Articles, Blog

Driving Sustainability in WA | Curtin Alumni Innovator Series

August 26, 2019


>>It would appear
that I’m going to talk about water tonight. And my talk is really about
the lack of water in WA to some in — well, in particular,
in Perth, to some degree, and then I’ll walk here
from the car tonight and nearly get drowned. So perhaps we should have
these presentations more often and we might solve
some of our problems. But I’ve been asked to talk
about water sustainability. And water sustainability
is a very large subject. Water sustainability should be a
fundamental focus for us all due to its impact on the
economy, on the environment, and the liveability
of our cities. The amount of water on our
planet remains constant. The amount of fresh,
usable water — there’s only a small
fraction of that water and access to it is problematic. We should zealously protect what
we have and manage it carefully. The subject — it is a subject
that is independent of climate, but is often influenced by it. So fundamentality,
we’ve got the amount of water we’re always
going to be playing with. The question is, where is
it, and how can we access it? Tonight, I’m going to
focus on the history of domestic water
supply for Perth, which has been very much
influenced by climate, and not the climate we
have outside us today. So let’s just have a look at
the history of stream flow over about the last 120 years. You’ll see in the period up to the mid-1970s was
reasonably consistent and we had very good
stream flow into our dams that subsequently
dropped off from the ’70s, going through those
various drop-off periods to the period 2015, where in
fact, we had negative inflow — or sorry, negative
input into our dams. We had something like 11 gigalitres of inflow and about
14 gigalitres of evaporation in that particular year. Now one of my predecessors,
as — well, one of my CEO’s
predecessors — used to take that graph and
then drew the line that best fit through the various
downgrades and said, we’re going to hit zero
inflow, and in fact, we have. How consistent it will
be, how long it will be, will be a question that will
be looked at in the future. But very much a continuing
downgrade in the amount of water we have available to us for naturally occurring
rainfall in WA. But look at the history of the
water supply, and then we talked in previous slide about
the amount of stream flow. And stream flow and rainfall
are not a direct correlation. I want to stress that because
you might notice even this year, we had quite a bit
of summer rain. Summer rain produces effectively
no inflow into the dams. So you can have two years
with exactly the same amount of rainfall, and almost
100 percent different input into your dams. And that’s something that
we’ve had to deal with. This — this particular chart
is looking at just the sequence of what we’ve had to do with
an increasing population growth and how we’ve been supplying
water with that reduction. The yellow line is the same
graph as the previous one, just a different determination. We then, have the
population growth overlaid it. We now got to look at
the sources of water in our total water
supply requirements. First of all, the dams,
followed by ground water, then subsequently desalination. Now up to the mid-1970s
— and as we said earlier, I started in the
Water Corp. in 1970 — everything that came into Perth’s water
supply was from the dams. There’s about nine
dams up in the hills, they’ve in fact got
sufficient capacity for two years total demand out
of Perth if they were full. I have to say, they have never
been full nor have they been anywhere near full. But if they were full, there’s
about 600 gigalitres capacity and we use roughly
300 gigalitres a year. So up to the 1970s, early
1970s, it was all dam supply, so 1958 was 52 percent and only
a small portion of ground water. And that portion of ground water
was a couple of artesian bores, deep artesian bores, and
then in the ’70s and ’80s, we started to take ground water
from the shallow aquifers north of the river as the population
developed north of the river. But that really had nothing
to do with climate change, it was just the cost of getting
dam water north of the river, it was better to take the ground
water which we then had worked out was there and
available to us. As we went on, by 1980, climate
change was starting to impact on us and the change
of influence was that we had 65 percent
of our water from dams and 35 percent from
ground water. Okay. We’ll still getting a
fairly good input from the dams at that particular
point in time. By 2004, the impact of climate
change was such that we had gone and that the distribution
had swapped over, so it was only 38 percent
from dams to 62 percent from ground water, so
becoming very much more reliant on ground water. And at that point in time,
ground water was seen to be a much sustainable
source of water. Now clearly, as time goes on
with the lack or the reduction in rainfall, ground water is
eventually going to be impacted. But there are three layers
of ground water we take — shallow ground water, which
is the superficial aquifer, and then two layers of confined
ground water in deeper aquifers with very old water in them
in quite large volumes. Then by 2016, it
had got to the stage that there was basically
no inflow into the dams, as I explained earlier, so our water supply
distribution now comes from, and we’ve introduced
desalinated water — sea water desalination in
two plants, one at Kwinana and one down at Beenyup. And in each case, we built
one desalination plant with the expectation
it would be five to 10 years before we
built the next one. We almost — the
day we finished, we started building the
next, which was a half size. Again, on the basis it would be
five or 10 years before we had to build the second half
of that, and we’re straight into the second half of that. But basically what
it means is a lot of water supply is now coming from manufactured
sources of water. A huge change in the way
we’ve had to use water. So one of the methods of using
climate change is looking at new sources of water. That’s what the picture
is in that up to date. A second part of the
option for how we’re going to handle climate change
and water sustainability in this state is and
around Perth is reuse. Much work has been done
on this and, of course, it’s a very popular
and populous commentary that reuse is something
we should do a lot across the metropolitan area. And we continue to do
a lot of work on it, but Perth is quite
unique in that it’s a city that sits directly on
high-quality ground water that is recharged
with a storm event, so storm water runoff,
and we talk a lot — you’ll hear a lot about
storm water capture. We capture probably
about 75 to 80 percent of the storm water directly into our sand aquifers before it
leaches and goes into the rivers at some point later date. Reuse therefore requires
very high levels of treatment to protect ground water
sources which in most case led to being uneconomical. The reuse of our — from our
wastewater treatment plants is starting to occur. We’ve just completed the first of our groundwater replenishment
plants and at Beenyup and the second half of that is
being considered at the moment. So it’s a 14 gigaliter
plant there currently. There’s the 14 gigalitres
potentially on the site which will start to go into
construction in the near future. And there’s also an industrial
reuse plant down at Kwinana. Now, those three
combined take a lot of pressure off the
existing potable sources, but they also provide a lot
of environmental benefit, particularly with the
groundwater replenishment in the Beenyup area. So reuse is happening,
but it’s happening at a municipal scale rather
than at a subdivisional scale. And one the detrimental issues
— not detrimental so much — but one of the difficult issues for the subdivisional
scale is the economics of the large scale
schemes in water supply and make it very difficult
to compete in a cost sense, particularly when you’ve
got to consider the amount of treatment that’s
got to go into it. So I’m rushing through
a bit of this because we’ve got a
seven-minute time zone and people are pointing their
— oh, there’s throat cutting. The other major component of this is demand management
and from that graph, you’ll note that while the
population has increased, the same population
increase we saw before, the per capita demand
has in fact reduced by about 60 percent
in that period. People would still argue that that demand per capita
demand is very high compared to other cities in Australia
and that is absolutely correct. However, again, Perth, because
of its particular climatic environments where
we get no rain through the summer effectively
