Future Directions: Delivering cutting edge technology

GCM Enviro distributes waste management and recycling equipment; from landfill compactors and shredders through to state-of-the-art screeners and compost turners. According to GCM Enviro marketing manager Adam Krajewski, GCM is always looking to provide its customers with the latest cutting edge technology in solid waste management. “Over the next 12 months we will be welcoming a variety of new makes and models to our range.

To start the New Year in 2021 we will be introducing the Siebotec 5000 Mobile Trommel Screen. The Siebotec 5000 has recently been introduced to the European market and is designed for screening and separation of excavated soil, compost, biomass or similar materials.

“Meanwhile, TANA has also launched the new H Series Landfill Compactor that we will be importing in 2021. The new H Series has a more spacious cab, new AC/heater unit, more powerful working lights and more comfortable seat, making it the perfect work environment.

“Alongside the release of the new TANA Landfill Compactors, GCM Enviro will be importing the new TANA Shark Waste Shredder’s.

It’s been a great year for us here at GCM Enviro and we are very excited for the year ahead,” he added.


AIP Conference: Experts take a look inside packaging waste

The Australian packaging industry has traditionally been seen as being at odds with the diligent efforts of the WARR industry to deal with the impacts of a society highly dependent on packaging.

This year the AIP Australasian Packaging Conference 2020 faced the issue head on with the theme of sustainable packaging threaded throughout its October online event. It was attended by 300 delegates and featured 80 speakers.

President of the World Packaging Organisation (WPO) Professor Pierre Plenaar opened the conference with his keynote address Global Perspective on Packaging: Fit for the Future.

“Plastic has its place but that place is not in our environment” he stated, adding that “it needs to be kept in a circular economy where they can be recycled, reused or even composted.

“But plastic is a necessity for keeping food safe, protected (especially during COVID) and for reducing food waste. But we do need to develop many solutions that reduce packaging volume and impact without compromising on protection.”

According to Plenaar, the WPO envisions a world without waste by increasing plastic recycling and identifying alternatives. He outlined the three main areas where the organisation has focused to reduce packaging waste:

  • Reduction of food waste
  • Reduction of packaging waste
  • Increasing packaging education

“The WPO works with the UN and its Industrial Development Association where we have been focusing on helping developing countries to create systems to reduce the packaging and transition it to a recycling program.”

Shocked at plastic waste

The focus for the WPO in 2021-2023 is the identification of key countries that require WPO assistance in achieving their Extended Producer Responsibility schemes.

Plenaar said that he was “shocked” when he visited developing countries and saw the vast amounts of packaging on the beaches and in the oceans. “It’s much worse to see this in person than just looking at a photo.”

He added that another area of focus for the WPO was mono-material packaging. According to the Food Packaging Forum, mono-material films are said to be ‘fully recyclable’ in contrast to ‘conventional multi-layer composite films [which are] difficult to recycle because of the need to separate the different film layers.’

Twenty-five per cent of food waste can be eliminated

Plenaar cited the UN which claims that, of the existing figure of 35 per cent of food waste, up to 25 per cent of that could be eliminated through packaging. “We are concentrating on this through our Worldstar Award categories.”

However, Plenaar noted that pushing against the WPO attempts to curb packaging waste was a demand by consumers for convenience, which was illustrated by the growing amount of single-use packaging.

“This is a heavy burden on the environment and we need to manage that waste better. We are facing a crisis due to the unresolved challenges of packaging recyclability and recycling. Our rates across the world are not great. In the US it is 28 per cent, Europe is much better at 40 per cent but in Asia the schemes are not in place yet.

“Unfortunately, India has shelved plans for a full ban on single use plastics for now, but is pushing increased awareness campaigns and collection points. Meanwhile Latin America has relatively low commitments to sustainability with few regulations in place,” he added.

No Time to Waste

A breakout session on Day 2 of the conference focused on multiple aspects of the circular economy, from consumer awareness, to economics, materials and design.

Amcor Flexibles director, safety, quality, and sustainability Richard Smith stated succinctly what many in the WARR industry believe, in his presentation No Time to Waste, “because that’s exactly where we are right now; we have no time to waste”. Drilling down into soft plastics, Smith noted that despite their ubiquitousness, these materials have been extraordinarily successful in reducing waste over the past 20-odd years, along with delivering significant environmental benefits.

