Waste management is complex. Technology is here to help.
Waste management and recycling is not a simple task. The process requires a detailed approach whereby technology can assist. Recycling requires combined community effort, government resources and private sector innovation.
Committing to recycling
A significant benefit to recycling is reducing landfill where ‘there is a reduction in the risk of natural gases, toxic chemicals and other harmful byproducts leaking into the local ecosystem.’ (1) By obligating to improvements in recycling, the Australian Federal government, Territory governments and State governments are able to reduce total energy usage across the country. ‘Using recycled materials in the manufacturing process means that raw materials are not processed to the extent that previously needed to be, as recycled materials might already be refined to a suitable level for up processing to create new products.’ (1)
The future of recycling was a hot topic at the recent Australian Federal election with all major parties promising an improvement of waste management. The Liberal Australian Party who won the 2019 federal election promised its voters that ‘all Australian packaging is recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.’ (2) In addition the Liberal Australian Party has dedicated $167 million to the Australia Recycling Investment plan to lower plastic and food waste.
Responsibilities and outcomes to waste management
With the overarching Federal government pledge and direction from the current Government primary responsibility to waste management lies with individual State and Territory governments. Territory and State government’s make policy, regulation, strategy, legislation and planning. These frameworks differ amongst the various localised governments however they do share a common theme. ‘Most jurisdictions require landfill to pay some amount to the state for each tonne of waste deposited in landfill and have a strategy that guides government organisations and industries in improving waste management over the strategy period.’ (3) With each jurisdiction having individual responsibility for recycling, outcomes vary.
In Queensland, a container refund scheme has been introduced whereby recycling numbers have not only increased but more jobs have been created for local residents. Shane Stratton, Operations Manager at Reef Recycling reported that ‘the demand was so strong they were looking to recruit more staff and add more bins and counting tables.’ (3)
In terms of state comparisons, in 2016-2017 South Australia had the highest resource recovery rate across Australia, ‘the resource recovery rate was 62% and the recycling rate was 58%. The trends in recovery and recycling rates are upwards.’ (4) In Western Australia, there are plans to introduce a container deposit scheme by 2020. ‘A total of $4.4 million will be used to implement WA’s first Container Deposit Scheme with $3.1 million of this invested from 2019 to 2023 for implementation and oversight.’ (4) The introduction of container deposit schemes are arguably of benefit to local economies and the environment.
In SA, a container deposit scheme has been in place for more than 40 years with its introduction in 1977. ‘The container deposit scheme is one of the first pieces of environmental legislation to focus on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, meaning that if someone discards an empty container they forfeit the right to the refund and someone else would benefit by picking it up and collecting that refund.’ (5) The system ensures industry is responsible in those businesses selling products manage the resulting waste. For example in the case of Container Deposit Legislation in SA ‘beverage suppliers must ensure that a system is in place for the recovery and recycling of their empty beverage containers.’ (6)
The role of technology
With the success of the container deposit scheme in SA and Queensland, states like WA are moving toward a similar approach. As a result, there is opportunity for technology to support waste management. The good news is there is already existing technology to assist recycling with regard to container deposit schemes which include Auto Redemption Terminals (ART), Cash Redemption Terminals (CRT), Manual Input Station (MIS) and Bulk Redemption Terminals (BRT). One example, BRT ‘automatically sorts and counts containers in any condition, and then produces a refund receipt for the customer.’ (7) Container Deposit Systems (CDS) is a leading business which has introduced technology to assist with waste management.
CDS technology is extremely adaptable to be incorporated into existing recycling facility operations and is designed and manufactured locally in Australia. One of the key features of the technology include the ART, which is ‘a vision-based technology recognizing all deposit containers in any condition.’ (7) This means, for example, when a plastic bottle arrives at a recycling facility and is squashed to be unrecognizable to the human eye, technology is able to only see one part of the bottle and recognize the manufacturer and unique product being passed through its system. Further, terminals like BRT have been ‘designed for facilities processing large volumes, including very large collection points, processing facilities.’ (7) The ART system works at high-speed and can identify multiple products at high speed while capturing data, meaning it has a large volume capability.
With the environmental impacts of waste, there is recognition from the Australian Federal government, state and territory governments and businesses that positive and time-efficient recycling practices are imperative in responding to the growing amount of waste produced in Australia. An existing positive to recycling is the container deposit scheme. This scheme has benefited states like SA and Queensland. As a result, we are seeing the introduction of this scheme to WA by 2020. In a state that produces significant waste, there is demand for technology to assist in the efficiency of processing and recycling waste. Fortunately, existing technology is already designed and manufactured here in Australia and can support the processing of waste. This will help to ensure products are recycled where possible and avoid additional negative impact on the environment.
1. https://www.metropolitantransf erstation.com.au/blog/ environmental-benefits-of- recycling
2. https://www.abc.net.au/news/20 19-05-11/election-recycling-an d-waste-policy-you-ask-we-answ er/11092608
3. https://www.environment.gov.au /system/files/resources/7381c1 de-31d0-429b-912c-91a6dbc83af7 /files/national-waste-report- 2018.pdf
4. https://www.communitynews.com. au/western-suburbs-weekly/news /wa-state-budget-2019-containe r-deposit-scheme-on-its-way/
5. https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/envi ronmental_info/container_depos it
6. https://awre.com.au/waste-mana gement-solutions/future-of- waste-management-is-smart/
7. https://www.containerdepositsy stems.com.au/technology