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Advanced Waste Management in Australia Assignment
Few months ago, China has decided to stop importing waste materials from Australia and the latter is forced to initiate new waste management policies that can address 64 million tonnes of solid waste, million tonnes of e-waste and organic waste. Cities like Sydney and Melbourne are already equipped with waste disposal and recycling systems while the rest of the cities are not. While this stands as a downside to this process, the government has set national targets that look like a distant dream and minimize chances of successful implementation in the years to come.
The literature review section of this paper assesses the efforts and flaws of waste management systems and essential policies that can impact the government positively. The evaluation section gives an understanding on what Australia lacks in its waste management department and how the environmental system can be improved with replication of policies followed by other countries. Advanced management implies proper collection, disposal, upcycling, recycling and control of landfills. When waste can be converted into energy, it turns out to be a financially rewarding project and this effort is detailed more in the sections to come.
Waste management industry in Australia is huge in terms of waste quantities and population to be managed. The environment department of Australia highlights that about 64 million tonnes of solid waste are generate every year and the country has about 2846 facilities exclusively to manage waste. The purpose of those facilities is to recover and transfer so that the landfill does not rise in large volumes. Australia's waste industry has not worked to its fullest as it focuses on collection instead of recycling.
A year ago, Australia was turned down by China claiming that the waste materials will no more be important and the waste crisis piled up so high that residents of Australia were fearful about extra charges that might likely be imposed by the government. Since several years, 60% of the waste materials were recycled by China but the sudden decision forced Australia to setup an internal waste recycling centre and this led to an average estimate of 100 dollars per tonne.
Unless Australian government implements waste management initiatives on an urgent basis, it is impossible to handle the high stock volumes that can turn into environmental hazards and also result in fires. Advanced recycling processes are on demand so that the country has an impact in terms of revenue in addition to the environmental protection. This paper focuses on the advanced waste management strategies that have been followed in Australia since long and new strategies that are required to cope with the alarming situation.
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The actual value of this industry is found to be high considering the income generating opportunities in the future. Alcalde et al (2005) believe that Australia's waste management is likely to see stringent laws in container and packaging methods in the retail fields. Since a major portion of the waste tends to comprise plastic materials, it is a good idea to enforce a recycling system to treat plastic containers and packaging materials or introduce environmental friendly materials.
Herat (2009) states that advanced waste management needs to focus excessively on electronic waste as Australia is found to be 12th largest ICT market in the globe and this implies the high chances of e-waste disposal. Even before the life of an electronic product ends, people dispose them and contribute to environmental degradation. Copper, brominated flame retardants and other chemicals have both health impacts as well as environmental impacts. Though there is environmental protection heritage council (EPHC) in place, it becomes nearly impossible to monitor the disposal closely. Right from the packaging to disposal, there is a need for advanced waste management in the country (Cassells and Lewis, 2011).
City of Sydney (2014) is found to have a solid plan to address the growing waste generated by the city. Looking at the master plan generated by the city council, waste is considered as a resource and therefore, a part of it is upcycled. Further, the city has taken an initiative to generate renewable gases from the waste products by 2030 and this will lead to carbon free electricity and control the overall greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to this renewable energy master plan, the city has developed a procedure to treat the waste(Saphores et al, 2012).
- It begins with the collection and then materials are sorted.
- Based on the material type, they are either dried or allowed to reform with high temperature gasification.
- Through the syngas cooling technique, it is possible to compress the generated gas and make it possible to use for domestic purposes.
- Grid pipeline and trigeneration networks can be setup to supply the natural gases commercially as well. These networks can help in recovering the energy with highest efficiency.
City of Sydney (2014) finds that this process is economically viable and the air quality can be improved.The city of Melbourne is known to have state of the art waste management facilities due to the increasing population and waste generated per person. Looking at the plans established by Melbourne government (2015), it is evident that the goal is to diversify the waste and lower the landfill by at least 50%. This is possible by improving the resource recovery process, local amenities and reducing the waste to landfill cycle. The city has classified the waste generated in terms of sources - residential and commercial. Residential waste is collected and either composted or recycled by the waste services offered by city of Melbourne.
