A small-scale biogas, organic waste to energy plant

Banana waste has biofutures potential

Commercialising banana waste for sustainable organics manufacturing will be challenging, but the project has a lot of potential in Queensland, says Peter Hannan, the CEO of Growcom.

In an opinion piece published in the North Queensland Register, Mr Hannan explained that banana waste could play a key role in the biofutures industry, which focuses on the development and manufacturing of products from sustainable organic and/or waste resources, as opposed to fossil fuels.

He highlighted the Queensland Government’s allocation of $20 million in funding over three years for its sustainable biofutures industry plan.

Mr Hannan noted that Growcom, which represents the Queensland horticulture industry, had been involved in a project to produce and harvest methane gas from banana waste, which was funded by the Sustainable Industries Division of the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Growcom’s project demonstrated the feasibility of constructing a low-cost on-farm anaerobic digester to convert banana waste to biogas. It also assessed the most productive use of the biogas fuel on-farm to power machinery and return power to the grid,” he wrote.

Mr Hannan wrote that the aim of biofutures was to utilise ‘waste steams’ as feedstocks in the future to generate a range of sustainable chemicals, fuels, synthetic rubber, cosmetics and textiles.

“While the most common potential feedstocks mentioned are sugar cane bagasse, sorghum stover, algae and recycled waste/used lube oil, Growcom hopes that other feedstocks such as banana waste from the horticulture industry will be utilised.

“More than 30 000 tonnes of bananas are grown in Australia each year, mainly in northern Queensland. About 20 per cent of the banana crop, some 60,000 tonnes a year, is damaged or bruised during harvesting and transport to packing sheds and cannot be sold.

“Damaged bananas and banana bunch stalks can be converted into a gaseous fuel by anaerobic digestion, a process in which bacteria break down carbohydrates in the absence of air, producing a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. In fact, all plant material can be processed in this way.”

Mr Hannan wrote that the challenge going forward was to find an investor to undertake industrial design, enabling the system to be commercialised and made available to growers.

E-waste recycling

E-Hub Mackay helps recycle 3D printers

A north Queensland recycling centre is providing employment for individuals on work for the dole by helping locals dispose of IT equipment such as printers and scanners.

ABC News reported that E-Hub Mackay and E-Hub Sarina opened a few weeks ago, which sees IT equipment pulled apart and sorted by work for the dole members for recycling.

Project supervisor Frank Mason told ABC News the centres allowed for high-tech skills training and prepared workers for stable employment – in addition to reducing waste.

“We are running this as a social enterprise, utilising some people that are on the work for the dole program, basically giving them a reason to get out of bed,” Mr Mason said.

“They’re pulling them apart into their components — the steel, the plastic, the electronic components — and sorting them out, to work out whether it’s possible to re-use these parts.

“Things like motors, things like rods, things like wiring boards, we’re looking at how we might use them. And one of the ideas we’ve got is to turn it into a 3D printer.”

Mr Mason said Mackay’s E-Hub collected more than three tonne of printers in its first two weeks alone that would usually end up in landfill.

“It actually costs you money to take it to the waste transfer station.”

Mr Mason said a 3D printer could be built from just a couple of office copiers and some bespoke parts, excluding the extruder and controller.

“You need the 3D printers to make some of the parts, so the plastic turns into filament, and then to make some of the components that hold the printer together.”

“The 3D printer will help make the next 3D printer.



Toward Zero Landfill Project moves closer to target

This year’s Towards Zero Landfill Project is aiming to reduce its waste to landfill from 10 per cent last year to 5 per cent, says Pedro Gallo, operations manager of the Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo.

The project, which launched in 2015, sources contractors, suppliers and sponsors who work together to achieve the target, with the results presented at the two-day Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Mr Gallo said Agility Logistics and IMK Cleaning Services were just two companies on board this year.

“Last year we got Bottle Crusher, which crushed bottles on site creating less waste and making recycling easier,” Mr Gallo said.

“Everybody helps to reach that target and at the end of the show they wait to see what we sent out to recycling.”

Mr Gallo said another initiative this year included partnering with Launch Housing to donate used furniture that would ordinarily go to landfill.

“We also get a lot of metal wire from rigging we do on site, this year it won’t be going to landfill, we will collect it and send it to metal scrapping.”

He said he is aiming for one per cent diverted to landfill by 2018-19.

