The Town of Port Hedland has been able to extend the life of its landfill by an additional 10 years and improve its waste management strategies by harnessing the power of data.
With a harbour that sees more than 500 million tonnes of iron ore exported from Australia, the Town of Port Hedland is deeply connected to the mining industry.
Located in WA’s Pilbara region, the town is relatively isolated. As is the case with many regional communities around the country, the nearest town, Karratha, is a two-and-a-half hour drive away.
Christopher Adekunle, the Town of Port Hedland Council Manager for Waste Operations, says when he arrived at the town, there were significant opportunities for improving the organisation’s waste management practices.
“Mining is the primary concern of the town with a lot of the community making their living through the industry. When the mining boom was in full swing, there was not a great deal of focus on best practice waste management,” he explains.
“When things calmed down, the council analysed with a view to identifying where improvements could be made. One of the biggest challenges we faced as a regional area was implementing a kerbside recycling service when there was no infrastructure to support it.”
Christopher moved to Port Hedland in 2017 with 16 years of experience in the waste industry. He had learnt strategic waste and resource recovery methods for landfill diversion in previous roles at Veolia and the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
He relocated to Port Hedland to transition into an operational focused role with the council. At the time, the council was facing issues with non-compliance of its landfill asset, significant problems with illegal dumping, non-compliant tyre stockpiles and no kerbside recycling program.
As a result of the mining boom, the landfill had significant legacy issues in the form of more than 70,000 waste tyres. This was a significantly higher volume than their licence allowed and was encroaching on the boundary of the landfill area.
Christopher says the ideal way of handling the tyres would be to recycle them, but it was not economically viable due to the lack of local infrastructure and extreme distance from the market leading to high transport costs.
“Our solution was to shred the tyres and partially bury them at the edge of the landfill. This means we’re able to recover them if the economic factors in the Pilbara make it more viable to recycle them or use them for a potential waste to energy fuel source.”
The Town of Port Hedland built a business case with data gathered from Mandalay Technologies’ platform to look at solutions for addressing the issues facing the landfill.
“By accessing the data, we were able to analyse our current practices and found they were not good enough to match the amount of waste we needed to process. We then looked at ways we could improve our methods of resource recovery and material compaction,” Christopher explains.
“The weighbridge software allowed us to track every transaction, assisting the council to identify materials and to organise the volumes of waste inbound and improve our landfilling processes.”
Data from the weighbridge software are stored on the cloud, meaning the council can access the information from kilometres away, allowing for improved communication and access to landfill operations, budgeting and land use.
Christopher says that the council has been able to improve on cell development and footprint management through this data analysis.
“Prior to leveraging this data to improve our landfilling process, the landfill was expected to expire in less than six years. In less than a year, we’ve been able to improve the lifespan to 16 years,” he says.
Data has been critical to supporting a business case for implementing kerbside recycling services, as well as the development of a Community Recycling Centre that will provide residents with access to a transfer station, reuse area and as a future site for a container deposit scheme depot.
Using data gathered from Mandalay, the Town of Port Hedland was able to demonstrate the economic benefits of implementing a kerbside recycling service, despite the distance to markets. The council plans to use the software to track disposal volumes and deliver community engagement initiatives and are looking for a service that can provide real time images to assist in solving issues during the collection. Christopher says Mandalay has helped the Town of Port Hedland by providing them with the necessary data to support waste management strategies that have been employed by councils in similar locations around Australia.
“With our regional neighbours located hours away, it imposes certain economic challenges, which is why it is beneficial to learn from other regional councils in similar situations and adopt what has worked for them.”
Christopher says the council is now in the process of hiring a community engagement officer who will work closely with residents to get them excited for the new services.
“By taking advantage of the technology we have on offer, the council and our community can really focus on establishing excellent waste management that is in line with any other metropolitan area.”