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Category Archives: Environment

A circular economy policy for Victoria

The transition to a circular economy is underway across industries, sectors and communities. Noteworthy practical measures are in play as are policy development processes across all levels of government.

The Victorian Government has also commenced public consultation on developing a circular economy policy and action plan to be released in late 2019.

An issues paper has been released and invites input, ideas and circular economy stories to help shape and inform a draft policy for further consultation during September and October 2019.

The deadline for submissions is 2 August 2019 and additional detail on how to provide feedback can be found here.

A circular economy pathway can facilitate system-wide transformation across the economy and portfolios with  potential to deliver responsible prosperity that is planned and sustainable.

The policy will be supported by a ten year action that will outline more specific initiatives on how the Victorian Government will involve the community, industry and other relevant stakeholders.

The consultation process provides a valuable opportunity to solicit input that can move beyond conventional waste management activities with a view to achieving higher levels of waste avoidance and sustainable materials management that is restorative, regenerative and low carbon.

Equilibrium will be responding to the issues paper on behalf of clients and we look forward to supporting other organisations share their views and solutions with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

More information

For more information contact Nick Harford at nick@equil.com.au or mobile 0419 993 234

 

 

 

 

 

New waste-related regulations for Queensland

How your business can identify early opportunities to improve environmental performance and prepare accordingly.

The schedule of waste-related Environmentally Relevant Activities (ERAs) has remained largely unchanged since they were introduced on 1990s. Since this time there have been significant changes in waste management practices, the emergence of new waste technologies and improvements in risk-based waste classification that were not considered when the current waste-related ERAs were developed.

This short blog discusses the new regulations, identifies potential impacts on Queensland businesses and provides solutions for assistance with meeting new requirements.

In short, the Environmental Protection (Waste ERA Framework) Amendment Regulation (2018) now allows the overall risk of waste management activities to be more accurately assessed, determined by the classification of waste and the type and scale of the process being undertaken, so that an appropriate level of regulation can be applied by the Department of Environment and Science (DES).

With the newly released Waste ERA Framework now in effect, Queensland based companies operating in the recovery, transport, storage (including west transfer stations), processing, treatment (including incineration and thermal treatment), recycling and disposal of waste and recyclable materials may be impacted as a result of the introduction of new waste classification categories, threshold changes and the application of risk-based regulation for waste management and other environmentally relevant activities.

It is anticipated that the new Regulations will largely involve an overall increase in cost to process and manage waste streams in Queensland, which will ultimately impact the waste and recycling industry through increased compliance costs.

Businesses can expect that environmental licences and permit costs (applications and annual fees) will change, and in many cases increase. It is also anticipated that activities currently not requiring an Environmental Authority may need to apply based on potential threshold changes.

Are you a target industry or facility?

The new waste-related ERA framework provides improved regulation and clear regulatory support for new and emerging technologies. If you are operating a business that processes organic materials, operates a waste disposal facility or transfer station (including tyre storage) the regulation changes could impact on your existing Environmental Authorities (EA) over the next 12 months as well as potentially require you to apply for a new EA in line with the changes to ERAs and other threshold limits.

If you operate a metal recovery, crushing, milling or screening, battery recycling, regulated waste transport, storage, reprocessing, treatment of waste tyre recycling facility then from 1 July 2019 there may be changes to relating to your EA to operate.

If you need to transition to the new ERA thresholds or make an amendment application to your existing EA, then in most instances this will need to be completed by 15 November 2019. If you need to apply for authorisation to conduct an activity under a new EA then the deadline is 12 months from 23 November 2018. The date when the new regulation came into effect.

With new classifications now applicable to regulated waste, your site activities may now be classified as a higher risk, impacting on not only your operations but also the annual fees payable to the Department of Environment and Science (DES).

If you are looking to apply a new ERA for your site, if it is prescribed (concurrence) ERA then there may be a requirement to apply for a development permit where there is a material change of use under the Planning Act 2016 and Planning Regulation 2017.