On the other hand, commercial waste includes food waste, common recyclables and landfill and there are 35 companies operating in the locality to address the growing degree of landfill. The waste management practice of Melbourne has also included a landfill levy so that it is possible to recycle without any financial overheads. Advanced waste management in Melbourne can be explained in terms of the latest initiatives such as street recycling facility, cardboard recovery, high rise recycling program, recycling rewards, compactors in the central regions, better recovery for electronic waste, residential organics and partnerships (Pash, 2018). All these initiatives incur additional costs but can benefit the city on a long run and can impact Australian government in terms of environmental protection by the year 2030.
The growing challenges in treating waste are due to the influence of economic activities according to He et al (2017). The country currently follows a traditional linear economy where treating waste has a direct impact on the government's spending which further increase the household expenses towards management. Back in the period of 2010-11, the resource recovery system of Australia was able to apply thermal waste technologies, material recovery facilities, alternative facilities and garden organic facilities. However, it was not possible for the government to implement the infrastructure in all the states due to economic crunch.
On the other hand, Messenger (2019) has reported that Australia has slowly initiated a waste to energy plant of 40MW near Perth and this is just going to be the first of many other waste processing systems to enter and improve the environmental condition of Australia. This has been initiated by partnering with finance and energy groups.
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Australia is one of the rapidly developing economies in the world and this is the right time to enforce advanced waste management practices to make them viable by 2025-30. Australian local government station has proposed the following initiatives:
- Upto 30% of all the waste materials containing organic waste to be recycled.
- With new designs and innovation, single use plastic will be eradicated by the year 2030 and alternatives shall be proposed.
- By 2025, it is mandatory to achieve 100% recyclable efficiency of all the packaging materials.
Metropolitan transfer station (2019) strongly believes that these national targets have long term vision and can bring the necessary change in the country. However, looking at the efficiency and potential of Australian government, the waste management practice seems to be a delayed move. There is insufficient understanding among the inhabitants about the problems that waste materials can impose on their health conditions and the country's economy in the near future.
When countries like India have already begun the ban of single use plastics, Australia should have taken this initiative long ago. Setting up a centralized infrastructure that can supply energy at small levels for domestic purpose should be in place in a couple of years and this can be extended or even expanded based on the economic condition. Advanced waste management also includes advanced disposal and public awareness. The national waste report issued by environment department of Australian government (2013) makes it clear that the recovery process is already in place and the recycling process is lacking.
Instead of collecting and increasing the landfills accumulated in a period of time, it is high time to replicate the recycling processes followed by other countries. Bolger (2018) highlights the advanced waste management followed in Germany that is productive as well as profitable. The financial incentive program offered by the environmental department of Germany along with the collection fee when the landfill is high is an excellent approach to recycle and utilize the received waste materials.
Australia has to learn waste organization procedure from South Korea as the latter encourages inhabitants to make use of colour coded bags and people need to pay based on weight of each of the bags. This keeps the public aware about the landfill and reduces the waste. The third thing that Australia has to know is to launch mini recycling stations at a stone's throw. Though this can incur massive financial investments, it is still a healthier option when looked from a long-term perspective.
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The curbside collection system is popular in Australia but is not used effectively (Gillespie and Bennett, 2013). Looking at Sweden's waste management system, mini recycling stations take the responsibility to burn waste and convert to energy that can be supplied to homes. While this is one of the national targets of Australia, it is a good time to implement at least the mini recycling stations where people can directly drop the waste materials and a fee can be charged based on weight. There are 2 benefits in this model. The first benefit is the involvement of people in the national initiative to reduce waste. The second benefit is that the government does not have to spend towards vehicle and fuel to pick up waste and dump it at a different place.
Right from technology to finance, it is essential for Australia to act rapidly and replicate successful methodologies followed by other countries on a smaller scale. Like Bos-Brouwers (2010) rightly stated, corporates need to participate in these sustainability initiatives of the government and innovate new designs so that suitable activities can be put into practice.
Waste management seems to be a new concept to Australia as it has been taking advantage all these years by exporting to China. However, the sudden decision of China to end the importing process has forced Australian government to implement quick waste management decisions. It starts from home and Australian government has failed to understand this point. Though it is clear that the waste will be separated based on the sources, a lot of expenses can be controlled if the public take part in the waste management initiatives and the government can offer incentives in turn to their contributions. This public partnership model also paves way for new inventions towards commercial packaging methods and recycling methods. As already mentioned in this paper, replication of other successful models in different countries can seem to be a good idea as it can minimize the effort and also keep the government informed about the risks. Going street by street is important and needs preference over a city by city waste management system as the former can help in better control and lead to sustainable practices while the latter can only contribute to an increased landfill.
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