and very hungry, sandy soils, while we remain with
reasonable sized blocks and outside watering, the
likelihood is we’re going to have higher per
capita water use than many of the more densely
populated other capitals. Where has that demand come from? Well largely, it’s
come from things that are now hard-wired
into the system. And I think that I’m very
consciously putting that up on the basis that they are
hard-wired into the system because we’ve had a lot of
cooperation from the community, but that community
cooperation is fairly dependant on the amount of times you
are talking to the community. So the two-day a
week sprinkler roster which was introduced
— anybody know when? 2001, 2002. The two-day-a-week sprinkler
roster has been highly successful in reducing demand. The winter sprinkler ban
which we’re in the middle of, although a good deal of the
population doesn’t seem to know that still, has been a
contributor in a whole series of other things —
pricing impacts and other activities there. And again, happy
to take questions on that a bit further later. But the other, and I guess
my final point in this is, how do we bring the community
along in that journey because demand management
is so important to it? And it is continually
interacting with our community. The message has to be
continually reinforced and that’s just a graph of
all of the reinforcements that have gone with the
various publicity campaigns, the various brandings that
have happened over the years, to ensure that the
community remained focussed. We would love to think community
all understand where you want to go and they’re all onboard, and they’re all doing the
right things, but very clearly, all of the research we have
ever done suggests that we have to continue that focus. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>What are our challenges
for the 21st Century? We’re already in it. What are the challenges
we’re going to face as we go through that? As I’m sure most
of you are aware, current population is expected
to exceed 9 billion by 2050. Now that’s not that far away. And you can see from the graph
there how much the population is actually increasing. So we current sit
somewhere around here. So we’ve actually passed
the 9 billion mark. And one thing to note from
that is China is currently the population — has the biggest
population worldwide in terms of countries, but India is
predicted to overtake that and become the most
populous country by 2024. That graph says 2030,
but a recent report from the United Nations
actually put that at 2024. And if you add the two
countries together, China and India combined
make up 37 percent of the total global population. So they are a huge
component of the population. So when we’re looking at things like agricultural
sustainability, we can’t just look at ourselves within
Australia, we have to look at it on a global scale. China and India don’t
have the land available to feed themselves,
although China has a policy to be self-sufficient by 2025,
it includes a lot of initiatives that are global initiatives
rather than just within China itself. The next challenge for
the 21st Century is that the big economies
of China, India, and Brazil are still
currently growing. Their incomes are growing
and, therefore, their demand for high-protein
food is increasing. In 1992, China overtook
the U.S. as the country that consumes the most meat
on a worldwide scale, okay. Three-quarters of
that meat is pork. That’s their preferred meat. And their next most popular
meat would be chicken. Okay. However, what you need
to remember about that is that, although China consumes
the most meat worldwide, they don’t consume
the most per capita. And when you look on
a per-person basis, there’s actually about — China’s right down the
bottom there, so there’s more than a dozen countries that actually consume
significantly more meat per person than China does with
Australia right at the top, not something I think
that’s necessary need to be very proud of, but it’s
something that’s very much the Australian history,
consuming more than double the amount per year
that a person would do in China. So the third challenge for the
21st Century is that we need to increase global food supply
by about double in the — well, in the next 50 years. So that’s a significant
challenge that worldwide we
need to actually face. So to combine those all together, the challenge
for the 21st Century for the 1.8 billion people
who currently grow our food is that they need to double food
output using less water — we’ve already had a talk on
declining water in Perth, but worldwide, it’s declining
because of pollution, salinisation, and other
competing uses with less land through land degradation
and urbanisation spread — so we’re actually using
our best agricultural land. Less energy. You will have heard in the news about peak energy
having been reached. That peak oil has been reached. Transport and fertiliser both
need that resource as part of agricultural production
system. And we need to do
that with a changing and a more risky climate. The question for today is can
we achieve that sustainably. Is it possible to
achieve that sustainably? Now, when you think about
agricultural sustainability, some of the things that
people tend to think about straight away is
your organic farming or your regenerative farming where you’re not putting
any chemicals on the land, it is farmed very sustainably, regenerative farming is
not taking anything away that you’re not actually
putting back into the land. The problem with
those two sources is that we can’t feed the predicted
global population using those methods alone. So we need to be able to farm
sustainably using less resources without degrading the soil with an increasingly variable
climate, but we also have to maintain farm
incomes and livelihoods. Farmers are no different to
any other industry worldwide that they can’t afford to be sustainable unless
they’re profitable. If they’re not profitable,
then they’re going to go out of business, and then
the farm won’t be sustainable because it will have
become very over-degraded. So the farm also has to be profitable. And it’s balancing those two which is another part
of the challenge. Now that’s the part of my doom
and gloom part of the talk. How can we actually
achieve this? What are some of the things
that are currently happening around the world and
here in Western Australia where we’re actually
one of the leaders in agricultural innovation? We’re one of the
leaders in performing, or achieving yields using
much lower fertilisers, using a lot less inputs
in a much drier climate than many other parts
of the world achieve. So how are we actually
doing that? And is it going to enable us to achieve a sustainable
agriculture into the future? So I’m just now going to
give you a snapshot of some of the things that
are happening. I don’t have time to go into
great detail about them. It’s something I could probably
talk to you for about — well, I teach a whole unit on
it, so five hours times 12, so an awful lot of time. So just a few snapshots here. First one, something that you
hear about a lot in the news, utilising new different
technologies. Big data is the new age for
this decade at the moment. So we’ve got things
like no-till. No-till farming is a method where we actually
eliminate soil erosion because you’ve got ground
cover there all the time. It’s where the farmer no
longer ploughs the soil, but actually keeps his stubble
from one year to the next and ploughs the next
crop directly into that paddock retaining the
stubble from the previous year. So having that stubble
there allows him to, one, get rid of soil erosion,
it slows down water use so you don’t get as much soil
movement that way as well, it enable you to increase soil
quality and therefore build up your organic matter. And a plus side for the farmer, it also allows him
to increase yields. This is mainly because
he’s able to sow the crop much earlier into the season. He doesn’t have to go
through successive cycles of ploughing the land to manage
his weeds before he actually sows the crop and because of
having the stubble maintained in the system, he actually
gets a much lower evaporation from the soil surface
and so he’s able to increase the water
holding capacity of the soil and get some much
more efficient use of the water that’s
actually there. The second one is
controlled traffic farming. Farming using the big
machinery that is typically used on farms today is very heavy. And so driving that machinery
over the farm compacts the soil which means the plant roots
can’t grow down into the soil, doesn’t allow the water
to penetrate the soil, and so actually leads
to reducing yields. By using controlled
traffic farming, the farmer actually has
all his machinery running on exactly the same tram
lines so that he accepts where those tram lines, he’s not
going to get efficient yields because that soil
does get compacted. But, only about 15
percent of a paddock ends up being compacted whereas if
he doesn’t follow tram-lining, he can end up with towards
50 percent of the paddock in any one year being
driven over at least once and therefore compacting
the soil. In between those areas where
he doesn’t have any traffic, the soil isn’t compacted,
it becomes much more open, you’ve got much more opportunity
for water penetration and for soil microbes and
things like that to persist on a year-to-year basis and
crop yields also significantly increase because they’re not
trying to deal with growth through a compacted
soil profile. Other new technologies
are precision agriculture. This is where using a range
of different methodologies, we’re able to actually develop a very clear picture of a whole
range of different profiles of a paddock or across
a whole farm. So this can be ranged
from things like salinity, it can range from nitrogen
levels, potassium levels, any other nutrients
that we need. It can look up areas where the
water holding sort of ability of the soil is, which
areas are compacted. And all of that can put together
into a map which you can overlay with your farm yields and then
you can look to see which areas of your farm are
producing well each year and which areas aren’t. Those areas that aren’t giving
you an economic production from, you can look to see why. And then, it gives you the
opportunity to either focus on those areas and to
hopefully rehabilitate them and bring them back into the
system, or to make the decision that actually they’ve never been
profitable, they’re never going to be profitable, and
by continually farming, I’m actually making them
worse and I’m better off to fence them off and to let
them revegetate naturally, and to actually take them
out of the farming system. So precision agriculture is
just one of a whole suite of different methods that allow
you to bring that map together and give you a very good
understanding of your farm on a paddock-by-paddock basis
and how it actually performs. Other technologies that
we’ve — not technologies — other methods that we can use to increase agricultural
sustainability which I’ve sort of broadly termed
increased soil health. Soil health is such
an important component of agricultural sustainability that if we don’t have good
soil health, we’re never going to have sustainable agriculture. So I’ve got two pictures here. Ooops. Oh, I don’t know
what happened to my — my presentation’s
lost its little things that tell you what they are. The first photo there is
of fodder shrubs which are native bushes that grow
naturally in the range lands, would have grown
in the Wheatbelt, that are now being grown in
low-lying parts of the farmland that have either been badly
degraded through salinisation, through water sort of run
off, or on tops of slopes where you’re getting problems
with wind blowing things. So it’s really helping
to stabilise the soil. And you can see in that
picture on the left that not only have you
got your fodder shrubs which are these more
grey bushes, that also provide very good
feed for sheep, but you’ve also, in a good year like last year,
end up with a significant amount of feed underneath because
it stabilised the whole soil. It’s driven down the water table so that the salinity
becomes less of an issue. And then, you start to get — this undergrowth comes back as
well, so it’s really helping to rehabilitate the soil, but
it’s also providing the farmer with a very good feed
resource for his sheep as well. The next one is increasing
soil microbes. There’s various ways
of doing this. The picture here shows you one of the pasture species that’s
grown in the wheat belt that is a legume and so it grows
nodules which produce nitrogen which is then left for the
following year enabling you to reduce your fertiliser
input the following year because the legumes
actually leave enough there for you to use. But there’s also lots of
different other soil microbes that farmers are incorporating
in with their seeding programme to actually start to build up
the soil health and finding that by increasing their soil
health, it actually enables — they actually find that
they get less plant disease and there’s actually
less requirement for them to use other chemicals as
part of their farming system. The next picture’s a very
nice picture of canola, but the reason I’ve put
it up there is just one of the important things of
improving sustainability is to make sure you
have good rotations. WA is quite reliant on our wheat
and our canola as our main crops that we produce, but
there’s a whole suite of other rotational
crops that we can use that are very important
to enable us to build up the soil health for a no-till
farming system to work properly, but also to reduce things like
your disease and your weed carry over and things like that. The final picture I
want to show you is ways of increasing soil health is to
actually manage chemical use. When chemicals came in, whether
they be fertilisers, fungicides, pesticides, whatever, they were
a very easy way of farming, of controlling your weeds,
of controlling your diseases. But we’re actually finding now that they’re not
necessarily — it’s all good. They do make you
control the disease, but they have carry-on
effects in following years. And the picture there is showing
you a wheat plant that’s being sown into a paddock that
was sown with chemicals not at the right time and that
the chemicals haven’t actually broken down and that wheat
plant won’t survive very long with a root system like that. So the final slide I want to
show you is how the Centre for Crop and Disease
Management fits into sustainable agriculture. It’s a Centre that’s focussing
on how we manage diseases and how the sustainability
fits in because if we can manage our diseases by
developing new crop varieties, by managing the system better so we can reduce our chemical
inputs, then it all enables us to reduce the risk of
fungicide resistance so those chemicals last
longer, but it also enables us to farm more sustainably. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Yeah, so I left in ’89
from the business school, business law and accounting from
Curtin, and it as an alumni, it was a fantastic
place to have studied and it set a great
platform for me. So I followed the
traditional pathway of accounting business
law into commerce, but bounced between
investment and, you know, sort of straight finance,
etcetera, but then drifted into technology
commercialisation. So my career ended
up sort of bouncing between pure business
finance investment and then more laterally right into that commercialisation
side. So being a non-academic,
you know, I’m not an expert, but what I’d like to offer up
is what transpired probably over the last eight years
of my life backing myself and a few others into
ventures which are entirely about commercialisation of
technology, but specifically in the domain of sustainability. And a lot of this sort of came
about after doing a little stint as the CEO of Greening Australia
which is a national NGO and landscape scale restoration. And those three, most
recently, I buy gas renewables, CleanTech Energy, which is a
West Australian retail company, a small West Australian
electricity retailer but focussed entirely on
delivery of generation and matching that with
demand, so a renewable power into the West Australian grid,
and Shark Mitigation Systems which is all about identifying
science-led technologies to mitigate the risk
of shark attack in a way that’s sustainable. So I’ll start with the
sharks because it’s the thing that seems to excite people. And I guess the negative on that
is that it is quite divisive. It’s quite an emotional issue. And that image I find
and you would read in the West Australian, it
has become highly political and highly infused with emotion. The thing is that, you know, the risk of shark attack is
extremely low, but its impact on the community
is very profound because of our emotional
state about it. And there is a high level
of demand and a high level of concern in the government
community and now, as a result, at a business level trying
to find solutions to this. And the good thing from a
West Australian perspective, we think of it as a particularly
West Australian problem, but it’s not. The manifestation of
this seemed to have begun in Western Australia about
the increase in shark attacks, but then the east coast had
the same issue, Japan, Hawaii, Reunion Island, and now
the east and west coasts of the United States
