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NSW Breaking News

From recycling to upcycling: A smarter way of dealing with plastic & ag waste

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Federal Government’s COVID-19 Disaster Payments

From recycling to upcycling: A smarter way of dealing with plastic & ag waste

Researchers have developed a clean and cost-effective way to upcycle used plastic, transforming it into valuable nanomaterials and high-quality fuel.

Key points

New tech produces carbon nanotubes and clean liquid fuel from used plastic
Smart solution for upcycling plastic and agricultural waste simultaneously
Circular economy approach to help turn two massive waste streams into genuine revenue
Globally only about 20% of waste plastics are recycled. Boosting that figure remains a challenge as recycling plastic cleanly can be expensive and usually produces lower-value products, often making it financially unviable.

The new method from researchers at RMIT University can produce high-value products from plastic – carbon nanotubes and clean liquid fuel – while simultaneously upcycling agricultural and organic waste.

The team’s two-step process, revealed in the Journal of Environmental Management, converts organic waste into a carbon-rich and high-value form of charcoal, then uses this as a catalyst to upcycle the plastic.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Kalpit Shah said upcycling two massive waste streams through one circular economy approach could deliver significant financial and environmental benefits.

“Our method is clean, cost-effective and readily scaleable,” Shah said.

“It’s a smart solution for transforming both used plastic and organic waste – whether tonnes of biomass from a farm or food waste and garden clippings from household green bins.

“We hope this technology could be used in future by local councils and municipal governments to help turn this waste into genuine revenue streams.

“With Australia banning export of waste plastic from next year, it’s vital that we explore sustainable and cost-efficient alternatives beyond recycling.

“Upcycling plastic with home-grown tech would enable us to draw the greatest possible value out of our limited resources and bring us closer towards a true circular economy.”

Plastic unfantastic

The export of unprocessed single resin/polymer plastics will be banned from July 1, 2022, under new Australian laws designed to phase out export of waste plastics, paper, glass and tyres.

Australia’s national recycling target is for 70% of the country’s plastic packaging to be recycled or composted by 2025, but a recent report found just 9.4% of plastic was recycled in 2017-2018.

Recycling and clean energy is one of six national priorities in the Federal Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy.

High-value nanomaterials

The new plastic upcycling approach offers a sustainable alternative for the production of carbon nanotubes (CNTs).

These hollow, cylindrical structures have exceptional electronic and mechanical properties, with applications across a broad range of sectors including hydrogen storage, composite materials, electronics, fuel cells and biomedical technologies.

Carbon nanotubes are in growing demand, particularly in aerospace and defence, where they can facilitate the design of lightweight parts. The global market for CNTs has been projected to reach $5.8 billion by 2027.

Turning old into new

The new method starts with converting agricultural or organic waste to biochar – a carbon-rich form of charcoal often used for improving soil health.

The biochar is used to eliminate toxic contaminants – such as Poly-cyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, known as PAHs – as the waste plastic is broken down into its components of gas and oil.

The process eliminates those contaminants and convert plastics into high-quality liquid fuel.

At the same time, the carbon in the plastic is converted into carbon nanotubes, which coat the biochar.

These nanotubes can be exfoliated for use by various industries or the nano-enhanced biochar can be used directly for environmental remediation and boosting agricultural soils.

The study is the first to use low-cost and widely available biochar as a catalyst for making contaminant-free fuel and carbon nanomaterials from plastic.

Shah, the Deputy Director (Academic) of the ARC Training Centre for Transformation of Australia’s Biosolids Resource at RMIT, said while the study only investigated one type of plastic the approach would be applicable to a range of plastic types.

“We focused on polypropylene as this is widely used in the packaging industry,” he said.

“While we need to do further research to test different plastics, as the quality of the fuel produced will vary, the method we’ve developed is generally suitable for upcycling any polymers – the base ingredients for all plastic.”

Hyper-efficient reactor

The experimental study conducted at lab scale can also be replicated in a new type of hyper-efficient reactor that has been developed and patented by RMIT.

