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Category Archives: Environment

Setting up an Environmental Management System (EMS)

An Environmental management system (EMS) can be a powerful tool to not only monitor and manage environmental impacts but also as an instrument for overall organisational improvement.

When well developed, implemented and used to full effect, an EMS can of course reduce environmental risks and harm, but can also:

> leverage efficiencies and cost reduction;

> facilitate cultural change and engagement; and

> support competitive advantages and brand differentiation.

Like any business system, whether for safety or quality or other businesses elements, the effectiveness of an EMS is ultimately a function of the effort and commitment that goes in to executing and employing the system.

As a guide to getting started, the basis of an EMS is often about getting data right. Tracking key environmental impacts such as energy, water, waste and greenhouse emissions forms the foundation to understand an organisation’s environmental footprint, issues and opportunities.

An EMS then establishes a framework to guide decisions that have a material effect on those impacts. Policies and procedures then provide guidance and instructions on how people are expected to operate, day to day requirements and what is the desired outcome.

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a structured framework to manage the environmental performance of a company’s activities while helping to ensure environmental compliance. An EMS provides a structured approach to identifying and managing environmental impacts, targets, responsibilities, priorities and actions.

As with many systems there is of course an international standard for EMS, ISO14001. The standard is a great framework whether an organisation seeks accreditation or not. With or without that standard, a good EMS covers off on:

Regulations and compliance

> Does your organisation have an environmental strategy and policy and is it compliant with environmental laws and regulations?

Roles and responsibilities

> Does the company have an Environmental manager or someone responsible for environmental issues and conduct environmental training and induction?

Monitoring and Reporting

> Do you currently measure and record key environmental impacts and is there an Environmental Risk Assessment?

Environmental control

> Are you aware of your organisations environmental risks, impacts and significant aspects relating to activities and operations?

As the following shows, an EMS can be developed and implemented in a relatively short time and then the on-going benefits accrue and drive on-going benefits.

It has been noticeable that there is an increased take up of EMS. In the last 12-18 months Equilibrium has fielded increased inquiries from organisations seeking advice and support to det an EMS and gain greater control of their environmental impacts.

The stated reasons are many. Some are motivated by their customers, clients or the market generally and want to be seen to be doing the right thing, others recognise the need to measure so you can manage, and others are on a longer journey where environmental management is a foundation piece in a values driven approach to overall sustainability.

Whatever the inspiration, a good EMS is a solid approach to organisational and reputational improvement.

If your business is interested insetting up an EMS, please contact the Equilibrium team on (03) 9372 5356 or at info@equil.com.au

Visit our Case Studies page to see some prior EMS projects.

Government Funding for Energy Projects

The Commonwealth and State Governments currently have many programs to support businesses in improving their power usage and efficiency. The following grants provide either direct funding or credits for energy audits and programs to reduce emissions.

The Emissions Reduction Fund is open for all eligible Australian businesses wanting to reduce their carbon emissions. Participants in the scheme can earn Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs) for every tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent they store or avoid emitting by using new practices and technologies. These ACCUs can then be sold to generate income for your business.

New South Wales’ Energy Savings Scheme provides businesses with financial incentives to reduce their energy consumption by installing new equipment or modifying a current system. Savings will be converted into Energy Saving Certificates (ESCs) which are sold to an electricity retailer.

South Australia offers businesses and not-for-profit organisations the Resource Efficiency and Productivity (REAP) Grants. This program provides a 50% subsidy for resource efficiency and productivity assessments to consider circular economy options including electricity efficiency. An additional $10,000 is available on successful completion of an assessment to kick-start implementation of the recommendations.

Funding of $150,000 is available for Tasmanian Businesses to carry out energy audits on business operations and buildings in the state through the Power$mart Businesses program.

ACT has two grant programs: The Next Generation Energy Storage (Next Gen) Program and ACTSmart Business Energy and Water Program which provide businesses with rebates when installing battery storage systems or upgrading to more energy-efficient and water-efficient technologies and equipment.

The Smarter Business Solutions Program offers grant funding incentives of up to $20,000 for Northern Territory enterprises to adopt efficient, innovative technologies and best practices that will reduce their energy, water, waste and material costs.