are starting to have a problem with this. And the difficulty with building
technologies around this in a confused state where
there’s so much discussion is that it’s hard to
get the science out and be science-led on this. But one of the things
that we put together with Shark Mitigation
Systems is the clever buoy. And the clever buoy
is a technology which basically uses sonar
to project it off a beach or from the sea floor to
create a virtual perimeter around the beach and essentially
what the clever buoy is looking for is a self-propelled object
that is of a certain size that can be defined
that swims like a shark. So the idea is essentially that
it’s face-recognition software for sharks, if you like. And the way this came out was,
they were using a tech like this for identifying or picking
up seals that might get into the subsea turbines in
the North Sea up in Scotland. So what we did is took
that and repurposed that, plunked it in the shark
tank at Sidney Aquarium and just let it capture hundreds
and hundreds of signatures of sharks, and then
essentially taught the system to be able to detect sharks. And the complexity in that is
that it might seem quite simple, but then the trick is
to actually productise, commercialise that in such a way
that it will meet a price point, it’ll be competitive
with the other ways of mitigating shark
attack, netting, etcetera, as problematic as that might be
environmentally, and the energy and effort that goes into
that is quite extreme. I just thought I
would show you just for interest more than anything. This is a white shark
— about a four metre — sorry, a four metre tiger shark
that’s just swimming through , and if I can just ask
you to boot that up for us. So this is what the
sonar’s actually seeing. And from the right hand side, you’ll see the entry
of a tiger shark. Now, the thing is, it’s sort
of boxing it up like Top Gun. So what it’s basically doing is
saying, is it self-propelled? Yes. Is it of a certain size? Yes. So I’m going to
allocate it a higher score. Is it swimming like a shark? Yes. I’ll give it a
tick of 99 percent, and then the clever
buoy goes right — we’ll send a notice to the
lifeguard to tell the lifeguard where that shark actually is. And the thing about a shark
is that it swims differently to anything else that’s in the
sea, so it is possible to get that detection sorted out, contrary to what the West
Australian might say. So anyway, the upshot of that is
we tested that at the Abrolhos with some sharks up there, we
tested it down in Esperance with some wild sharks. We took it to Bondi and we did
a trial for a couple of months at Bondi Beach and the Bondi
lifeguards made a big fuss of it and they did, you know, even
did a show on it actually, and one of the guys actually
put a fin on his back and tried to trick it and do
all that kind of stuff that you’d expect
from Bondi Rescue. But we were also were asked
to deploy a clever buoy at J-Bay the year after Mick
Fanning was kind of buzzed and we didn’t have any sharks
that year but we don’t have one at J-Bay just at the
moment which is going on and of course there was
a shark just overnight. But the World Surfing League
didn’t really want to talk about sharks and
so we we’re kind of on a non-disclosure
for that at the time. And then we made a
deployment here at City Beach, so there were two
clever buoys and an array of sonars off City Beach
through the summer this year and there are about
34 detections over about four months, roughly. Now, not all of those
would have been sharks, but a good number based on
the statistics we’re getting and the response we’re
getting from that system, a good number probably would
have been and it’s not something that West Australia
really wants to talk about. So the next one is by Gas
Renewables and, just very, very briefly, I want to articulate an innovation
that’s happened here in Western Australia around building a 2.4 megawatt
generation plant using 35 to 50 thousand tonnes of food
waste, which is like located out at Richgro Garden Products. So Richgro, if you
go to Bunnings, you’ll be familiar with that. They’ve got about 100 acres
near the airport out there. Now, suddenly I guess
getting a bit commoditised in their business, they
had a big power bill, and so the idea here — and
we’ve had this commission for a couple of years — is to collect commercial
industrial waste stream, so not the stuff that comes out
of our bins which is at probably at the harder end of source
separation, but the stuff that comes from Inghams Chicken
and the brewery, Gauge Roads, and all those sort of places. Put that all into a digester — it’s essentially a
big mechanical gut where you heat it, you
stir it, you macerate it, and you let the natural process
come off the methanogen bugs in an anaerobic environment will
produce methane, run the methane through a generator and you can
get some really high quantities of product through that. So that’s a basic take in
which you go off the grid and it’s exporting
around about 1.5 mg. depending on the time of the day into the system here
in Western Australia. Now that’s the second one in
Australia and the east is — we’re getting lots and lots
of business from the east for proponents to
be building plants around in the eastern
states, as well. So it’s a tick in the
box for innovation for Western Australia. And I should say,
in relation also to shark mitigation systems, and shark mitigation
technology generally, Western Australia’s become quite
a hub for this, so shark shield, ourselves, the Oceans Institute, and the Indian Ocean Marine
Science Research Centre are all got a strong focus on sharks and we’re really leading
the way on that front. So just let me flip
through that. So this is just some images
of some food waste — some chicken waste turning
up from an abattoir, Smiths Crisp going into a
bunker, even out of date, PET bottles and soft drink,
etcetera, and you know, we do the testing for the
biomethane potential of just about everything that
you would ordinarily eat and it is very similar to
eating what goes in your body, so more carbs, more energy, and
soft drink gives out everything that it’s got from an energy
perspective in seven hours, and bread sometimes
takes up to 20 days. So you can imagine what
happens when you put that stuff in your kid. So as a result of
this, so just a couple of cases examples probably
to put a bit of flavour into the idea of
commercialisation around sustainability. But now, just three observations
that I’d like to offer up before we go to the
subsequent panel conversation. And that is, I think
in this journey, I’ve had some reasonably
close touch points with the university sector
and the academic sector and around commercialisation
because the universities think of themselves, and are to
a great degree, innovators, but not a great deal of that
penetrates into the real world. And in part, that’s because you
know, the level of investment and the high level of risk for
a venture to take something, commercialise it, and go
through what they call the value of death in the commercialisation
cycle is very high, and so the certainty needs
to be fairly high as well. But I think there’s
something else — oh, that’s what the valley
of death kind of looks like. But, I’ve sort of come to the
view that there’s a desinence between what academia is doing and what the commercialisation
world and investment actually needs and it’s almost a
cultural legacy from the way universities
were built 150, 200 years ago. But fundamentally,
you know, the currency of academia is the paper, and the paper is what defines
the Ph.D. to get their job. Once they’ve got the job,
they’ve got to stay alive in the university
system, so it’s all about publications again
to get the age index so they can attract
more funding in a very, very competitive grant
funding world and a lot of the academics I’ve
experienced, and I may be wrong, are spending at least half
their time writing deals and the other half of the
time doing the research, almost like a small business. You know, almost like
a small businessman. And then, if you’re going
to go anywhere and research, you need to build a
research team, academic fame, that’s what the driver
is for these guys. But the academic paper
is almost useful for — I mean, except from a —
if industry can find it, it’s very hard to capitalise
on it because of course, there’s no proprietorship
around it. The whole idea of the fact that it’s already been published
mitigates its opportunity to actually capture
novelty and get some kind of protectable IP around it. So what I’ve sort of
articulated here is, a lot of individual small
to medium enterprise guys in academia are building out
their world producing papers, industry can’t latch
