Driving procurement through policy

Video transcript

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. EcologiQ Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.

Professor Tim Flannery:

I’d now like to introduce our next presentation which is focusing on the Victorian Government’s Circular Economy Policy, and how Victoria is leading the nation in the use of recycled and reused material with its Recycled First Policy, requiring transport contractors to optimise recycled materials for the first time in Australian history.

I’d like to welcome to the stage John Bradley, who is Secretary of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning; and Alexis Davison who’ll be following, who is Director of the Program Services and Engineering, Major Road Projects Victoria.

Welcome John and Alexis.

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. EcologiQ Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.

Text: Driving procurement through policy panel.

John Bradley, Secretary, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning:

Well, good afternoon everybody and thanks Tim for that introduction.

And before I go any further let me begin by acknowledging the traditional owners whose lands we’re on today and pay my respects to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, their Elders past, present and emerging, and acknowledge traditional owners all across Victoria.

As per Tim’s introduction you’ll of course be comforted to know that Victoria’s ability to proclaim itself as the best in the country hasn’t decline in any way, we obviously think of this as being a leading piece of policy work in relation to the Recycled First agenda.

But I was going to start by situating it in the context of a broader set of circular economy reforms that really began for the state of Victoria in earnest through our 2020 Strategy, but grew out of the crisis of the China National Sword events, the disruption to global recyclables markets as they were, and really that was the burning platform on which we forged this progress, not only on tackling a crisis but also building an economy that created significant opportunities for, not only productivity across the economy but also significant jobs.

So let me touch then on a few elements of our Recycling Victoria New Economy Strategy that was released a couple of years ago, which will provide for significant investment in new infrastructure and innovation to get more value from our resources to address design and the commencement of a new state-wide waste and resource recovery system for the community and at home, and of course the institutional changes we made on the 1st of July this year with the establishment of Recycled Victoria.

Text: Victoria’s Circular Economy.

So to say the obvious, the discussions we’re having today as a part of this session with this fantastic agenda you’ve got in front of you, is occurring in the context of national and international focus on the circular economy.

The easiest way for us to describe the opportunity in the circular economy is by comparing it with the way our current economy functions.

And so for a long time it’s been linear, we take, we make and then we throw it away of course, but over time we added recycling, but we know that that itself is not enough, most materials and products were not designed or made to be recycled in the first place.

So we need to turn that linear economy into a circular one where nothing is wasted, everything is reused, and to do this we also have to change our mindsets, not only for people within the supply chain, but also for consumers and for governments, whether we’re manufacturing or purchasing new products, we can also look at the opportunities to see what happens when that product reaches the end of its useful life.

In a circular economy, as the Dutch like to say, there is no waste, waste is an opportunity rather than problem.

And we can think of a circular economy as an economy that continually seeks to reduce the environmental impacts of production and consumption while also enabling economic growth through more productive use of natural resources.

If I can give you a figure that stands in my mind as really putting a sharp edge on that, it’s the fact that it’s been estimated that in Victoria businesses spend approximately $5.4 billion every year on materials that they then discard as a part of their production process, so the opportunity, as we all know in this room, is very real.

Text: Transforming Waste and Resource Recovery in Victoria.

If I turn then to the kind of key elements of the Recycling Victoria Circular Economy Strategy it’s anchored around a few key goals.

The first is goal one around the way we make products to make sure they’re designed to last, then we repair and recycle, we generate less waste in business through innovation, and we use recycled materials in products and consider the impacts across product lifecycles.

The second goal is to ensure that we create more value, that we help people to make smart purchasing decisions and extend the life of products to support the reuse economy, repair goods where possible, reduce plastic pollution and phase our problematic single-use plastic items, and all of these things are in scope.

The third goal is to recycle more resources, and that relies on creating markets and supporting sustainable demand so that leads to our focus on reforming kerbside collections to generate more value from waste, to improve the separation of recyclable materials, to plan for and boost investment in recycling infrastructure, and to embed the waste hierarchy and the management of materials and support waste energy markets.

The fourth goal is to reduce harm from waste to protect communities and the environment from hazardous waste and high risks sites, the kinds that we saw that caused such concern in the Victorian community back in that period between 2017 and 2019 around some issues around waste stockpile fires.

We’ve set four targets, as you can see across the bottom, to address the amount of waste going to landfill, and by 2030 we want to divert 80% of waste from landfill with an interim target of 72% by 2025.

We also want to avoid importantly creating waste in the first place, and cut total waste generation by 15% per capita by 2030.

