NCWQ Environment Report June 2018

By Pat Pepper

NCWQ Environment Adviser

Plastic Waste –Problem:  In 2015 global plastic production reached 322 million tonnes (Mt), a dramatic increase compared to the 279 Mt produced in 2011.  The plastics demand in the European Union was 58 Mt, of which 29.7% was recycled, 39.5% was recovered in the form of energy (mainly incineration) and 30.8% was sent to landfill  Kalargaris, Ioannis Guohong Tian, Sai Gu The utilisation of oils produced from plastic waste at different pyrolysis temperatures in a DI diesel engine Energy 131 (2017) 179e185; Association of Plastic Manufacturers Europe, Plastics e the Facts 2016. An analysis of the European plastics production, demand and waste data. European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organisations; 2016 p. 1e38.  Geyer et al estimated that 8300 Mt of virgin plastics had been produced between 1950 and 2015, of which 30% was still in use.  They estimated that in 2015, 407 Mt of primary plastics (plastics manufactured from virgin materials) entered the use phase, whereas 302 Mt left it.  Thus, in 2015, 105 Mt were added to the in-use stock.  The cumulative waste generation of primary and secondary (recycled) plastic waste amounted to 6300 Mt of which around 9% had been recycled, 12% incinerated, and 79% accumulated in landfills or the natural environment i.e. about 60% of all plastic ever produced is in landfill or litter.  Four to 12 Mt of plastic waste generated on land was estimated to enter the marine environment of all major ocean basins in 2010.  Geyer et al also noted plastics’ largest market was packaging most of which leaves use the same year they are produced

Geyer, Jambeck, Law Sci. Adv. 2017;3: e1700782; (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782)


The fate of plastic packaging material is illustrated below.  With 78 Mt of plastic packaging used in 2013, only 14% was collected for recycling, 14% incinerated and the remaining 72% ended up in landfill or as litter in the environment


World Economic Forum, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey & Company, The New Plastics Economy — Rethinking the future of plastics(2016, 


Health and Environmental Issues:  Toxins in or attached to microplastics can embed themselves in the marine food chain.  The smallest plastic particle, nanoplastics, can carry larger amounts of environmental toxicants due to their high surface/volume ratio and can enter organs and body fluids of marine or land organisms and could be a risk to humans if digested. Supporting information for submissions on micro and nano plastics from NCWA & NCWQ Environment Adviser,  Plastics, such as ethylene and propylene, derived from fossil hydrocarbons, are not biodegradable and as a result, they accumulate, rather than decompose, in landfills or the natural environment. Geyer et al  ibid  Over the very long term landfill would result in production of greenhouse gases through slow decomposition of plastic in a putrescible landfill. Final-report-Panel_Hume-Waste to-Fuel-Facility.pdf


Strategies to combat this waste problem include avoiding products becoming waste (reduce and reuse); finding an alternative use for waste (recycle and recover); and as a last resort, disposing safely. Unfortunately landfill can be the default for the latter..


Reduce and Reuse:  There can be no argument about reducing plastic waste, like using alternative material to plastic e.g. hemp bags instead of plastic bags for shopping.  However, there is a proviso on continual reuse of plastic containers.  For example to make the plastic flexible, phthalates might be used in the manufacturing of plastic bottle.  Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, a major environmental concern, and which can mimic the actions of hormones in the human body.


Recycle and Recover:  The Plastics Identification Code (PIC) identifies the type of plastic resin a product is made from, its properties and possible use when recycled.



Examples of plastic products Characteristics Examples of recycled plastic products
PET/PETE – Polyethylene Terephthalate Soft drink bottles, sleeping bag filling Clear, rigid, often used as a fibre Soft drink bottles, clear film for packaging
HDPE – High density Polyethylene Milk bottles, crinkly shopping bags Hard to semi flexible, usually opaque Wheelie bins, detergent bottles, agricultural pipes
PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride Cordial and juice bottles

Shoe soles, garden


Flexible, clear and semi-elastic Pipes, tiles

Hose cores, industrial flooring

LDPE Low-density Polyethylene Ice cream lids, garbage bags Soft and flexible, waxy surface Freezer bags, plastic packaging
PP – Polypropylene Ice cream containers, crisp packets Flexible but strong Compost bins, worm farms
PS – Polystyrene

EPS Expanded Polystyrene

Yogurt pots, plastic cutlery, hot drink cups, take-away containers Rigid and brittle, clear or glassy looking, lightweight  and foam-like Clothes pegs, coat hangers
All other Plastic All other plastics Includes acrylic and nylon Varies Imitation timber and concrete products

Cleanaway Fact Sheet

However, these numbers do not mean that the items are automatically recyclable.  The PIC tells recyclers what type of plastic a product is made from.  Not all plastics are recyclable e.g. hard thermoset plastics commonly used in electronics.  Even those plastics that are recyclable often need mechanical or hand sorting into separate plastic polymer classes before they can be processed.  Currently only three of the seven categories are economically viable to recycle: PET (soft drink bottles); HDPE (milk bottles); and PVC (shampoo bottles).  The other four – LDPE (garbage bags); PP (microwaveable cookware); PS (foam hot drink cups); and other plastics are less economically viable and so are recycled at much lower rates.  Incentives like supplying labelled bins in convenient locations could encourage the public to sort their own plastic waste. Contamination can be a problem.

Effect on human health and the environment:  Recycled plastics aren’t able to continually serve the same purpose after recycling.  The process of melting down and recycling plastic produces volatile organic compounds that can harm plant and animal life including humans near the industrial site if not carefully controlled.  Plastic is manufactured from petroleum and this substance can leech into foods stored in recycled plastic containers.  Plastic manufacturers only use a small portion of recycled plastic, if any, when producing food containers and packaging.  Because of the potential health threats recycled plastic poses, much plastic recycling is actually downcycling e.g. a plastic water bottle may be downcycled to become artificial turf or plastic furniture.

Market for recycled plastic:  Lack of market for recycled plastic can be a disincentive.  One recycling business which turns soft plastics such as milk cartons and squeezable shampoo bottles into sturdy plastic play equipment, termite-proof boardwalk decking and bollards, processes about a third of what it has the capacity to.  This firm with at least one other only accepts plastic waste from organisations willing to buy back the recycled products.

The Federal Government is to be commended for negotiating with the State and Territory Governments  for  a target of 100% of Australian packaging to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.  The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, working with its 950 member companies are to deliver this target. However, the definitions of different waste categories vary by state and territory, so there is no commonly accepted working definition of what constitutes “recyclable, compostable or reusable”.  Because some products that are technically recyclable are not accepted in most councils, kerbside recycling collection the target is unlikely to be met without policies and market incentives. e.g. Almost 80% of glass and plastic bottles are recycled in SA which has container deposit legislation compared to 65% in WA where similar legislation is only at the discussion stage. Atiq Zaman, Curtin University, advocates

  1. legislation, regulations or incentives for manufacturers to develop new packaging types;
  2. an increase in public participation rates in recycling; and
  3. the development of a strong domestic market for recyclable materials.

Conversion of plastic waste to fuel:  Geyer et al note the vast majority of monomers used to make plastics, such as ethylene and propylene, are derived from fossil hydrocarbons.  None of the commonly used plastics are biodegradable so they accumulate, rather than decompose, in landfills or the natural environment. The only way to permanently eliminate plastic waste is by destructive thermal treatment, such as combustion or pyrolysis. Geyer et al, ibid


The pyrolysis process to convert plastic waste to oil, the suitability of various plastics for this process and some of the commercial machines available to do this have been reported previously.  Some types of plastics e.g. pure hydrocarbons, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) are more suitable than others for using this technology NCWQ Environment Adviser’s Reports, February 2018  Many Australian jurisdictions specify that the waste sourced as input for waste to energy plants must target genuine residual waste that cannot feasibly be reused or recycled. Final-report-Panel_Hume-Waste to-Fuel-Facility.pdf  A commercial scale facility capable of converting waste plastics to fuel at a rate of 50 feedstock tonnes per day was commissioned in NSW by Integrated Green Energy (IGE) with Foyson Resources using a catalytic restructuring process.  However, in a Report to the ACT Minister for Planning and Land Management on the Proposed FOY Group plastic to fuel facility in Hume industrial zone, an independent panel noted the IGE proposal was not supported by NSW EPA as the “proof of performance” requirement in the NSW Energy from Waste Policy was met. Final-report-Panel_Hume-Waste to-Fuel-Facility.pdf  The company also planned a plastics-to-fuel plant that would convert 73 tonnes of plastic into 77.5 million litres of fuel a year to be built at Hume in the ACT.  The company claimed their technology removed ash, dealt with hydrocarbon contaminants, and used waste gas for heating to burn off gas at a high enough temperature to destroy noxious compounds.  The independent panel reported the company’s environmental impact statement failed to sufficiently address key risks, including the risk of explosions, the potential damage to surrounding land, and the effects on air quality.  They also recommended ACT should have a “proof of performance” requirement.  Hence the plan was shelved.  Recently, Integrated Green Energy Solutions (IGES), announced a joint venture agreement with the Chinese Crown World Holdings to construct a waste plastic-to-fuel facility in Weifang in Shandon Province of China.  The facility will have an initial production capacity of 200 tonnes per day, producing 70 million litres of road-ready fuels per annum.  IGES’s patented plastic-to-fuel process is claimed by the company to reduce the environmental impacts of waste plastic, that would otherwise be used in landfills or discarded into the environment. .  The Hume-Waste to-Fuel-Facility Panel also noted that most proposed energy from waste facilities in Australia have not progressed to a commercial operation due to unanticipated complexities dealing with contamination in the mixed waste stream, resulting in mechanical handling problems, plant damage or failure to reliably comply with contemporary air emission standards.  An additional complication can be the challenge of maintaining a sustainable product in a marketplace where this competes with conventional products, and is influenced by world oil prices. Final-report-Panel_Hume-Waste to-Fuel-Facility.pdf   Maybe, given the waste disposal problem exasperated by China’s ban on imported solid waste, the need  for sustainable continuous energy supply and that Australia only has 48 days aggregated fuel reserves, the limitation on resin type to be used in waste to energy plants should be reconsidered.

Another method of producing fuel from plastic waste is Gasification which involves heating the waste plastic with air or steam, to produce a valuable industrial gas mixtures called “synthesis gas”, or syngas. This can then be used to produce diesel and petrol, or burned directly in boilers to generate electricity

However pyrolysis is reported to have better advantages towards environmental pollution and reduction of carbon footprint of plastic products. Pyrolysis minimizes the emissions of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide compared to combustion and gasification. A review on thermal and catalytic pyrolysis of plastic solid waste


NCWQ Arts and Letters Report June 2018

By Jennifer Ann Davies

NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser


Short stories! I was asked the other day what had happened to ‘the short story’? Whilst some of our Queensland and Australian writing competitions promote the short story, many seem to disappear after brief exposure.

Once upon a time short stories were published in magazines, particularly Women’s magazines, as well as in bound collections. Stories varied, and provided the reader with a wide range of themes, styles, ideas and plots. The basic Australian Oxford Dictionary defines ‘story’ n. “account of imaginary or past events, narrative, tale, anecdote; course of life of person, institution etc.”

I realised, whilst searching shelves, shops and sites, that there is a distinct kinship between short stories and poems! Often, the short story writer and the poet may have work published in a magazine, local newspaper, or regional, national or international publication; but it takes time and a huge effort to find a publisher for an entire anthology or collection.


The following history of Cate KENNEDY’S collection of wonderful, authentically ‘Australian’ short stories may serve to partially explain this publishing process.  The stories are varied, yet wholesome and ‘earthed’ in a way one may not have read for a long time.

LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE – Scribe Publications

Cate Kennedy is the author of the highly acclaimed novel ‘The World Beneath’, which won the People’s Choice Award in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards in 2010. She is an award-winning short-story writer whose work has been published widely. Her first collection, ‘Dark Roots’ was shortlisted for the Steele Rudd Award in the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and for the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal. She is also the author of a travel memoir, ‘Sing and Don’t Cry’, and the poetry collections ‘Joyflight’, ‘Signs of Other Fires’ and ‘The Taste of River Water’. The latter won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2011. Cate lives on a secluded bend of the Broken River in north-east Victoria.  Contact:


Still in the World of Letters! – STELLA – The 2018 Stella Prize Shortlist

Celebrating great books by Australian women

Mirandi RIWOE is one of the shortlisted authors. “THE FISH GIRL” is inspired by the ‘Malay Trollope’ in W. Somerset Maugham’s story, “The Four Dutchmen”. This novella, slender, supple, is tender and delightful. ‘The Fish Girl’ tells of an Indonesian girl whose life is changed irrevocably when she moves from a small fishing village to work in the house of a Dutch merchant. There she finds both hardship and tenderness as her traditional past and colonial present collide.   

