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Tag Archives: Design for Environment

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.

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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

Electronics in a Circular Economy

Circular thinking and the concept of closing the loop is gaining considerable momentum in some sectors and industries

While not entirely new, there is growing interest, excitement and acknowledgement that a circular economy is key to achieving a sustainable future.

Australia’s first major conference on the circular economy – Powering the Change – is about to take place in South Australia and it promises to be an agenda-setting event. On November 15-17 in Adelaide, business, government and academia come together to collaborate and discuss how the circular economy can be, and is being, implemented.

Powering the Change … will help raise awareness, build knowledge and stimulate further action in our region. Participants wıll leave the conference armed with knowledge, networks and enthusiasm to make the case for and drive circular economy approaches and projects ın their organisation or jurisdiction.

The recognition of closed loop models and approaches by key organisations such as the European Commission, WRAP and the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, has elevated the importance of why society must extract maximum value from the materials and products we consume day in day out. The need to move well beyond the linear economy should be obvious, especially if we are to avoid devouring the future.

There is a strong and optimistic sense of what can be achieved if enthusiastic collaboration can conceive and drive the myriad of solutions that are required. Positive interventions are essential across sectors, industries and communities. There is no single player that can deliver a circular economy, but there are teams of champions who can demonstrate and shape truly circular outcomes.

The challenge for all of us is to go beyond the rhetoric of closed loops and execute real-world outcomes. Dressing-up yesterday’s recycling activities certainly isn’t circular (or sustainable), especially if it’s characterised by down-cycling with low-value outcomes. Effective implementation that embodies circular economy principles will be the ultimate measure of success.

Design and designers must also feature more widely in the circular economy toolbox. Many product-related impacts are determined at the design stage, and as a consequence, impacts can be replaced with product features that are restorative and regenerative; not just ameliorative and incremental.

The European Commission talks about the circular economy and its importance as a strategic imperative, not just a one-dimensional approach to waste management:

“To ensure sustainable growth for the EU we have to use our resources in a smarter, more sustainable way. It is clear that the linear model of economic growth we relied on in the past is no longer suited for the needs of today’s modern societies in a globalised world. We cannot build our future on a ‘take-make-dispose’ model. Many natural resources are finite, we must find an environmentally and economically sustainable way of using them. It is also in the economic interest of businesses to make the best possible use of their resources.”

The  Commission’s overview is not peculiar to Europe or the northern hemisphere. Many if not all of the issues and potential benefits equally apply to Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific.

So how do we accelerate circular solutions for electronics and the rapid onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

A conference session to explore solutions for all things electronic

With our seemingly endless appetite for the latest electronic devices and their cocktail of batteries, precious metals and low value materials, identifying and exploring workable circular solutions is an urgent challenge for the electronics industry.

More specifically:

> What if we were to move beyond the mere collection and recycling of unwanted goods and consumables – and manage the entire product life cycle instead?

> What options are there for businesses that want to disrupt this dynamic?

> How can corporates change their business model? Or do regulators need to change the rules?

A dedicated session at the Adelaide conference will focus on electronic products, as well as associated consumables such as batteries. The panel of professionals from industry, government and academia will share some visions of what circular electronics could look like in Australia, along with suggestions for how we could get there.

The session will be moderated by Rose Read, CEO of DropZone by MRI, and John Gertsakis, Director of Communications at Equilibrium, who jointly bring many years of experience in the policy and practice of product stewardship. Most importantly the panel will comprise several well-informed individuals to help stimulate discussion and solicit input from conference delegates:

> Peter Brisbane, Director, Stewardship and Waste at the Department of the Environment and Energy will share a national policy perspective – reflecting on successes and challenges of Australia’s product stewardship initiatives in electronics including batteries.

> Carmel Dollisson, CEO of Australia & New Zealand Recycling Platform (TechCollect), will share how her founding companies – including Canon, DELL, HP, Fuji-Xerox and IBM – are working with councils and recyclers to ensure at least 90% of the commodities recovered from the e-waste collected across Australia are used in the manufacture of new products.

> Monique Retamal, Research Principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS, will share her research into increasing product longevity, with a focus on ‘slowing’ life cycles by repairing, sharing and reusing, as opposed to the current focus on recycling, or ‘closing’ material loops.

> Glen Winkler, State General Manager, South Australia & Northern Territory in Global Enterprise and Services, Telstra Corporation. Glen will share his insights on Telstra’s Electronics Reuse and Recycling Strategy – ‘Unlocking Hidden Value’, as well as how ICT can play a wider role in delivering environmental outcomes.

Complex and challenging to say the least, but vital if we are to positively change our patterns of production and consumption to maximise resource value.

Current practices typically lean towards business as usual, however it’s time to consider how fundamental business redesign, new consumption patterns, and dynamic regulation might enable truly circular action.

Visit the conference website for more information and how to register.