New recycling technology processes tyres into resources

Tyre processing company Pearl Global has begun commissioning its first production plant to recycle tyres into valuable secondary products.

The technology uses an applied heating process called thermal desorption, which converts waste tyres into liquid hydrocarbon, high tensile steel and carbon char, and can be sold separately or processed further.

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Pearl has constructed its first production plant, with two thermal desorption units (TDUs) in Stapylton, Queensland and initial commissioning under way. The second TDU is owned by Pearl’s intellectual property licensor and contracting partner Keshi, and will be purchased by Pearl as soon as practical.

Each TDU can process approximately 5000 tons (4536 tonnes) of shredded rubber at full production, equivalent to 50,000 car tyres. On average, this equates to a weekly output 1.5 million litres of raw fuel.

“This is the first plant of its type in Australia and we expect to be ramping up to full production over the coming months,” Pearl Executive Chairman Gary Foster said.

The materials are being developed into potential commercial products, including a degreaser product.

With assistance from The Centre for Energy at the University of Western Australia, Pearl’s degreaser products have been tested and compared to existing commercial degreasers and have surpassed the standards required for commercial degreasers, with one of them showing the best performance of all the degreaser products, according to the company.

Over 51 million used tyres get discarded in Australia a year, but only five per cent are recycled. Pearl’s technology focuses on extracting the resources from tyres instead of using them for constructing children’s playgrounds or exporting. Pearl (formerly Citation Resources Limited) in February rejoined the ASX following a reconstruction and a $5 million capital raising.

Pearl recently received planning approval from the Gold Coast City Council and has approval from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage. It already holds an environmental licence from the Western Australian Government Department of Environment Regulation.

“This is a turning point for used tyre processing in Australia. We are the first company in Australia to receive licenses for the thermal treatment of rubber, to reclaim and recover valuable products for resale,” Mr Foster said.

“Our technology is a significant advancement on other methods of processing waste tyres because it has low emissions, no hazardous by-products, requires no chemical intervention and is the only process that meets the standard emissions criteria set by the Australian regulators for this type of technology,” he said.

Mr Foster said the technology will help Australia handle a serious global environmental problem.

“We believe there is great potential in Australia to immediately deploy our technology at sites close to where tyres have been stockpiled,” Mr Foster said.

“With governments seeking or mandating solutions for waste, Pearl is well placed to offer a solution that is both environmentally sound and commercially viable.”

Pearl has applied to be an accredited member of Tyre Stewardship Australia.

Moranbah Resource Recovery Centre finished in Queensland

A major project has been completed in central Queensland to improve the region’s waste disposal network.

The $7.16 million Moranbah Resource Recovery Centre Expansion and Improvement Project was first started in March 2017 and has seen over 28 Olympic swimming pools worth of soil excavated.

FK Gardner & Sons were awarded the construction tender in February 2017 and sourced local contractors to work on the project.

The centre now has a new landfill cell, stormwater and leachate ponds, and a refuse transfer station.

According to the Isaac Council, the transfer station will enable the bulk handling of waste and improve hygiene and safety for the community and landfill employees.

Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker said the project was vital to meeting demand for waste disposal in the region and improving environmental performance.

“This upgrade is critical in ensuring Moranbah can meet demand for the provision of waste infrastructure to serve the regional community, mining sector and supporting industries,” Mayor Baker said.

“Isaac Regional Council matched the Queensland Government’s $3.58 million funding under the Building our Regions program.”

Queensland Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said Building our Regions was all about making sure communities such as those in the Isaac region benefit from the state’s economic successes.

“The Moranbah Resource Recovery Centre project will improve operational efficiencies and extend the lifespan of the landfill reserve.

“It will meet community and industry waste management requirements and improve the efficiency and recovery of recyclable materials.

“The transfer station became operational on September 25, 2017 and the new landfill cell is expected to accept waste from February 2018.”

Waste and recycling council calls for levy portability

Enforcing landfill levies across state borders will prevent further unnecessary cross border transport of waste, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council believes (NWRIC).

