SA Councils’ recyclables project; ABS updates waste data

Small steps to tackle and better understand Australia’s waste and recycling challenges this week include a new purchasing agreement between South Australian councils, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ expansion of waste collection data.

The Local Government Association of South Australia announced it will lead a circular procurement pilot project in which nine councils have agreed to prioritise buying recyclable materials.

Formed with a $96,500 South Australian Government Green Industries Grant, the intention is to develop the state’s circular economy, increase local demand for recycled materials, and cut council’s waste collection and recycling costs.

“It’s vital we develop new markets for recycled materials in South Australia, and councils can support this by prioritising the use of recycled materials in their procurement processes,” LGA of SA President, Sam Telfer, said.

“This MOU sends a clear message to industry about the types of products that councils want to purchase as part of their commitment to supporting the environment and improving their sustainability.”

The councils have pledged to track and report on recycled-content purchasing by weight, while most adopted a rolling target for the purchase of recycled plastic products.

The ultimate goal is to buy back recycled materials equivalent to half the weight of plastics collected in their council area. 

Recycled products that councils could increase their purchases of include road and construction materials, street furniture, bollards, office stationery and compost.

The councils are Adelaide Hills, City of Burnside, City of Charles Sturt, Mount Barker District Council, Rural City of Murray Bridge, City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters, City of Onkaparinga, City of Port Adelaide Enfield, and City of Prospect.

It follows the Council Of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns last month at which ALGA President and City of Prospect Mayor, David O’Loughlin, advocated for all governments to insist on minimum recycled content levels for plastics, rubber tyres, and glass fines for road surfaces.

The procurement announcement was made at Advanced Plastic Recycling’s factory, which said it makes products from kerbside recycling that diverts 1,500 tonnes of plastic and 1,500 tonnes of wood from landfill annually. 

“The greatest benefit coming from mandatory buy back is the demand created,” its CEO, Ryan Lokan, said.

“Demand drives innovation and it is companies like ours that will rise to the challenge to meet the requirements for recycled material.”

City of Onkaparinga Mayor, Erin Thompson, said thepilot project was “yet another way councils are working together to find positive and long-term solutions to issues facing recycling in South Australia and across the country.”

Separately, the City of Port Phillip unveiled what it says is a Victoria first and used about 800kg of automotive plastic waste to resurface a section of Mozart St in St Kilda.

Council worked with engineers Fulton Hogan to install more than 200 tonnes of PlastiPhalt on a 2,000-square-metre section of the road.

These moves come as the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced an “experimental account on waste” (catalogue number 4602.0.55.005) to gain a wider picture of the sector that was last assessed in 2014.

The experimental waste account details who generates waste, the financial side of the industry, physical types and amounts, and how it is managed.

“In 2016-17, the Australian economy had 68.9 megatonnes of waste,” said Jonathon Khoo, Director of the ABS Centre for Environmental and Satellite Accounts.

“Of this, 19.0 megatonnes (27.6 percent per cent) was sent to landfill for disposal.

“As Australia uses more of its waste in the production of other goods the Waste Account, Australia, Experimental Estimates publication provides an information framework to help identify opportunities for utilising discarded materials.”

The ABS wants councils’ feedback via environment@abs.gov.au so future accounts can better meet the needs of data users to highlight the potential opportunities for the waste sector.

Meanwhile, southern NSW’s Bega Valley Shire Council and 50 families will trial putting compostable nappies and incontinence products in the shire’s Food Organics Garden Organics bin collection service.

The trial, run in conjunction with a Tasmanian compostable nappy manufacturer and supported by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority, will publish its results in 2020.

Image: Waste management in Victoria. Image courtesy MAV/Ballarat City Council.