“Flexible packaging offers the ability to substantially reduce the amount of plastics we use because it replaces other more difficult waste material,” he said. However, he acknowledged that a paradox that lies within the flexibility of the material.

“It’s lightweight with good barrier qualities and low cost with a low carbon footprint. But this has also created some of its challenges in that, at the end of its life, there is little mass and, as a result poses a challenge to the waste industry which depends on a large amount of mass to collect and recycle.

“So, it has low value in collection at its end of life while also being hard to compete against the cheap cost of virgin materials,” he said.

Smith also said, for soft plastics, mechanical recycling wasn’t going to be able to close the loop on its own, the industry must turn to chemical recycling.

“This is the way where we can close the loop on soft plastics. We need to consider that soft plastics are a very large portion of the plastics we use in Australia now.”

Smith noted that another aspect is that the amount of mechanical recycling infrastructure which has been put into place has been very much around rigid packaging materials.

“But against the paradox, there is a huge opportunity if we can turn that linear economy model into a circular economy,” he said.

Smith added that the solution to the circularity problem has several dimensions, including the packaging itself, the waste-collection infrastructure, consumer behaviour, and the recycling infrastructure itself.

He referred to Amcor’s involvement in the Holy Grail project in Europe, which aims to ensure a purer recycling stream using digital watermarks on packaging.

Smith said that he considered targets to be an important tool in encouraging investment in the circular economy.

“There is a strong future for us with the technology available; it’s just a matter of a concerted effort across the supply chain, and that’s where the [2025 National Packaging] targets will come into play,” he added.

$16 million boost to Tasmanian recycling

A landmark agreement between the Federal Government and Tasmanian State Government is set to deliver a $16 million boost to the state’s recycling industry. Federal Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley and Tasmania’s Minister for Environment and Parks, Roger Jaensch signed an $11 million joint funding agreement last week.

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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.

Why WMMR thinks NSW government is hooked on levy not recovery

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet appeared to say all the right things – the budget will look beyond the present crisis to lay the foundations for a prosperous post-pandemic future?

That’s forward thinking! The NSW government will make it easier to do business? About time! The budget puts job creation front and centre, unleashing targeted, temporary stimulus to kick-start our jobs recovery? That’s exciting and welcome news!

And then, you realise it’s silent on the waste and resource recovery sector, despite the bold claim of the Treasurer that, “this budget is the NSW government’s commitment to leave nothing in the tank.”

It is terribly disappointing to hear the Treasurer talk about a budget that is all about economic recovery and prosperity and then to see that it is silent on our essential industry, save for a laughable one-year extension of Waste Less Recycle More, while the government appears to be banking on a 10 per cent increase in waste levy revenue by 2024.

How is it that NSW believes it will be increasing landfilling when the rest of Australia, led by the Commonwealth, is clearly on a path towards improving material management, reducing disposal, increasing recovery and recycling, and creating valuable Australian jobs?

This possibly confirms what industry has long feared, that NSW really is a one trick state, which relies on the waste levy rather than policy when working with our essential sector. The NSW government needs to move ahead quickly and catch up with the rest of Australia, recognising both the value and complexity of our industry, in order that we do not lose more jobs and investment in NSW; we cannot rely on the levy alone to create investment in a period of policy uncertainty and lack of strategic direction.

Australia – save for NSW it seems – sees clearly that not only does our essential sector play a vital role in protecting human and environmental health, it is an economic and job multiplier, which is much-needed right here and right now.

Why is this government and its EPA so out of step with all other Australian governments and the WARR industry? The federal and other state/territory governments have realised the importance of investing and supporting a strong domestic remanufacturing industry, given the ability to create four times more jobs than landfilling or exporting.”

It really is time that the NSW government sees the WARR sector as an economic opportunity to be realised, not just a landfill levy cash cow to be milked.The Budget is just one more kick for our essential sector in NSW, which for the past three years has been operating in a policy holding pattern coupled with tremendous regulatory uncertainty, continuously told to wait for a new plan that is on its third attempt in three years, while the rest of Australia marches on investing in recovery and jobs.

This budget is disappointing as it sends the message that NSW remains closed for WARR business, instead of seizing the opportunity for our sector to play a key role in the economic recovery.

Gayle Sloan is the CEO of The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia.