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AORA & ABA Release Joint Positioning Paper on Certified Compostable Bioplastics

The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) and the Australian Bioplastics Association (ABA) developed a joint position paper on Certified Compostable Bioplastics.

AORA supports a ban on all single-use non-compostable plastics, including plastic bags of all gauges, agricultural films and packaging which cannot be reused, recovered or recycled in any way. The use of compostable bags and plastics which meet the requirements of AS4736 and AS5810 as verified by the Australasian Bioplastics Association allows for safe, effective source separation acceptable for organic resource processing/recycling.

Conventional plastics such as polyethylene are not certified compostable and are not biodegradable in any context. Varieties of polyethylene containing additives, such as those called oxo-degradable or oxo-biodegradable are not certified compostable and are not suitable for normal organic processing/recycling operations as they are not biodegradable.

Link to joint policy statement attached

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Sport kicking goals for the environment

Some of the great catalysts of change in the sport and sustainability sectors came together at the #SEASummit 2017, to tackle how the sporting industry can limit its impact on the environment.

Sport instigates passion at the highest level, there is nothing more exciting than watching one of your favourite sporting heroes or your child shoot for a goal, catch a perfect wave or hit a winning shot. We hear the roar of the crowd at large events and watch the sea of people. What most of us don’t think about is the environmental impact of sports and sporting events. Sporting grounds require water and the need to manage waste and energy. Major events have an even bigger challenge with waste, water and energy consumption. Looking at how sports affect the environment and then how to reduce this impact, is the monumental task that the Sports Environment Alliance (SEA) and its members have set themselves.

Held at the iconic MCG, the SEA’s 2nd annual #SEASummit brought together leaders in the sporting world and the sustainability industry to discuss how a collective and collaborative approach can lead to change.

The #SEASummit 2017 attendees read like the who’s who of the Australian sporting world including SEA Members such as the AFL, Basketball Australia, Confederation of Australian Motor Sport , Cricket Australia, FFA, Netball Australia, Surfing Victoria, Tennis Australia (TA), Victoria Racing Club, as well as sporting greats, councils, sustainability industry experts, innovative suppliers as well as media amongst others. All of the participants have one common goal and that is a win for the environment.

Understanding the importance of the role bioplastics can have in minimising waste, Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) members Natureworks, Biopak and Cardia Bioplastics all had guernseys at the #SEASummit 2017. In “Cleaning Up The Materials Conversation”, Gary Smith from BioPak and Doug Kunnemann from Natureworks discussed how shifting to certified compostable plastics can greatly reduce waste created at sporting events ending up in landfill.

Dr Sheila N Nguyen, Executive Director SEA states, “The Sports Environment Alliance is represented by industry leaders who understand that we need to minimise the weight of our imprint on the grass we play on, and to do so, we must be an active part of the circular economy.  Our members and our communities must consider decisions which will #SEAtheChange for the energy, water and materials we have and use.” Sheila continues, “Having the option to use bioplastic products at events ensures that we encourage the creation, use, and management of materials in the best way we can, to authentically engage the no waste world.”

We all know that sport has the power to influence, the SEA want the sport industry tackle environmental health from the grassroots through to the elite level, and encompass everyone who is involved from participants, to fans and venues.

Sport Environmental Alliance, Natureworks, Biopak, Cardia Bioplastics

 

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Growth In Local Governments Implementing Kitchen Food Waste Recycling

With Australian households throwing away 3.1 million tonnes of edible food per year, many local governments are creating change. Over 500 local governments across Australia manage waste on behalf of their local communities by organising waste collection and processing or disposing of food waste.

Having identified a significant amount of food in their waste streams, local governments are taking steps to reduce food waste through a range of programs. Some of these initiatives include information sessions and demonstrations on storing food and composting at home, grants and rebates for households to purchase compost bins and worm farms, and the roll-out of kerbside organic bins to divert food waste from landfill.

As food and garden waste makes up a large portion (up to 61%) of the average household’s current garbage bin waste, many local governments have introduced  food and garden organics bins. By collecting food and garden waste, local governments are diverting kitchen organics from landfill while also giving people a disposal option for garden waste.

To enable clean and easy kitchen food waste collection, many local governments provide residents with a kitchen caddy and certified compostable liners. Kitchen caddy liners are made from certified compostable materials (usually compostable corn-starch) and are verified under Australian Standard AS4736 to compost in commercial composting facilities within 6 weeks.

The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) and its members have seen a rapid growth in local governments implementing kitchen food waste recycling for their communities. ABA Member, Cardia Bioplastics (subsidiary of SECOS Group) recently won a major contract to supply AS4736 certified compostable bags to Penrith City Council in NSW.

City of Penrith Mayor, Councilor John Thain, said, “Our council is intently focused on sustainable waste management and resource recovery services, and diverting organic waste away from landfill through SECOS’ compostable bags supports our community’s efforts.”  There are now 27 Councils in NSW who have implemented kitchen food waste recycling for their communities.

 At the recent NSW Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) Annual awards ceremony in November Albury City Council was recognised for its considerable achievements in implementing a FOGO (Food Organic & Garden Organics) service for residents in Albury and neighbouring councils. The ABA works closely with the AORA to ensure that bags meet recycling standards.

With an increase in organics industrial recycling facilities being setup across Australia, ABA members are continually working closely with councils in running trial programs and supplying AS4736 certified compostable bags.

With a new National Waste strategy having just been launched in November there are sure to be more local governments commencing trial programs and implementing Kitchen Food Waste Recycling.

To find out what your state is doing read here https://awre.com.au/organics/right-climate-organics-recovery-part-2-state-governments-drive-organics-recovery/

 

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The Australian Government aiming to halve Australia’s food waste by 2030

Australian consumers throw away around 3.1 million tonnes of food—that’s close to 17,000 grounded 747 jumbo jets. Another 2.2 million tonnes is disposed of by the commercial and industrial sector.1 

 Food waste is estimated to cost the Australian economy around $20 billion each year. Food waste is not just wasted food, it also impacts the energy, fuel and water used to grow food that may not be used and instead is thrown away. Food waste that is sent to landfill contributes to greenhouse gas emissions creating further negative environmental impact.

To help address this important issue, the Australian Government committed in 2016 to develop a National Food Waste Strategy and to deliver a National Food Waste Summit. The strategy establishes a framework to support actions that work towards halving Australia’s food waste by 2030. This ambitious goal aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12 for sustainable consumption and production patterns.

On 20 November the National Food Waste Strategy was launched by the Minister for the Environment and Energy at the National Food Waste Summit. The culmination of many months of consultation with industry, academia, the not-for-profit sector, and all tiers of government, the Strategy establishes a framework to support actions that can help work towards halving Australia’s food waste by 2030.

National support for the strategy has been provided by Australia’s environment ministers, and acknowledges the importance of addressing food waste and the impact it has on the environment, the economy and society.

Reducing food waste is a complex challenge due to the range of food types and their supply chains, and regulatory frameworks to support food safety and waste disposal. It also presents a number of opportunities to rethink how food waste can be prevented, or how wasted food can be used for other purposes.

The National Food Waste Strategy adopts a circular economy approach that takes into account the food waste hierarchy and seeks to capture food waste as a resource so it is not sent to landfill. The use of circular economy approaches and the waste hierarchy to address food waste demands a more strategic and collaborative approach. This will challenge to find solutions across the entire food system rather than continuing to operate within single, linear supply and consumption chains.

Managing Australia’s food waste

There are already a number of activities in Australia to reduce food waste. These include consumer education, investment in waste treatment infrastructure, waste diversion from the retail and commercial sector, food collection for redistribution, and research into high value uses for food waste such as composting.

Many local governments have identified the significant amount of food in their waste streams and are taking steps to reduce food waste through a range of programs including Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) recycling.

