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Category Archives: Environment

Toy Industry to collaborate and develop sustainability solutions

The Australian Toy Association (ATA) has been supported with a through the Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) delivered by Sustainability Victoria. This is a world first for the toy industry and another example of an industry taking responsibility for its products.

In collaboration with leading toy industry brands and retailers, the funding enables the ATA to develop and investigate circular economy options for toys. The project’s first stage will develop a material flows analysis, building an understanding of the movement of toys through the economy. The results of the analysis will link into the overarching project to develop solutions that will reduce the environmental impact of toys. 

Equilibrium congratulates ATA for their leadership and vision and is excited to partner with them on this project in developing circular economy options for toys.

New environmental laws in Victoria from July 1 2021

EPA Victoria will have increased powers from 1 July 2021 to prevent harm to public health and the environment from pollution and waste. 

The laws include sweeping changes which transforms EPA powers and requirements for business owners and operators. It is the responsibility of all business directors and managers to understand the new laws and how to comply. It is also your responsibility to make sure all employees understand requirements under the new laws.

One of the more pivotal and central changes is the introduction of the General Environmental Duty (GED). The GED is all-inclusive, applying to all businesses in Victoria, irrespective of size or type of operation. In short, under the GED, all Victorian businesses and organisations must take action to protect the environment and human health.

For many businesses in Victoria environmental risk management is already embedded into everyday operations, and the GED should require minimal change. However, now is the time to review systems against the new laws and be confident of compliance. It will be important to keep risk registers and risk management plans up to date and:

>Ensure environmental risk of pollution to land, air or water is assessed for all business activities.
>Action plans are in place to eliminate or control risks.
>Actions are implemented in a timely manner, and effectiveness monitored.
>Keep documented records of risk assessments and action plans to demonstrate

EPA Victoria provides guides and tools to help businesses comply with the GED, including:

>EPA Self-Assessment Tool – for supporting small business with action planning
>Assessing and Controlling Risk Business Guide – risk management framework for business
>Managing low risk activities
guidance for businesses with low risk, e.g. offices, cafes, retail.

ARENA launch $43 million Industrial Energy Transformation Studies Program

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency announced a $43 million grant program on behalf of the federal government to assist in identifying methods to cut industrial energy costs and emissions. The first round of the Industrial Energy Transformation Studies Program will offer $25 million to assist research and the development of business case projects for organisations in the mining, agriculture, manufacturing sectors, water supply, gas supply, waste services and data centres. Applicants can apply under one of two rounds: 

>Round 1A – Feasibility Studies (Up to $10 million available). Grants can be between $100,000 and $500,00 for up to 75% of eligible project costs
>Round 1B –
Engineering Studies (up to $15 million available). Grants can be between $250,000 and $5 million for up to 50% of eligible project costs.

The program aims to fund studies that deliver transformational improvements in de-carbonisation technology and energy efficiency practices for industry. Eligible projects must also demonstrate high replicability potential across similar industry settings.

Applications for the initial round of funding will be open on the 6th of July.

ARENA will be hosting separate information sessions for Round 1A and Round 1B in the week commencing 12 July, further information regarding these information sessions will be published on the Industrial Energy Transformation Studies Program website in the coming weeks.

MMI open for recycling and clean energy manufacturing grants

Earlier this month, the federal government announced a series of Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) grants for major recycling and clean energy projects. The government is inviting applications under its Recycling and Clean Energy stream, offering grants on average of $4 million, ranging from $1 million to $20 million. The $1.3 billion in funding will assist manufacturers to scale up, commercialise and collaborate.

The MMI grant stream is now open and made up of two separate funding opportunities; 

>Manufacturing translation component: will assist manufacturers in expressing their ideas into commercial outcomes and encourage investment in non R&D innovation.
>Manufacturing integration component: will assist in commercializing innovative concepts, integrating into local and domestic supply chains.

The government has outlined examples of the grants, addressing the funding suitability to include activities which aim to enable greater use of recycled materials across supply chains, and/or that promote increased use of clean energy within their industrial systems.

Applications for these grants close on the 5th of May and businesses must provide co – funding.

National Plastics Plan maps longer term approach

The Australian Government last week launched the National Plastics Plan to reduce plastics waste through a multi aspect approach, looking at both the upstream and downstream methods to limit plastic waste. The plan aims to help ensure Australia meets its waste targets, prompting government to work alongside essential industry and other supply chain holders. The plan outlines wide ranging initiatives, acting on five different fronts;

  • > Prevention: Addressing plastics at the source, phasing out packaging products that do not meet the relevant compostable standards, plastic free beach initiatives, prompting industry shift to easily recyclable plastics and national packaging targets.
    >Recycling: Introduction of waste export bans, product stewardship programs, enforcing material performance standards and national packaging targets.
    >Consumer education: Achieve consistency in kerbside bin collections, container deposit schemes and better recycling information for consumers.
    >Plastics in our oceans and waterways: Take actions to reduce plastics leaking into the environment, such as pursuing a global coordinated action on marine litter and micro plastic pollution and initiating industry led cigarette butt litter stewardship schemes.
    >Research: Investment into new data systems and plastic technologies, designed to track how plastic flows through our economy. Develop a circular economy and roadmap and distribute cooperative research centre projects grants.

