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Tag Archives: Recyclables

Considerations for Victoria’s single use plastic ban

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

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

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

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

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

 

Know the fate of your recyclables

Not knowing where your waste is going can lead to reputational and regulatory risks. Equilibrium explains how its networks are helping the waste industry keep track of the downstream supply chain.

In 2011-12 Australia exported 4.4 million tonnes of waste valued at $2.4 million or 0.8 per cent of Australia’s total exports, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

During that year the value of Australia’s waste exports tripled to $696 million, when compared to 2000-1 levels. While recent national figures are in short supply, the National Waste Report 2016 shows 26 per cent of Victoria’s recyclables was exported overseas in 2014-15, indicating exports still remains a key part of Australia’s waste management strategy.

Keeping track of where this waste ends up can be a challenge, much less ascertaining whether the materials were subject to environmentally sound management.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development provides a working definition of environmentally sound management as follows:

“A scheme for ensuring that wastes and used and scrap materials are managed in a manner that will save natural resources and protect human health and the environment against adverse effects that may result from such wastes and materials”.

According to Nicholas Harford, Managing Director of Equilibrium, without transparency in the downstream supply chain, recyclers leave themselves exposed to reputational and regulatory risks. The core issue is: if you’re collecting and on-selling or shipping material for recycling, do you know how it is it being recycled?

Equilibrium’s information sheet on downstream assurance services provides further detail on the process.

“Reputational risk occurs when a material that you have collected and said will be recycled is inappropriately or illegally disposed of. In the waste industry, we are all familiar with concerns about e-waste going to third world or developing nations where it’s inappropriately handled, sometimes burnt with no pollution control and at great risk to human health,” Nicholas says.

“No company wants to end up in a situation where its reputation is on the line, whether you work in council, operate a materials recovery facility or a recycling company. If you’re in local government and in collect kerbside collection, you want to be confident that the household effort is being supported by environmentally sound management.”

Nicholas explains the regulatory risk occurs through the unlawful control of hazardous material exports, and whether the end use has the correct regulatory licence or permit to operate within the country and ensure control of emissions in line with best practice.

He says it is particularly important to know where materials are going for waste streams such as e-waste and tyres. Some kerbside recyclables may also require an export or transport licence, he adds.

Nicholas says tyres may have an overlay of being potentially hazardous materials. According to the Commonwealth Hazardous Waste Act, a permit must be obtained before hazardous waste can be exported out of Australia. A basic requirement of the Act is that waste shipments may only take place between countries which are parties to the Basel Convention, except where a specific formal arrangement exists. The Australian Government has banned exports of waste for final disposal except in exceptional circumstances, therefore not knowing whether your waste is being recovered or going to landfill can leave you exposed.

Damien Wigley, General Manager, Equilibrium, explains the company offers a step-wise service to the waste industry which can help alleviate downstream supply chain uncertainty and better track waste movements.

To identify and generate downstream supply chain distribution networks, Damien says Equilibrium has used multiple platforms to inform the program and is currently considering the application of blockchain for such purposes.

“A comprehensive process is required to clearly understand the movement of waste streams initially and it can vary depending on the type of materials and where (internationally) they are being sent to.

“There may be some certification system that requires the tracking of materials and that information may be accessible by a product stewardship program or another voluntary scheme, but to understand the document trail and access it in a timely manner is complicated,” Damien says.

“We’ve invested a number of years and resources into this program, including examining numerous certification processes such as the Conflict Minerals Programme as well as the Forest Stewardship Council and how they access and develop chain of custody programs.”

An example of Equilibrium’s work is how it is assisting the Federal Government Department of the Environment and Energy and its administration of the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS). Equilibrium helped the Department to develop a methodology to assess the material recovery rate of e-waste.

“We had to look at places around the world to see how the material was being recycled and ensure it was consistent with the NTCRS and specific requirements under the Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Regulations,” Nicholas says.

“We considered several certification schemes and their requirements to ensure a document trail was accessible, and to say with confidence that we knew where the material was going.”

He says it is not a straightforward process, potentially involving multiple parties who may not want to share information that they consider to be intellectual property.

Equilibrium is on hand to assist clients in developing a tailored program that is relevant to the business and meets all requirements, both internal and external.

You can download Equilibrium’s downstream assurance information sheet here.

Originally published on 13 March 2018 in Waste Management online.

Kerbside recycling market assessment tool

Kerbside recycling market assessment methodology

The importance of recycling to the Australian community, industry and local councils has been further reinforced by recent developments in China.

The act of sorting, separating and recycling our household recyclable materials is something that the public and councils consider an essential service. It is good for the environment, meets community expectations and generates positive economic activity.

A practical tool for local councils and kerbside operators

Equilibrium has been working with the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) to develop a tool* to assist local councils and kerbside service operators to assess changes to contracts in the current environment.

The methodology underpinning the tool is not intended to be prescriptive, but more so a guide that councils and others can use as it suits their particular circumstances and requirements. The tool includes instructions, examples and indicative responses to make it as easy to use and as stand-alone as possible, and to enable individual organisations to adapt it to their situation.

The MWRRG is now using this approach with Victorian Councils, and it has been widely circulated to all States, major recyclers and industry groups.

About the tool

The methodology assists parties involved with kerbside recycling service arrangements to make informed decisions on on-going arrangements. It is based on accountability, transparency and reasonableness when negotiating and agreeing to kerbside recycling service arrangements.  This approach sets out:

1. Principles of kerbside recycling services.
2. Considerations for assessing kerbside recycling service arrangements.
3. Commodity price indices, factors and calculations to inform financial considerations.
4. Monitoring and verification of agreements

The tool is straightforward to use and organisations can use it to check and test their own particular situation.

To request a copy email info@equil.com.au or call + 61 3 9372 5356

*The tool has been developed by Equilibrium OMG Pty Ltd for the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG). The tool remains the property of Equilibrium OMG Pty Ltd and the MWRRG. Equilibrium OMG Pty Ltd and the MWRRG cannot accept responsibility for any use or reliance on the content of this method and associated tool by any third party