To read more http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/national-waste-policy/food-waste

1 SARDI (2015) Primary Production Food Losses: Turning losses into profit.  South Australian Research and Development Institute, Primary Industries and Regions South Australia

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Biopak Launches Composting Service

BioPak, a global leader in the innovation and production of environmentally – sustainable packaging, today unveiled Australia’s first comprehensive composting service for food service packaging, including paper coffee cups, in a move designed to divert food scraps and food service packaging from landfill.

BioPak Chief Executive Officer, Gary Smith, said the new service will allow customers to dispose of used coffee cups and BioPak compostable takeaway food packaging in specially designed collection bins at their local cafes or workplaces. He said the service would initially cover most areas in Sydney’s CBD and in near suburbs.

“By bringing together waste contractors and compost facility operators we are been able to offer a sustainable end of life solution for our products,” Mr Smith said. The service already has customers like Allpress coffee roasters, local cafes, and a major financial institution, which has implemented the program at their Sydney head office. The special compost bins will be collected weekly and sent to commercial facilities to be composted – and in only eight weeks, they will be turned into nutritious soil compost for gardens or farms.

BioPak founder Richard Fine said the aim of the service was to ensure that the environmental benefit of compostable , single use disposable packaging could be maximised, helping customers in reducing the environmental impact of their business. “In Australia, we send more than eight million tonnes of organic waste to landfill every year, including 1.5 million tonnes of food waste,” Mr Fine said.

“The problem with this is that when food waste decomposes in landfills, it releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, resulting in enormous damage to our environment. “Switching to compostable food service packaging, including compostable coffee cups, can divert much of this material from going to landfill.” Mr Fine said that BioPak products provided a compostable alternative to the standard plastic, single-use food service packaging that was normally made from finite fossil resources.

“Our products are designed for a circular economy, using rapidly renewable and sustainably sourced material that return nutrients back into the soil at the end of their life,” he said. “There is a growing awareness of the environmental impact of single use plastics. We need to work to stem the flow of plastics into our oceans and to replace durable plastics derived from fossil resources as a material of choice for products that last for generations but have a functional life measured in minutes.”

Source: biopak press release 11/12/17

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Victoria Bag Ban – Have Your Say

The Victorian Government is seeking views from the community on banning single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags and managing plastic pollution in Victoria. Have your say and help to design a ban on lightweight plastic bags that is fair, effective and lasting.

Australians use around 10 million plastic bags every day – an astonishing 4 billion every year. Of these, approximately 150 million end up in our oceans and waterways, contributing to an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped into the ocean every year. These plastic bags fill our landfill, harm our wildlife, and can take between 15 and 1,000 years to break down in the environment. Even then, they never disappear; they simply break down into smaller and smaller fragments that continue to cause environmental harm. Most Victorian council kerbside recycling bins do not accept plastic bags, and only 3% of Australia’s plastic bags are currently being recycled.

The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) supports a ban on single use non-recyclable polyethylene plastic bag. The ABA would like consideration given to the role that certified compostable plastic bags can play as an alternative to the non-recyclable polyethylene plastic bag. With certified compostable plastics being fully biodegradable, there is no risk of micro plastic being available to the environment when disposed of in the required  end of life of composting, whether commercial or home. International experience of bans on plastic bags and packaging demonstrates that certified compostable bags are highly beneficial in assisting in kitchen food waste collection for diversion to composting whether in the home or a commercial facility. Certified Compostable material can also be used to develop heavy duty reusable bags.

Provide your view to the Victorian Government Consultation until the 25 January 2018.

https://engage.vic.gov.au/waste/plastic-pollution

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Albury City Council recognised for its considerable achievements in implementing a FOGO service

Albury City Council was recognised for its considerable achievements in implementing a FOGO service for residents in Albury and neighbouring councils at the NSW Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) Annual awards ceremony on Friday 10 November.

Winners in the ‘Outstanding Local Government Initiative in Organics Collection/Processing or Marketing’ category the Halve Waste Councils (Albury, Wodonga, Towong, Greater Hume, Federation and Indigo) thoroughly deserved the recognition.