In order to achieve its goal, the project has applied a range of strategies, including separating waste on-site, sustainable plant-based packaging, compostable bin bags and using Fairtrade certified coffee.

The project’s launch in 2015 led to a 70 per cent increase in resource recovery, after 10.7 per cent of total waste was sent to landfill, compared to 80 per cent in 2014.

The Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo runs from August 23-24 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.



organics recycling

Queensland food recycling service the first of its kind

A business in Queensland’s south-east is operating the first and only Food Organics Garden Organics (FOGO) recycling service in Queensland.

The Queensland Times reported the Ipswich business, known as NuGrow, takes tonnes of food and garden green waste from across the Ipswich City Council green bin network.

Entrepreneur Roy Wilson told the publication the green waste is combined with other waste streams, including grease traps from restaurants to make compost, soil conditions and potting mixes.

He said the community and environment would benefit by improving water quality in catchments, combating climate change and fast-tracking a circular economy.

A circular economy is defined as an industrial economy that promotes greater resource productivity in aiming to reduce waste and avoid pollution through technological and biological cycles.

The company is focused on taking pressure off landfills and traditional waste management infrastructure that are grappling with population growth.

NuGrow recently created a hydraulically applied compost product used by civil contractors, which aims to reduce erosion and sediment loss while promoting vegetation growth alongside newly-constructed highways.

The business partnered with a third generation cattle farming family, near Rockhamption at the Raglan Station, to conduct a scientific field trial comparing NuGrow compost with traditional farming methods.

Raglan Station sits next to the Fitzroy Delta, a Great Barrier Reef catchment.

“The field trial sought to demonstrate whether above average pasture growing results could be achieved using reduced rates of synthetic fertiliser via substitution with a more economical product, such as organic-based compost,” NuGrow said in its publicity material.

Their testing found soil conditioner pasture was more productive, while also leading to a less harmful run-off into the river system.

Mr Wilson told the Queensland Times the results could have major implications for the health of the Great Barrier Reef, “but further education and uptake by the agricultural industry is required”.

NuGrow has four recycling facilities across Queensland, and plans to develop further sites interstate.







Telstra e-waste reuse and recycling strategy went live in November 2016

Study finds China dumps most e-waste in Asia

China is dumping more electronic waste per year than any country in Asia, according to research by the United Nations E-Waste Monitor.

The regional study found China dumped the most waste at 6.7 million metric tons, while Hong Kong was responsible for the most per capita.

The United Nations University (UNU) research, which sampled 11 countries, found electronic waste in Asia and Southeast Asia rose by almost 63 per cent over a five-year period from 2010 to 2015.

In 2015 alone, the region overall dumped 12.3 million metric tons of electronics, which includes TVs, computers, mobile phones and refrigerators.

According to the World Bank, there are more than two mobile phones for every person in the nation in Hong Kong, while its 7.2 million population is estimated to be nearly 200 times smaller than China’s.

Last year, an investigation by Seattle environmental group ­Basel Action Network found Hong Kong had become a dumping ground for exporters of electronic waste in the United States.

The UNU research showed the increase in e-waste in East and South East Asia was driven by high demand for new gadgets and rising incomes.

It found Japan, Republic of Korea, Taiwan and Province of China had e-waste collection systems in place, while Hong Kong and Singapore had no specific e-waste legislation, but instead managed via a public-private partnership through their respective governments and producers.

South China Morning Post reported in December of last year that Hong Kong was in the midst of developing its first integrated recycling plant for electronics.







tyre stewardship

Solution to Tasmania’s tyre problem nears

The approval of a tyre shredding facility will see the removal of northern Tasmania’s massive stockpile of end-of-life tyres (ELTs).

Northern Midlands Council on Tuesday approved the facility on Tuesday, which plans to shred approximately 1 million tyres.

The Northern Midlands Mayor David Downie told ABC News the approval was a significant step.

“It has been a great concern, we’ve had two fires in our municipality over the years,” he said.

“Those fires were of stockpiles a lot smaller number than the tyres we have at the moment.

“The major concern is if they did catch on fire that it would have an effect on the outlying areas.”

The shredder, which is expected to be in operation later this year, will only progress once a processing facility is approved.

Conditions of the council’s approval include removing the stockpile by 2020.

TyreRecycle Tasmania operator Tim Chugg is working on getting the processing facility approved, in order to recycle the shredded waste into a sellable product.

This includes grinding the shredded tyres into a powder used in resurfacing roads and playground.

