to be made to support the recycling industry to improve waste management practices and boost markets for recyclable materials. It’s time the state also mandated the procurement of recycled goods and services, boosting its spend on recycled materials for public projects,” Cr Scott said.

“Councils know waste is a product, not a problem, and we call on the NSW State Government to deliver the changes needed to ensure this becomes a reality in NSW,” she added.


Engineers aim to turn Australia’s rubbish into a resource

Leading engineers have predicted that, with the help of sustainable engineering, Australia’s rubbish will be transformed into a key resource and generate new industries. This was highlighted on March 3, when the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) celebrated UNESCO’s World Engineering Day by bringing together expertise from industry, universities, and the public sector to build the keys to turning waste streams into income streams.

“Australia generates around 67 million tonnes of waste per year – but with the rapid evolution of technology and sustainable engineering practices we can, and should be able to, turn this into a major resource,” ATSE CEO Kylie Walker said.

“At this inaugural World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, the Academy of Technology and Engineering has led a critical and timely major national initiative to pave the way for the digital revolution to supercharge Australia’s new circular economy.

“With technology and systems approaches that already exist, we can create nine or 10 jobs for every 10,000 tonnes of repurposed rubbish. Imagine how we could build on this growth as we start to create products designed for multiple iterations, create smart waste management systems, and invent advanced recovery technology, she added.”

Waste is one of three major focus areas for ATSE’s major investigation and preparation for Australia’s technology future, alongside health and transport. The investigation, supported by the Australian Research Council, will provide a blueprint for government, business and academic investment in technology and research to support waste management planning to 2030.

“We’re looking at how Australia can prepare the infrastructure and skills, as well as the social, policy and regulatory frameworks needed to move as close to a zero-waste economy as it’s possible to be,” Walker said.

“As we celebrate World Engineering Day, we’re proud that this work supports a range of Sustainable Development Goals including responsible consumption, sustainable communities, innovation and infrastructure, and decent options for employment and economic growth.

“We’re also proud to be the Academy for engineers – whose work supports the safe growth and development of the essential infrastructure that underpins modern life, whether it’s energy and digital networks, waste management, water supply, or transport and freight infrastructure.”



Greening the Green to focus on soft plastics education

Greening the Green is a three-year program resulting from a partnership with PepsiCo and Clean Up Australia to educate consumers on recovering soft plastics and increasing soft plastic recycling.

The recycling of soft plastics was highlighted as a key challenge in the national Plastics Summit yesterday and this investment of $650,000 will underwrite the new program with Clean Up Australia, PepsiCo and REDcycle which has partnered with 110 local sporting facilities as part of the project.

Greening the Green is a 12-week program designed to improve existing waste management and resource recovery by changing behaviour and providing better waste management resources.

Each sporting facility which successfully completes the program will receive recycled plastic equipment, such as table settings and benches made by Replas, a manufacturer of products made from soft plastics.

“Greening the Green is the perfect vehicle, bringing together business, community and local government.”

Clean Up Australia marked 30 years on Sunday of rubbish collection across the country on Sunday, March 1 with participation of 630,000 Australians.

Pip Kiernan, chairman of Clean Up Australia, said that plastics are the most common item volunteers are removing from streets, parks, sporting facilities, bushland, beaches and waterways.

“It’s disappointing to see that soft plastic counts continue to rise. Last year, 30 per cent of plastics reported to us were soft plastics – a percentage that has doubled over the past two years,” she said.

Clean Up Australia will run 10 pilot site programmes in 2020, and it will add 50 in year two and a further 50 in year three.



Loop to arrive in Australia mid-2021

The Loop service developed by the recycling company TerraCycle will launch online in Woolworths in Sydney in June, 2021. The concept, currently operating in the US and France was presented to recycling and reuse stakeholders in Sydney last week by TerraCycle CEO, Tom Szaky.

Sarky told Inside Waste that he had been talking with a range of Australian local and city councils as well state and federal government prior to the 2021 launch. He said that the response has been positive and revealed that he has already received $250,000 funding over two years from Tokyo City to launch a similar scheme.

As the Loop service in Australia will originally be launched online,  customers will pay a fee for the use of the returnable containers. They then place online shopping orders, as with any other ecommerce grocery service. The difference comes when their shopping is delivered. It arrives in a large, insulated box with individual products supplied in reusable containers. The box is used to store the empty containers, which are collected by Loop to be washed and used again; there are no wrappers or boxes and no single-use plastics.

Szaky explained that any recoverable content within used packaging will be reused or recycled using Loop. It expects the system will also enable people to use and buy products in brand-specific, customised packaging that can then be reused and refilled after it is collected and cleaned.

Turning a negative to a positive

According to Szaky, the primary aim of Loop is to turn the concept of waste from a negative to a positive one in the minds of consumers. This also being achieved with an extension of the initial Loop model to those products that can packaged in aesthetic and durable containers and then refilled repeatedly after Loop collects the empties and ships them new when done.

As part of the new service, empty packaging will be collected from households for recycling or refilling purpose. According to Szaky, the reliance on single-use plastics in homes will then be reduced with its circular economy system.

Loop will also extend its operations with a UK launch in March this year. Using the term “wisdom from the past” Szaky explained that the model echoes the heyday of the milkman – the daily doorstep delivery of milk and other perishables.

According to Sarky, any recoverable content in used packaging will be reused or recycled using Loop. He said he expected the system to allow people to use and buy products in brand-specific, customised packaging that can then be reused and refilled after it is collected and cleaned.

“Loop will significantly improve the convenience of shopping and also enhance the product experience. These will be the added benefits besides the elimination of the idea of packaging waste.

“Consumers can now consume products responsibly in fully recyclable, reusable or specially-designed durable packaging made from engineered plastics, glass, alloys, and other materials through Loop.

“After a consumer returns the packaging, the content is recycled or reused using ground-breaking technology or even refilled,” he said.

Inside Waste had previously reported that TerraCycle had struck partnerships with Colgate, Mars and Walkers in 2018. Innovation investments from these founding partners are said to have made the new Loop initiative possible. The partners offered a zero-waste option, which was convenient, as well as affordable for consumers, for some of the most recognisable products in the world as part of their drive.

Now brands including PepsiCo, P&G, Nestle and Unilever are onboard  and other Loop partners include Carrefour, SUEZ and Tesco which will pilot the system later this year in the UK.