Miranda Riwoe is a Brisbane-based writer who has been shortlisted for the ‘Overland’ Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize, the Josephine Ulrick Short Story Prize and the Luke Bitmead Bursary. She has also been longlisted for the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and the CWA (UK) dagger awards. Her work has appeared in ‘Review of Australian Fiction’, ‘Rex’, and ‘Peril and Shibboleth and Other Stories’. Her first novel, ‘She be Damned’, was released by Legend Press UK and Pantera Aust. In 2017. Miranda has a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies from QUT, Brisbane, Queensland.

Riwoe’s novella is language rich, which reassures the reader of its informed authenticity, and the sheer beauty of a culture about which we know little, despite our geographical and historic proximity.

‘The girl parts her hair with the backs of her hands, so that the shiny tresses are like the wings of a black bird.’

‘A sob…lodges in her throat like a frog in a tree hollow…’ p.5

‘The fish girl has brought the smell of the sea with her.’ p.17

‘…the ocean’s whisper…the ocean’s presence…Mina remembers who she is. But the memory has weight, sinks in her chest like a pebble in the sea.’ p.19

‘She felt like she was bursting through her skin, like the lush, buttery flesh that peeks through the spiky crevices of an overripe durian.’ p.54

“Cantik!” = beautiful in Indonesian – Kamus Moderen 3 Milyar.


Other shortlisted publications are:-

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree – Shokoofeh Azar

Terra Nullius – Claire G. Coleman

The Life to Come – Michelle de Kretser

An Uncertain Grace – Krissy Kneen

Tracker – Alexis Wright



Another Aussie! With a cast of unforgettable characters, ‘THE SHELLEY BEACH WRITERS’ GROUP’ is an irresistible story of loss, change and reinvention.

The heroine has been dumped by her husband, for his PA; their company has gone broke and her nearly-published novel is cancelled! This wonderful character leaves behind the air kisses, pretences, power dressing and is constantly surprised, if not astounded, at new discoveries in a new, very, very simple life. The novel is peppered with an abundance of ‘Bloody hell’s’ – but even that over-seasoning becomes somewhat palatable when the reader understands the enormity of the changes our character manages. Bartering in a small, stormy, sleepy seaside sanctuary, our heroine realises how little she has seen of the sky, throughout her years of being a city working woman, wife and mother.

“I’m sure I saw the Dog whisper to Bossy Child to ignore me and invite her friends whenever she wants. The Dog likes the Bossy Child’s friends because they make such a fuss of him. He’s not keen on children under the age of three though, unless they’ve been dog trained!” p.77 Viking an imprint of Penguin Books Australia.

Australian, June LOVES, is the author of over one hundred non-fiction books for both children and adults. She has also been a newspaper journalist, freelance writer and teacher librarian. She now lives near the beach in Victoria with her husband, but no Dog!



Alliance Francaise de Cairns presented the French Film Festival to Far North Queensland. Eight films were presented over a three day period, all of which had English sub-titles. The small theatre at Event Cinemas Cairns City was packed, with ‘The School of Life’ a favourite!


Directed by Nicolas Vanier. Starring Francois Cluzet, Eric Elmosnino, Francois Berleand, Jean Scandel. Filmmaker Nicolas Vanier (directors Belle and Sebastian) borrows from his own childhood experiences growing up in Sologne to inform The School of Life – a gratifying, feel-good story about a boy whose miserable existence in a Parisian orphanage is changed forever when he is taken to live in rural France. In addition to the sheer enjoyment of the film itself, audience members loved the very beautiful scenery and cinematography.

SOCIAL HISTORY – A sometimes forgotten element of our culture.

WARTIME WALK promoted by Cairns Libraries and the RSL Sub-Branch, takes those interested, back in time to explore the buildings of Cairns City and their use during the wars. Bookings are essential on (07) 4044 3720. Walking time approx. 2 hours, morning tea provided for $5, payable to the RSL Sub Branch.