He told ABC News the concept was used extensively on the mainland.

“One has to go with the other,” Mr Chugg said.

“We’re extremely confident that now we’ve got one we can establish the other as well.”

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to TyreRecycle Tasmania operator Tim Chugg as Tyrecycle Tasmania operator – there are no affiliations between the two companies.



ABRI receives prototypes for analysis

The Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) earlier this month received prototypes for its latest investigation into new business models for the collection, recycling and disposal of used batteries.

Designs were completed for three options for the NSW Environmental Trust funded project and the prototypes will now be evaluated.

ABRI said the focus is on safe disposal or recycling of small disc-shaped batteries used in a range of products including hearing aids, watches, toys, promotional items, cameras, car keys and remote controllers.

The not-for-profit association estimated around five children presented to an emergency department each week in Australia with a button or coin cell related injury.

The items range from 12 millimetres to 20 millimetres and are considered a safety hazard for small children due to risk of intervention.

The Institute of Sustainable Futures will evaluate the prototypes over the coming months by conducting surveys and workshops to obtain customer feedback.

The 12-month project was undertaken in conjunction with a range of partners including the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF), Kidsafe, ACCC and the Hearing Care Industry Association.

ABRI is also working with the Battery Implementation Working Group (BIWG) to advance the creation of a national voluntary stewardship scheme for handheld batteries.

Last week, they said they were in the process of finalising a financial options paper that identifies pros and cons for establishing the scheme and they would meet with the BIWG in February to review the findings.









Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan

GreenSync secures CEFC funds

Green-tech startup GreenSync has secured $11.5 million from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Southern Cross Venture Partners to help expand its energy-tech operations to Asia.

GreenSync’s technology uses smart software to optimise energy resources in electricity grids, assisting transmission and distribution companies, as well as industrial and commercial facilities, and residential and remote precincts.

The Melbourne-based firm received $5 million from the CEFC’s Clean Energy Innovation Fund, with a further $5 million provided by Southern Cross Venture Partners, and the remainder from a private fund.

GreenSync CEO Dr Phil Blythe said the company’s transformation from peak demand services to the optimisation of electricity grids reflected changes to the energy market in Australia and internationally.

“As we move towards a new era where energy storage and digital control are essential to maintain stable grids, GreenSync will stay focused on innovations that harness the collective strength of all industry players, and deliver substantially new models for operating grids around the globe,” Dr Blythe said.

Blair Pritchard, Investment Development Director of CEFC, said their investment would assist the transition of the Australian energy market from the current centralised model, to a decentralised one that reduces the amount of power lost through the transmission process.

He said this would allow for better monitoring and managing electricity demand and supply peaks.

“Through the smart control of locally-generated energy resources, GreenSync is contributing to the growth of a new energy economy focused on a cleaner power supply and carbon reduction,” Mr Pritchard said.

Mark Bonnar, Managing Director at Southern Cross Venture Partners, said control systems such as Greensync would help enable the reshaping of the electricity distribution network.



Cleanaway contracted by Noosa Council

Noosa Council announced last month that Cleanaway has secured the Noosa collections, landfill and transfer station contract for 2017-2024.

Cleanaway will implement a new three bin collection service under the seven year agreement to single domestic dwellings across the urban areas of the Noosa region, as well as enhanced recycling initiatives and a greater range of bin sizes for waste and recycling collections.

Noosa Council said the Council was impressed with the range of competitive and innovative bids, but that Cleanaway’s proposal offered the greatest overall advantage for the Council’s objectives.

“Cleanaway has a known track record of providing a high standard of service to the Noosa community and this third consecutive contract is recognition of that service,” said Wayne Schafer, Noosa Council’s Waste and Environmental Health Manager.

Anthony Wetherspoon, the Manager for the Noosa area said Cleanaway will be working closely with Noosa Council to improve recovery and reuse of items. “From our bulk kerbside collection service, to improving landfill management and recovering a greater range of materials at the resource recovery facility, we’ll be supporting the community to achieve their waste reduction and recycling goals.”

“Cleanaway has a long and proud history of providing services to the Noosa Council and we look forward to the next seven years working closely with the Council’s waste management team to enhance services and increase waste diversion from landfill,” said Neil Perry, General Manager, Queensland.

The contract comes into effect from Friday 1 September, 2017, and covers collection of solid waste, recyclables and garden waste, management of the Eumundi Road Landfill and adjoining resource recovery facility.