It is through these changes and the introduction of a landfill levy, commencing 1 July 2019, that the Queensland Government is providing the resource recovery and waste sector with the policy certainty that has been lacking within the state, leading to significant under-investment in new and expanded resource recovery infrastructure in Queensland and inhibiting the transformation and growth of Queensland’s recycling and waste management industry.

The benefits of improved environmental performance

The Regulation provides for a reduction in annual fees payable by demonstrating good environmental performance and where there has been no compliance action taken against your business by DES in the previous three years.

If you ascertain that your environmental emissions score is lower than that used to assign the risk to your business, you are a partner of the ecoBiz program or have an accredited Environmental Management System you could also be eligible for a discount of between 10% and 50% of your annual fee.

There may also be transitional exemptions for existing recycling and recovery facilities or discounts for new or existing recycling facilities which contribute to making Queensland self-sufficient in waste processing.

Conclusion

Being on top of your regulatory and compliance requirements is a prudent and commercially astute approach. The community expects it, and customers increasingly demand it. Being prepared is the key, and it is as a strategy that can minimise risk and maximise corporate responsibility, while also achieving annual fee reductions and improved product and process outputs.

The right activities and preparation can greatly reduce the amount payable to not only conduct an ERA but also to dispose of certain waste residual from recycling activities.

Don’t hesitate to make contact if you have specific queries or issues associated with the Environmental Protection (Waste ERA Framework) Amendment Regulation.

This article was authored by Madelaine Waters and Damien Wigley.

More information

For more information contact Damien Wigley at damien@equil.com.au or mobile 0404 899 961

Perspectives on a Circular Economy

The thinking behind a circular economy is not new, but the policies and programs required to bring about positive change demand fresh approaches and system-wide thinking that can enable alternative business models.

A growing number of governments worldwide, researchers and companies are recognising that the ‘take-make-waste’ model is failing society and the environment.  A throw-away culture driven by brands and retailers who feed unsustainable levels of consumption is reflecting on its way forward and the structural changes that must be implemented.

In Australia we are seeing evidence of how some companies are approaching circular thinking and solutions, and we are also witnessing some state governments embrace the shift to a circular economy, namely South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.

The efforts however are chiefly (but not always) focused on low-hanging fruit and incremental steps around waste reduction, recycled content and recycling as opposed to economy-wide initiatives that dematerialise, decarbonise, regenerate and fundamentally pursue closed loop, zero-waste products and services.

It’s not a straightforward transition, nor is it one free of risk, cost and dramatic changes in how we produce and consume.   But it is a transition that will change mindsets and the way we view products, materials and concepts of ownership and function.

So it is refreshing and energising to see some organisations embrace the need for positive change by viewing the circular economy as a catalyst for doing things differently and doing things better while adopting the circular principles.

Equilibrium has had the opportunity to share some insights and case-studies of how a circular economy can be expressed through strategies that go beyond recycling and test the relevance of dematerialisation, sharing, leasing, product durability and repair. Not necessarily perfect or large scale, but nonetheless holistic, life-cycle oriented, and free of brand-driven spin.

Recent presentations to the Loddon Mallee Waste and Resource Recovery Group, as well as the Rail Industry Standards and Safety Board, provided a forum to test what the circular economy means to diverse stakeholders, but also gauge where different organisations are at with their own thinking and implementation.

If you’re interested in the transition to a circular economy and need to investigate its relevance and practical application, you should make contact with the team at Equilibrium. We can also share some of our presentations as a starting point to inform and engage.

More information

John Gertsakis – Director, Communications
Equilibrium
Email:  john@equil.com.au  Mobile:  0409 422 089

 

 

 

China National Sword and its impact in Australia

The noise around China’s National Sword Policy has been significant and a trigger for diverse responses, some of which are measurable and forward-thinking, while others are more symbolic and reactive.

A key question is whether or not Australia has adjusted its recycling habits?

The China National Sword Policy formulated in September 2017, and announced by the Chinese Government to the world in January 2018, was centered on enforcing a new policy by banning 24 types of wastes and recyclables from entering the country.

Designed to improve its own environmental performance, the decision has changed globally how countries manage and process their recyclables. Twelve months along what has that decision meant to Australia and what really has changed in how we are processing and managing our recyclables?