And we want to capture a higher volume of food and organic material waste and halve organic waste that’s entering landfill by 2030.

Across those set of objectives the Government is seeking to provide every Victorian household with access to a separate food and organics recovery service and local composting by 2030, and we’re making significant progress as I’ll mention in a moment.

Text: Recycling Victoria.

One of the ways we’re doing that is through creating this new institutional body Recycling Victoria which commenced on the 1st of July and it marks a significant milestone in the program of reform.

Its purpose is to strengthen the state’s waste and recycling sector by providing, for the first time, strategic leadership, a state-wide stewardship of waste and the circular economy functions, and regulatory and market oversight functions.

Its key functions include waste and recycling market planning, supporting best practice procurement and contract management of waste and recycling services, monitoring and enforcing service standards, and the collection of reporting and market data.

And while we’ve had the capacity in the Victorian system for some time, including institutional frameworks, we haven’t previously brought it together with a kind of institutional strength and focus that we will have with Recycling Victoria, on actually assessing how much contingency do we have in our systems, how exposed are we to the kind of supply disruptions we saw in the period around 2017-19, and how can we make sure that we’ve got a body that’s actually supporting the realisation of the circular economy objectives.

Recycling Victoria will also support local government in the development and management of their procurement, facilitate strategic procurement for groups of councils, much as our works have previously done in the past, and that will provide benefits for industry.

And with standards and regulations are developed for some of our new reforms, Recycling Victoria will regulate the delivery of the Container Deposit Scheme and the four stream household waste and recycling system.

There’s some legislation before parliament at the moment which will also give Recycling Victoria the ability to regulate the waste energy regime, including the management of a waste to energy cap and the granting of licences.

So that’s all about building out the capability, if you like, institutional strengthening in the way we manage the circular economy in Victoria.

Text: Better collection and Sorting of Recycling.

One of the key features of that reform is the four bin system and the introduction of Container Deposit Scheme.

It probably seems bleedingly obvious now that it’s in place, but the confusion over what coloured bins were, which materials could go in which bins, and the guidance to the community about that has been really evident.

It’s something that was in focus as a part of that fantastic television program which focused around the confusion for consumers and tried to give them the right advice.

And so our four bin system is now being rolled out across the state which all Victorian councils in the process of planning for implementing that reform, and they’re now receiving support from the Kerbside Reform Support Fund with $86 million in support to make that change happen.

It’s progressing well, and now we have 64% of households and councils who offer a food and organics, and garden organic service, and can recycle the organic waste.

Seven councils have now introduced separate glass services and are realising the significant benefits, with all other councils preparing for their introduction in coming years, and the complementary Container Deposit Scheme is due to start next year.

So these are systems that will be supported by standard lists for each material stream which will make resource recovery easier and dramatically increase the volume and quality of materials recovered at home and in the community.

By recovering the high value recyclable glass, and reducing glass contamination on other recyclables, the four bin system is going to cut landfill and get true value out of our materials.

I might just recognise at the moment, that we are slow to the Container Deposit Scheme Reform, but there are some opportunities for Victoria, because of the fact that we’re delivering our system after other jurisdictions.

So when commences in 2023 and produces clean streams of plastic, aluminium and glass that can be used to remake valuable products, we’ll be taking into account some of the insights from other jurisdictions as they introduce their container deposit schemes, and we’re seeking to make that it is Australia’s most accessible and convenient scheme to maximise the number of drink containers returned for recycling and reuse.

What we’ve found is that experience in other states shows that a financial incentive to return drink containers, together with an easy accessible and convenient network of collection points are the keys to success, and we’re setting minimum requirements then for the number of collection points and their operating hours, as well as providing a mix of collection types which will help to achieve those objectives.

Text: Increasing Local Resource Recovery Capacity.

If I turn then to the way we’re investing to increase local resource recovery capacity, more than $44 million has gone into 31 infrastructure projects leveraging $34 million from the Commonwealth but also, most importantly, $170 million of investment of private capital from industry, and that infrastructure capacity is tangible in terms of the outcomes, it’s delivering a resource recovery capacity across Victoria of 900,000 tonnes which is a very substantial uplift in our resource recovery capability.

And we’ve seen $19 million in grants across 159 projects to councils, communities and business to help them with practical measures to support waste reduction and address greenhouse gas emissions in their programs.

There are a few elements to the suite of investments, including the Recycling Markets Acceleration Program to build end-markets for recovery resources.

The Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre, which is hosted at Sustainability Victoria, which is supporting Victorian businesses to shift to a circular economy with both an online hub for business innovation and collaboration, but also a focus on bringing together academics and government expertise in a ‘what works model’ which we’ve looked at in successful centres overseas.

There’s also a Council and Community Fund supporting councils and communities through two grant programs for local waste reduction and for circular economy initiatives at place like repair centres, repair cafés and toy libraries, and grants of around $500,000 are available through that program.

So that’s all context if you like then for Recycled First, which is the focus of a lot of today’s discussions and Alexis will speak about in a moment.

Text: Recycled First.

But you can see with Recycled First, the state government was also wanting to put its muscle to work in terms of its own procurement across transport and construction programs for rail and road, through the ecologiQ program and the Recycle First Policy.

We do see that there’ll be scope for us to use that method and that focus in procurement across broader government procurement activities, but already Recycled First has led to more than 1.3 million tonnes of recycled and reused materials being used on our state’s major transport projects.

And if you like to speak in Victorian terms in terms of MCGs, that’s about half of the MCG or 300 Olympic sized swimming pools of recycled plastic, recycled glass, crumb rubber from old tyres, crushed concrete and brick.

So there’s a lot of work for us to do, we really want to thank the organisers of today’s conference and all of the participants and speakers for putting together such a great agenda, because we know that in the circular economy so much of our inspiration comes from comparing practice in other jurisdictions, and ideas from industry and community.

Thanks very much for your time today.

Text: Recycled First Policy.

Alexis Davison, Director, Program Services and Engineering, Major Road Projects Victoria:

Thank you John.

So great to see so many faces in the room today.

I’m here to talk to you a bit more about the Recycled First Policy, and in the true spirit of recycling some of what I’m going to say you’ve already heard this morning.

That is not entirely accidental, we want the key messages to land, it’s okay if you hear it a couple of times, and we want to see some action coming from today’s event.

Text: Recycled First policy Requirements.

So Recycled First, it’s a policy, policy documents can be pretty dry, not sure if anyone’s had the pleasure on working on any policy development, essentially we wanted to keep it simple, we developed it with a delivery mindset.

There are only two requirements, optimise the use of recycled materials and report on it, that’s it, that’s all you need to know.

So, it’s not complicated, it’s not prescriptive, it doesn’t tell you how much, it doesn’t tell you what, it doesn’t tell you where to get it from, it just says be intentional, think about it, and once you commit to it we’ll hold you to account.

Text: Recycled First Objectives.

So the objectives of the policy are really simple also, we want to drive the demand for recycled content, you’ve heard that today that the Big Build presents an amazing opportunity.

We want to encourage innovation, you’ve also heard a bit about that today.

We want to provide data, getting people to report on what they’re doing is giving us a really rich dataset, to sort of send us off into different paths of thinking why are we not maximising what’s possible, is it geography, is it cost, is it availability, is there anything we can do to fix it?

We want to support sustainable outcomes on our infrastructure projects, and obviously, as you’ve just heard from John, we want to support the Recycling Victoria Strategy.

We can do a lot of the heavy lifting with those goals of diverting waste from landfill and making something valuable with it.

We can also support the use of organics, we do an incredible amount of landscaping so we should use more of it.

The policy is simple but effective, but the interesting thing is the wrap around support that we put in place to make its implementation successful.

Text: Success in Implementation.

We knew that just throwing a policy out there people might look at it, it says optimise, it doesn’t really tell you what to do, you can kind of tick a box and get on with it.

So we knew that the technical support that we provided to our delivery teams was going to be critical to the success.

That encompasses technical leadership, some research and innovation support, specs and standards we’ve heard a lot about, and obviously collaboration which is the word of the day.

Text: Technical Leadership.

So in terms of technical leadership we’ve created a website, we’ve got a knowledge hub, we’re providing access to our contractors and partners, we’re sharing information.

What we found quite early on is people wanted to do the right thing they just didn’t know what it was, and a lot of the time, you know, you’ve heard people talk about how many of the opportunities we’re taking up in Victoria and it’s only a fraction of what we could do.

We realised that we needed to educate people on what the rules were so we created these guides where we trawled through all the specs and standards, we collated what’s possible, what you can do, and then started a bit of a campaign to sort of say to people did you know, did you know what you can do, did you know how much of that you can use?

And it’s really interesting, because a lot of people didn’t know, and then, you know, we hear people are critical of specs, and they should be sometimes, but there’s also a lot of permissible recycled content that was not being taken up because people just didn’t know what was possible.

