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Tag Archives: Waste

Vote #1 Environment, Promoting Sustainability in Times of Uncertainty

Frequent ‘extreme’ climate disasters, a pandemic and international conflict…the unprecedented has become the precedented. Now more than ever, during times of great uncertainty, governments and businesses must take urgent climate action. This is a wake up call to business, it is startlingly evident that no one is exempt from the impacts of climate change, conflict and Covid. The interconnectedness of commodity markets and global supply chains in our ever-more globalised world, highlighted by the recent energy price shocks and Covid-19 pandemic, will mean flow-on effects will touch every type of business in every location. An intimidating prospect to be sure.

Uncertain times are arguably the best time to change practices and habits. Or better yet, make proactive changes to safeguard and reduce the likelihood of risk before uncertainty. A proactive move now to sustainable practices could minimise the impacts felt by economic disruptions and supply chain collapses due climate disasters, international conflicts and the COVID 19 pandemic. Promoting local manufacturing and trade, incentivising the transition to renewable energy generation and nation-wide targets in line with global leaders of climate action would help to mitigate the inescapable risk of international supply chain collapses, shipping delays, energy uncertainty and economic burden of rising fossil fuel prices.

An opportunity exists, to mitigate these risks, creating a resilient and robust system that is both securing its financial future and remedying past wrong-doings against the environment. The solution to help mitigate climate change is in fact a solution to our future inevitable financial woes. Scientists are still analyzing the correlation of climate change and the severe flooding occurring in New South Wales and Queensland. However we do know that climate change will increase the intensity and frequency of these extreme weather events. There will be huge financial challenges ahead for councils to rebuild their communities, but if we can secure natural assets we can secure markets and future growth. Government and businesses investments in promoting the switch to a cleaner electric vehicle would also mitigate the economic burden felt by rising fuel prices whilst lowering carbon emissions and the use of finite resources. Take a risk lense when looking at sustainability and climate change. For companies,governments and businesses the risk of climate inaction far outweighs the requirements to do something now. What we can see from covid response globally is how easy it can be to adapt.

This time of uncertainty presents some exciting opportunities for all areas of business to make an impact. The sustainability movement is moving beyond the messaging of “please recycle” and “switch off the lights”, to look at core roles within core industries, and how they can impact change. Industry and government need to be change makers and apply a sustainability lense to what they are working through to create benefits that will support business, community and society in these “unprecedented” times. Tangible changes from business and governments such as a switch to renewable energy, creating a carbon management program, changing travel processes, increasing building efficiency, supporting local supply changes can all limit the impacts felt by uncertainty. Funding opportunities and grants are available to businesses, councils and governments to support the progression towards a sustainable economy and society. Our projects at Equilibrium have helped clients deliver impactful changes across a wide range of sectors and service areas. Globalization, industry connections and the broadness of sustainability means impacts are affecting every industry, company and supply chain, everyone has an opportunity to contribute.

Packaging target progress patchy

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) Collective Impact Report is a presentation and analysis of the current progress towards APCO’s 2025 packaging targets.

Although the report is written using optimistic and positive language, it is reporting significant shortcomings in performance towards APCO’s 2025 targets.

Two of the three key APCO 2025 targets are going in the wrong direction and the “problem” of packaging is, by APCO’s measures, getting worse.

It is notable that the report puts forward actions to address the current gaps.

Thirty new actions have been identified. While inherently good, the 30 new actions beg some questions.

Firstly, there is no explanation in the report on the evidence supporting the actions, so are all 30 actions a priority and how will they be implemented?

Secondly, the 30 new actions are on top of APCO’s business as usual, so is APCO resourced to adequately and effectively fulfill and manage these additional actions?

The report ultimately shows an underperformance so far towards the 2025 targets. In response the report identifies gaps and interventions that can be taken. The issue then comes in the complexity of APCO simultaneously coordinating and completing its current activities, as well as fulfilling the 30 identified actions in the report, in the three years left until the target date.

In terms of the Collection Action Framework, it could do with revamping to ensure that it is still applicable and being utilised effectively.

The report used the Framework as a performance lens to evaluate progress against the targets, but it could really do with an evaluation to ensure that all parties are continuing to fulfill their obligations and requirements under the Australian Packaging Covenant more broadly.

 

Ending Cigarette Butt Litter, A report prepared for WWF

The World Wildlife Fund engaged Equilibrium to investigate solutions to the environmental problem of cigarette filter and butt litter in Australia. Of the 17.8 billion cigarettes currently consumed each year, as much as 8 million end up as litter.  Cigarette butt filters are made from non-bio degradable plastic and can take up to 12 – 15 years to break down into micro plastics. The World Health Organisation has advocated for the elimination of filters as they do not protect against the harms of smoking.

Equilibrium’s report examines the international initiatives and policies to combat cigarette butt waste. Equilibrium concluded that a national ban on plastic cigarette butt filters or a product stewardship scheme would have the greatest impact in reducing cigarette butt litter.

The assessment, research and findings of Equilibrium’s report provide WWF with insight and direction for the potential design of a product stewardship scheme for cigarette butts.

Read Equilibrium’s full report here

Grant opportunities in New South Wales and Victoria

The NSW government has announced four grants available to improve recycling and waste services.  

> Organics Infrastructure: $6 million is available to support the processing of organic waste. This grant is available to local businesses, councils and projects that upgrade, build and expand organics processing infrastructure. Applications close October 21.

> Organics Collection: $12 million is available to support councils and regional organisations tied to councils to divert FOGO waste from kerbside collection. Applications close October 28.

> Circular Solar Grants: $7 million is available for government organisations councils research organisations, industry and not for profits for the development of innovative schemes that recycle and battery waste and solar panels. Applications close November 4.