Over a year on, Rick Ralph unbundles the facts around this complex policy decision with Nick Harford, managing director of Equilibrium and one of Australia’s leading experts on the subject.

Listen to the podcast of this conversation for an informed suite of insights and observations.

Download or listen here

 

Waste-to-Energy: Is there a missing piece?

In the transition to a low-carbon economy, there is a constant search for energy that is not produced from fossil fuels. Australia’s renewable sector contributes roughly 17% of total electricity generation, 9.7% of which is produced by bioenergy. Biofuels also represents around 1% of Australia’s petrol and diesel production.

It is well recognised that biofuels will play an extremely important part in any low carbon, low emission plan for Australia’s future and there have been some noteworthy initiatives to promote and support this, including the Queensland biofuel mandate, the Energy Grants Scheme, Queensland’s Resource Recovery Industry Development Program, and Victoria’s Advanced Organics Processing Technology Grants program.

While the bioenergy and waste-to-energy sector within Australia is transitioning rapidly towards providing a solution to materials that have not historically been recycled, it’s starting to reveal significant gaps in Commonwealth legislation and policies, particularly with respect to defining waste-to-energy streams and how biodiesel is dealt with under the Excise Tariff Act 1921.

Under The Schedule, diesel produced from non-renewable resources has a current excise rate of a little over $0.40 per litre, while biodiesel has a rate of duty of only 10% of this amount. Biodiesel is defined as a fuel that is, in simple terms, derived from animal or vegetable fats or oils. However, many diesel fuels manufactured from other resources, including those defined as waste materials, fall outside of this definition.

The Australian Taxation Office’s Excise Guidelines recognise that recent technological developments have seen hydrocarbon fuels manufactured from various sources other than just crude or waste oil. The Guidelines go so far as to accept that “Technology now exists that allows fuel to be manufactured from feed-stocks such as waste plastic, used tyres and general household waste.”

While acknowledging that renewable diesel can be sourced not only from the hydrogenation of animal fats or vegetable oils, anything that is produced from materials outside of the original definition is still termed diesel and the full rate of duty is payable, irrespective if it has been derived from other feedstocks as outlined above.

Although it is recognised that the duty payable on biodiesel and renewable diesel was offset briefly through the Energy Grants (Cleaner Fuels) Scheme, which closed in July 2015, for companies now looking to invest in new waste-to-energy technologies and facilities, there is currently little to no regulatory framework to support them to produce renewable diesel fuel.

This ambiguity could be seen to be constraining Australia’s sustainable energy future with the current legislation reducing the ability to grow this sector, and as such inhibiting the ability for the industry to reach the economies of scale required to deliver cheaper low carbon fuels, and in particular those derived from waste materials that may not be recyclable.

Based on estimates from the Clean Energy Council and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation there is a potential investment opportunity of between $3.5 billion and $5 billion until 2020 in energy from urban waste, agricultural waste and forest residues. Waste-to-energy provides an innovative and multifaceted solution. Not only does it alleviate the environmental pressure on landfills, it also reduces fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

The Queensland Biofutures 10 Year Roadmap and Action Plan recognises the need to improve the excise rate of biofuels. Biofutures broadly refers to the sector focusing on “the development and manufacturing of products from sustainable organic and/or waste resources.” It is defined as a priority industry for Queensland, predicted to contribute $1.8 billion to the annual Gross State Product and support 6,640 full-time jobs in the state. The roadmap acknowledges the limited funding and poor excise and taxation treatment especially compared to successful global biotechnology sectors where there are strong subsidies.

It is clear that Australia is faced with regulatory framework which has not matched the accelerated pace of development in the combined energy and waste sector. Redefining the legislation to reconsider the definition of biodiesel to include waste as a resource and other alternative manufacturing processes for biodiesel production will assist in ensuring waste-to-energy technologies are given the necessary relief to ensure a sustainable future for renewable fuels.

This article was authored by Madelaine Waters, Environmental Consultant at Equilibrium.