Following the ABC’s Four Corners report on August 7, three government reviews have been commissioned into the Australian waste and recycling industry – a review by a legal expert on behalf of the Queensland Premier, a NSW Upper House inquiry and a Commonwealth senate review. The NWRIC is offering solutions to the problems addressed by these reviews.

Interstate waste transport
A key issue raised by the reviews is the use of lower cost landfills in south east Queensland for the disposal of NSW construction and demolition waste. The reviews will also address challenges in recycling markets, a better use for landfill levy revenue and illegal practises.

While the haulage of waste materials from Sydney to Brisbane is undesirable, it is not illegal. The trade has been created by regulatory disparity between NSW and Queensland. Private industry have been lobbying for a regulatory solution on this issue for more than three years.

The regulatory disparity could be solved by either implementing a landfill levy in Queensland of $40 per tonne or more, or by reducing the landfill levy in NSW on construction and demolition material down to $100 per tonne or less. However, the NWRIC does not recommend either of these options as levies should stable and if introduced, should be carefully planned.

The NWRIC is instead proposing that state governments make landfill levies ‘portable’ across state borders. This means that levies applicable should be based on where waste is generated, not where it is landfilled. If implemented by neighbouring states, this solution will also prevent unnecessary interstate waste movements between Victoria, NSW and South Australia.

The council is currently liaising with the Heads of EPAs taskforce to promote this effective interim solution. Over the longer term, the NWRIC is calling for all states and jurisdictions to harmonise the regulations covering the Australian waste and recycling industry. Regulatory harmony will promote investor confidence and prevent future undesirable consequences.

The Queensland Government is leading an investigation into this same issue. A couple of weeks ago, they announced that retired Supreme Court judge, Peter Lyons QC, will lead the independent investigation into interstate waste transport. It comes after a roundtable jointly chaired by the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Environment Minister Steven Miles.

“We are sending a clear message to interstate operators transporting waste to this state,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“Mr Lyons is a highly regarded former Supreme Court Judge and Queen’s Counsel who will commence immediately to investigate the interstate waste transportation issue.”

The scope of his investigation will include incentives for movement of waste from other states and how to prevent this from occurring, opportunities for regulatory reform, and the role of other states and the Commonwealth.

Ms Palaszczuk said Mr Lyons’ duties will also include consultation with industry, specifically those who participated through the roundtable process.

“I have asked for a report, including recommendations be provided to government by mid-November.

In addition to the investigation, government is taking steps to ensure operators are complying with the law.

Minister Miles said Operation TORA involving officers from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP), Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) and Queensland Police Service (QPS) is continuing.

“Officers on the ground are blitzing interstate trucking waste,” he said.

“This is an important industry that contributes to the economy and employing thousands of Queenslanders.”

Recycling Markets
The emerging ‘circular economy’ in Australia is subject to unpredictable price fluctuations in the global market. Currently, glass has a marginal value, and plastic prices are at a historic low. The stockpiling of materials prior to recycling is a normal process in the recycling market, and stockpiled glass from kerbside collection is neither a hazardous material nor a fire risk.

In order to stimulate recycling markets, the NWRIC is proposing that more landfill levy money be hypothecated back to industry. The NWRIC advocates this revenue be used to support uniform and comprehensive regulatory enforcement, statewide waste management and recycling infrastructure planning and the creation of viable, long term markets for recycled products.

Where levy revenue is to spent directly on infrastructure projects, the NWRIC proposes that funds be offered as loans rather than grants – as this structure ensures transparency, accountability and a level market. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation serves as an existing model for this type of program.

To assist governments in creating the regulatory conditions conducive to stimulating investment into the circular economy, the NWRIC has produced its National Roadmap for a Circular Economy. Read more about it here. This document offers a range of regulatory solutions to improve the environmental, social and economic performance of Australia’s waste and recycling industry, and is available from the NWRIC website.