The goal of Halve Waste is to reduce the waste to landfill by 50% by 2020.

In 2015 the Halve Waste Councils committed to delivering a food and garden organics collection service for residents.  This has resulted in a 90% take up with 50,000 households from four Shires participating. 22,000 in Albury, 17,000 in Wodonga, 5,000 in Indigo and 5,000 in Federation Council.

The community has really rallied behind the organics service. In fact, the group of Councils has produced the highest quality compost with the lowest levels of contamination in the State. So far, the contamination rate has been less than 1% overall!

Andrea Baldwin manages the Halve Waste Initiative on behalf of the Councils. Andrea was recognised at the awards as the ‘best’ waste manager driving organics collection and recovery.

To date (November 2017) and since its introduction in 2015, the service has generated over 54,000 tonnes of food and garden organics, all of which is being recycled into much needed compost for farms.

Mike Ritchie from MRA Consulting Group accepted the award on behalf of AlburyCity and said “If any council was looking for a model for implementing a food and garden organics collection service and engaging the community – Halve Waste is the answer. The Halve Waste Councils are to be congratulated for their initiative and achievement in halving the waste to landfill in the region.”

The Halve Waste Councils are to be congratulated for their initiative and achievement in halving the waste to landfill in the region.

The award was presented by Annie Kavanagh on behalf of the NSW EPA. The NSW EPA has supported the implementation of FOGO collection through the Waste Less Recycle More funding program.

For more information, visit the Halve Waste website halvewaste.com.au or email education@halvewaste.com.au.

For further detail on the Halve Waste councils’ successes in best practice waste management and resource diversion, refer to this short video.

Republished from MRA Consulting Group  MRA Consulting Group is assisting in the delivery of the Halve Waste project.

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So what is FOGO?

You may have heard the term FOGO being used in the media or through local Councils more and more but what does it actually mean. FOGO stands for Food Organic and Garden Organics.

FOGO is considered any food waste including fruit and vegetable scraps, processed food and leftovers from meals such as meat, fish, chicken, bread, egg, egg shells, dairy products, coffee grounds and tea bags. Garden waste can include grass clippings, flowers and herbs, small branches and leaves. Paper towel, compostable plates, and compostable bags can also be disposed of through a FOGO service.

So why all the talk about FOGO?

Many Australian and New Zealand councils have recognised that sending FOGO to landfill does not offer any benefits. FOGO is far better off being composted, either at home or a commercial composting facility. Recognising that not everyone home composts, many councils are trialling or introducing FOGO collections services, where FOGO is collected and sent to a commercial composing facility.

Composting FOGO is great for our environment

Most of the greenhouse gas emissions from landfill come from decomposing organic material which could be recycled. Not only do food and garden organics produce methane as they decompose in landfill, but their nutrients remain locked in landfill and can’t be used again to grow plants and food. Compost can be used to fertilise gardens, farms and sporting fields and the mulch can be used to protect against weeds, reduce plant stress and save water in gardens, parks, orchards and vineyards.

Composting and mulching FOGO is also cheaper than sending them to landfill. By reducing the amount of material sent to landfill then councils can invest in other community services.

*Bega Valley FOGO logo

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Biodegradable Plastics Were Not Designed To Be A Solution To Marine Litter

Biodegradable plastics are designed to biodegrade in soil, not in water and especially not in our oceans.

The most effective way of addressing plastic litter and  in fact any litter that ends up in the ocean, is to stop it at source, prevent it from getting there in the first place. This can be achieved by education to change the behaviour of people, perhaps engineering remedies like filtration and screening, formulation of products, but these are not matters that we are qualified to address.

Plastics marked as ‘biodegradable’ do not degrade rapidly in the ocean. National and international standards have been developed to define terms such as ‘compostable’ and ‘biodegradable’ which refer exclusively to terrestrial systems, most typically to industrial composting. The Australian Standard AS4736 defines biodegradable bioplastics that are suitable for industrial composting, but makes no claims about other environments, including marine environment.