New Victorian Regulations Released Early

The Victorian Government is releasing new environmental regulations earlier than expected.

The new environmental regulations will form a key pillar for increased EPA enforcement powers and tougher penalties, particularly when it comes to environmental risk prevention.

In short, the new regulations will provide the EPA with expanded powers to regulate businesses to reduce the risk of environmental harm and pollution.

The earlier than expected release means that businesses should become familiar with the new legislation and likely compliance issues.

The EPA has noted some specific sectors for attention under the new regulations, including those involving high-risk activities such as chemical manufacturing, food and beverage processing, waste management, recycling, plastic fabrication moulders, organics processing and agriculture.

A recent report in Footprint News[1] said Victoria’s ‘consolidated environmental regulations to support Victoria’s new environment law will be released for comment in July’.

Consultation is planned

The process for consultation has yet to be detailed, however, according to Footprint News, it is expected that specially arranged consultations with current EPA licence holders will be conducted. These businesses can expect some change, particularly with licence reviews, potentially requiring the development of new systems and processes to ensure ongoing compliance.

Businesses that do not currently operate under an EPA licence should also look closely at the potential impacts of the new laws, and where possible take early action. This would include ensuring a full understanding of environmental risks, and factor-in sufficient time to budget for any operational changes that may be needed.

As the regulations are introduced, businesses that operate potentially high-risk activities are likely to see an increased level of interest from the EPA. High-risk activities include materials recycling, waste handling, chemical storage, and other activities that may generate hazardous emissions or odours.

In essence, these types of activities are inherent to a range of different industries such as chemical manufacturing, food and beverage processing, plastic fabrication, waste management, recycling, organics processors, and agriculture.

Guidance materials

Other activities underway within the EPA includes the development of guidance materials designed to assist businesses to comply with new environmental laws. An example of which includes the Guideline for Management and Storage of Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials, released in October 2018.

The process for environmental law reform began in 2016 when the Victorian Government conducted a public inquiry into the function of the EPA, which drew particular attention from both business and community into the EPA’s role in preventing environmental harm. This review led to an overhaul of environmental legislation in Victoria and the amended Environmental Protection Act, which is due to commence on 1 July 2020[2].

The EPA is holding information sessions for business and community wanting to learn more about the new environmental laws, and the potential impacts[3].

More information

This article was authored by Nicholas Harford, Managing Director of Equilibrium consultants. He can be contacted at nick@equil.com.au or mobile 0419 993 234

[1] https://www.footprintnews.com.au/

[2] https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-us/response-to-epa-inquiry

[3] https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/victorias-new-environment-protection-laws-and-their-impacts-tickets-51953079058

Commonwealth Games’ Legacy for Queensland

It’s coming up to 12 months since the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games were delivered and many of the positive outcomes are still felt throughout the city.

Three core sustainability themes identified for GC2018 were to source responsibly, manage impacts and inspire inclusion.

Significant tangible benefits were delivered in regard to infrastructure improvements, world class venues, and an efficient public transport system. Moreover, many long lasting intangible benefits to the Gold Coast’s culture have come directly from the wide-reaching sustainability initiatives of the Games and are a crucial legacy associated with the event.

Building peaceful, prosperous and sustainable communities  

Many key environmental outcomes aiming to ‘manage impacts’ inspired positive sustainable behaviours. The Commonwealth Games Corporation’s (GOLDOC) initiative to reduce single use, short term plastic items, resulted in no helium balloons, no lightweight plastic bags and no plastic straws provided at any of the Games venues. The ChooseTap campaign saw 14 permanent hydration stations installed across the city, saving approximately 1,780,497 plastic bottles from being consumed. These outcomes are noteworthy.

Highlight trade and investment opportunities in Australia

A key aspect of this initiative and the ‘source responsibly’ theme was sustainable procurement. After an initial hot-spot analysis, GOLDOC developed a Sustainable Sourcing Code to ensure all suppliers met minimum requirements in terms of social and environmental impacts. For stand-alone high-risk procurements, a Sustainability Category Management Plan was completed, further highlighting the commitment to sustainable procurement and also providing a knowledge transfer legacy.

