Report Finds Shift to Cheap Electric Vehicles Feasible in Australia

The CEO of Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) says Australians would do well to consider switching to cheap electric vehicles within the next ten years.

Vanessa Petrie said in a Daily Telegraph report that there are many good reasons to make the switch. These are also detailed in BZE’s 98-page ‘Electric Vehicles Report’ released in August 2017.

While electric vehicles cost more to buy than regular cars, they also cost less to run. This is consistent with information from the Electric Vehicle Council that the cost of running a fuel-powered vehicle is almost four times that of an electric one.

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Electric vehicles are also cheaper to maintain, due to having fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines. The cost of electric vehicle batteries is also falling. According to the report, prices are 75 per cent lower than they were in 2010. And this price drop is expected to continue.

Reduced emissions & pollution with cheap electric vehicles

Vehicles contribute approximately 6 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, which would be eliminated in a switch to all electric cars. The reduction in emissions could also be as high as 8 per cent if the switch includes regional passenger vehicles.

Lower emissions would give us numerous other benefits too. These include cleaner and healthier air, fewer deaths from emissions, reduced noise pollution and less reliance on imported fuels.

Recharging getting easier and faster

Most car trips in Australia are under 120 km, which is within the range of contemporary electric cars.

Owners of solar panels and energy storage batteries could save even more by powering up their electric vehicles from their solar power systems.

More charging stations are also being built, including Queensland’s Electric Super Highway launched in 2017.

Renewable energy growth in Australia means we could easily generate the extra energy supplies needed for electric cars.

While electric vehicles may cost more to buy right now, the overall findings of the report are that this will be offset by the considerable savings and benefits that electric vehicles offer over time.


Source: Energy Matters

It’s Time to Employ Conscious Decision-Making When You Shop

Ethical fashion can sometimes feel like an overwhelming topic. And rightfully so — it refers to the darker side of fashion (think factory conditions, animal rights and the environment).

And while it’s easy to turn a blind eye if it means you can still shop your favourite fast fashion labels, now is the time to take a stand.

Before you freak out, becoming an ethical shopper doesn’t mean you have to compromise on style or give up treating yourself to a cheaper trend piece every now and then, it just requires conscious decision making.

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Below are six simple changes you can make that will allow you to wear your wardrobe free of guilt, and be a part of creating a sustainable future. Ethical shopping, it’s the perfect fit. Here’s how.

1. Do Your Research

Educating yourself on the brands you love and buy is an important step in becoming a conscious shopper. Doing your research will shed some light on how a brand treats the environment, employees and animals and equip you to make an informed decision. The only issue? Finding trustworthy information.
Enter, Good On You, an App that rates brands on how ethical they are, and offers up better alternatives for consideration. The news feed on the homepage will also keep you up to date with brand and industry ethics-related news.

2. Follow Diet Prada

Not as obvious an issue as sustainability or fair workplace conditions — but equally as important — is the intellectual property of designers. Brands that create knock-offs are rife, and while buying their products is a cheap way to achieve a high-end look, it’s not ethical. Diet Prada (if you haven’t heard of it, where on Earth have you been?!) is an Instagram account dedicated to calling out fashion copycats — follow it, and try to support designers who create original work.

3. Invest in Quality Products

Although lots of fast fashion giants have taken positive steps to protect the environment and implement fair working conditions, there’s still a lot of work to be done. While more expensive at the time, investing in higher-quality items is always the more sustainable choice.

4. Shop Vintage

Although we will always love the thrill of scouring local op-shops for hidden gems, the internet has made vintage shopping even more exciting. The birth of websites like The Real Real and Vestiaire Collective means we now have access to vintage pieces from all over the world and can shop without the fear of acquiring a fake.

5. Let Someone Else Love Your Clothes

Whether you’re into vintage shopping or not, recycling your own clothes is an easy way to reduce your fashion footprint. Grab one of your pals and set up a market stall to sell your clothes and accessories (I can confirm that playing shop for a day is a good time) or donate them to a charity.

