Resource recovery: it’s in the numbers

by Corporate Waste Solutions
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Waste. Data. It isn’t something we think about on a daily basis, but access to accurate waste and resource recovery data is essential when it comes to sustainability. It enables us to explore and interpret issues, establish goals and measure the progress and effectiveness of our work.

Effective waste strategy planning for integrated waste management is centred on high-quality, reliable data.

In 2013, Sustainability Victoria (SV) saw the need to improve the quality and sharing-ability of waste data among the Victorian Government waste and resource recovery agencies, local government and industry to inform decision-making for statewide waste management strategy and planning. More timely data also allows us to better target our strategies, interventions and funding priorities.

Traditional data was collected for reporting and to measure past performance. We knew that we needed to improve data quality and accessibility, and remove the chance of any errors to build a case for evidence-based decisions and to drive innovation and investment in the sector.

To address this, SV launched the Waste Data Service this year to strengthen existing waste and resource recovery data in Victoria, and improve the collection and sharing of data between local and state government, business and industry.

An Australian-first, the data service provides interactive mapping to help identify where Victoria’s waste streams are being generated and to assist all Victorian councils in calculating, monitoring and comparing their kerbside waste, through a number of dashboards.

Part of the service allows people to search kerbside waste and recycling services by local government areas and then track and project waste flows over the next 10 years.

Investors can navigate through critical waste and resource recovery data at both regional and metropolitan levels to inform the scale and location of their infrastructure investment. Potential investors in new services and resource recovery businesses have found the waste service informative and intuitive to use, allowing them to identify investment opportunities, including new technologies.

There are great opportunities for investment in Victoria’s waste and resource recovery sector. Our state generates a quarter of Australia’s waste and this is expected to grow over the next 30 years. SV’s Investment team estimates there will be up to $5 billion in potential investment opportunities for infrastructure by 2044.

Increasingly, we are seeing interest from interstate and overseas entrants. The interest in new technologies as well as energy from waste – particularly from large energy-intensive manufacturers seeking to o set energy prices – is something we are watching closely.

The data service is an essential element to achieving the goals of the 30-year Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan (state waste plan) – another Australian-first, designed to guide planning in this area and ensure our state has the right infrastructure to manage the mix and volumes of waste in the future based on reliable evidence.

The diagram below outlines the priority initiatives to achieve the state waste plan and the data service is essential to all of these.

diagram

With the information collected through the data service, SV has released a number of publications to help stakeholders make better decisions with their waste management planning. Some of these have included the Victorian Recycling Industry Annual Report, the Victorian Local Government Waste Services Report, and the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Kerbside Recycling in Victoria Report and Calculator.

SV and RMIT University developed the LCA kerbside recycling calculator for local government, businesses and households to measure the environmental benefits of recycling based on greenhouse gases, energy and water savings.

In addition to quantifying the impacts of the recycling system, this interactive tool also identifies barriers within recycling supply chains and environmental impacts of transport, and better informs the establishment of waste metrics.

We expect that the study will be used to inform waste policy in the future and will be useful for waste planning authorities, local government and the reprocessing industry.

In 2014, SV engaged with local government, business and industry to identify any gaps and opportunities within the recycling and litter data collected to discuss ways to improve waste data management. Based on key findings and recommendations, an agreement was reached that committed each Victorian Government waste and resource recovery agency to strengthen the collection, storage and sharing of waste and resource recovery data by developing a robust governance framework.

Over the next five years, we intend to evaluate the benefits of data collected through the data service, specifically monitoring any increases in targeted investment and diversion rates from landfill, and resources spent on collecting data through surveys by local government officers.

Stan Krpan is the chief executive of Sustainability Victoria.

This article also appears in Issue 7 of CWS magazine.

Image: Sean Prior © 123RF.com 

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