If your business is interested in further information on any of these grants, or would like assistance completing an application, please contact the Equilibrium team on (03) 9372 5356 or at info@equil.com.au

Be sure to stay up to date with our blog posts to get updates on Government grants.

Virtual Site Audits in Covid-19 Restrictions

With Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) disrupting businesses on a number of levels, Equilibrium has been working with our clients on bringing back businesses’ normal activities and maintaining a presence in state lock-down situations and travel restrictions.

Many compliance systems rely on physical site visits to audit a company or facility to assess if it is meeting any specific environmental management requirements and is operating in a way that protects its workers’ health and safety. While restrictions make it difficult to undertake these audits in the traditional sense, Equilibrium has developed a protocol for performing remote virtual audits.

The procedure has been developed rapidly over the past 4 months to ensure our clients are still able to participate in an audit program. It closely aligns with existing audit methodology, covering all the same aspects, such as environmentally sound practices, regulation safety, and legitimacy but is flexible enough to be expanded and altered for many other applications.

The audit utilises smart phone live stream applications to enable a virtual walk through of operational areas. Through the app, Equilibrium directs the site representative to live stream areas of potential concern based on previous audit reports and the most recent satellite imagery.

This process does not require any new technology or substantial equipment as it simply uses the site representative’s mobile device. There is potential depending on the app for the audit to be recorded as well, further adding evidence to the audit findings.

As per previous developed protocols, the audits are undertaken in combination and in parallel with data analysis and documentation reviews, allowing for much of the preliminary assessment to be completed online.

Unsure of when restrictions will ease or increase in any region, developing a protocol and capability to effectively carry out virtual audits is crucial to ensuring companies maintain compliance requirements, upholding the safety and sustainability of their operations.

If you are interested in discussing virtual audits, please contact the Equilibrium team on (03) 9372 5356 or at info@equil.com.au

Recycling Bill enters Parliament

Recycling and waste reduction continue to receive unprecedented attention in Australia as governments seek to build a thriving industry that is better equipped to transform waste products and materials into value-added resources.

The Australian Government has today introduced new  legislation that sees Australia take greater responsibility for its waste and establishes a national industry framework for recycling.

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 will phase in the end of the 645,000 tonnes of unprocessed plastic, paper, glass and tyres that Australia ships overseas each year.

At the same time the reforms to the regulation of product stewardship will incentivise companies to take greater environmental responsibility for the products they manufacture and what happens to those products and materials at the end of their life.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the Bill will see the implementation of the export ban on waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres agreed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments in March this year.

“This is about tackling a national environmental issue that has been buried in landfill or shipped offshore for far too long,” Minister Ley said. That is why the Morrison Government is the first federal government to place waste firmly on the national agenda.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to remodel waste management, reduce pressure on our environment and create economic opportunity as we move to a circular economy with a strong market for recycled materials.

“Our $190 million Recycling Modernisation Fund and our actions under the National Waste Policy Action Plan will create 10,000 new jobs over the next 10 years – that is a 32 per cent increase in jobs in the Australian waste and recycling sector.

“We are introducing legislation; we are driving a billion-dollar transformation of Australia’s waste and recycling capacity and we are investing in new technologies and new ideas to transform recycling and reprocessing.”

Accelerating product stewardship activity

Product stewardship has also received a boost through specific adjustments and enhancements under the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill.

Assistant Minister Evans said the legislation will improve the existing framework for product stewardship by encouraging companies to take greater responsibility for the waste they generate through the products they design, manufacture or distribute.

“We are making it easier for industry to set up and join in product stewardship schemes. Yet where voluntary product stewardship schemes are not effective, or where they are not created in priority areas, the government will have new tools to intervene and regulate,” Assistant Minister Evans said.

“Our legislative changes will transform our waste industry, meaning increased recycling and remanufacturing of waste materials which will create new industry and generate more jobs.”

The Bill and associated package of funding and investment heralds a new era in Australia’s approach to waste management. It reflects a more considered approach aimed at improving our ability to process and manage waste in-country while also maximising the business opportunities resulting from industry-led product stewardship schemes.

Effective implementation across all levels of government and industry will be key to measurable success, as will an informed public demanding environmentally improved products and services built around circular economy principles.

