Waste Expo Australia has wrapped up for another year, with over 3,000 visitors attending the two day conference and exhibition in Melbourne to take away valuable thoughts and actions towards creating a sustainable future in Victoria and around Australia.
Last week’s event was hailed a success by attendees, speakers and exhibitors alike, from the standing-room only sessions at the conference to the bustling exhibition floor. The conference, themed “Advancing Towards Sustainable Resource Recovery”, picked up on the industry’s most important topics across four streams: Local Government and Policy, Commercial Demolition and Commercial and Industrial (CD&CI), Circular Economy and Waste Innovation, and Waste to Energy/Energy from Waste.
Conference MC Sally Williams, also known as Sustainable Sally, chaired the Local Government stream across two days, and said the tone of the conference and enthusiasm of the attendees was outstanding.
“Waste Expo Australia is about collaboration, sharing information and learning from industry leaders. It’s the perfect environment to meet and talk with people who have tried and tested incredible innovations and to learn from their experiences.
“The increase in numbers this year says it all: it’s the perfect forum for the waste and resource recovery sector to showcase how it is working towards developing circular solutions for a better, more sustainable future,” Ms Williams said.
On the eve of the launch of Victoria’s Container Deposit Scheme (CDS Vic), Sebastian Chapman, Executive Director CDS of Recycling Victoria, spoke on a panel along with leaders from TOMRA Cleanaway, Return It, Visy and MRA Consulting.
Mr Chapman said the highlight of the conference was in seeing people think about product stewardship schemes and the growing awareness of the circular economy in Victoria and elsewhere.
“It’s always an exciting opportunity at Waste Expo Australia for people to come together – there’s lots of people doing amazing things across the whole of the circular economy and our waste and recycling systems.
“It provides those opportunities to network, connect and innovate, but also from the government point of view it’s valuable because it allows us to speak with the sector, from academics to business, community groups and experts. It’s those connections that are so important if we’re going to be successful in building Victoria’s circular economy,” Mr Chapman said.
The circular economy was a hot topic across conference streams. Dr Sarah King, Technical Director, Circular Economy for GHD said the conversation around circularity and waste is certainly progressing.
“The landscape of the circular economy has changed dramatically over the last five years, challenging us to reconsider waste as a valuable resource. Waste Expo Australia is helping engage companies and shift the concept of waste from being a cost burden to a resource with value, highlighting innovative solutions that give waste resources a higher purpose.”
The conference also tackled new and emerging issues in recycling and waste, including a panel on the hidden cost of battery disposal.
Non-profit CEO Shannon Mead of No More Butts joined that panel, alongside representatives from the Battery Stewardship Council, EPA Victoria, Re Group and Solo Resource Recovery. While the panel covered a multitude of issues with battery disposal, Ms Mead particularly tackled the hidden danger of single-use vape disposal, and the flow-on effects to landfill and the environment.
“Based on consumption, we estimate nearly one million ‘single-use’ vapes per week are thrown away in Australia. That’s one million batteries (many of which could be recharged or recycled) ending up in landfill and starting bin fires, truck fires, or deadly facility fires,” said Ms Mead.
“Beyond just the health effects of vapes, there’s now a myriad of regulatory issues emerging around their safe disposal. Vapes present a ‘triple-threat’ of environmental issues: the hardened plastic casing, the copper coil and circuitry components and then the highly flammable lithium-ion battery.”
While solutions to some of the wicked problems in waste management are not yet present, companies are making moves to offer practical products and solutions.
One of these companies is international provider Eldan Recycling, who are now making moves into PV and EV recycling, to combat the growing problem of solar panel waste and recycling, plus the challenges associated with EV batteries. Carsten Nielsen, Product Manager at Eldan, said its team had a busy few days at Waste Expo Australia.
“We’re looking at automated solutions for solar panel recycling, disassembling the units on an automatic line to ultimately re-use the silica components for new solar panels. We’ve had a lot of great conversations with people who are interested in seeing what we supply and talking about the ideas we bring to the table, Mr Neilsen said.
Exhibition Director Samantha Martin said that post-COVID, the industry is back stronger than ever – a trend reflected in visitor numbers that were over 30 per cent higher than 2022.
“The waste management and resource recovery industry is on the precipice of significant industry change which will drive growth in the industry. We love hearing from multiple exhibitors and speakers about the encouraging conversations they’ve had at Waste Expo Australia 2023, and the fantastic turnout points to the industry’s strong future,” Ms Martin said.
Waste Expo Australia 2024 will be held on October 23-24 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Featured image: Waste Expo 2023. Image courtesy of Waste Expo.
Monkey Media is a partner of Waste Expo Australia 2023. For more information, visit https://www.wasteexpoaustralia.com.au/