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Category Archives: Environment

World Environment Day 2020 – Time for Nature

World Environment Day is the most renowned day for environmental action. Since 1974, it has been celebrated every year on 5 June; engaging governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue.

At Equilibrium, we’re celebrating too.

The theme

In 2020, the theme is biodiversity–a concern that is both urgent and existential. Recent events, from bushfires in Brazil, the United States and Australia to locust infestations across East Africa–and now, a global disease pandemic–demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life in which they exist. Nature is sending us a message.

The community

Above all, World Environment Day offers a global platform for inspiring positive change. It recognizes that global change requires a global community.  It pushes for individuals to think about the way they consume; for businesses to develop greener models; for farmers and manufacturers to produce more sustainably; for governments to safeguard wild spaces; for educators to inspire students to live in harmony with the Earth; and for youth to become fierce gatekeepers of a green future.  It requires all of us.

The host

Every World Environment Day is hosted by a different country, in which official celebrations take place. This year’s host is Colombia in partnership with Germany.

Stay connected

This year, millions of people will be celebrating digitally, worldwide.

Sign up here to stay informed as we unite, for nature.

 

China’s National Sword and Australia’s Response

Following the decision by China in 2019 to introduce extensive new quality requirements on the importation of recyclables,  the global trading environment for secondary materials has changed dramatically.

Rick Ralph from Talking Garbology catches up with Nick Harford – Managing Director of Equilibrium, and together they discuss the decision by Australian State, Territory and Federal Environment Ministers to introduce export bans on recyclables over the next few years.

In a post COVID -19 business environment what does the ban on glass, tyres, paper and cardboard and plastics mean and where are the business opportunities?

This candid discussion between Harford and Ralph is not only informative; it also highlights the complex dynamics of the waste and resource recovery industry in Australia and abroad.

You can download the podcast here.

New EPA Regulations for Victoria 2020

Major reforms to Victoria’s Environment Protection regulations represent a major transformation to how EPA Victoria will operate to protect public health and the environment.

In July 2020, the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 will come into effect and it represents a major shift in the regulations and their state- wide application. The key elements of the Act cover the following themes:

> Prevention
> Flexible and risk-based
>
Transparency
>
Justice

General environmental duty

General environmental duty (GED) is a key focus and a new concept under the Act. The EPA’s definition for GED is:

“A person who is engaging in an activity that may give rise to risks of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste must minimise those risks, so far as reasonably practicable”.

The EPA talks about a three-step process to comply with GED:

1. The duty holder needs to understand the risks that pollution or waste from their activities might present to human health or the environment.
2. The ways those risks can be controlled need to be identified and understood.
3. Duty holders are required to put in place any reasonably practicable measures to reduce the likelihood of the possible harm arising.

The Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 involves various other requirements that will affect businesses and industry. More information is available via the EPA Victoria website.

Equilibrium will be assisting its clients across diverse industries and sectors to comply with the Act. We will continue to unpack the Act and share our observations in future blogs. If you have any questions about the  changes, please contact the team at Equilibrium:

Nick Harford on 0419 993 234 or Damien Wigley on 0404 899 961.

For our previous post on the Victorian EPA, visit here.

Recycling Victoria: A New Economy

The Victorian Government is seeking to improve the performance of the waste and recycling sector, and has released a 10-year policy and action plan – Recycling Victoria – to reform the system with a focus on the circular economy.

Victoria exports approximately 1.27million tonnes of paper, plastic and cardboard each year overseas, and this includes 30% of all recycling collected from Victorian households.

The figures are compelling; it is estimated that by 2046, Victorians will create 40% more waste than in 2017-18. The extent of the activity and industry development is significant as highlighted by the total quantum of funding that has poured into Victorian waste and resource recovery initiatives; $134 million from the Victorian Government since 2015.

You can download a copy the Recycling Victoria policy here.

A four bin waste and recycling system, a container deposit system (CDS), a circular economy business innovation centre, landfill levy reform and increased funding for infrastructure, are among the package of measures outlined in the policy.

The policy in part talks about the transition to a circular economy and the importance of taking action across the life-cycle of materials to maximise value and minimise waste.