Biodegradation occurs when microorganisms consume the material as feed and in the process generate CO2, water and leave some harmless residual biomass. The rate and extent of biodegradation is dependent on a number of variables, mostly the immediate microorganic population. A compostable bioplastic will completely biodegrade within a composting cycle, which is about three months. Composting conditions include a very healthy population of microorganisms, plenty of oxygen and water and elevated temperatures. When the conditions are less than ideal, the process is much slower or may not occur.

Conditions in the world’s oceans and seas varies in oxygen level, temperature, microorganism levels, action of tides and waves, so there is no single environment in which a microfibre might be found, but one common condition is that the level of microorganic activity is much lower than in a compost heap. Therefore the rate of biodegradation will be much slower and as a result, the microfibre will be present in the marine environment for some months, perhaps longer,  before it completely biodegrades.

There are performance standards covering the compostability of plastics, like Australian Standard AS4736, but to date there have been no internationally recognised standards covering biodegradability in the sea, partly because the conditions vary so much. This is now changing with performance standards addressing biodegradability in the sea currently being developed in Europe and North America.

Plastics, whether plant-based, fossil-based, degradable or non-degradable, should never be allowed to end up as waste in the ocean, unless specifically engineered to decompose rapidly in marine environments. Further research and the design of products that biodegrade in marine environment can only help to reduce the impacts of marine litter in the future where efficient waste management is not sufficient enough. The main solution to plastics in the ocean is better waste collection and recycling.

For more information see – Are biodegradable bioplastics a solution for the problem of marine litter?

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Oxo-Biodegradables And Other Additive-Mediated Plastics Are Not Bioplastics

“Oxo-degradable” plastics are conventional plastics containing special additives designed to promote the oxidation of the product, resulting in its brittleness and fragmentation into small pieces, but uncertain to ensure a complete degradation or mineralization.

Products made with additive-technology and available on the market include film applications such as shopping bags, agricultural mulch films and, most recently, certain plastic bottles. Experts from the plastics industry, waste management, and environment protection voice serious concerns about these products. They claim to be “degradable”, “oxo-degradable”, “oxo-biodegradable”, or “oxo-fragmentable”, and sometimes even “compostable”, without providing any sort of proof for the claims made.

These products are made from conventional plastics and supplemented with specific additives in order to mimic biodegradation. In truth, however, these additives only facilitate a fragmentation of the materials, which do not fully degrade but break down into very small fragments that remain in the environment – a process that would be more accurately described by the term “oxo-fragmentation”.

Claims of “oxo-degradability” might sound appealing, yet, they are misleading as they cannot be verified due to the absence of a standard specification i.e. an explicit set of requirements to be satisfied by the product.

A self-imposed standard for oxo-degradation merely sets out the parameters on how to test the degradation process, not, however, the results or even criteria for passing the test of degradation. There is currently no internationally established and acknowledged standard or certification process that proves the success of oxo-degradation. Without verifiable proof or certification for the claim, the term “oxo-degradable” is just an appealing marketing term.

Companies offering additive-mediated conventional plastic materials promise a “quick solution” to countries that have no or nearly no waste management infrastructure, but this promise comes with great dangers to the environment. If these additive-mediated fragmentable plastics are littered and end up in the landscape, they start to disintegrate due to the effect of the additives that trigger the breakdown into fragments, which remain in the environment.

Accepted standards for industrial composting, for example, already exist and are indicated by corresponding labels. Biodegradation requires consumption by microorganisms, such as in industrial composting or home composting, but time, heat and other critical factors that affect the biodegradation and disintegration of the product or material, are measured against a performance standard [such as Australian Standard AS 4736-2006 (amendment 1, 2009), referred to above and Australian Standard AS 5810-2010 for products designed for home composting] with pass or fail criteria, as prescribed by the relevant standard.

Originally posted by European bioplastics

Background information:

EUBP background paper on ‘oxo-degradable plasticst’

OWS report on ‘oxo-degradable plastics’

OWS report on ‘enzyme-mediated plastics’