on to the paper, so what the university
does is it builds an office of commercialisation. It builds a math piece
that can be the go between. But the problem is that
the academics often in my experience are leery of
the office of commercialisation because they’re worried
about losing something that might attach to them in
their career and having it kind of dilute it in the big wide
world, or shared in such a way that the commercialisation
value doesn’t accrue to them. So it’s not a really clear — what I’ve done up at the top
there is just basically taken the — I used University
of WA, not Curtin, for the intellectual
property regulations, since we’re at Curtin. But at the top there
is basically a very, very broad-brush version
of who owns the IP and the different context of the different players
inside that university. And I just — I feel
that if we could link up the university’s interest,
the academic’s interest, and I’m talking about — I’m talking their commercial
interest and the opportunities that flow from the
IP that they build, and what industry
needs, I think, we’re going to have a much more
successful commercialisation model, even if that means
that the value in all that chain is much
more broadly shared. And if you took the
view, I guess, you know, like the spawning fish,
you spawn lots of lots of these things on a
portfolio basis, some are going to go gang busters, and most
of them are going to fail. But if you made if very, very
simple to put ventures together, get the academic lined up so
they’re getting some value out of it, get some money
into it, and get it moving, I think the success rate
would be a lot higher. Second observation is, as we
get more and more specific and specialised in society
and in what we do in terms of research, the more that we’ve
got to observe cross-discipline. You know, academics
and disciplines and research generally tends
to dive down the rabbit hole, but the greatest breakthroughs
in research generally come where there’s a coming
together of cross-discipline. And, you know, it’s not a
great analogy, but at a time when things were a lot simpler, Leonardo Da Vinci had all
those skills kind of built, all those multi-disciplinary
skills built into one man, you know, an engineer,
someone who was capable in medicine, an artist. Now, the manifestation of all
that in one brain gave rise to some massive innovation,
and the same thing is true if we can connect better the
different disciplines inside the research centres and
inside industry indeed. And the last one, and I guess
I’m harking back to Bargas and what I’ve seen,
but you know, when I was at Greening
Australia, you know, part of my interest in Greening
Australia was that it was — I wanted to see how we could
productively develop commercial crops which also
sequestered carbon so that we could have
a sustainable model. You know, grants are never going
to subsidise land care and sort of restoration of landscapes,
but productive farming systems that sequester carbon
will potentially do that. So that was the interest, and the
difficulty was trying to take Greening Australia
into that whole carbon domain. It’s since — when was that? 10 years ago. The Australian government
has been bouncing in its regulations, its
incentives, its subsidies around the internalisation of
the cost of carbon basically, and investment just
can’t get around it. It’s impossible, you know, so
for my own part, even as an NGO, we probably did quite a lot of
money trying to work out how to participate in this and
have the rules changed. And I think what’s
happened though, and I’m leading a little
bit with Tony Seba, who many of you,
I’m sure have seen. He’s been prominent in
the last couple of — four or five weeks
really on social media, lecturing on entrepreneurship
at Stanford. But to my mind, and
in my experience now, what’s happening is we’re
past the pivot point, we’re past the point
where regulation subsidy by government is going
to really be important. It’s already gathering momentum. It’s not going to
be one technology. I mean, PV is getting pushed
strongly in the convergence with battery and the convergence
with transport and so forth. It’ll be a portfolio approach
of different technologies, but renewable technologies is
stacking up in their own right. PV, is does now in Western
Australia, or even to grid, the anaerobic digestion
plants that I showed you, probably a sub-five year payback
without subsidy, without grant. So I feel as though we’ve
definitely reached the pivot point. And I suspect what’s
going to happen now with five prime ministers
and a bouncing government and continuing to bounce,
almost becoming antagonistic to renewables, again,
industry will just go on. And, you know, whatever
rules get set as long as they’re not undermining
and keep a level playing field for renewables, we will see
renewables take their natural place in the commercial
pathway for energy. And that’s it. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>See I’m just going to
give you a brief overview of electronic waste
recycling in WA. It’s a company that I started with my brother eight years ago
while still studying at Curtin, so it was quite fun doing
in second year engineering. So basically, everyone
would be familiar with this sort of
way of thinking. You walk past your favourite
shop, you see a new thing and you think to yourself,
well, everyone has one of these things, I really need
to get one of these things. It’s going to change my life. Really. I should buy it now. And unfortunately, this
way of thinking leads to some pretty devastating
environmental damage, just that cycle of consumerism, all that product that’s used
either goes back into landfill or winds up hopefully
not somewhere like this. So yeah, needless to say, this way of thinking
generates a lot of waste. So in 2014-15 financial year,
it’s estimated that a total of 121,000 tonnes of televisions
and computers reached end of life in Australia, which
to put it in perspective, is approximately 15,000
40-foot sea containers. We get around about a tonne
in a 40-foot sea container. It gets delivered to us and that’s roughly four full
medium-sized container ships full of e-waste that’s
getting thrown out every year. So that’s all got
to go somewhere. So where does it go
when we throw it out. Chances are they’ll end up with
a recycling company like ours, or in landfill, or
being exported overseas. So that’s where you
should really send it; send it down to us. So just give you a
bit of background on what we’re doing about it. We’ve set up a recycling company
in WA where we’ve got a manual and mechatronic or
mechanised recycling process and it’s important to
have both with the way that technology is
at the moment. Basically, we’ve
got the manual part where we remove all the hazards that our technology
can’t handle yet. As technology gets cheaper and
better, we’ll be able to handle that a lot better
with the introduction of AI and things like that. But basically, remove
all the hazards manually, and once we’ve removed all
the hazards like leaded glass, mercury back lamps, batteries,
ink container cartridges — there’s quite a lot of
nasties in electronic waste. Then it goes through our
recycling plant which me, my brother, and my dad
set up over a couple of months which was good fun. That went in last year. It’s got 10,000 tonnes
per annum capacity. It’s modular and it’s
adaptable so we can strap on new technology as
it becomes available. We’re looking at a
few colour sorters and different separation
technologies as we go. But basically, from this plant,
we’re able to pull off sort of clean, or relatively clean,
steel that can be put back into steel production. They got the electric motors
and transformers there where we get the
coupler and silicon steel out because there’s
quite this, you know, maybe a 100 to 200 different
materials that’s locked up inside of this e-waste. It’s lost if it’s not
treated carefully. From there, it goes over just a
basic picking line where we pull out things like focus materials. There’s about thirty different
things we pull out, but I couldn’t fit
30 pictures up here. But basically, you’ve
got your PVC copper wire, we’ve got copper aluminium heat
syncs and aluminium heat syncs. The main one circuit
boards which contains a lot of your precious metals like
your gold and your silver and palladium, platinum, things
like that, which we send off to a precious metal refiner and
they get all those things out. Then it goes over our
anticurrent separator which pulls out the
remaining ferrous material and non-ferrous metals
that would sort of — it’s not broken up enough from
the first shredding process. And we get a zorba mix which
has got your circuit boards, your aluminium, and your
