Recycling biosolids into bricks

Image Credit: RMIT University

New research has found a way of turning biosolids from sewage into cheaper, higher performing bricks suitable for the construction industry.

A research team from RMIT University has developed a fired-clay brick as a sustainable solution for the wastewater treatment and brickmaking industries.

The bricks are made up of biosolids, a by-product of the wastewater treatment process, and were found to have a lower thermal conductivity than other bricks, meaning they will transfer less heat and potentially give buildings higher environmental performance.

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The research examined the physical, chemical and mechanical properties of fired-clay bricks incorporating different proportions of biosolids, from 10 to 25 per cent.

Researchers found brick firing energy demand was cut almost in half for bricks that incorporated 25 per cent biosolids, due to the organic content and could considerably reduce the carbon footprint of brick manufacturing companies.

Around five million tonnes of the biosolids in Australia, New Zealand, the EU, US and Canada currently go to landfill or stockpiles each year. By using a minimum of 15 per cent biosolids content in 15 per cent of the bricks produced, the research team estimates around five million tonnes could instead be used for construction.

The bricks have passed compressive strength tests and analysis demonstrated heavy metals are largely trapped within the brick. Biosolids can have significantly different chemical characteristics, so the researchers recommend further testing before large-scale production.

Lead investigator Associate Professor Abbas Mohajerani said the research sought to tackle two environmental issues – the stockpiles of biosolids and the excavation of soil required for brick production.

“More than 3 billion cubic metres of clay soil is dug up each year for the global brickmaking industry, to produce about 1.5 trillion bricks,” Mohajerani said.

“Using biosolids in bricks could be the solution to these big environmental challenges.

“It’s a practical and sustainable proposal for recycling the biosolids currently stockpiled or going to landfill around the globe,” he said.

The results of a comparative Life Cycle Assessment and an emissions study conducted as part of the research confirmed biosolids bricks offered a sustainable alternative approach to addressing the environmental impacts of biosolids management and brick manufacturing.

The research, funded by RMIT University, Melbourne Water and Australian Government Research Training Program scholarships, is published in the “Green Building Materials Special Issue” of Buildings.

Pictured: Associate Professor Abbas Mohajerani. Image Credit: RMIT University

Veolia acquires two companies from Cleanaway joint venture buyout

Veolia Australia and New Zealand has completed a buyout of its joint venture with Cleanaway Waste Management, purchasing Western Resource Recovery (WRR) and Total Waste Management (TWM) in December.

The two waste management companies established Western Resource Recovery and its treatment arm Total Waste Management in 2000 as a joint venture, Veolia assumed operation on 11 December, 2018.

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Veolia Acting Group General Manager for Western Australia Clay South said the company is pleased to become the sole operator of the two businesses and will continue reliable operation for existing customers.

“The liquid and hazardous waste treatment market is a key strategic growth area and by wholly owning both operations Veolia now offers a competitive liquid waste collection and treatment service in Western Australia,” Mr. South said.

The operational footprint of WRR and TWM is large, spanning Western Australia from Perth to Karratha, this provides waste management services to 3500 retail and industrial customers across the state.

The deal will see Veolia solely owning and managing six depots in the region, with infrastructure in Perth (Welshpool), Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Karratha, Port Hedland and Bunbury.

Across WRR and TWM, Veolia will now manage 61 full-time employees and a fleet of 25 trucks.

Veolia have also acquired a liquid treatment plant and tank farm.

 

Repurpose It goes Volvo buying excavators and loaders

Australian waste-to-resource company Repurpose It have opted for Volvo Construction Equipment’s excavators and loaders for their Victorian plant.

The five new machines will assist the company’s loading and handling duties to assist in their recycling operation that sees large quantities of waste material re-used in the construction industry.

One Volvo EC250DL and two EC220DL units were chosen for excavation duties on the site, Repurpose It aims to input the tools on general earthmoving, screen feeding, sorting and stockpiling projects.

The company chose the L110F and L220H two-wheeled loaders for their loading work which will see hopper fed into their new recycling plant.

Repurpose It CEO George Hatzimanolis said that the company was happy to choose Volvo as the manufacturer alings with their energy efficiency commitments and engineering values.

“Our business is focused on reducing our carbon footprint and working towards a more sustainable future, as is Volvo,” Mr Hatzimanolis said.

“We were also attracted to the quality that comes with Volvo machines.”

The two EC220DL excavation units chosen for the site uses Volvo’s modern D6 diesel engine reporting 10% extra fuel efficiency over its competitors.

The Volvo machines were purchased from Dandenong’s CJD Equipment, Volvo’s exclusive Australian distribution partner.