25 May, 22 June, 27 July, 24 August and 28 September 2018. 9am – 12 noon

Historic walks are often organised in cities, but not so often in regional areas*


VISUAL ART – Four exciting new works were purchased by Cairns’ Art Gallery for the Gallery Collection.  One of these was “A WEAVE THROUGH TIME”, which comprises three large-scale body sculptures that explore traditional and contemporary body adornment, with the style and media of each representing the past, present and future. Grace Lillian LEE is a Cairns based artist whose fashion and body sculptures have been represented at major fashion shows and cultural events around Australia.

UQ Museum of Art, in partnership with Monash University Museum of Art presents a series for the public ‘TIME CRYSTALS’, which includes film, visual art and lectures. The presentations are early in June, but are widely publicised and promoted and full details are available:-

Dick ROUGHSEY Retrospective Exhibition – Can you help?

Cairns Art Gallery, in partnership with the Queensland Art Gallery/Galley of Modern Art, is curating a major survey exhibition of the work of Dick Roughsey (Goobalathaldin), which will be exhibited in Cairns in late 2018, before touring to Brisbane in 2019. The Gallery has asked for anyone with works by Dick or Lindsay Roughsey, or information about them, to make contact during the research phase of the exhibition.

Dick Roughsey (C.1920-1985) had strong friendships with artists Ron Edwards and Ray Crooke, and as well as explaining many cultural features to those of us in the world of Arts/Letters in Cairns, transitioned traditional Aboriginal art from Mornington Island into a contemporary art practice.

Any information which may assist the Gallery in locating works by Dick or his brother, Lindsay, would be gratefully appreciated. Contact:- Gallery Curator: Teho ROPEYARN (07) 4046 4800 or


PERFORMING ARTS/BALLET Performances are on the move along the Queensland coast this winter! Details in future reports.

“Special” times are when a Wonderful Day

becomes a whole week’s holiday…

and a Wonderful Magickal Night

becomes almost a summer’s length!

Jennifer Ann Davies

The TANKS Art Centre – lots of kids are looking forward to the travelling performance which delights audiences – young and old! – THE 78-STOREY TREEHOUSE begins in early June, at The TANKS Art Centre, Cairns.


INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD is a cultural event open to the wider community showcasing African cuisine, music, art and dance, with performances from local children, in many centres along the coastline. This event is in its 13th year in Cairns, in Far North Queensland. The event is traditionally scheduled for 16th June and commemorates the establishment of the Organization of African Unity in 1991. The 2018 theme? “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development. ACERWC


There is an informative PDF online, displaying the spread of funding across cultures, towns and cities, in Queensland. SUCCESSFUL GRANT APPLICANTS FOR 2018 EVENTS.

For those who have been concerned about the withdrawal of funding for Arts and Letters, at State, National and even global levels, the events and cultures to which funding has been granted in the state of Queensland may prove   interesting. One simple element of change is the inclusion of ‘arts’ in cultural events; whilst, in truth, there is no funding, support, or place for the development of new art, artists, performers, students or our young, in the everyday community.

It is heartening to note funding for some events and for some cultures and centres – chilling to note the absences. It is grand that we are able to support cultural events and enhance ‘cultural collaboration’, yet we should not be complacent about the diverting of public funds which may, in turn, be depleting some of our former educational objectives.

Mackay this year is celebrating the Multicultural Queensland Grants Program for which the city is one of many successful recipients. Their grants will fund the International Day of the African Child and the Mackay-Australia South Sea Islander Recognition Week 2018. This poem is dedicated to MR. FATNOWNA.


He was huge, the Kanaka, to us kids,

And black and proud and beautiful.

He had no parallel in the blandness

And whiteness of the pages of our

Social Studies’ books – none at all.

How could we possibly know the

Truths of men stealing men? Of

Pitcairn and blackbirding? How?

Everyone called him MISTER Fatnowna

With respect and reverence – genteel…

And he had no parallel in the pomposity

And whiteness and absences of our

Written social histories – none at all!!

Somehow, all of us kids KNEW that,

Way back, when we all called out

“Hello, Mr. Fatnowna!” – With respect.

Jennifer Ann DAVIES Book Five: Always Becoming

This gentleman was one of the well-known members of this large family with whom we grew up, in Mackay!

Many more community and cultural events are occurring along our coastline and in the regions and rural areas – check your area online to discover a host of these events which mesh people together and support all of our Arts!