The reactor is based on fluidised bed technology and offers significant improvement in heat and mass transfer, to reduce overall capital and operating costs.

The next steps for the upcycling research will involve detailed computer modelling to optimise the methodology, followed by pilot trials in the reactor.

The team from RMIT’s School of Engineering is keen to collaborate with plastic and waste industries to further the research and investigate other potential applications of the upcycling method.

The research was supported through an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship.

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Northern Rivers & Rural News

NSW ABORIGINAL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE LAUNCHES

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NSW ABORIGINAL BUSINESS

NSW ABORIGINAL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE LAUNCHES

Leading Aboriginal businesses have gathered to identify priorities for Closing the Gap implementation at the NSW Government’s inaugural NSW Aboriginal Business Roundtable.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Don Harwin said the commencement of regular Roundtables with the Aboriginal business community reflected the importance of economic opportunity as part of the NSW Government’s Closing the Gap agenda.

“NSW is the only state to have a specific, additional priority reform on Employment, Business Growth and Economic Prosperity,” he said.

“We recognise that in addition to their economic contribution, Aboriginal businesses are important vehicles for self-determination and better social and educational outcomes, and we want to develop an investment environment they can succeed in,” he said.

Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said the event recognised the important role of Aboriginal businesses, as well as their diversity.

“I look forward to further hearing from Aboriginal businesses from across different sectors as we discuss how to better involve them in NSW Government work.

“Central to this is our Aboriginal Procurement Policy, which makes it easier for Government agencies to consider an Aboriginal business when procuring goods and services and will also see more jobs created and more opportunities for Aboriginal businesses,” he said.

The MC for the Roundtable is distinguished journalist and author Stan Grant, who noted the importance of consultative processes that enable Aboriginal organisations to identify priority areas for government action.

“As MC, I’m looking forward to connecting the voices of Aboriginal business leaders with NSW Government, particularly in the context of planning a COVID-19 recovery.”

Founder, Director and Program Manager of Aboriginal owned ICT delivery and consultancy firm Patonga Projects Brett Chamberlain said he was looking forward to working with the government and Aboriginal peak bodies on Closing the Gap actions to drive change in communities.

“We’re particularly interested in supporting digital inclusion and improved access to data, and the Roundtable is a chance for government to listen to and act on our feedback while growing relationships with the Aboriginal business sector,” he said.

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NSW Breaking News

Leadership upheaval – Deputy John Barilaro follows Gladys Berejiklian out of NSW parliament

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Water Minister Melinda Pavey is tipped to be new NSW Nationals leader

Leadership upheaval – Deputy John Barilaro follows Gladys Berejiklian out of NSW parliament

By Margaret Dekker

NSW Deputy Premier and leader of the NSW National Party John Barilaro has joined former Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Transport Minister Andrew Constance in resigning from parliament in an extraordinary week in state politics.
“I have decided now is the right time for me to hand the reins over to new leadership and resign as Deputy Premier of NSW,” the former Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, Industry and Trade said in a statement on Monday, October 4.
He said it was time for NSW to embrace a new era.

Water Minister Melinda Pavey is tipped to be new NSW Nationals leader

Water Minister Melinda Pavey is tipped to be new NSW Nationals leader

“As we emerge from lockdown, we must embrace this time as a new beginning for our state and welcome the opportunity it presents for a refresh,” John Barilaro’s statement continued.
His shock resignation came just a day after NSW Transport Minister, veteran Bega MP Andrew Constance announced his resignation on Sunday October 3, citing a possible tilt at Federal Politics in 2022.
Three resignations in as many days will see by-elections now held in the seats of Monaro (Barilaro replacement) Bega (Constance replacement) and Willoughby (Berejiklian replacement.)
Mr Barilaro was elected leader of the NSW Nationals and Deputy Premier of NSW in 2016.
“Ten and a half years is a long time in politics. Five years is a very long time as Deputy Premier, I’ve taken it seriously and given everything I possibly could have,” John Barilaro said on Monday.
“It is tough on anybody in public life to continue in this role, especially under so much scrutiny, especially media scrutiny.”
Mr Barilaro hoped regional NSW recognised his “genuine and tireless effort to be there for them.”
A Nationals party room meeting was set for this Wednesday for John Barilaro to formally resign as leader and call a ballot for his replacement.
Nationals MP Melinda Pavey, the Member for Oxley and current NSW Minister for Water, is widely tipped to replace John Barilaro as the next NSW Nationals leader.
“I’ve almost had 20 years in Parliament. I just want to continue serving our community,” Ms Pavey said earlier this week.
Andrew Constance MP said he wasn’t surprised by the sudden changing of the guard in New South Wales.
“The situation with Gladys was always going to trigger an enormous change or shift in the paradigm, and that’s what’s happened,” Andrew Constance said.