The future of waste reduction, reuse and recycling in Australia is forging new territory based on nationwide collaboration, innovation and the need for manufacturers to take greater responsibility for their products and materials across the the supply chain from cradle to cradle.

The Australian Government’s media release can be viewed here.

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 can be downloaded here.

 

Effective Labels Crucial for Better Recycling

Consumers are well placed to make better decisions about how and where to recycle their packaging.  Ensuring that the public is well informed will help reduce contamination and improve overall recycling performance.

An independent national audit of recycling information on consumer products and packaging has revealed a situation that is confusing for consumers and does not support better recycling, according to the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

The audit – conducted by  Equilibrium – took place across supermarkets, take-away outlets, and convenience stores in two capital cities, found 88% of the packaging components sampled were recyclable through either kerbside recycling or a supermarket-based return program, but that only 40% of these products had a recycling claim present on them.

Additional findings are:

> 55% of imported products and 64% of Australian products sampled displayed a recyclability claim of any kind;
> 23% of products had the Australian Recycling Label (ARL) promoted by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation;
29% of products had the “Mobius Loop” recycling symbol;
> 29% of plastic products had a resin code symbol which is often mistaken for a recyclability symbol;
> The Tidyman logo appeared on 15% of products sampled, including both recyclable and non-recyclable products; and
> There was no consistent style, placement, or sizing of recyclable labels.

The audit indicates that recycling rates that aren’t as high as they could be and contamination  is too high, and it’s harder to achieve national targets such as 70% plastics recycling (from our current 12%).

ACOR fully supports the report’s recommendations, including:

> Labels need to be specific about the management methods of all components, and also include instructions to avoid contamination;
> There needs to be a clear, concise and evidenced-based label placed on every product and packaging type sold into the Australian market;
> The preferred label should be made mandatory and be flexible enough to incorporate new technologies and systems as they come online to recycle more products;
> The “Mobius Loop” could cause consumer confusion, and a short cut to achieving greater clarity and consistency is to remove these and plastic resin codes from packaging; and
> There is a role for authorities such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in driving and ensuring clarity and consistency in environmental claims and labels pertaining to recycling.

The ACOR media release published on 20 August 2020 can be viewed here.

The audit report can be downloaded here.

NSW Grants for Solar Panel Reuse and Recycling

The NSW Government is investing $10 million to help improve environmental performance by diverting end-of-life solar panel systems from landfill, with the first round of grants now open.

Although current waste volumes are relatively low, this emerging waste stream is expected to rapidly increase over the next decade as installed systems reach their end-of-life. In NSW it is forecast that this waste stream could generate up to 10,000 tonnes per year by 2025 and up to 71,000 tonnes per year by 2035.

EPA Director Circular Economy Kathy Giunta said the investment in recycling through this Circular Solar grants program would help NSW meet its commitment of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

“While current amounts of waste are low, now is the time to invest in developing systems for collecting and recycling these valuable resources like scarce and rare metals, including lithium batteries.

“We want to recycle and re-use the materials in solar panels and battery systems as NSW transitions towards cleaner energy and this program is an important step in building a productive circular economy in NSW.

“It will see NSW well placed to manage waste solar systems over the coming years and will stimulate much needed job creation in the solar power and recycling sectors,” Kathy Giunta said.

The NSW Government is now inviting Expressions of Interest for grants to run trial projects that increase the collection, reuse and recycling of solar panel and battery storage systems. Applications for projects that trial whole of supply chain approaches to collecting and reusing and/or recycling can be made until 17 September 2020.

$2 million is available in this funding round, with the remaining funding to be made available following evaluation of this EOI process.

Scoping study

As part of the background to establishing the the circular solar trials fund, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment commissioned a scoping study (PDF 3.8MB) to assist in development of the EPA’s end-of-life solar programs. It contains information that may help organisations preparing EOIs, including:

> projected waste generation volumes
> materials that can be recovered from solar panels and batteries
> reuse and recycling technologies
> end-market opportunities

The study was conducted by the UTS Institute of Sustainable Futures and Equilibrium.

Don’t hesitate to contact the Equilibrium team on BH  (03) 9372 5356 if you need support or help in preparing an EOI for the grant program.

Be sure to stay updated on our blog page for future grant opportunities.