WA CDS legislation enters state parliament

Container deposit scheme laws have been introduced into the Western Australian Parliament, with the scheme expected to start in early 2020.

The move is a major milestone for the scheme, which is projected to result in 706 million fewer beverage containers littered over the next 20 years.

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It also aims to increase recycling throughout the state and is expected to reduce the number of containers sent to landfill by 5.9 billion.

The scheme is expected to deliver a net positive benefit of around $152 million over the next 20 years and follows the state government’s waste reduction methods, which includes a ban on lightweight single-use plastic bags and a review of the WA waste strategy.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said Western Australians have been supportive of the scheme, with more than 3000 people supporting it during the public consultation period.

“The introduction of this legislation to Parliament marks a major milestone in bringing a container deposit scheme to Western Australia,” he said.

“Not only will we be diverting waste from landfill, this scheme is likely to create as many as 500 jobs as part of the new container sorting and processing facilities, and refund points across the state.”

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said he is confident the container deposit scheme will reduce litter and increase recycling.

“It will also be designed to provide business opportunities for social enterprises and help charities and community organisations raise money to fund vital community work,” Mr Dawson said.

“This scheme will be a win for the environment and a win for the local economy.”

ALGA calls for Fed Govt leadership on National Waste Policy

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has called for continued national leadership from the Federal Government to ensure waste management and resource recovery policies are consistent across all levels of government.

It follows the endorsement of the new National Waste Policy at the eighth Meeting of Environment Ministers in Canberra last week.

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After the Federal Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy issued a statement indicating a consensus was reached on a national action plan for the National Waste Policy, Environment Minister Melissa Price issued a statement last week claiming state and territory ministers “walked away from solid targets on Australia’s recycling and waste”.

“The Federal Government expected to formalise the targets, after months of negotiations and consultation and endorsement at state and federal official level,” Ms Price said in the statement.

“Instead the state and territory governments refused to endorse aspects of our National Waste Policy.

“This is an incredibly disappointing outcome for the nation that simply deprives Australia of a policy that would ensure we have a responsible and environmentally sensible approach to managing waste in the future.”

The minister went on to say that the Federal Government will continue to press forward with an action plan on reducing waste and increasing recycling.

ALGA President, Mayor David O’Loughlin attended the meeting and said there is more work to be done on the issue.

“The new policy may be full of good intentions and strong principles, but has as much backbone as you’ll find in the average plastic shopping bag,” Cr O’Loughlin said.

“Urgent action is needed as ministers themselves have acknowledged. Industry and communities need to see real on-ground action and there is a critical need for national leadership to maintain a unified approach.

“Dedicated and nationally-coordinated action on recycling will give industry the signal it needs to increase investment in sustainable resource recovery and support the nation’s move towards a circular economy,” he said.

Cr O’Loughlin said it is essential that all levels of government increase their procurement of goods and infrastructure that incorporate recycled materials, such as those used in road bases, to help reduce items entering the waste stream. He adds that state and territory governments need to take the necessary steps to help the recyclate industry sector go further.

“89 per cent of Australians have indicated that they want recycled content included in government procurement,” he said.

“There is more than $1 billion sitting in state waste levy funds that could be invested in industry innovation, pilot projects and financially supporting transitions from virgin product feedstock to recycled feedstock.

“There’s another $1 billion to be collected next year, but the meeting achieved no strong policy commitment, no agreement on concrete targets or timeframes, miniscule investment and little progress,” Cr O’Loughlin said.

Europe reaches 44 per cent battery recycling collection rate

Around 44 per cent of batteries sold in Europe were collected for recycling, with Belgium reaching 70.7 per cent, according to new data from the European Union’s statistical office, Eurostat.

In total, the data found around 214,000 tonnes of portable batteries and accumulators were put on the market in 2016, with around 93,000 tonnes collected for recycling, meaning more than twice the amount of batteries that had been put on the market than were collected.

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Luxembourg reached 63.4 per cent collection rate, with Hungary and Lithuania reaching around 53 per cent. Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom achieved collection rates of around 45 per cent.

The EU target for collection rates of portable batteries was set at 45 per cent in 2016, meaning 13 EU member states did not reach the target.

Australia has a comparatively low recycling rate of batteries, with the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative finding only three per cent of batteries are recycled and 70 per cent are sent to landfill.

To improve Australia’s battery recycling rates, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called for a regulated product stewardship program for batteries by 2020.

The NWRIC said such a low recycling rate means regulator intervention is the only option.

“With a combination of sensible regulation, targeted investment and consumer education, almost all of Australia’s used batteries can be safely recycled. This would reduce the risk of fires at recycling facilities and minimise the contamination of compost,” the organisation said in a release.