Four specific goals

Four specific goals guide the process of moving from a take-make-waste model, to a more system-wide approach that seeks to be circular, sustainable and economically responsible.

These four goals are aimed at taking a smarter approach to making, using, recycling and managing products, buildings, infrastructure and materials.

Goal 1 – Design to last, repair and recycle

Generate less waste in businesses through innovation and design; use recycled materials in products and consider impacts across product life cycles; and support business to explore new circular economy business models.

Targets and outcomes include:

> 15 per cent reduction in total waste generation per capita between 2020 and 2030.

> Divert 80% of waste from landfill by 2030, with an interim target of 72% by 2025.

> Cut the volume of organic material going to landfill by 50% between 2020 and 2030, with an interim target of 20% reduction by 2025.

Goal 2 – Use products to create more value

Help people make smart purchasing decisions and extend the life of products and support the reuse economy; repair goods where possible.

Targets and outcomes include:

> 15% reduction in total waste generation per capita between 2020 and 2030.

> Support Victorian communities and council to reduce waste.

> Prevent plastic pollution.

> Support the reuse economy.

Goal 3 – Recycle more resources

Reform kerbside collections to generate more value from waste; improve the separation of recyclable materials; develop markets for recovered materials; plan for and boost investment in recycling infrastructure; embed the waste hierarchy in the management of materials; support the development of appropriate waste to energy facilities.

Targets and outcomes include:

> Divert 80% of waste from landfill by 2030, with and interim target of 72% by 2025.

> Halve the volume of organic material going to landfill by 50% between 2020 and 2030, with an interim target of 20% reduction by 2030.

> 100% of households have access to a separate food and organics recovery service or local composting by 2030.

Goal 4 – Reduce harm from waste and pollution

Protect communities and the environment from high-risk and hazardous wastes.

Targets and outcomes include:

> Support safe and effective high-risk and hazardous waste management.

> The Vic Gov will consider the potential introduction of new levies for waste being stockpiled for long periods, recover avoided waste levies and disposal fee for illegally stockpiled wastes, ensure adequate disposal point of asbestos across the state.

> The Victorian Government spends an estimated $58 million each year in clean-up costs at abandoned waste sites and $105 million each year to respond to stockpile fires. Clean-up costs and lost landfill levy revenue from illegal dumping equates to $30 million a year.

Monitoring and measuring progress

Of course, accurate data and transparency will be key to monitoring the reforms and their intended outcomes. More specifically the Victorian policy outlines it ‘key commitment’ to expanding Victorian’s waste data systems by:

> Establish a framework for monitoring progress towards the circular economy, including the identification of indicators and metrics

> Introduce a new waste and recycling data system to enable better waste management and circular economy monitoring

> Continuing to provide public waste and recycling market intelligence reporting.

The reforms in the Recycling Victoria policy herald an important and necessary opportunity for government, industry and the community to work together to improve kerbside recycling, invest in priority infrastructure and better manage high-risk and hazardous waste.

Recycling Victoria also outlines additional initiatives that can support waste avoidance and behaviour change, further develop waste to energy options and meet community and local council expectations for reliable services.

Equilibrium will be assisting its clients across diverse industries and sectors to adopt specific elements and aspects of the Recycling Victoria policy.

If you have any questions about the  policy and how your organisation can benefit, implement or comply with specific goals, please contact the team at Equilibrium:

Nick Harford on 0419 993 234 or Damien Wigley on 0404 899 961.

Governments Move on Waste Exports

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) held its 48th general meeting in Sydney on 13 MARCH 2020. The discussion focussed on several key issues of national significance including a ban on the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

The Communiqué released from the COAG meeting noted that:

“Leaders agreed to introduce a ban on the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, fulfilling the commitment they made in August 2019. The ban will be phased in, commencing from 1 July 2020. Leaders also agreed a national response strategy to drive implementation of the ban and help reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill. In line with the response strategy, governments will expand on work with industry to invest in growing the Australian recycling industry and build markets for recycled products.”

Improving our waste and recycling performance is now being addressed on a national basis and with a higher degree of cooperation and coordination than previously experienced.