Local and indigenous procurement options were chosen where possible, with 75% of supply agreements from the Gold Coast and over 95% from Australia and New Zealand. Figures for Indigenous supplier contracts by value exceeded 166% of the initial target rate, with 168 contracts. This commitment to local and indigenous suppliers greatly supported positive legacies for the region.

Increased sense of inclusion, diversity and community pride in Queensland communities

The third sustainable theme to ‘inspire inclusion’ truly helped to transform the culture of the Gold Coast. GC2018 was the first of its kind to have a Reconciliation Plan and the commitment to celebrating indigenous heritage was clear from the launch of the Queen’s Baton at Buckingham Palace, where the Queen was accompanied by Yugambeh Elders Ted Williams and Patricia O’Connor. The same elders accompanied Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cambridge to the stage in the Opening Ceremony.  In fact, the opening ceremony was full of traditional theatre, dance, music and visual arts. The celebrations throughout the Games included numerous indigenous flavours showcased on the menu in the Village Main Dining Hall, indigenous art patterns on the Borobi Mascot design and the Parade of Nations track.

The Festival 2018 Gold Coast program included a diversity of cultures, with fifty countries and all Commonwealth regions represented through music, performance and film. Gender equality was also a priority within the Festival and Games. GC2018 was the first Games in history with an equal number of medal events for women and men. GOLDOC participated in the Pride in Sport Index (PSI) in 2016 and 2017 to assess and inform their inclusivity of the LGBTIQ Community.

Celebrations during GC2018 included the Festival’s Sparkle in the Sand which highlighted the Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is still a crime and Pride House, a welcoming space for LGBTI athletes, fans, visitors and allies. It housed LGBTI entertainment and exhibitions, and received over 5,000 visitors.

Inclusion and accessibility of events included the installation of ramps and hoists within existing and temporary venues. The Sports Ears system was provided at the opening and closing ceremonies and at all venues with sports presentation commentary. Moreover, every venue had a space for Service Dogs and Spectator Services volunteers were appropriately trained.

Demonstrate a leading model for sustainable event delivery on the Gold Coast

These initiatives are but a sample of the extensive work done by GOLDOC and the Sustainability Team to integrate social and environmental efforts into all aspects of the GC2018 games. The work of the team cultivated a strong focus on “inspiring positive, meaningful change in perceptions, attitudes and actions.” These intangible benefits have left a lasting legacy for tourism events in Queensland and truly demonstrate a leading model for sustainable event delivery on the Gold Coast and beyond.

Sustainability Report (Post Games), GOLDOC 2018: https://gc2018.com/sites/default/files/2018-08/Sustainability%20Report%20-%20Post%20Games%20(Final).pdf

Equilibrium, in partnership with Tasman Environmental Services, completed a Carbon Assessment and Management Plan for the Games. More details on this can be found in our previous blog post https://equil.com.au/2018/05/01/gc2018-low-carbon-competition/

This article was authored by Madelaine Waters, Environmental Consultant at Equilibrium.

February 2019

Fit for Purpose Tools in Resource Recovery

Fit for Purpose Tools in Resource Recovery

Equilibrium’s managing director, Nick Harford is presenting this week at the 2018 WasteSA Resource Recovery Conference in Adelaide. It’s an excellent event typically attended by key players who know the industry and what is required to move it forward.

The current climate confronting the waste and resource recovery industry generates considerable  discussion and speculation about preferred solutions, desired outcomes, essential infrastructure and/or policy reforms.

Product stewardship – either voluntary or regulated – is often hooked into the dialogue, as a key tool for more efficient resource use, including the recovery and recycling of products and materials. And in many cases (but not all) this is an accurate assessment.

Nick’s conference presentation will highlight that product stewardship is one tool among many when it comes to waste avoidance and resource recovery. The environment and sustainability toolbox contains many approaches that need to be mixed and matched depending on the specific problem or opportunity being addressed.

Whether we are focussed on material substitution,  eliminating restricted substances, extended product life or design for disassembly and remanufacturing, the need to carefully choose a solution or hybrid of tools, should be informed and with clear justification.