APCO appoints three directors to its board

Three new directors have been appointed to the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) Board at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting.

Chair of the Australian Council of Recycling and owner of Re.Group, which oversees the container deposit schemes in the ACT and Queensland, David Singh was one of the new directors appointed to the board. His selection is part of APCO’s efforts to collaborate with the waste and recycling industries and its support for the rollout of container deposit schemes nationally.

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CEO, Director and Company Secretary of the Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia and Board Director of the Banksia Foundation, Andrew Petersen was also selected to be a director.

Fellow of the Australian Institute of Packaging Keith Chassell was appointed to the board. Mr Chassell has around 50 years of experience in the packaging, fast moving consumer goods and the food and beverage sectors.

The Board of Directors for 2019 includes Sam Andersen, Andrew Petersen, Keith Chessell, David Singh, Trent Bartlett, Jacky Nordsvan, Anne Astin, Jason Goode and Renata Lopes.

APCO Board Chair Sam Andersen said the board is delighted to welcome the new board members who bring a wealth and diversity of industry experience at a critical time for Australia’s waste and recycling, packaging and sustainability sectors.

“This has been a remarkable year of growth and progress for APCO, and we look forward to an even more productive year in 2019 with the support and guidance of the new Board Directors,” Ms Andersen said.

CEFC Annual Report tabled in Australian senate

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) Annual Report 2017-18 has shown the corporation has invested $127 million in waste-related projects in the past year.

The report was tabled in the Australian Senate and has found the total new CEFC commitments in 2017-18 were $2.3 billion, which is up from $2.1 billion in the previous year.

Across its entire portfolio, the corporation has contributed to projects with a total value of around $19 billion and financed more than 5500 smaller-scale clean energy projects through its partners.

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The CEFC is responsible for investing $10 billion in clean energy products on behalf of the Federal Government to reduce the country’s carbon emissions.

Since beginning in 2013, a total of 190 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have been forecast to be cut, once funds are deployed and projects fully operation.

In the Chair’s Report, CEFC Chair Steven Skala said these investments include marquee projects and highlight decarbonisation and can be achieved profitably and effectively across the clean energy sector and waste related projects.

“This year has seen industry seizing the challenges and opportunities offered by decarbonisation and accelerating its consideration of emerging duties associated with carbon disclosure,” he said.

“The financial markets have also moved in this regard. The question now is not one of direction, but of pace. This means the CEFC will continue to have a significant number of opportunities available in its investment pipeline.”

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said much has changed since the CEFC began investing in 2013.

“From our early days largely focusing on renewable energy opportunities, we now see our capital working right across the economy, in an increasingly diverse range of projects,” Mr Learmonth said.

“We see clean energy technologies embraced by home owners and small businesses; essential infrastructure projects and landmark property developments; innovative start-ups and institutional investors with an eye to a sustainable future.

“In 2017-18, our most active year of investment, we see a common thread in this activity: a focus on embracing technological innovation to cut energy costs and lower emissions.”

Sydney ranked as Australia’s most sustainable city

Sydney has been ranked Australia’s most sustainable city in 2018, according to the Sustainable Cities Index from Arcadis.

The index ranks 100 cities on three pillars of sustainability which it defines as people, planet and profit.

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Australian cities were mostly located in the centre of the list, with Sydney and Canberra reaching 34th and 35th place. Brisbane was listed as the 44th most sustainable while Melbourne trailed behind at 56.

All of the cities on the list performed well on people focused measures, scoring high in health, education and digital enablement. Cities performed moderately well when it came to profit due to employment and ease of doing business.

However, each Australian city scored worse in the planet pillar, with greenhouse gas emissions and waste management common issues across all four cities.

London was ranked the most sustainable city, with eight of the top ten spots being European cities.

The 2018 Sustainable Cities Index emphasised the impact of how digital technologies have impacted on citizen’s experience of the city, but it found that technology is not yet able to mitigate things like traffic jams, unaffordable transport options, the absence of green space or the uncertainties caused by ageing infrastructure.

Arcadis Australian Cities Director Stephen Taylor said with no Australian city cracking the top 30, there is a need to improve the long-term sustainability, resilience and performance of our cities.

“Across our cities, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, we’ve seen a real shift over the last few years beyond green sustainability to social sustainability. Both government and private developments are increasingly focusing on how projects can better improve communities, including financial gains and community wellness,” Mr Taylor said.

“Despite the middle of the road rankings, the nation’s strong focus on developing integrated transit systems, addressing affordability and embracing sustainability in construction are all positive signs for future improvement across the three pillars,” he said.