6. Go Natural

Clothes made from synthetic fibres can take up to 40 years to decompose — that’s a really long time. Investing in pieces made from cotton and wool for example, has a lesser impact on the environment (not to mention they are way more breathable!).

Source: Pop Sugar

Port Augusta Solar Thermal Power Plant will be Biggest of its Type in the World

South Australia’s reputation as the solar hub of Australia is growing after the state government approved construction of a solar thermal power plant near Port Augusta.

The 150 MW solar thermal power plant will also be the biggest of its kind in the world. The project will create 650 local jobs during construction and 50 ongoing positions.

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The solar thermal process uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver on top of a 220-metre tower. This heats molten salt within the tower to 565°C, generating enough steam to drive a turbine and create electricity.

Traditionally, Port Augusta was a hub for coal-fired generation. However, the new solar plant is cementing the transition away from coal. The process started with the closure of Alinta Energy’s coal station in 2016 and the Leigh Creek coal mine in 2015.

Solar thermal power puts downward pressure on prices

Acting Energy Minister Chris Picton described the solar thermal power plant project as “world-leading”.

“[It] will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals, schools and other major government buildings,” he said.

“This approval triggers an investment of about $650 million, will create a total of about 700 construction and ongoing jobs in Port Augusta. It will add new competition to the South Australian market, putting downward pressure on power prices.”

Court decision curbs distributor charges

South Australian electricity consumers had another win this week when the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) defeated a bid by SA Power Networks (SAPN) to increase costs.

The Full Federal Court yesterday confirmed the AER’s October 2015 revenue decision for SAPN. As a result, consumers will receive savings delivered in the original decision.

SAPN had proposed recovering $4.5 billion from consumers over the five-year regulatory period commencing on 1 July 2015. However, the AER determined that the distributor required $3.8 billion in order to deliver safe, secure and reliable power.

“We welcome today’s decision, in this long-running legal dispute, which means South Australian consumers will get the savings from our original 2015 decision,” said AER chair Paula Conboy.

“At a time when rising energy costs are a serious concern to households not just in South Australia but across the nation, the AER is working to make all Australian energy consumers better off now and in the future.”


Source: Energy Matters

Tesla Says Solar Roof Production Has Started in Buffalo

Tesla Inc said on Tuesday it began manufacturing its premium solar roof tiles at the company’s Buffalo, New York factory last month and has started surveying the homes of customers who made a deposit of $1,000 to reserve the product last year.

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The solar roof, which generates electricity without the need for traditional rooftop panels, is a cornerstone of the electric vehicle maker’s strategy to sell a fossil-fuel-free lifestyle under the luxury Tesla brand. Tesla unveiled the product in October 2016 as it sought to acquire solar installer SolarCity.

At that time, Tesla said the product could be rolled out as soon as the summer of 2017. In November, Tesla founder Elon Musk said the product was going through a six-month testing process, saying “it just takes a little while to get this behemoth rolling.”

More than a dozen Tesla employees, including Musk and Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel, had the solar roofs installed on their homes last year as part of an initial pilot program.

Tesla started taking orders for the solar roof tiles in May by asking homeowners to put down a $1,000 deposit via its website. Tesla would not disclose how many reservations it had received for the solar roof. The product will be installed on some customer rooftops in the coming months.

The company has said its solar roofs would cost between 10 and 15 percent less than an ordinary new roof plus traditional solar panels.

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Tesla is collaborating with its longstanding battery partner, Japan’s Panasonic Corp, to manufacture solar products at the Buffalo factory. There are about 500 employees working at the site currently, Tesla said.

The companies began production of traditional solar panels at the site last year, but they have not yet been installed on rooftops. The company said it will achieve more than 1 gigawatt of cell and module production in Buffalo, and possibly as much as double that, but gave no timeline for meeting the target.

Tesla said its primary focus is increasing production of its Model 3 sedan. The company said last week it would likely build about 2,500 Model 3s a week by the end of the first quarter, half the number it had earlier promised.


Source: Reuters

Renewable Energy to Power Stawell Farm a “World’s First”

The Victorian State government has stated that it will build a major new wind farm with battery storage in Western Victoria that will power the expansion of Stawell’s Nectar Farms.