In particular, the Federal Government is taking a strong leadership role with commitments to review the used packaging NEPM while also investigating regulatory options and the possibility of co-regulatory or mandatory product stewardship schemes for tyres, solar panels and batteries.

Also positive, is a stronger position  by all Governments to support procurement measures that can underpin recycling and recycled content  in construction, manufacturing and infrastructure projects.

The COAG outcome is certainly trending in the right direction and represents noteworthy cooperation across Governments. It also signals a new level of accountability and transparency in policy setting, program delivery and measurable outcomes.

Effective execution and implementation of the COAG response strategy will be essential, as will timely deliver of programs and investment.

A copy of the response strategy can be downloaded here:

Phasing out exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres: Response strategy to implement the August 2019 agreement of the Council of Australian Governments

Do you have queries about the COAG response strategy?

If you have any questions about the COAG outcomes, please contact the Nick Harford at Equilibrium on 0419 993 234

 

The Future of Waste and Recycling in NSW

Waste and recycling are firmly on the agenda at all levels of government. Various industries and sectors are also confronting the challenges and opportunities head-on, including an increasingly informed and aware public.

In response, the NSW Government has commenced consultation on the development of a 20 year waste strategy as well as some very focused planning in response to plastics pollution. The NSW approach stands out with a view to addressing core challenges while also being pragmatic and mindful of community expectations.

The consultation process is comprehensive, timely and underpinned by expert advice, analysis and future-oriented thinking and planning. In many respects it demonstrates some considered thinking about where and how waste and recycling fits into the circular economy ambitions. The figures and statistics outlined by the NSW Government are compelling:

Public consultation on the issues paper – Cleaning Up Our Act: The Future of Waste and Resources – is now open and submissions from all interested stakeholders are encouraged. For more information about making a submission and sharing your views look here.

The issues paper outlines four key directions which seeks to test a number of options that represent specific stages in the circular economy. This approach and thinking reflects some of the more advanced work being conducted at a State Government level.

The four directions are:

1: Generate less waste by avoiding and ‘designing out’ waste, to keep materials circulating in the economy.

2: Improve collection and sorting to maximise circular economy outcomes and lower costs.

3: Plan for future infrastructure by ensuring the right infrastructure is located in the right place and at the right time.

4: Create end markets by fostering demand for recycled products in NSW (particularly glass, paper, organics, plastics and metals) so that recovered materials re-enter our economy and drive business and employment opportunities.

A diverse range of options sit under each of the directions and reflect a sound and holistic view of what the solutions and actions might entail. The ‘Future of Waste and is asking the right questions and posing solutions for consideration. It also has the potential to achieve next level change at scale if and when implementation is adequately resourced.

For more information about the 20 year waste strategy and providing feedback look here.

Redirecting the Future of Plastics in NSW

The NSW Government is also acting on plastics. Their discussion paper,  Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastics in NSw, provides the basis for reform and solutions to help advance the management of plastics in NSW.  The discussion paper sets targets to:

> reduce the amount of plastic generated;
> increase recycling rates;
> reduce plastic pollution; and
> make NSW a global leader in plastic research and solution development.

The NSW Government is consulting with the community and stakeholders before finalising the NSW Plastics Plan. Input from the public is invited with a particular interest in the proposed targets and  priority directions, with a view to this feedback informing the development of the NSW Plastics Plan.

As we know, plastics saturate our existence like few other materials. They have become a recurring topic of discussion at many levels, and while we can acknowledge their unique characteristics and benefits, the public has developed a distinct distaste for plastics and their application across diverse product and packaging categories.

In many ways, the NSW Government is considering how we can produce and consume plastics within a context of environmental and social sensitivity, while also remembering practical and functional value of plastics. NSW acknowledges public anxiety, ecological impacts and industry concerns and highlight why action is required on plastics pollution.

This discussion paper sets out the following four key outcomes for each stage of the life-cycle of plastic, each supported by a proposed target and priority directions.