copper, and a plastic fraction, which is quite a complex
waste stream in itself. And if we run that back
through, then we can pull out those circuit boards
as well, so we’ve got like a aluminium copper
mix and circuit boards which can be sent off to other
recyclers around the world. We’re one cog in a very
big global supply chain and we specialise in the
front end and then we send that to people who
specialise in the backend. We can’t do it all in-house
because some of the things that — like a circuit
board refinery, people have spent billions of
dollars on that technology. It’s something that we
can’t compete on, yet. Just to give you an idea of
all the different things, I tried to categorise
everything into these things. There’s a lot more that
we actually do pull out, but here’s the basics
of what we get. We get all the ferrous
material, plastic, you can see is 16 percent
shredded and 7 percent bailed. We get out leaded
glass, non-leaded glass, we get the mercury back
lamps out of the LCD screens. Even ethylene glycol
oil which is in your rear-projection
telies as a coolant. So there’s quite a lot of
stuff that we can recover — 95 percent, or 94 percent
going off this graph, is what we recover and
send to other recyclers to be turned into new products. So the scale of the
problem in WA — every day, we received two
full sea containers full of electronic waste, and
last year we recycled over 250 thousand devices. And unfortunately, we
only get around 30 percent of what’s being thrown out, with the remainder still
being exported or land-filled. And we recognise that recycling
is only part of the solution. You cannot recycle our way
out of plastic pollution. It’s a simple thing — just recycling it doesn’t
make it environmentally, but it’s an essential step
in the sustainable process. So we’ve got our reuse division
where we try and get devices that haven’t been, or that’s
been thrown out early. You know, we get stuff from
— I won’t name any companies, but that are only eight months
old, and it doesn’t make sense to shred this sort of stuff. So it’s better to give
that a second life because all the energy and
time and stuff that was spent in creating these devices, you may as well get
some more use out of it. And some of this, like
pretty much everything in our office, is
recycled goods. We haven’t bought
many electronics. So yeah, we’ve got the hierarchy
of disposal, which we really — I’m preaching to the converted
here, but this is what we try and promote — reuse over
recycling, which is a bit of a challenge for us
with some businesses. They like to have
their stuff crushed, but we’ll get to that later. So we go from reuse to recovery, so anything
that doesn’t work, we send to our recovery
operation which is about 90 percent of
what we get through. And then anything that we can’t
recover is disposed of in WA. So there’s our — that’s
it — recovery operation. We’re in the middle of moving
both facilities together into a new premises
which is going to be many late nights for me. But yeah, here’s where we
can test all the equipment and wipe any data which
is a sticking point for people for reuse. People worry about what they’ve
been searching on the internet, so we wipe all that off the
data and then off the hard drive and then we can reuse
the devices. So just to finish it off — I don’t know if I’ve gone
over the seven minutes, but the challenges we face
recycling locally is local markets for recovered products. WA doesn’t really
doesn’t manufacture much, so it’s really hard for
us to find an end — a home for our recycled
materials. Most of the stuff gets either
shipped interstate or overseas where the manufacturing
hubs are. We also face some challenges
for the state-based legislation because waste is a
state-based law, so we’re trying to get e-waste banned
from landfill in WA. In South Australia,
Victoria’s looking at doing it. It’s already been done, so
we’re trying to bring that to WA so we can left that from 30
percent up to, hopefully, around the 70 and 80 percent. And we’ve also got the challenge of an ever-changing
waste stream. Just three years ago, we
were getting 70 percent of our waste came from the old CRT televisions. Now, it’s only about 30 percent. So within three years, our product that we’re
recycling has changed. It’s almost completely changed,
which is a challenge for you if you’re running business. You like to things to stay
the same because you can set up processes to optimise that. And the last sort of
challenge that I’m trying to overcome is convincing
businesses to allow us to reuse their good equipment because there’s a
lot of value there. A lot of people don’t
need, you know, the latest processing power
that’s out on the market. A lot of people just use a
computer to look at the internet or do up a few PowerPoints,
so that’s something that we’re working to overcome
through educating our customers. And, yeah. Thanks. [ Applause ] I’d like to invite
questions now of our speakers. And they’ve said they’re open for any curly questions
you might have. Any questions? Excellent.>>Sarita, tell us
about, with your subject of photosynthesis 4 is it? It’s something that I’ve
heard about and I thought that is something that would
contribute significantly as an innovation.>>Is it on?>>Yeah.>>Okay. So I think
you’re referring actually to C4 plants, rather than C3. So most of our crop
plants that we grow in the temperate
world are C3 plants. C4 plants are typically
grown more in tropical areas, so they’re things
like your maze, sorghum, rice are C4 plants. They have the ability to
be much more efficient at utilising carbon dioxide
to produce high yields. So it has been proposed if we
could develop wheat or barley to become a C4 plant, then as
carbon dioxide levels increase, it would actually help us to increase yields. However, at the moment,
there’s lots of other things that don’t work with it, so they
tend to use a lot more water and carbon dioxide isn’t
just increasing on its own. So you’ve also got increasing
temperatures as well, as so it only increased
to a certain level, land then when the
temperature increases, it comes back down
again, and that. So it’s there. That’s certainly been proposed, but there’s nothing
concrete coming out yet.>>Any questions? Yes.>>[ Inaudible Audience Query ] I’m interested in knowing
how much biogass acid exists in your view around the country,
because the issue of course with renewables is
[inaudible accent]. And I don’t believe that
storage is the solution for it. How much biomass do you
generate around the country versus [inaudible accent]?>>Are we on? Yep, we’re on. There’s a lot out there. I mean, biogass will come from,
you know, biomass of any kind. In this case, it’s organic going
to a kind of a wet solution, but equally, there’s a lot
of momentum around pyrolysis and thermal solutions. So anything’s that really — I mean, the waste hierarchy says
we’ve got to recycle, reuse, etcetera, and from a food
waste perspective, for example, it’s better that it goes to,
you know, charities, etcetera, and the last thing that we
do is that we take the waste and we put it to extract
the energy value of it. But if it’s going to
landfill, then it’s better that it goes in this direction. The problem we have
at the minute is that, in order for technologies to
be able to generate energy from any kind of
biomass waste stream, it needs to be relatively
clean, or it needs to be tidy, or clean enough for
that technology to be able to deal with it. And at the moment, most waste
streams, or many waste streams, other than ones that
come from industry, are comingled and very, very hard to separate. So hard to separate,
they’re uneconomic and they go to landfills. So the answer to that question,
I think is, there’s a lot of waste, you know,
everything that we chuck out. I think in the future, there’ll
be less, but the trick will be at a regional level is to
be able to aggregate that, separate it in transfer
stations, etcetera, and then push it to where it
needs to go and, you know, I think you’d probably agree
with that, wouldn’t you? That’s one of the issues
that we potentially face. Yeah, I think that’s sort of — that would be the
broad answer to that. If I could just add
one more thing. In the UK, where they led
with a feeding tariff subsidy, specifically around anaerobic
digestion, this technology, it actually drove a marketplace where that value is
actually transferred through the whole supply
chain into the waste. So, you know, Britain is in
a place now where it’s got so many anaerobic digestion
plants where they’re aggregated, they’re competing for
waste, and in fact, rather than getting paid to
take the waste, they’re starting to pay to take the waste. Which in many ways is a good
