Australian Federal Government Overhauling Procurement Rules to Favour Recycled Content : Comment: Waste Management Facilities are Not the Same as Shopping Centres

Australian Industrial Ecology Network waste to energy

Esther Hughes, Principal Environmental Planner, MRA Consulting Group, argues that the Australian Federal government is to be congratulated for overhauling procurement rules to require recycled content in new building and civil works.

The imminent ban on exports of recyclables is going to turn the market on its head. We need to urgently expand markets and build new processing facilities in Australia or we could drown in 1.3 million tonnes (MT) of recyclables that we previously exported.

MRA has estimated that we need to build at least 100 new pieces of kit to meet the existing State Government waste targets and process the new 1.3 MT of exported materials. Industry is keen to invest and there is plenty of superannuation money looking for a secure home right now.

With the stage set, all that remains is getting the kit approved and built. How hard can it be?

Quite hard… And time-consuming… And expensive...

So here are a few pointers from a waste planning consultant, for proponents:

Choose your site carefully

Sites located too close to people, water or other special places require in-depth assessment (environmental impact statement; EIS). And ensure the zoning is right - preferably “Industry” zoning, but some other zones work as well.

Understand Thresholds

EPA and Council Thresholds (t/yr) determine planning and licensing requirements. They should be used to define short term and long term goals for the project and options for future expansion.

Be practical in scale

Be aware that the more tonnes through a facility, the greater the requirement for environmental controls from the regulators. So be realistic about how big you need it. There are pros and cons of going big early vs late.

Prepare a professional planning application

Waste facilities have the potential to locally pollute the environment (even though they ultimately contribute to a cleaner and better world).

A good application will provide a robust assessment of everything from stormwater to truck movements to waste classification and stockpiling of materials. Providing information up front results in quicker assessment timeframes with less wrinkles to be ironed out and happier regulators.

Use a waste planner not a town planner

A professional planning application requires a good understanding of the business of waste. Most general planning companies do not understand waste. That means waste supply, market demand, Government policy, recycling, offtake agreements, social licence, environmental footprint and diversion targets etc. These are critical to your application but don’t generally apply to housing or shopping centre applications. The regulators want to know in much more detail about the role and function of the facility in a broader policy context. So recommending a waste planner may sound self-serving but it nonetheless, makes a difference.

MRA often sees rejected proposals done by non-waste town planners. It is good for our business but a waste of your money. Get it right the first time. It may mean slowing down a bit at the start to get the context right, but better that than being interminably stuck in planning revisions, appeals, the Courts or ultimately a refusal.

Esther Hughes is a Principal Environmental Planner at MRA Consulting Group. Her goal is for sustainable waste and recycling development that meets business needs. If you would like to talk waste planning or licensing please call 042 713 9702.

MRA Consulting Group – Company profile

MRA was voted “Best small consultancy in waste in Australia” in the 2020 Inside Waste Consultants Review, and ranked first amongst all small and large consultancies in 8 out of 10 categories:

Best in Logistics – collection and transfer studies

Technology/infrastructure reviews/evaluations

Strategy, policy and planning

Environmental specialists

Procurement – tender development, evaluation

Economic evaluation and modelling

Education, training, community consultation

Environmental;/greenhouse management

In the 2019 review, MRA ranked higher than all of the large consultancies in Australia for value and service and in 2017 we were voted best small consultancy in Australia in five categories. MRA was also voted “Best small consultancy in waste in Australia” in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

With offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Albury, the UK and Europe, MRA provides services to large and small business and all levels of government. The MRA team includes engineers, planners, economists, lawyers and scientists and:

Is a national leader in carbon reporting, compliance, planning, approvals and project development.

Develops strategies for technology providers, councils and businesses.

Delivers tailored commercial advice including economic modelling, market studies and market entry.

Manages waste, recycling, and composting development applications and licensing requirements.

Provides comprehensive education and consultation services.

Has a comprehensive audit and waste assessment program.