Outcome 1: Reduce plastic waste generation
Proposed target: Phase out key single-use plastics 

Outcome 2: Make the most of our plastic resources
Proposed target: Triple the proportion of plastic recycled in NSW across all sectors and streams by 2030 

Outcome 3: Reduce plastic waste leakage
Proposed target: Reduce plastic litter items by 25% by 2025 

Outcome 4: Improve our understanding of the future of plastics
Proposed target: Make NSW a leader in national and international research on plastics 

The deadline for feedback on the discussion paper until 5.00pm Friday 8 May 2020. For more information about NSW Plastics Plan and providing feedback look here.

Do you need help with your submission?

Equilibrium will be assisting its clients in the preparation of submissions to this important strategy consultation process.

If you have any questions about the 20 Year Waste Strategy or the Plastics Plan and how your organisation can benefit from making a submission, please contact the team at Equilibrium:

Nick Harford on 0419 993 234 or Damien Wigley on 0404 899 961.

Stewardship 2.0 Requires Circular Action

Australia must move beyond old school waste management models and embrace stewardship in support of circular solutions, writes Equilibrium’s John Gertsakis.

Product stewardship and waste reduction have reached a new level in Australia. Recent announcements by the Federal Government place these issues firmly on the national agenda.

Prime Minister Morrison has not only appointed an Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management – the Honorable Trevor Evans MP – he has also earmarked $20 million for a product stewardship investment fund. The government has also pledged to fund a circular economy hub. These actions and commitments hold great potential if carefully advanced and executed.

As Australia’s focus on waste and recycling issues continues, it becomes apparent that some sectors and industries are tackling the issue with urgency and innovation while others continue to drag their feet. Communities and many local councils are also pushing forward with their desire to cut waste and think more responsibly about consumption. States and territories are in the mix with container deposit schemes, plastic bag bans, levies, ewaste landfill bans and policy papers on what the circular economy means for their communities and business. Of course, progress varies dramatically between these sectors.

So what might this mean for facility management? After all, stewardship has been part of the green building, furniture, flooring and fabrics space for years and in some cases noteworthy products and services have been delivered. The time has come to build on achievements to date and drive new programs and initiatives that are more circular and sustainable. In short, what is needed is a genuine move from the ‘take-make-waste’ mode of production and consumption to real-world applications of stewardship that support circular solutions. We must move beyond ‘old school’ collection and recycling solutions and focus on upstream priorities that are preventative in nature.

Essential circular economy action

How does this translate in simple terms? It requires a much stronger and measurable focus on designing out toxics and waste from the beginning rather than adopting and perpetuating ameliorative and incremental approaches.

Circular thinking also demands that FM decisions aim to keep products and materials going longer. Premature obsolescence of products is a menace that undermines circularity at every turn. We need to move beyond assuming that recycling in isolation is the only strategy or solution. Reuse, refurbishment and repair are key principles that underpin a circular economy, as are alternative business models such as the sharing economy, product leasing and dematerialisation.

Let’s face it: waste resulting from products, their manufacture, use and disposal is fundamentally a design decision. Time to flip the role of design on its head and ensure that it unlocks positive environmental performance rather than being at the core of the problem.

A circular economy approach to product stewardship and FM provides an unmatched opportunity to make technical, management and commercial decisions that are truly regenerative, restorative and low carbon. Just doing ‘less harm’ and minimising impacts has not delivered a sustainable mode of production and consumption. This is unequivocally highlighted by the multitude of local, national and global environmental challenges we’re confronting today.

A product stewardship approach that embodies circular economy principles can start the transition to a much higher level of FM performance, especially in relation products and materials associated with the operational management of properties, sites, buildings and spaces. Anything less is a business as usual approach that is unlikely to deliver the required levels of waste avoidance and resource recovery needed to ensure a sustainable future.

All the glossy reporting and clever PR in the world isn’t enough to hide the fact that we need to see some serious transformation that is circular, sustainable and socially responsible. Easier said than done, of course.

National policies and programs will be needed to enable and support change across industries, sectors and communities. This will require targeted investment, market development, environmentally-oriented procurement and improved waste and resource recovery infrastructure.

Although it’s a displeasing word to many in government and industry, it will also require intelligent regulatory instruments to achieve change. Where programs and schemes work successfully on a voluntary basis, these should continue and be supported, rewarded and promoted.