For more information visit https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/working-together/grants/infrastructure-fund/circular-solar-trials-expression-of-interest

Sustainability Victoria Resources for Business

Access to relevant information, grants and opportunities in Victoria has improved with a redesign of Sustainability Victoria’s business-related web pages. The updated content and structure covers energy efficiency and materials efficiency themes.

Energy efficiency

New features include advice, tools and case studies to support businesses looking to reduce energy bills. The site has a refreshing approach that provides information specific to a business sector, which saves you time by reducing the need to wade through energy efficiency information that may be generic or unrelated to your business.

The site also provides a ‘go to section’ that describes ways to assess, optimise, reduce energy use and save on costs for commonplace industrial and service related systems, examples including compressed air, HVAC, Lighting, motors, heating and refrigeration systems. This section also provides indicative costs, paybacks and benefits to help businesses with early budgeting.

Materials efficiency

Another feature of the site is the ‘Materials Efficiency’ section which provides a good overview as to the opportunities to save money through improved materials use.

Whilst it is somewhat buried in the energy efficiency section the information provided is an important feature for businesses looking to save on costs, particularly for manufacturing businesses where raw materials can be 30% of the cost of production.

It is here that Sustainability Victoria provides a very good framework for process optimisation and materials efficiency best practice, including some useful tools and resources. SV also identifies the importance of conducting material efficiency assessments to better understand the ‘hot spots’ where material losses may be impacting the business bottom line.

If you are looking for further cost saving measures it may be worthwhile visiting the Sustainability Victoria website.

Don’t hesitate to contact the Equilibrium team on BH  (03) 9372 5356 if you are looking for support with energy or materials assessments .

SMEs Weathering the COVID-19 Storm

From a recent article in Ondeck, Equilibrium’s Nick Harford shares some views about how a calm and steady approach to running an SME can help weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following story was originally published online at Ondeck.

In March, COVID-19 struck, and Equilibrium’s contracts were frozen as the national carrier, and its subsidiary, grounded their flying fleets. The Melbourne-based firm, which includes a team of six consultants, provides a range of private and government sector organisations with technical and strategic compliance services such as energy audits, environmental management systems reviews, and waste and recycling management advice lost 50% of its work in a matter of weeks.

But rather than losing their heads, the steady and strategic Harford, along with business partner Damien Wigley, pivoted their SME, and focussed on a range of opportunities to help weather the COVID-19 storm, which has once again reared its unpleasant head in the Victorian capital.

Staying cool and seeking new markets

Harford, whose firm operates across diverse industries and sectors, says Equilibrium particularly focused on existing contacts and government work.

“In the past, we were sometimes cautious about bidding for some government tenders because from a business sense they are very competitive, can involve a significant investment in time, and the return can be very risky.”

“But we put in extra work when COVID-19 hit by being more open to government tenders and proposals and taking any opportunities that arose. We gave it a red-hot crack,” Harford confirms.

Equilibrium also identified a spike in government grants promoting recycling and other business activities. Harford explains, “This wasn’t a business opportunity for Equilibrium that involved us working with government directly but rather an opportunity to be advising and assisting other businesses to access government funding and other support programs.”

Networking into new business

Apart from pursuing government work, Nick and his team upped the ante on networking. “We worked our contacts hard, making sure we understood where they were at and how we could help them address their environment and sustainability compliance issues.”

These business development efforts enabled Equilibrium to collaborate with a major Australian manufacturer that responded early to the pandemic threat by pivoting from packaging into sanitary and hygiene products such as disinfectants.

“The manufacturer needed a hand to make sure they had a range of systems in place. This work resulted from connecting with our contacts to see if we could help people with their compliance or strategic challenges.”

Dealing with the lockdowns

Apart from the loss of revenue, Equilibrium has needed to manage the impact of the first raft of lockdown in Melbourne between April and June. “We had to make sure we could work online. We have people in four different locations nationally but given the nature of the work we do, it’s not too hard for us.

“With the latest restrictions in place in Melbourne, we feel we are well-prepared for another extended period of working from home arrangements.”

Nick’s three tips for surviving COVID-19

1. Don’t panic:  Review the business profoundly and frequently. By not panicking and taking advantage of government support such as JobKeeper and the payroll tax relief, we have been able to keep all our staff employed.