thing provided the economics still stack up.>>I suppose, moving on from
that question, in your mind, do you see the waste and
the recycling programmes as being a government-led thing
or a private industry-led thing, especially in a small market
like Perth is, versus say the UK where it’s more developed and
more more players involved?>>It’s both. I think it’s government
and community. So in my view, business
— can’t ignore it. Business exists to make profit, even though they’ll
go triple bottom line and corporate social
responsibility, fundamentally, they’re still developing profit. So it’ll go to its least
cost, which means it’ll cheat if it can business generally. I’m not talking about our
business — specific business, just generally it will. So the government needs to put
in those regulations and needs to internalise the cost
of whatever it wants to change the behaviour of — in
this case, carbon or whatever. So that’s sort of
corporate level. But at a municipal level,
people need education. It’s a little bit like
what Peter explained. We need to reshape the way
people think in the schools and everything, which is
happening, which is the way that we think about what we
do with the waste and the idea that we would never
ever chuck something like that in the recycling. You know, we wouldn’t
put comingled waste in the recycling. I reflect a bit,
sort of that vintage. There used to be
campaigns around litter and drop something sport — you know, some really
effective campaigns. And I recall that you’d
be a social pariah if you chucked something
on the ground. That hasn’t been
reinforced for a long time, and that’s actually
starting, I think, to diminish and we almost need another
campaign around that. So to answer that
question more specifically, I think it’s a balance of
both, a stig and an education.>>To jump in there about the
campaign about the no litter. Yeah, it was a very,
very powerful campaign. At the same time, there was
a healthy eating campaign that came out, but there
hasn’t been another one. We don’t have the same bins
like you have in Japan, separating all your litter. The idea of not being — [ Inaudible Audience Response ]>>We’re just Western Australia. Yeah. So how does that happen? In a sense of water, there
was a lot of resistance to turning our sprinklers off. There still is, a little. How did you get there? How’d that happen?>>Well, I think the
explanation was just given. I think it’s a combination
of regulation and change in community attitudes. But the point I was making
earlier is you can’t — you don’t change community
attitudes on a one-off hit. You’ve got to continually
reinforce that and over the last 20-odd years
that I showed on that slide, might be 25 years, the
moment you are not in the market with the community,
reinforcing what you’re trying to do, you get a drop off. And hence, the number of
campaigns on that last slide that I had up, reinforcing,
coming up with new campaigns, talking to focus groups as to
what will influence people. So you have a refreshed
campaign. I think one of the
problems is the expectation that you can change
community attitude and it will remain changed. It’s unfortunately
very difficult to actually get the community
to change and embed that change within their psyche,
if you like. It just needs continual
reinforcement. Now that comes from
organisations, whether it’s government owned or whoever’s running
that has to redo it. I mean you look at the
road safety campaigns. They’re continuing, trying
to look at other means of convincing people to do
the right things on the road, and you just have
to keep doing it.>>We’ve got a little bit of
expertise in the audience. Does anyone have comments
on that that they can add?>>I’d like to suggest, coming from an education
background — [inaudible accent].>>Yep, yep. Finished it.>>All of you, your
father and your brother?>>So yeah, my dad was a
civil and structural engineer. He actually worked
for the Board of Works and the Snowy River Dam.>>I’ve done a very minimal
amount of research, though, and I’m finding that the
educated area, so-called, of our western suburbs are the
worst in terms of education of recycling and sustainability. And I find that gobsmackingly
dreadful. Do you know what I mean?>>Well, I think it’s
interesting, like, because we’re pretty
big on data and looking where our waste is coming from. And it is interesting. The southwest has a really
good recycling rate for electronics. They collect a lot more per
capita than, say, the city does. There are some star
performers in councils and stuff and I know the Western
suburbs at Shenton Park there, are one of our customers. So they do deliver
e-waste to us. Probably not as much
as some other councils, but they’re not the
worst either.>>Cambridge and Sterling
are doing a good job.>>Sterling’s one of
our biggest customers, so they’re doing really well. And it’s one thing we’re
still trying to work out is why some regions are a
lot more successful than others. It’s pretty complex. I guess there’s a lot
of complex things going on which makes a region good at
recycling versus non-existent, which some councils just
don’t have any programmes for recycling e-waste, so.>>But our western
metropolitan area, though, doesn’t have a recycling
— it’s not functional. Is that why?>>Well, you’ve got
the limits of, I guess, the Balcatta recycling
centre is pretty central and everyone can get to it. So that’s one of the things
to consider is they’ve got to have somewhere that’s
easy for people to get to. If you make them do a lot of
work to recycle, their equipment or anything, they just
won’t do it because, at the end of the
day, everyone’s got to live their life, you know,
like we’re all here now. You don’t have an hour
just to go and drive to the nearest transfer
station and drop stuff off, so that’s one of the challenges
I think local government needs to [inaudible crosstalk].>>But you’re only about
e-waste aren’t you?>>We just do e-waste, yeah. So we’re a specific –>>Yes. So all the other waste,
I mean, all around the world and — I mean, in 1989,
I was in Queensland and they had four bins
everywhere in every council that we went to, particularly
in the national parks. Do you see that here?>>No.>>And they do all
over Europe, too.>>Yeah. No, I think we’ve
got a long way to come.>>A huge long way.>>And I think — yeah, a
lot of that’s got to come, like you were saying
with the regulation. It’s got to — we’ve got to set
targets and implement things as a community to
make that reality. But its’ got to come from
government creating that space for a business to go out and
do those sorts of things. We can’t enforce on residents to
say, well, now there’s 16 bins. You’ve got to recycle
everything. That doesn’t come from industry. That’s got to come from –>>It’s got to come
from education.>>Yeah. The policy
makers, essentially, so.>>We have a question or
comment at the back up here.>>Just a question for Sarita. I think you mentioned
in your presentation. Thanks, first of all,
for the presentations. They were all great. That China wants to be
self-sufficient by 2025. Is that based on them
acquiring land around the world to plant crops for their
own population, particularly because their population
is moving to the cities? So –>>Yes, it — yeah
it does include –>>is that what –>>acquiring land
around the world.>>So arguably, that’s not
self-sufficient then, is it?>>No. I mean, that’s their — their policy is to
be self-sufficient. I didn’t say they were
going to be self-sufficient. Yeah. So they’re — and
they’re certainly quite active in buying land around a number of different places
around the world. It’s not just Australia. Australia, actually,
foreign ownership of land’s only at two percent. It’s a lot lower than the
media would have you believe. Other areas like Africa and South America have a much
higher proportion than that.>>I’ve got a question
here [inaudible accent].>>I’m sorry, I’ve
missed your name.>>James.>>James, with the recycling,
obviously, there’s some things that you said that you couldn’t
recycle and you ship them off. Could you tell me what the
percentage is and where does that get shipped off to,
overseas in particular?>>Yeah, so there’s not a lot
that we can really do in WA. We don’t have a steel
manufacturing facility, so that ultimately winds
up offshore to China. We’re not a massive
recycling company, so we don’t deal
direct with smelters. Things like circuit
boards we do. We send that to Mitsubishi
smelter in Japan. So there’s a lot of
specialised outfits that have built their business
on a very niche waste stream and they’re the best
at doing that. So like, a lot of stuff
ends up back in Asia, so a lot of the plastics
go back over to China. There’s a bit of a challenge
