The Victorian government has set the challenge of implementing a circular economy policy – a policy whereby waste is recycled into renewable energy, whilst promoting growth of the economy, increasing jobs and reducing the impact waste is having on the environment. Government bodies are leading the conversations around these issues and initiatives with discussions around making the recycling system more resilient and sustainable in order to solve the recycling issue by recycling locally and shipping waste overseas.
Turning waste into energy
In response to this, the Advanced Circular Polymers’ facility has since opened in Victoria – having a processing capacity of 70,000 tonnes a year, it positions Victoria as the hub of remanufacturing in Australia. Partly funded by the Victorian Government and given a $500,000 Sustainability grant, Australia’s largest recycling plant will be powered by renewable energy from a nearby wind farm and will transform large quantities of low-value contaminated mixed plastics from households into high-quality commodities that can go directly into the manufacturer of new products.
This state of the art plant will reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and play a large role in the nations transition to using renewable energy.
Previously, Australia has relied heavily on China to process recovered plastics with the process involving the waste being collected, sent overseas, reprocessed and then sent back to Australia. A very costly exercise. China has been the largest importer of Australia’s recovered material however in January 2018, China imposed a strict contamination standard on recyclables involving plastic and paper and have banned Australia from sending their waste to the country.
In May 2019 the Victorian government announced a $35 million Recycling Industry Reform Package to be delivered over three years, to alleviate recycling waste going to landfill as a result of waste companies being forced to stockpile. This package will support the waste and resource recovery sector within Victoria.
Not surprisingly, Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has been leading the conversations around local councils, local recycling and shipping waste internationally, with over fifty one per cent of mentions on these topics.
Thirty local Victorian councils have been greatly impacted due to being contracted to one of the larger recycling plants who contribute to fifty per cent of curbside recyclables. This operator is facing liquidation as creditors take court action to have it shut down for not being compliant with the Waste Management Policy.
The Environmental Protection Authority Victoria reports this particular facility was issued notices to modify their configuration of its combustible recyclable and waste material stockpiles however failed to do in the requested time frames. The Victorian Waste Management Policy enforced the company to cease accepting any further waste as these stockpiles contained flammable items including batteries, electronic waste and aerosol cans.
Although China’s recycling ban has caused Australia some issues and has forced a re-think on how recycled waste can be processed, it has thankfully started conversations for the Victorian government and governments around the world to shift to a more circular global economy. With adhering to environmental regulations and adopting safer practices, recycling systems worldwide can become more resilient and effective.
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