Regenerating the land: WTT and ELB Equipment partnership

Regenerating the land: WTT and ELB Equipment partnership

Waste Treatment Technologies outlines how its partnership with ELB Equipment is supporting new composting operations in strategic and cost-effective locations.

A well-managed composting site can be the difference between what’s perceived by the community as a bad food and garden organics (FOGO) service or a successful operation.

When well run, compost can improve the physical properties of soil – from water retention to high nitrogen and reduced bulk density. 

According to the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group’s FOGO guide, only 30 to 50 per cent of emissions from food organics are likely to be captured at most landfills. The data represents a significant opportunity to take organics out of landfill and regenerate the land or convert them to energy.

Waste Treatment Technologies (WTT) has been designing, constructing, building and maintaining alternative waste treatment (AWT) facilities over the world since 1996. This includes pre-treatment/decontamination, composting and anaerobic digestion, and has to date completed more than 125 projects of varying sizes.

WTT’s service is becoming particularly important in Australia, as the nation’s 24.6 million population is projected to increase to between 37.4 and 49.2 million by 2066, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows. The subsequent effect of growing waste on the nation’s landscape is compelling more FOGO collection by local governments and supporting new compost infrastructure. 

According to 2017 research by MRA Consulting, Australian agriculture soils are increasingly deficient in nutrients and organic carbon, which is why compost has emerged as one solution. MRA estimated that the compost produced from processing all available organics across Australia would cover less than 0.5 per cent of the compost requirements in Australian agriculture. The figure indicates the demand is there, so getting the strategy right is crucial. 

To ensure it can service the Australian market with a robust support network, WTT has been working with Komptech for more than 20 years. Over the past five years, WTT has teamed with ELB Equipment, the authorised Australian distributor for Komptech Equipment. The pair has increased this union with new technologies and joint marketing and resource sharing. ELB Equipment is able to offer its global after-sales support network to create a winning partnership.

Christopher Malan, Managing Director of ELB Equipment, says that WTT’s product quality is analogous to Komptech’s high standards – instilling ELB Equipment with confidence. 

“I think what sets WTT apart is that anybody can build a concrete bunker and have water running through it, but it’s those little details and 25 years of knowledge around the world that makes all the difference,” Christopher says.

“Like with the Komptech machines, the WTT system is built to last with reduced maintenance. The leachate involved can be quite corrosive and if not managed properly, it can really make effects.” 

One of WTT’s flagship systems earning a reputation in the Australian market is an in-vessel composting system that allows operators to work closer to communities and reduce their costs. The automated process can be visually managed from a process computer and specific batch reports produced to ensure compliance with relevant quality and environmental standards, including air flows and temperatures. 

All input streams are decontaminated and mixed in a pre-treatment line. The mixture is fed by a front loader into a tunnel with WTT’s door system, aeration units, central air and water treatment and automation systems.

The tunnels take fresh air required from the processing building. To maintain a constant negative pressure in the building that contains odours, the central hall suction is connected via a bypass to a humidifier fan. The tunnel exhaust fan, combined with a bypassed hall ensures air flows through a humidifier. This saturates as much exhaust air as possible by preventing the biofilter material from drying out. The biofilter cleans the air before being exhausted in the atmosphere. 

SOILCO, a NSW horticulturally focused business based in Wogamia, Wollongong and Sydney, is one company to utilise the system. 

In 2016, SOILCO began to look at upgrading its facility at Kembla Grange Organics Recycling Facility to include WTT’s air, water and process controls which were installed during January 2017. 

WTT offered its service in the design, engineering and construction and start-up of rectification works on the existing aeration, leachate and air treatment systems.

Charlie Emery, SOILCO General Manager, says that through its initial Kembla Grange facility, the company wanted to prove it was possible to operate in a light industrial location close to communities. To achieve this, it needed to ensure it maintained rigid process controls. 

“Investing in good quality technology and equipment, odour and process control gets you composting closer to the soils which is cheaper for the community,” Charlie says.