In short, it is about understanding the issue, the desired outcome and the relevance of available approaches or tools. Fit for purpose thinking is essential when it comes to maximising efficiency and effectiveness with a view to delivering measurable benefit.

Contact Nick directly to request a copy of his conference presentation:

Nick Harford
Email:  nick@equil.com.au
Mobile:  0419 993 234

NSW Government moves on Circular Policy

The goal of a circular economy is being discussed across sectors, industries and communities. Much of it with substance and strong intent, but some of it superficial and simplistic.

Most importantly, there is a recognition that new patterns of production and consumption are essential. This is especially relevant if we as an economy and community are to maximise resource productivity, minimise impacts and develop a new, more benign relationship with products and the materials they are made from.

The need for effective policy reform is timely, as is the need for economy-wide attention. Rebranding  waste and recycling initiatives as circular economy initiatives certainly fails to recognise the imperative.

As a contribution towards delivering positive economic, social and environmental outcomes for the community that are ‘circular’ the NSW Government is developing relevant policies. Specifically, it has released a draft Circular Economy Policy as well as a Circular Economy Discussion Paper.

The two documents provide a useful overview of the essential principles, including examples of how these can be applied to achieve the desired outcomes. Both the policy and the discussion paper are sensible starting points for informing and engaging interested stakeholders.

Unlike European Union initiatives which identify actions holistically across industries and sectors, the NSW documents are chiefly framed through a waste management lens, which may be more doable over the short-term however at some point will need to address the structural transformation needed to achieve a truly circular economy.

The discussion paper sets an inclusive tone and asks ‘what would a circular economy look like’ and invites ideas on how interested parties could get involved and what support they may require.

Consultation on the draft Circular Economy Policy is open from 22 October to 25 November 2018.

Submissions will inform the process and be used to finalise the policy. This will be followed by an implementation plan that sets out how the NSW Government will ‘work with business and local communities.

You can download the relevant documents and have your say via the following website:

https://engage.environment.nsw.gov.au/circular

Equilibrium is working with some of its clients and partners to prepare submissions over the coming weeks. We would welcome contact from any company, council or organisation wishing to discuss the process and their response to the discussion paper.

More information

Nick Harford
Managing Director – Equilibrium
Email:  nick@equil.com.au
Mobile: 0419 993 234

Films for the Environment

Like many creative endeavours, environmental film making has a long history of storytelling through the lens. Few other mediums are able to capture the imagination of the public like the moving image.

From documentaries which uncover ground-breaking ecological research, through to fictional movies that craft future scenarios of planetary destruction, environmental films can inform, educate, engage and activate individuals and communities alike. As a tool for change and creative expression, there are numerous examples of how films have been pivotal in exposing the good, the bad and the truly shocking.

Ultimately ‘environmental films’ say much about how humans interact with place, be it in urban settings, the wilderness or highly modified agricultural landscapes. They can provide highly personalised accounts like the Erin Brockovich movie dealing with water pollution, or the ‘PowerPoint on steroids’ documentary featuring Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.

Closer to home, Waste Not by the Total Environment Centre and A Plastic Ocean by Tasmanian born journalist Craig Leeson ram home the local and global impacts of our consumption and disposal choices.

There is an endless list of films dealing with the environment in all its forms. The extent to which such films have a positive impact on awareness and behaviour change depends on the specific film or movie, however in an age where videos and film are an integral part of a wider campaign using social media and political advocacy, the sum of the parts is what really achieves impact.

The Environmental Film Festival Australia (EFFA) is a unique and wonderful program of films accessible to local audiences and exposes viewers to the power and potency of film and the environment.

Films that acknowledge our environment whatever the outcomes, are an important part of the mix when it comes to informing and educating the public. Film-makers working with scientists, engineers, government, business and the community, provide a distinctive approach to achieving positive change and a sustainable future.

As a Festival Friend Partner, Equilibrium is especially excited about EFFA 2018 and the films to be featured from 11 – 19 October.

Visit the EFFA website for more information about this year’s program and tickets.

 

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