> Litter Prevention Grants: $2 million is available for community litter reduction projects and schemes. These initiatives could include cigarette butt bin installations or community clean up days. Applications close November 8.

Round two of Innovation Fund grants open for applications in Victoria

In Victoria funding is available to support collaborative projects that aim to design out waste, improving both economic and environmental outcomes. Applications for both streams are open for projects that emphasize action within all phases of a resources’ lifecycle, promoting circular economy initiatives.

The two streams of funding available are:

>Stream One: Textiles Innovation: Between $75,000 – $150,000 of funding is available per project. Grants are available for projects which have a focus on preventing textile waste. Applications are open to industry groups, businesses, charities and research institutions.

> Stream Two: Collaborative Innovation: Between $150,000 and $250,000 of funding is available for each project. Grants are available to businesses, industry groups, charities and research institutions. Projects must have a collaborative focus on preventing waste from multiple organisations within a specific region, supply chain or sector.

The closing date for both Victorian grants is Monday 15th of November at 11:59pm.

Waste Export License

The Australian Government has implemented the Waste Export Ban, and has begun to regulate the export of Australian of certain wastes.

As of July 2021, glass and mixed plastics “waste” are regulated for export. Baled and whole tyres are set to be regulated from the 1st of December and other materials  including cardboard and mixed paper by July 2022. Separate requirements are required for hazardous waste.

Each type of waste stream will have its own regulation start date and rules. To continue to export waste, organisations will have to:

>Meet the requirements and rules or be exempted
>Declare each consignment
>Hold a waste export license for the waste type

Under this ban, exporters and organisations which meet these specific requirements are able to apply for a license to export regulated waste overseas. Waste export licenses are granted for a period of up to three years for organisations who meet certain criteria.

Equilibrium has developed a guide and can help with the waste export license application. For more information please contact us or visit the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website.

Manufacturing and Life Cycle Assessment

The manufacturing industry plays an important role in global economic development, however it contributes to a significant share of negative environmental impacts in the form of pollution and waste. Manufacturing companies are subject to increasing pressure from consumers and legislation to improve their own activities towards more environmentally conscious manufacturing processes which create less environmentally damaging products. This pressure calls for product designers and production engineers to identify improvement measures for existing manufacturing systems, as well as create innovative concepts for new products. These investigations need to consider the entire life cycle of the manufacturing system and product, including the impacts related to production, use and end of life disposal. 

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool used by companies and product designers to better understand their products’ overall and complete impacts – positive and negative. It helps businesses to quantify impacts at the various stages and provides insights  to improve performance and reduce environmental impacts. 

Why undertake an LCA? There are various reasons:

Stakeholder and consumer expectations: Increasingly consumers are seeking products with reduced environmental impacts, this is reflected in product purchasing choices.
> Industry directions: The manufacturing industry in Australia has a leading role in improving sustainability of its products.
> Voluntary environmental management systems: ISO 14001 is driving continuous improvement and uncovering business efficiency. 

While the key objectives for an LCA often begin with aiming to better understand environmental footprint, the framework can be used to assess other issues including economic and social factors. Examples may include:

> Uncovering production losses, which manufacturing business may refer to as ‘scrap rates’.
> Identifying areas of high energy use, where if savings can be made, will reduce costs and greenhouse emissions.
> Transport and logistics reviews may reveal options to reduce emissions and save costs.
> Raw materials choice for manufacture, including reviewing supplier social procurement practices to protect business reputation.

Businesses that are currently assessing their internal footprint are already on the path to developing an LCA. Examples of this include energy efficiency studies, where energy per unit production helps set a benchmark for assessing business improvements. 

If you would like to know more about LCA’s and how an LCA study may help your business development please contact us.

A simple diagram of life cycle assessment

 

 

Toy Industry to collaborate and develop sustainability solutions

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

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

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

New environmental laws in Victoria from July 1 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARENA launch $43 million Industrial Energy Transformation Studies Program

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

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

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

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

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

Victorian Government announce state’s climate change strategy

The Victorian Government Climate Change Strategy aims to keep the state on track to meet the emissions target of net zero emissions by 2050. Victoria’s announcement marks all of Australia’s states and territories committing to a net zero target by 2050, despite the absence of the federal government’s embracing a national the goal. The strategy announced interim targets aiming to decrease emissions by 28-33% by 2025 and 45 – 50% by 2030. The objectives at the focus of the strategy include; 

>$100 million package for electric vehicle subsidies, granting $3,000 for all new zero emission vehicles that cost less than $69,000 and a target for 50% of all new vehicle sales to be electric or hydrogen by 2030.
>Public transport – all buses purchased from 2025 onwards are zero emissions.
>Gas substitution roadmap – encouraging users to shift to electricity and other fuels.
>Investing $31 million to support high-energy using businesses to adopt energy solutions to reduce costs and prepare for a low – emissions future.
>$380 million to deliver “Recycling Victoria” – a 10-year plan assisting businesses and households to improve their resource efficiency, recycling and reduce waste. 

The announcement signifies the push from state governments to reach net zero emissions and develop a harmonised approach to electric vehicle standards. 

Agriculture is one of the state’s largest carbon emitters, and an industry that the federal government is debating to exempt from the national  net zero targets. The Victorian strategy includes pledges for the agricultural industry announcing;

>$15.3 million invested in agroforestry, encouraging farmers to plant trees to sequester carbon and realise other on farm benefits such as protecting crops/animals from extreme weather
>Expanding the Agriculture Energy Investment Plan, providing an additional $30 million to support farmers to improve on-farm energy generation and efficiency.

The plan aims to ensure that farmers are well placed to be supported in using information and tools which will help realise emissions reductions opportunities on farms.