Australia, however, needs to develop a more sophisticated view of policy and regulation than it has to date if we are to see superior levels of environmental performance in key areas. Poorly formulated regulation is unacceptable, but informed, robust regulation can stimulate innovation and be a catalyst for designing exemplary circular economy outcomes. The relevance of responsible prosperity is paramount in this regard.

The relevance of product stewardship

There are many models of product stewardship and extended producer responsibility (EPR) in Australia and abroad. However, its essence remains intact i.e. manufacturers, retailers and brands taking greater environmental responsibility for their products across the lifecycle, including the post-consumer stage. It also requires consumers and other relevant stakeholders to play their part to ensure responsible management and disposal of products.

Assigning producers responsibility both financially or physically for the treatment of post-consumer products can provide incentives to prevent waste at the source and support the achievement of sustainable materials management goals.

Australia is fortunate enough to have legislation dedicated to product stewardship and there is great scope to better use the Product Stewardship Act 2011. It can drive the creation of new schemes and programs in product categories such as mattresses, batteries, solar panels and a various other electrical and electronic products, including Internet of Things devices.

Most importantly, the act recognises the specific needs of different industries and allows for voluntary, co-regulatory or mandatory product stewardship arrangements. This level of elasticity in regulation is noteworthy and provides affected stakeholders with a menu of possibilities when it comes to the design of producer and retailer-funded stewardship initiatives.

Consumption and solutions beyond recycling

Action on product stewardship in Australia has slowed considerably in recent years, especially industry-wide schemes. It is timely, therefore, that the Prime Minister has taken a direct personal interest in recycling and product stewardship matters.

There is no doubt that much more can be done by the Commonwealth to invest in, support and enable product stewardship schemes and this should include the option of regulated take-back schemes, especially for handheld batteries and solar panels, both of which have relevance to facility management.

We all have a role to play in the transition to a circular economy. The Australian Government together with states and territories can adopt a more proactive role and develop robust forward strategies and action plans. They can facilitate improved product stewardship outcomes in a way that reflects circular economy principles and intervenes with proportionate regulation where necessary to plug market failures.

The transition to a circular economy demands collaboration across the supply chain at unprecedented levels and a much more rigorous view of the policies and regulations that can deliver significant change.

Product stewardship has a clear role to play, but only if it moves beyond recycling post-consumer waste and reaches back up the product life-cycle as a way of addressing the root cause – unsustainable consumption. This is what Stewardship 2.0 must address in order to achieve next level change and benefit.

The complete article was first published online by FM Magazine in December 2019, and can be viewed here.

 

Review of Standards and Specifications for Recycled Content

This project uncovered a diverse range of issues and views, from high-level structural themes through to leadership capacity and very specific observations about particular material types, standards and performance.

Equilibrium was engaged by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to undertake a review of current Australian standards and specifications for recycled content products including providing details on current documentation for the use of recycled materials in product manufacturing, buildings and infrastructure works.

As part of the engagement Equilibrium consulted with key stakeholders on their views as to whether the absence of any particular standards or specifications may be obstructing the take-up of recycled materials. Stakeholder interviews also canvassed broader factors influencing increased use of recycled materials.

The report contains a list of current standards and specifications as well as a compilation of the consultation results, general findings and recommendations.  Appendix A of the report is available as a separate MS Excel file.  Also attached is a summary report containing examples from the main report, as well as information gained from interviews with stakeholders.

Your can download a copy of the report and appendices here.

For NSW’s response to create end markets by fostering demand for recycled products, read our blog post here.

More information

Damien Wigley
General Manager
Equilibrium
damien@equil.com.au

 

 

New Federal Inquiry: Rethinking Waste in Australia

Waste management and recycling continues to be a focus at the highest level of Government in Australia with an industry inquiry now underway. The focus is a positive one looking at solutions, economic opportunities, jobs and regional development. Responsible prosperity seems to be an implicit theme.

The need to examine improved performance and optimal resource recovery within a circular economy context is also likely to feature. Importantly, this is an industry inquiry, not an environmental one. It is a broad-based national investigation and one which can shine a light on how the industry can operate better, more efficiently and be more innovative.