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This project will make the advanced agriculture facility what the state government calls “the world’s first ever crop farm” to be completely powered by renewable energy.

The 15-year Support Agreement between the Labor Government and Neoen Australia will deliver the Bulgana Green Power Hub – an integrated energy project of a scale and technology never been seen before.

More than 1,300 jobs will be created – including 270 direct ongoing jobs in the agricultural sector and 10 direct ongoing jobs in the renewable energy industry – all located in the Stawell region.

Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said,  “We’re delivering affordable, secure and clean energy, which is powering new jobs right across our state.”

The wind farm and battery storage system will provide reliable and affordable renewable energy to unlock the development of a major new advanced agriculture facility in Stawell, with a total expected investment of $665 million.

The farm will use the latest in hydroponic glasshouse and plant technology to create a 40 hectare, facility to supply the highest quality vegetables into domestic and international markets.

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The co-located 204MW Bulgana Green Power Hub will be backed up by a 20MW battery, making the farms expansion a reality by providing the secure and affordable energy that Nectar Farms needs for its hydroponic greenhouses.

The project will help secure the Labor Government’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets of 15 to 20 per cent (from 2005 levels) by the year 2020.


Source: Manufacturer’s Monthly

WWF Develops Blockchain Solution to Improve Transparency in Tuna Industry

The World Wildlife Fund in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand have joined forces to stamp out illegal fishing and slave labour in the tuna fishing industry using blockchain technology.

In partnership with US-based software company ConsenSys and information and communications technology implementer TraSeable, WWF has been able to help tuna fishing and processing company Sea Quest Fiji to track using blockchain the journey of the tuna from when it is caught, through processing and to the distributor.

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WWF is now in discussions with tuna retailers to complete the “bait-to-plate” cycle with the hopes of creating a QR code for consumers on tuna tins that would tell them if the tuna had been sourced sustainably and ethically.

WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O’Gorman said the technology would likely be ready for commercial use in the tuna industry by the end of the year.

“The next phase is to work with the retail sector. We’ve worked on the front end and now we need to look at the rest of the supply chain, right up to the plate,” he said.

“There’s a number of technical and logistical challenges … but we’re in discussions with a few retailers … and through the course of this year I think we’ll get from bait to plate and be able to address the sustainability and human rights issues.”

According to WWF, commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world with a high rate of injury and sometimes death due to unsafe working conditions.

A report from January 2014 found members of a South Korean fishing vessel called Oyang 70 were often beaten or punished for little or no reason and would be made to stand on deck during extreme weather conditions with no food or water. Crew members also reported incidents of sexual harassment and rape. These allegations came to light when the ship sank, killing six men.

Sea Quest volunteered to trial the technology as the Fijian fishery has made a name for itself in the market based on its commitment to sustainability and ethical practices. It exports predominantly to the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

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“From the moment the fish comes aboard the vessel the blockchain technology captures their journey in a digital manner and allows every person through the supply chain to see the story of that fish,” Sea Quest chief executive Brett “Blu” Haywood said.

Mr O’Gorman said consumers wanted to shop ethically and the development of the blockchain technology would enable them to do so in the near future.

“We see blockchain technology as being able to step up the transparency in the supply chain, which previously was difficult or quite expensive to do,” he said.

“It’s a very exciting revolution that’s about to transform the industry and will deliver multiple sustainable development goals.”

WWF is also investigating the use of blockchain for other seafood industries and for fundraising initiatives. It also held two hackathons in 2017 to develop solutions to environmental sustainability issues using new technologies.

Mr O’Gorman said it was supporting a start-up that had emerged from its second hackathon to develop a blockchain for charities to show consumers how their donations were being spent.

Source: Financial Review

Shortage of Environmental Health Officers Points to Rise of Climate Health Impacts

MARKET PULSE: There’s a big shortage of environmental health officers in Australia with Central Queensland University graduates quick to find 100 per cent placement. The reason why there is a shortage does not make for happy holiday reading, but it does make for critically important and urgent thinking.