One of the benefits of working with WTT is that ELB Equipment is its preferred equipment supplier. Having bought Komptech machinery from ELB previously, Charlie knows it’s vital for his operation to have statewide technical support, essentially an extension of his own team.

Sean Galdermans, Bid and Project Manager at WTT Australia, says the in-vessel technology is far superior and provides a constant output that allows SOILCO to manage a lot more parameters than previously.

“The system creates the best conditions for organics to decompose due to a number of process controls. Myself and Charlie were amazed after two weeks to see the kind of volume reduction achieved and the homogenous output of the product,” he says.

Charlie Emery, Sean Galdermans and Christopher Malan.

WTT is able to monitor and control these standards remotely, including through office computers, smartphones and tablets.

“We constantly manage all sorts of process parameteres. The computer has been equipped with control logic that relies on different rules influencing the process based on an adjustable weighing procedure. Furthermore, this logic can easily adapt to changing conditions which is of utmost importance when the process can be influenced by many factors,” Sean says. 

“You can set seasonal recipes because waste changes quite a bit over the season. Waste operators basically set the desired recipe and the control system does the rest. We can show the authorities that critical steps such as pasteurisation and hygienisation have been achieved: when, how and for how long.” 

Sean says that WTT has built a number of facilities in metropolitan and regional around the globe, including in the City of London in the UK on the River Thames – a testament to the stringent process control and odour management in place.

In 2018, WTT, supported by the NSW EPA’s Environmental Trust initiative, installed a second batch processing plant at Wogamia, near West Nowra. The aerated static pile system and automated process enables SOILCO to reduce its current composting footprint by about two thirds from 15,000 to 5000 square metres.

Since then, SOILCO has had construction of a third facility approved. The composting and manufacturing facility at Kembla Grange will process up to 40,000 tonnes each year.

The facility will be implemented in a large old industrial warehouse once used for steel manufacturing. SOILCO will not only reduce carbon emissions from food waste that would otherwise go to landfill, but give new life to old infrastructure by transforming it into a useful organics recycling asset.

SOILCO’s total capacity now spans 85,000 tonnes a year of food and garden organics with WTT technology treating 13,500 tonnes of this in the Wollongong area. The end product is Australian standard and quality assured compost and mulch products distributed to the broader amenity market, including civil and landscaping companies and councils. 

Sean says that ELB’s satellite networks allow it to identify customers dealing with machine breakdowns and service their facilities promptly. He adds that most of WTT’s employees are in the Netherlands so local after-sales support and service is crucial during and after the design and build stage. 

Charlie says that it can take days to get something as simple as a sensor sent to Australia which is why local support from ELB is important. 

He says that after-sales support includes Komptech and WTT engineers from around the globe able to provide support from commissioning to construction and operation.

“As an example, when we were looking at a layout to optimise our new facility and Sean recalled a facility in Canada that had done something similar, we pulled up that reference and off we went.”  

While SOILCO is well versed on composting, there are nuanced features such as fan speed and control that Charlie says are best advised by an expert such as WTT.

As sponsors to the 2019 Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) Annual Conference, ELB and WTT were pleased to be able to improve their industry knowledge. As a national peak body governed by a board of directors, AORA works on behalf of its members to raise awareness on the benefits of organics recycling. 

Sponsorship has allowed ELB and WTT to access a wide range of industry professionals through the AORA network and develop and reinforce relationships with existing clients and stakeholders. 

Christopher says that aside from keeping pace with the latest industry trends, ELB is able to communicate better with its clients on projects it is engaged with.

“We are able to glean from these sessions the challenges in the regulatory environment so when we are sculpting a package for customers, we are giving them advice about applications with an understanding of outside constraints we might not have otherwise been informed about,” Christopher says. 

Sean’s understanding of local legislation is critical to improving this awareness. In Canada, WTT recently commissioned a project which upgrades generated biogas to natural gas to be used as alternative fuel on a fleet of waste collection vehicles around the city of Vancouver. He hopes that one day a similar project could make its way to Australia.