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NSW Breaking News

‘Opening up’ regions must be done safely

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Federal Government’s COVID-19 Disaster Payments

‘Opening up’ regions must be done safely

By Janelle Saffin MP
State Member for Lismore

LAST month, I joined forces with four other NSW MPs representing the Northern Rivers to ask the NSW Government to protect our region from a predicted big influx of Sydneysiders when the State capital reaches the Government’s 70-per cent double vaccination target before we can.
Coming together with one voice for the communities we represent, The Nationals’ Chris Gulaptis (Clarence), Geoff Provest (Tweed) and Ben Franklin MLC, together with myself and The Greens’ Tamara Smith (Ballina) wrote to Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro about our concerns. Both Ms Berejiklian and Mr Barilaro have since resigned and are leaving politics.
We asked to adjust the roadmap to factor in regional and rural circumstances to prevent us being swamped by visitors prematurely, and in a win for us here, non-essential travel from Greater Sydney to the North Coast now will be restricted until a higher safety target of 80 per cent is reached.
It should be remembered that regional and rural New South Wales supported Sydney during its darkest hours this winter when the Government redirected some of our vaccine supply to metropolitan students sitting their HSC.
The vaccination rollout was prioritised to Sydney and from last week eligibility for all Covid-19 vaccines was opened up to all people over the age of 12. Vaccine availability is slowly improving here in our region, and not before time.
It is now our turn. We need more vaccines and more time. We have been left out of all considerations and should not have to fight so hard to get taken notice of. It took all MPs, even those in the Government, to come together to say ‘what about us here in regional and rural NSW?’ It is not all about Sydney.
I was part of a similar cross-party collaboration which secured a border zone between Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland, tested recently by some positive Covid-19 cases leaking into our region, and resultant snap lockdowns in Byron Shire and Tweed Shire LGAs (lifted at time of writing) and in Kyogle and Lismore City LGA, and the town of Casino (now in place until 11 October).
These lockdowns really hurt local businesses, families and local councils’ operations.
The filming of reality TV productions, with large casts and crews from Sydney, is inappropriate for our region at this time.
These production companies had a corporate social responsibility to Byron and Tweed shire residents to ensure that their employees adhered to permit restrictions under Covid-safe plans.
I also wrote to the Deputy Premier, in his then capacity as Minister for Regional NSW, requesting a detailed road map for opening up from Covid-19 restrictions that is more particularised to the circumstances and challenges being faced by local communities in regional areas.
The thinking behind having this road map is that hopefully it will provide much more clarity, and if implemented well, gradually replace the need to go in and out of lockdown.
However, we need to know that opening up will not mean open slather; putting our local government areas at any undue risk or disadvantage.
We need the NSW Government to be more transparent about how many residents of Greater Sydney are being issued with permits to travel to the North Coast, whether they are fully vaccinated and why they are coming.
How many others might have slipped through the net, exposing the regions to Covid outbreaks and clusters?
Subsequently, Mr Barilaro held several Zoom hook-ups with regional MPs and I believe he and other senior ministers were starting to listen to our concerns, which are shared by locally-based medical professionals and the broader community.
I pledged to work with the NSW Government to keep our communities safe and healthy, and for government financial support measures to reach struggling local businesses and individuals, particularly as the Federal Government soon will withdraw such support.

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