Text: Medians and Kerbs, Bins, Access Ramps, Lighting, Tram shelter.

And then we visualised them, so they’re really easy to look at.

So you can just like pick up these visual guides and you can look at what’s, you know, common and approved, what’s approved for use but less common, and what’s an innovation, and for the innovation we’ll work with you, come talk to us, if someone says no come and tell me.

Text: Cladding, Insulation Panels, Tiles.

So I mean they’re visually impressive, they’re educational, and they’re designed to prompt people to think a little bit and, you know, we’ve heard those words intentional and early and upfront and during the design phase, we want people to look at these and start thinking about it from a really, really early stage in the project’s life.

Text: Specifications and Standards.

So specs and standards, we have been updating, writing new ones, trawling through looking at modernising, harmonising where we can.

We wrote a new noise wall technical specification, there wasn’t one in Victoria or the world, I don’t know, maybe that’s a stretch.

We’ve written a new organic spec so we can use some more organic materials, as John was just saying, you know, we need to halve the quantities going to landfill.

And we’re trawling through, I think we should have more performance-based less prescriptive specifications, why should it matter what it’s made out of as long as it does its job, you know, if it attenuates noise and last for how many years you want it to last for who cares what the noise wall is made out of.

And the same should go for other products as well.

Text: Research and Innovation.

You’ve heard a lot about research and innovation, we’re supporting the sleepers as the Minister said, we’re open to trials, we’ll test anything, we’re happy to stick something on the ground and drive over it a million times and see how it works.

And, you know, it’s a really important part of that innovation and getting new products, and working out new ways to use waste.

Text: Collaboration.

And the word of the day, collaboration, we’re connecting suppliers with buyers, we’re having innovation challenges, we’re putting information out there, you know, you saw some images from the demand model, we’re trying really hard to connect the right people with the right other people so that we can make a difference, and that everybody’s action is part of the system and the change that we need to see.

Text: Recycled First - Impacts So Far.

And it’s having an impact, and we haven’t really even changed the rules yet.

You know, aside from the couple of new specs and the noise walls, everything that we’ve seen so far is within the current sweep of specs and standards pretty much.

So we didn’t even change the rules and we’re already seeing massive impacts so far.

So, you know, that doubling of opportunities, getting to 100% and then going beyond, everybody in this room has a role to play in what comes next.

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. EcologiQ Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.

Professor Tim Flannery:

Thank you so much, I think that was a great, really great overview of what the state of Victoria is doing in this space.

We’ve got time for just a couple of questions, so if any of you have questions please us the app to deliver them, Slido.com@ecq22.

So there was a question up on the screen, it just flashed off, hopefully we’ll get the next one, apparently not, but anyway perhaps I could just ask a question or two, I mean I don’t want to – you can tell me the truth on this one.

But how does Victoria stack up with other jurisdictions in Australia and in the regions, so say New Zealand and so forth?

John Bradley, Secretary, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning:

So I think in terms of our position on some aspects of the circular economy we’ve been slow to move.

I mentioned the Container Deposit Scheme, we’re almost one of the last Australian jurisdictions to get into that space, and as I said earlier, that creates some advantages for us in terms of actually being able to look at what’s worked really effectively.

In other elements there’s been some recognition in the past that the statutory model we’ve our Waste and Resource Recovery Groups was actually an advantage compared to other jurisdictions.

But you can see from the fact that we’ve just reformed it and established Recycling Victoria, a single entity that we felt that that model wasn’t working really effectively for us in an agile way to deal with the whole of system risks.

And the SKM, China National Sword crisis in recyclables which led to some real risks to community confidence in recycling, some challenges in waste fires, that really put a light under us Tim, to get moving in relation to the circular economy framework more generally.

Professor Tim Flannery:

Great, thank you, that’s great John.

And, look the questions have come up now, so we’ve got a question for John from Pria, why doesn’t DELWP implement the Recycled First Policy for energy, water and waste sector projects that your department will deliver?

John Bradley, Secretary, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning:

Yeah, and that’s actually our area of focus and I alluded to it earlier, that we are looking at the success of what’s been done with Recycled First in the transport and construction sector to see how we can support those more specific measures in energy procurement.

So one of the issues for us is where we are not necessarily the client but we’re assisting the private sector to deliver, say in relation to our Victorian Renewable Energy Target Scheme, how we actually go further into a model where actually using a policy like Recycled First in terms of the projects we assist with.