Australia needs to train more environmental health officers to cope with the increased prevalence of disasters and disease outbreaks due to climate change, say leaders in the field.

Environmental Health Australia national vice president Philip Swain said research undertaken back in the 1980s into climate change and its impact is now coming to fruition.

“It’s amazing how accurate some of those predictions have been,” he said. “We’re already seeing that happen with mosquito-borne disease. The spread of Barmah Forest [virus], Ross River virus and to a lesser extent Murray Valley encephalitis in Australia is a classic case of something that has been influenced by climate change.

“It’s come across the top of Australia and now Barmah Forest and Ross River virus are endemic through Western Australia, right throughout the south west – that just didn’t exist 30 years ago. There was no such thing as Ross River Virus in WA. And that sort of thing is undoubtedly going to get worse.”

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Central Queensland University environmental health academic Dr Lisa Bricknell said with rising temperatures, there’ll be more health problems linked to environmental conditions, including more food-borne illnesses like salmonella and larger mosquito-breeding zones, leading to dengue, Ross River and Zika virus.

“In addition, we’re having more frequent natural events leading to disasters, and environmental health officers (EHOs) have an important role in both prevention and recovery.”

Concern is mounting as local and state government departments struggle to find enough qualified environmental health officers (EHOs). In fact, global jobs site Indeed recently revealed that positions for environmental health officers are actually the hardest roles to fill in Australia.

While trained EHOs had been coming from Ireland, changes to the skilled migrant visa has halted the flow of graduates arriving from Dublin University. In addition, many EHOs are retiring.

Dr Bricknell said most of the shortages are at the local government level.

“They’ll advertise and quite often people will move from one local government to another and then that will still obviously leave a gap somewhere,” she said. “Quite often they are in regional and remote areas.

“They might not be the one going out and spreading insecticide but they are certainly going to be the one keeping an eye on breeding areas,” she said. “If you don’t have an EHO to keep an eye on the breeding areas you end up with more cases of – potentially in the northern climes – dengue fever.”

And the Zika virus is causing bigger concerns

The Zika virus is also a major concern.

“If it got into our mosquito population, we could have an issue with that,” she said.

Mr Swain agreed that regional and remote locations were struggling to fill positions.

“Some of that is tyranny of distance because you’re asking people to do work over vast areas,” he said.

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Mr Swain, who is based in Perth, works on a contractual basis for the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku, covering millions of hectares of Aboriginal land in Western Australia. He goes out in the field for eight to 10 days and does his office-based work from Perth.

This is not a typical model and he says regional areas are finding it difficult to fill roles because of contractions in local government and an inability to offer competitive packages with housing and motor vehicles.

Mr Swain noted that half the top 10 hardest roles to fill in Australia were health or allied health professions. He believes the federal government needs to contribute more funding to training.

“To me, that’s quite telling that those positions are hard to fill because there’s not enough people to fill them – the reason there’s not enough people available to fill them is because they’re difficult and expensive professions to train people to do.

“If I have a personal criticism about the way the way niche professions are being supplied in Australia, it’s about the university sector and how it’s being forced into essentially providing courses that make money.

“Applied science-based courses where you have to put a small group of students into laboratories to learn are not profitable for universities. Putting 200 people into a lecture theatre is profitable.”

Rockhampton pioneers a cadetship program to help with shortages

According to Dr Bricknell, collaboration between local government and universities is going some way to addressing the shortage. For example, Rockhampton Regional Council pioneered a cadetship program.

“They have found it very difficult over the years to recruit environmental health staff,” she said. “They came to us and said, ‘If you guys are willing to do a degree, we’d like to talk about hiring cadets and actually putting them through part-time while they work with us.’

“Now Rockhampton have been doing that for quite a number of years and it’s extremely successful.

“That ‘grow your own’ thing is something we’re really trying to work with councils on. Consider finding someone who looks like a good candidate locally, put them on as a trainee or a cadet, and then put them through university with us. You’re likely to find someone who’ll stay.”

Increasing the profile of the profession among school leavers is also important.