2. Be prepared to take opportunities from left field:  Quickly pivot into new business opportunities when lockdowns and restrictions arise.

3. Cut unnecessary costs:  The other owner and I are also taking less income when needed. Where our people are underutilised, we’ve used them for other activities such as business development and to assist our marketing and communications activities.

Make contact with the Equilibrium team if you need help navigating COVID-19 from an environmental, waste or sustainability angle:  BH (03) 9372 5356.

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Prepared by OnDeck Capital Australia for general information purposes only. Content may belong to or have originated from third parties and OnDeck takes no responsibility for the accuracy, validity, reliability or completeness of any information. Information current as at July 2020. You should not rely upon the material or information as a basis for making any business, financial or any other decisions. 

For information on how Equilibrium has responded to auditing during lockdowns, read the following article.

Government Support for the Waste Industry 

Australia’s waste industry is undergoing an important transition, requiring significant investment in equipment and infrastructure, including upgrades to existing assets, as well as the installation of new assets.

Josie French provides an overview of Government funding at both federal and state level to support the waste industry transition to a circular economy.

To address a range of issues Australian governments have committed to numerous ambitious targets such as reducing total waste generated by 10% per person by 2030 (National Waste Policy Action Plan, 2019).

Further, the waste export plan aims to ban the exports of plastic, paper and cardboard, glass and tyres by 2024.

Achieving these targets and increasing capability and capacity is a goal of the funding programs, such as the Australian Recycling Investment Fund supported by Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) which offers $100 million to support manufacturing of lower emissions and energy-efficient recycled content products.

The States have also adopted waste management, resource recovery and circular economy strategies and targets to encourage and incentivise greater ambition and improved infrastructure and performance across all Australian states.

Multiple states have implemented a waste levy that provides the financial support for offering grants. For example, in New South Wales, the waste levy supports the $465.7 million available to waste and recycling improvements. Similarly, Queensland’s $100 million resource recovery industry development program supports the diversion of waste from landfill. Under the Investment Support Grants in Victoria, grants of up to $50,000 are available for activities that reduce packaging and other waste to landfill.

The following summary provides a snapshot of relevant programs administered by Federal and State Governments:

Australian Government: https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery

Victoria: https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/Grants-and-funding

New South Wales: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/funding-and-support/nsw-environmental-trust/waste-grant-programs

Queensland: https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/pollution/management/waste/recovery/strategy

Western Australia: https://www.wasteauthority.wa.gov.au/

South Australia: https://www.greenindustries.sa.gov.au/funding

Northern Territory: https://nt.gov.au/community/community-grants-and-volunteers/community-grants/grants-directory

If you are interested in any of the above programs and looking for support with applying or navigating the guidelines, please contact the Equilibrium team on BH (03) 9372 5356.

This article was authored by Josie French.

Energy Saver for NSW Manufacturers

Assisting manufacturers to better manage their energy use and maximise efficiency is good for the environment and can contribute to improved business outcomes.

Equilibrium welcomes Round 2 of the NSW Government’s Energy Saver program and its focus on supporting manufacturers  to achieve new levels of energy efficiency. Programs such as Energy Saver provide a valuable stimulus for manufacturers to implement new energy saving technologies and processes that may otherwise be out of reach.

Manufacturers in NSW looking to implement new energy efficiency measures over the coming months should investigate any funding opportunities through the Manufacturing Efficiency Funding program. This is a timely initiative and can make a real difference for some companies wanting to save energy and improve operational efficiencies.

There are two co-funding offers available, and applications close 10 July 2020. Offers are limited to one project per site.

Offer 1: Metering and process optimisation

Up to $50,000 funding available for projects that can be completed within 18 months, and involve:

> installing metering and involve data analysis to identify faulty equipment
> installing sensors and controls to improve combustion efficiency
> fine-tuning equipment to operates more efficiently

Offer 2: Equipment upgrades

Up to $70,000 funding available for manufacturers to install or upgrade to more energy efficient equipment. Example projects may include:

> fuel switching
> bespoke heat recovery projects
> major chiller upgrades
> compressed air system modifications
> high efficiency equipment for new production lines or sites

If you are interested in the program and looking for support with applying or navigating the guidelines, please contact the Equilibrium team on BH (03) 9372 5356.

For complete details on Energy Saver NSW look here.