It shouldn’t be beyond our capability to do that, we certainly do have some features of the procurement process which points towards recycling, but it’s not as advanced and it’s not as effective as we’re seeing the successes coming out of Recycled First implementation in transport, so it’s a great challenge for us.

Professor Tim Flannery:

So Alexis, I think this one’s for you.

Is it a shortage of sorting facilities to provide the feedstock, is that the problem?

It seems like the middle processing step needs support from government, and that’s from Amelia.

Alexis Davison, Director, Program Services and Engineering, Major Road Projects Victoria:

I’m not really an expert on the sorting facilities, but what I do know is that creating demand for products is important, and certainty of demand is important, so the government has a lot of levers to pull in terms of creating that demand and then, you know, the rest of the system can respond to that.

But if we sort of hit and miss in our desire to purchase recycled materials or sustainable materials then why would the rest of the system pay attention?

Professor Tim Flannery:

Yeah, no fair enough, that’s absolutely right.

So we’ve got a question from anonymous, that very popular person, and either of you can answer.

What is the vision for a business-as-usual procurement methodology for the future?

John Bradley, Secretary, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning:

The thing I’d say probably just at the outset is that one of the things we are doing is bringing together in the state environment our chief procurement officers across government departments to look at how we implement our social procurement framework more generally, but a dedicated focus in relation to the circular economy objectives, and so that’s how we will build it into BAU work across all departments in a consistent way.

We’ve got an established social procurement framework at the moment that does speak to these dimensions in relation to waste and resource recovery, but what we are finding is that if we can use that collaboration, that inspiration that comes from leading practice across our procurement methods, that we can share that through those chief procurement officers, so I think that’s a really exciting part of our capability in government.

And then using things like the CEBIC, that Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre, to share that and take in feedback from academia and industry and share what’s going on within government.

Alexis Davison, Director, Program Services and Engineering, Major Road Projects Victoria:

I think business-as-usual needs to become, and you’ve heard this today already from others, it kind of doesn’t matter what the procurement model is as long as it’s intentional that we’re thinking about using recycled materials and thinking about our energy use.

And just because you’re in a DNC it doesn’t mean you can’t be somewhat collaborative.

So I think, as we collect more data, and as we improve products, you know, we might be able to start mandating the use of materials instead of sort of encouraging, but I don’t think the procurement methodology necessarily has to be restrictive on what we do and the success that we can have.

Professor Tim Flannery:

Great, thank you.

Look, we’ve got time for one more brief question which is, what can we do to encourage people to use less disposable products?

It’s from Amera.

John Bradley, Secretary, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning:

Again, there’s an incredible amount of behavioural economics and nudge theory that needs to go into the way we have these conversations with the community, but the first thing is to just make it visible to people in a way that is actually sensible for people that are moving around the world and aren’t living and breathing this stuff every day.

And so one of the things we try to do, as per the four bin system, is to make it really simple for people to stream their recyclables in the right way, and similarly what we would like to do is to see competitive advantage emerging for companies by demonstrating their use of recycled product, and that makes it easier for consumers to make the right choice at the point of sale.

Alexis Davison, Director, Program Services and Engineering, Major Road Projects Victoria:

I agree, I think education and awareness is the key.

And you saw this morning, that even if we halve the amount of plastic that we make in the world we’re still not even scratching the surface in using it as a valuable resource.

So we need to use more material but we also need to create less waste, so putting it in front of people’s faces is the way forward.

Professor Tim Flannery:

Yeah, no thank you, that’s great.

Look, we’re out of time sadly for more questions, but could I thank you both, John and Alexis, for the fantastic session and for your leadership in this area, it’s really inspiring.

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. EcologiQ Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.

Professor Tim Flannery:

Okay, we’re now going into a lunch break and we’re going to resume the next session with a panel discussion on jurisdictional approaches to driving greener outcomes through procurement and policy, and that’s at 1:30pm.

Before we break I’d like to encourage once again to visit the trades hall theatre to listen to a line-up of supplier conversations and get to know some of our exhibitors a little bit better.

It’s a great opportunity to learn more about their recycled products, to hear about the barriers that they’ve overcome, and to share their wings on a journey to procurement on Big Build projects.

These short and sharp 15 minute conversations will be hosted by the ecologiQ team and include ample opportunity for audience questions.

So enjoy your lunch and we’ll see you back here at 1:30.

Thank you.

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. EcologiQ Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.

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