facing the whole recycling industry at the moment because
the Chinese have changed their policies on what
they’ll bring in. They’re trying to — they call
it the iron sword, I think, and they’re trying to stop
sort of illegitimate operators and it’s — they’re
trying to make everyone go through the rigmarole of
getting their licences and getting everything sorted. They’re doing a lot of good
stuff over in China, actually. It’s quite an interesting
place to visit at the moment with the way it’s changing. Things that are done
in Australia, we’ve got the Close the Loop that does the printer
cartridges and things like that. They are a quite innovative
company that started over in the eastern states
and they’ve spread to the U.S. and become the, I guess, the
lead recycler around the world for printer cartridge recycling. But it’s just such a complex
waste stream, to do everything in WA it’s just not achievable. So yeah, it’s a bit of
a challenging question because there is so many
things that we recycle. But the main ones, I
guess, are the metals — they’ll end up back
over in Asia. The circuit boards goes
to this Mitsubishi smelter where they’re refined for their gold, silver, copper, and
palladium and things like that. The glass, we send to
Nyrstar, the leaded glass, which is in Port Pirie,
so that’s in Australia. They charge us a
pretty penny for that, but they extract the lead out of
the glass there and use the sort of byproduct from that as
a construction aggregate. But there’s a lot of work
that needs to be done to make these things so you
know you could turn your plastic straight back into another
plastic product in Australia. At the moment, we’re getting
a mixed plastic stream of maybe a hundred different
types and compositions of plastic and not all
plastics are the same, they won’t all melt together. So you’ve got to know
exactly what you’re doing to turn it back into a
manufacturable product, and that’s sort of the challenge
that we’ve got to overcome.>>Thank you. And just as a last
comment on that, too. You’re talking about the
different cities and shires, etcetera, that have their
reasons why they don’t recycle, etcetera. I’m sure there would
be an opportunity of sustainability
research between Curtin and the 50-year innovation
that perhaps we could work with your company, as well.>>Yeah. That’d be great.>>Can I ask James
a quick question? Do you mind, panel to panel?>>I was at the mint the
other day, the Perth Mint, and they were saying that
because gold is so noble and so valuable, that up to
very recently, all the gold in the world was pretty
much recycled because it had such value, right
back to the Aztecs. So the stuff we’re
melting down and putting in necklaces were
from that time. But recently, it’s changed. It’s actually moving out of the
system because it’s uneconomic to recover for the first time. Is that your experience? Or is that what the
prevailing view would be?>>Well, we still get, I mean, you know,
like our service, we have to charge a fee. It’s not something that we can
pay for unless it’s a mixture of good assets and
recyclable assets. We have to charge a fee
because we’re trying to meet a high level
of recycling. If we just put through
a metal plant, you’d get all the good stuff,
but all the leaded glass and stuff will go
into landfills. So that’s the challenge
that we’ve got. People don’t want to pay
to treat things properly. So I think I’d have to agree
but there’s also the other side where you’ve got the extended
producer responsibility schemes that are coming in which are
basically making the brands and things that produce
those things take care of their products at the end
of life, so they’re trying to get the circular
economy going. So I can’t say that
gold being lost as such, it’s just in a landfill. Someone, eventually
will go and pull that landfill up and mine it. So yeah, I’m not too
sure how to answer that.>>There’s a new mining
boom coming — yes. We’ve only got a short
amount of time left, so a few more questions.>>My question’s for Sarita. So I know that most
of your research, it sounds like it’s
focussing on helping farmers, but I’ve heard some good news
about community-based gardens where people grow crops,
for example, in Singapore. I just wanted to know what your
opinion was on that in terms of sustainability and if you
think that would be something that would be suitable
in WA given that, even though it’s been successful
in a place like Singapore where land’s at a premium,
it’s the opposite over here. Do you think they would be
suitable over here in WA?>>I think it is a suitable and there are quite a
few community gardens in Perth already, based very much around the British allotment
system, which as, sort of, land area where we live and our
housing actually does become more dense, people
do have less land and so they don’t have enough
room to grow, you know, tomatoes or whatever that you want
to grow in your back garden. So those community
gardens do become valuable. They’re also valuable on a
community aspect I think as well because it’s a good
way of getting to know your local
community members rather than living in your own house. But I think the final
thing they — in WA — play a very important
role is that education. And there’s a huge
divide between the urban and the rural areas in terms
of where our food comes from. And so although community
gardens in Perth will never feed the
world — they won’t feed Perth, that education is so
important in understanding where our food comes from
and what farmers are going through in order to produce
it rather than just, you know, accepting where it comes
from in the supermarket and not being aware
of that whole chain of how it gets there.>>And just to add into that,
the work going on in my school of Built Environment is
that community gardens and other green spaces
are critical for breaking apart the urban
heat sink that develops as we become increasingly
sort of high density. And in Perth, in the last
sort of intercensal period, the last five years, we had
40,000 more households move into townhouses in
the inner city area. So there’s a massive
change occurring. So this is having
another effect as well in the sustainability role. Question.>>My question’s for Peter. You mentioned, as we’ve
gone through and started to build desal plants,
the demand seems to be actually outstripping
our expectations of the amount of desal capacity that we need. Is there a view on the long-term
composition desal water to the Perth supply and also do you see the
cost of that technology dropping or improving efficiency
as fast as some of the other renewable
technologies?>>What I was really
talking about was the lack of other source water from
rain that’s driving the need for additional desal as
much as population growth. But as we go forward, we’ll
be continuing to focus on demand management but
at some point in time, future sources are going to
be required and at this stage, living in Perth, the potentiality is
it’s going to be desal. Limited — I mean, you’ll
use as much reuse as you can through groundwater
replenishment and other things, but ultimately, that only
recycles a percentage of the water that’s
being used anyway and you’ll use efficiencies
there. Bearing in mind that a groundwater replenishment
is the same technology as sea water desalination
with membranes that need less pressure
to push the water through. So you’re actually
looking at the same plant. The answer is, yes, desal
will become a component in a longer term. The efficiencies of
the desal plants — before we built the
first desal plant, the efficiencies took
a huge leap forward. They went from [clears
throat] — excuse me — about 10 kilowatt hours per
cubic metre of production down to currently
today about 3.4. And that’s what’s
made it viable today. To improve that, one of two
things have got to happen. I don’t think you’re going to get much more efficient
in energy recovery. They’re up at about
98 percent now. But you will potentially
get membranes that will be more efficient
and improve the cost there. I think it’s going to be at
the margins unless there is a major breakthrough
somewhere in that whole cycle. But, I mean, desal at the
moment, gate prices are around $2 a cubic metre,
which is a reasonable price. The problem that we really
face is where are you going to put the desal plants and what’s it cost the
infrastructure to get it from there back into the
system because despite the fact that we’ve got a
fabulous coastline, it happens to be embedded with
lots of reefs and other things that are environmentally
sensitive and finding an appropriate
location for desal is somewhat
more difficult than you would otherwise think
with the coastline we have. [ Music ]

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