The House Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources launched an inquiry into Australia’s Waste Management and Recycling Industries. On Wednesday 23 October 2019 the Committee adopted an inquiry referred by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, asking the Committee to inquire into and report on innovative solutions in Australia’s waste management and recycling industries.

Information about the inquiry can be found here.

The Chair of the Committee, Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, said ‘the inquiry will examine different processes within Australia, and between Australia and best practice in the world. The Committee will investigate innovative ways to reduce the millions of tonnes of waste discarded in landfill and waterways in Australia each year.’

‘Improving waste management and recycling in Australia not only provides for a cleaner and more sustainable environment, but it also presents a range of economic opportunities. New jobs and industries will be created – particularly in our regions – along with new products and services’, Mr Joyce said.

The Committee will consider opportunities to better manage industrial, commercial and domestic waste, as well as any current impediments to innovation in these sectors. Strategies to reduce waste in waterways and oceans will also be examined.

In some ways the Committee may revisit elements of the Productivity Commission’s 2006 inquiry which examined the way Australia manages its waste and products over their life-cycle.

In 2006 the Productivity Commission found that a lack of evidence-based policy development from States and the self-interest of the industry itself was problematic for efficiently achieving good industry and environmental outcomes. The PC’s overarching theme remains valid – that the issues and barriers are not always best managed by environmental policy and that the underlying opportunities are really business / commercial / industrial ones.

What has changed over the last 13 years?

Increasingly the question of how to best manage waste in Australia is transcending conventional environmental policy and programs with a distinct move towards great business and commercial innovation.

Given that this inquiry has been referred by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology highlights the need to bring a stronger commercial and applied industry lens to how we identify opportunities and successfully transform them into sustainable innovations, products and services.

Terms of Reference

The Committee will inquire into and report on innovative solutions in Australia’s waste management and recycling industries, including:

> Industrial, commercial and domestic waste;

> Waste in waterways and oceans;

> Landfill reduction; and

> Other related matters.

The Committee is to focus on opportunities presented by waste materials, including energy production, innovative recycling approaches and export opportunities, and to also consider current impediments to innovation.

Equilibrium will be assisting its clients in the preparation of submissions to this important inquiry. It provides an unmatched opportunity to place greater emphasis on solutions and environmentally oriented innovations in waste management that are truly forward thinking.

If you have any questions about the inquiry and how your organisation can benefit from making a submission, please contact the team at Equilibrium:

Nick Harford on 0419 993 234 or nick@equil.com.au
Damien Wigley on 0404 899 961 or damien@equil.com.au
John Gertsakis on 0409 422 089 or john@equil.com.au

The deadline for submissions to the inquiry is Friday 31 January 2020

The Potency of Environmental Film Making

The power of film to inform, educate and activate is immense. Both photography and films have played a pivotal role in many environmental campaigns, mobilising the public and politicians to care and to act, not excluding Tasmania’s Franklin Dam project in the early 1980s.

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

If film can make the world a better place then we need more creatives to fill the void through creative expression that connects us to our environment. From urban living and the metropolis through to natural and agricultural landscapes, the need to document, expose, celebrate and understand, has never been more crucial to how we understand the planet and ensure its protection.

The 2019 Environmental Film Festival Australia provides a very local yet globally connected vehicle through which such stories can be screened. In the words of the Festival organisers …

“EFFA is more than just a film festival – it’s a catalyst for positive and sustainable change.”

Complete with a comprehensive program of films, the Festival also features panel discussions and debates to get audiences talking and asking questions. EFFA runs from 24 October to 1 November at various cinemas in Melbourne, and is set to engage audiences in the most compelling way.

For an excellent summary of this year’s films and their significance look here.

As a Festival Friend Partner, Equilibrium is especially excited about EFFA 2019 and the films to be shared with Melbourne audiences. We believe that diverse mediums and forums are required to achieve and maintain a sustainable future, and story-telling through film is key.

The potency of film can be deeply impactful and positive, and EFFA’s role as contributor and educator is vital as we seek policies, programs and solutions that can make the world a better place.

Visit the EFFA website for more information about this year’s program and tickets. We hope to see you there.

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