To read the plan in detail, visit The National Plastics Plan.

Considerations for Victoria’s single use plastic ban

Earlier in March, the Victorian Government announced a phase out ban of single use plastics by 2023. This includes products such as polystyrene containers, straws, plates, cutlery and cotton buds, with departments starting their phase out in 2022. Single use plastic items make up approximately one third of Victoria’s litter per annum, with many of the single use items classified as economically unviable or difficult to recycle. The government is encouraging reusable items instead of single use plastics, such as metal, paper or bamboo alternatives. Emergency services, scientific and medical activities that may require single use plastic will not be affected.

The government proposes to work with communities and stakeholders to finalise the delivery and design of the ban, emphasising the importance of education and behavioural change as a key aspect in achieving a phase out.

Equilibrium has worked extensively on packaging and problem wastes, leading a similar project with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) to improve the environmental impacts of packaging. Through exploration of this sector, there is a need to consider the following when delivering and the designing the ban:

> What is the evidence of defining single use plastic and prioritising any phase out? It is paramount to ensure an evidenced-based approach to definitions, criteria setting and identifying potential approaches to phasing out materials.
> Have the potential subsidiary outcomes been considered? For example, the reduced access to products for vulnerable sectors of the community? In this case, the hospitality industry has already cautioned that the ban may place the cost of the alternatives on the consumers.
>Whether there are appropriate viable alternatives, and what are the environmental impacts of using and or producing alternative products such as metal and bamboo cutlery?
>The scope of the ban, will support range from innovation right through the supply chain? To achieve genuine environmental improvement, support needs to start with manufacturers, brand owners and product retailers.

Manufacturing Strategy Targets Clean Energy and Recycling

Manufacturing is set to receive a boost in certain sectors and industries as part of the Australian Government’s recently released Modern Manufacturing Strategy.

Designed to support and drive ‘economic recovery and future resilience’ the Strategy aims to establish Australia as a nation capable of high-quality production underpinned by science and research.

Creating jobs and scaling-up to become more competitive internationally, are key elements of the strategy, as is the effective use of R&D to achieve applied industry outcomes.

The centrepiece of the Modern Manufacturing Strategy is the $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative, which will see the Government strategically invest in projects that help manufacturers to scale up and create jobs.

Priority industries

The Modern Manufacturing Initiative will support projects within six National Priorities:

1. Resources technology and critical minerals processing
2. Food and beverage
3. Medical products
4. Recycling and clean energy
5. Defence
6. Space

Roadmaps will be prepared for each of the priority industries in collaboration with industry.

The Strategy will also address the competitiveness of individual manufacturers in the priority sectors, with a $52.8 million expansion of the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund.

The Strategy is in part a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and aims to provide a plan to better address identified supply chain weak-spots and vulnerabilities.

Creating internationally competitive manufacturing industries in Australia, necessarily requires attention to environmental  management, as well as informed sustainability advice. There are significant opportunities across the six priorities when it comes to exploring commercially relevance sustainability outcomes.

If your business or association is looking to better understand the Modern Manufacturing Strategy and the associated support programs, please don’t hesitate to contact the Equilibrium team on BH  (03) 9372 5356.

More details about the Strategy can be found here.

The Industry Minister’s media release can be found here.

Productivity Commission Inquiry into Repair

According to MobileMuster, 33 per cent of Australians have repaired their mobile phones and it is expected the number of people reusing devices will increase over time as younger Australians are more likely to opt for repairing or purchasing second hand phones.

Right to Repair is a consumer’s ability to restore faulty goods, or access repairing services, at a competitive price. This can include repairing by a manufacturer, a third-party, or self-repair.

The inquiry will consider a range of issues impacting the Australian repair market, including potential barriers and enablers of greater competition.

It will draw on international experience and examine Right to Repair mechanisms that support consumer rights, promote competition in the repair market, and encourage product design requirements to extend product life and reduce e-waste.

The Productivity Commission will undertake broad public consultation, including with state and territory governments. The inquiry is due to report to Government within twelve months.

The terms of reference can be found at the Productivity Commission website.

Repairing a product can be a strategy for waste avoidance and reduction in some product classes, including vehicles, consumer electronics, IT equipment and appliances.

If your company, industry association or local council is looking to explore and understand the relevance of repairing a product as part of the waste management process, please don’t hesitate to contact the Equilibrium team on BH  (03) 9372 5356.

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.