“It’s a profession that people don’t know very much about, but the potential for employment is really high,” Dr Bricknell said.

Degree programs struggling

This lack of awareness means the degree programs are struggling.

“Tasmania is in the process of losing their degree; there’s no undergraduate degree in South Australia anymore,” she said.

NSW and Victoria both have one accredited degree, while WA has one undergraduate degree and one postgraduate degree. Queensland is spoiled for choice with both Griffith University and the University of Sunshine Coast offering on-campus degrees and Central Queensland University offering on-campus degrees in Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Bundaberg, as well as off-campus degrees.

The demand for EHOs is proving lucrative for CQUniversity graduates, who have a 100 per cent employment record within their first 12 months after graduation.


Source: The Fifth Estate

Australia Post Installs Record-Breaking Solar Panel Power System

Australia Post has installed the nation’s largest single-roof solar panel system at its Chullora sorting centre in Sydney.

The $3 million project will subsequently power Australia’s busiest parcel sorting facility. This will save more than $800,000 in annual energy costs.

The record-breaking project also spans more than 11,000 square metres, the same area as nine Olympic swimming pools.

The 2.1 MW installation will save 2,200 tonnes of carbon emissions each year. This is like taking 468 cars off the road.

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Solar panel system: the jewel in Australia Post’s crown

The solar-powered facility is the 49th solar-powered site in the Australia Post network.

Taken together, the commercial solar systems will generate 5,000 MWh of renewable energy each year. This is enough to power more than 820,000 homes.

According to Australia Post Group Chief Financial Officer Janelle Hopkins, the Chullora project will also reduce operational costs.

This will subsequently mean more investment in “the products and services our customers want from Australia Post”, Ms Hopkins adds.

Australia Post is committed to energy efficiency with “environmentally sustainable business outcomes”. Previous energy-saving investments have saved the company $40 million.

The Chullora installation reached completion in November 2017. The full solar system is due to go live by the end of the year.

Energy Matters helps drive Australia Post solar innovation

In 2010, Energy Matters designed and installed a solar power system for Australia Post’s new headquarters in Bourke Street, Melbourne. Energy Matters Project Manager Hugh Murtagh designed the system.

The rooftop system was designed to power the building’s signage. The goal was obtaining maximum output for minimum available roof space.

The sign used around 24 kW hours of energy and the new system offset 12 tonnes of CO2 annually. This is the amount produced by 12 postie bikes over the same time frame.

Mr Murtagh selected 30 Sanyo 210 Watt solar panels for high efficiency, as well as a Sunny Mini Central 6000TL inverter.


Source: Energy Matters

Yes SA’s Battery is Massive, But It Can Do Much More Than Store Energy

The “world’s largest” lithium-ion battery has been officially opened in South Australia. Tesla’s much-anticipated “mega battery” made the “100 days or it’s free” deadline, after a week of testing and commissioning.

Unsurprisingly, the project has attracted a lot of attention, both in Australia and abroad. This is largely courtesy of high-profile Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk, not to mention the series of Twitter exchanges that sparked off the project in the first place.

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Many are now watching on in anticipation to see what impact the battery has on the SA electricity market, and whether it could be a gamechanger nationally.

The Hornsdale Power Reserve

The “mega-battery” complex is officially called the Hornsdale Power Reserve. It sits alongside the Hornsdale Wind Farm and has been constructed in partnership with the SA Government and Neoen, the French renewable energy company that owns the wind farm.

The battery has a total generation capacity of 100 megawatts, and 129 megawatt-hours of energy storage. This has been described as “capable of powering 50,000 homes”, providing 1 hour and 18 minutes of storage or, more controversially, 2.5 minutes of storage.

At first blush, some of these numbers might sound reasonable. But they don’t actually reflect a major role the battery will play, nor the physical capability of the battery itself.

What can the battery do?

The battery complex can be thought of as two systems. First there is a component with 70MW of output capacity that has been contracted to the SA Government.

This is reported to provide grid stability and system security, and designed only to have about 10 minutes of storage.

The second part could be thought of as having 30MW of output capacity, but three to four hours of storage.

Even though this component has a smaller capacity (MW), it has much more storage (MWh) and can provide energy for much longer. This component will participate in the competitive part of the market, and should firm up the wind power produced by the wind farm.

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Frequency Control and Ancillary Service Market

The Frequency Control and Ancillary Service (FCAS) market is less known and understood than the energy market. In fact it is wrong to talk of a single FCAS market — there are actually eight distinct markets.

The role of these markets is essentially twofold. First, they provide contingency reserves in case of a major disturbance, such as a large coal generation unit tripping off. The services provide a rapid response to a sudden fall (or rise) in grid frequency.

At the moment, these contingency services operate on three different timescales: six seconds, 60 seconds, and five minutes. Generators that offer these services must be able to raise (or reduce) their output to respond to an incident within these time frames.

The Hornsdale Power Reserve is more than capable of participating in these six markets.

The final two markets are known as regulation services (again, as both a raise and lower). For this service, the Australian energy market operator (AEMO) issues dispatch instructions on a fine timescale (four seconds) to “regulate” the frequency and keep supply and demand in balance.

The future: fast frequency response?

Large synchronous generators (such as coal plants) have traditionally provided frequency control, (through the FCAS markets), and another service, inertia — essentially for free. As these power plants leave the system, there may be a need for another service to maintain power system security.

One such service is so-called “fast frequency response” (FFR). While not a direct replacement, it can reduce the need for physical inertia. This is conceptually similar to the contingency services described above, but might occur at the timescale of tens to hundreds of milliseconds, rather than six seconds.

The Australian Energy Market Commission is currently going through the process of potentially introducing a fast frequency response market. In the meantime, obligations on transmission companies are expected to ensure a minimum amount of inertia or similar services (such as fast frequency response).

I suspect that the 70MW portion of the new Tesla battery is designed to provide exactly this fast frequency response.

Size matters but role matters more

The South Australian battery is truly a historic moment for both South Australia, and for Australia’s future energy security.

While the size of the battery might be decried as being small in the context of the National Energy Market, it is important to remember its capabilities and role. It may well be a gamechanger, by delivering services not previously provided by wind and solar PV.

Source: The Conversation


The War on Waste: A Big Win

Peppermint Magazine released an exclusive interview with ABC’s War on Waste following the shows widespread success, and their achievement of winning a prestigious Banksia Award.

The ABC’s War on Waste hit a resounding high note with the Australian population – reigniting the waste debate and getting people well and truly fired up about the issues it covered. As recent winners of a Banksia Sustainability Award (and having just released an update to the original three-show series), we caught up with programme maker Jodi Boylan and host Craig Reucassel to find out what they thought of the show’s success, and how we can all keep fighting the good fight against waste.

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Jodi, what inspired you guys to make the show? And why do you think it was so successful? 

Our parent company made a similar show with chef and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that really resonated with a British audience, and we knew it would have a similar impact in Australia. We knew Craig would present the facts in an entertaining and light way, and it was accessible and achievable – people were able to make genuine changes to their lives after watching the show, and it didn’t have to cost them any money

What have been some tangible outcomes from the show? And the less measurable ones? 

The major supermarkets announcing they would phase out the single use grey plastic bags is one – the states of Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria have all committed to a statewide ban. Less measurable would be changes the audience have made personally within their homes and individual businesses. It would be interesting to do a national survey to measure the changes people have implemented and if it’s affected the recycling rates.

What does winning the Banksia award mean to you? 

It’s the highest sustainability honour in Australia, and not something we ever expected as a TV show and production company! We’re overwhelmed by the acknowledgement by the people and companies in the sustainability community.

And Craig, why do you think the show was such a hit? 

“I think a lot of Australians are keen to do better when it comes to their waste, but didn’t know how to do it, or were working with the wrong information – and I was one of them.”

So where can we take the show’s legacy from here?

I’ve been thrilled to see people not only changing their own behaviour, but also putting pressure on businesses and governments to change theirs too. There are lots of amazing people in Australia working on new technologies or trying new ways to solve waste problems, and I hope the renewed interest in waste helps these ideas get out.