First-of-its-kind facility for Shoalhaven City Council

NSW’s Shoalhaven City Council has entering into a long-term contract with  Bioelektra Australia Pty Ltd to build and operate a first-of-its-kind mixed waste processing facility.

The new resource recovery facility will be constructed on council owned land adjacent to the current West Nowra Landfill site. Works will commence in 2019 and the facility is expected to be fully operational by late 2021.

At its October 2018 Ordinary Meeting, the council resolved unanimously to adopt the new technology which Shoalhaven City Council Mayor Amanda Findley stated will be an Australian first in waste management.

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“The Shoalhaven, much like other council areas are running out of landfill space and in 12 years time, it is predicted we will reach capacity at our West Nowra Landfill Facility,” Cr Findley said.

“This new facility will be a giant leap forward for how Shoalhaven manages waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

“This state-of-the-art facility will be Australia’s first advanced treatment plant capable of diverting 90 per cent of mixed waste from the landfill. Everything that can be reused or recycled will be extracted in one process.

Cr Findlay said there will be no extra charges for ratepayers.

“The introduction of this new facility is projected to extend the landfill life of the Shoalhaven to more than 50 years.”

The council’s waste levy bill to the NSW Government is projected to reduce by nearly $7 million ($4 million for domestic waste) per year as a result of reducing its waste to landfill. While council’s projected landfill will be extended from 12 years to more than 50, council is boasts that 100 per cent of everything householders place in the red bin that can be recycled will be. According to council’s website, it will be a system no other councils in NSW are achieving.

Metro Tunnel waste to help build Melbourne homes

Clay waste from Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel Parkville Station project will be converted into new bricks for residential construction.

More than 80 Olympic sized swimming pools worth of material will be excavated as part of the project to make way for the new underground station.

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There are three stages to the project, with the first stage expected to provide around 300,000 tonnes of clay, enough to produce around 10 million bricks.

PGH Bricks and Pavers Regional General Manager Andrew Peachey said with the other two potential stages, there is a potential to produce around 30 million bricks.

“We are very committed to recycling this type of material as much as possible. Not only is it better for the environment – re-using waste rather than sending it to landfill – there’s also the social benefit of its use to build homes for new residents in the suburbs of Melbourne,” Mr Peachey said.

“Normally we would extract this clay from our own quarry, so recycling waste from construction sites also serves to provide longevity at our facility and continuity of work for everyone employed there.

Works began on the site on 14 January below Grattan Street, between Leicester Street and Royal Parade.

Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino said significant work is ramping up at the site of the station.

“The Metro Tunnel will make travelling to the renowned Parkville health, education and research precinct easier than ever before, slashing travel times by up to 20 minutes in each direction,” he said.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the government is working on providing Victorians with project to improve transport infrastructure.

“We are undertaking a monumental engineering feat as part of the Metro Tunnel, including constructing new train stations deep beneath some of Melbourne’s busiest areas,” she said.

The first train is expected to run through the tunnel in 2025.

Five benefits of a workplace battery recycling program

With less than 10 per cent of batteries sold in Australia each year recycled, e-waste recyclers CMA Ecocycle are seeking to reshape the landscape dramatically.

The benefits of recycling batteries go beyond environmental, with a number of financial benefits that can also be gained from doing so. CMA Ecocycle below highlight five of the benefits that come with battery recycling.

  1. Reduced landfill costs

The greater the volume of waste sent for recycling, the lower the landfill costs a business needs to pay. Victoria’s ban on e-waste to landfill will also encourage more businesses to think twice about sending their batteries to landfill as if the policy is properly policed, businesses could face hefty fines for doing the wrong thing.

  1. A valued commodity

Lead acid is currently in demand, with lead, acid and plastic all easily and cheaply recycled. At present, most other types of batteries incur a net cost but this could change with more efficient collection programs and advances in recycling technology.

  1. Reduced future costs

Batteries contain valuable materials such as cobalt, manganese and lithium – finite resources subject to the laws of supply and demand. With demand soaring, dumping batteries removes these materials from the supply side of the equation while recycling them keeps them in circulation. Increasing the supply means lowering resource prices that will flow through to lower new battery prices.

  1. Reduced recruitment and training costs

Running visible recycling programs is one way of standing out from the crowd and good corporate social responsibility may help retain staff. Companies that rank poorly on environmental performance may face higher staff turnover and this will only lead to higher recruitment and training costs.

  1. Simplicity

Reaping the many financial benefits of battery recycling is easier than you might think.

CMA Ecocycle provides battery collection and recycling solutions ranging from two litre collection buckets up to the truckload.

To get started, all you need to do is call CMA Ecocycle on 1300 32 62 92, or head to their website and fill in a form.

Three-bin rollout for the City of Joondalup

Perth’s City of Joondalup has commenced a three-bin rollout with new look SUEZ waste trucks hitting the streets.

The roll-out will encompass 60,000 residential properties and aligns with the Waste Authority’s Waste Strategy (more information here) to improve waste avoidance and resource recovery. The trucks promote green waste sorting, waste and recycling, displaying the text “Let’s sort” to align with each of the three processes.

The three-bin system has been partly funded by the Better Bins program – a $20 million WA Government initiative that provides funding to local governments to implement better practice kerbside waste collection.

The bin lid colour change will bring the city in line with the Australian Standard – red for general waste, lime green for green waste and yellow for recycling.

During the bin roll-out the city will deliver a new 140-litre red lid bin for general waste and replace the old general waste bin lid with a new lime green lid. The bin will then be used for green waste.

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Joondalup Mayor Albert Jacob said the roll-out of the three-bin system was a significant milestone for the city and the new method of collecting household waste would deliver huge benefits for residents.

“The new system is an integral part of the city’s commitment to meeting the WA Government’s target of diverting 65 per cent of municipal solid waste from landfill by 2020, which is also a key aspiration of the City’s Waste Management Plan,” Mayor Jacob said.

“There has also been a significant increase in disposal costs at landfill from $120 per tonne in 2013-14 to $205 per tonne in 2018-19, and this figure will continue to rise.

“Changing from a two-bin system to a three-bin system provides an opportunity to generate both cost savings for the city, and therefore our ratepayers, as well as reducing the amount of waste that is sent to landfill.

“I encourage residents to embrace these changes and to be more ‘waste wise’ by thinking about ways to reduce the waste they create in their daily lives.”

The new 140-litre red lid general waste bin will have an information pack attached to the lid, providing information on collection days and how to use each bin.

Image Credit: RMIT University

Recycling biosolids into bricks

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

Return and Earn breaks records

Return and Earn broke records for recycling over the Christmas – New Year period, setting a new daily record and processing more than 91 million drink containers.

NSW Government Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said a new state record was set on 2 January, when an incredible 6.8 million drink containers were returned across the state.

“Between 21 December 2018 and 7 January 2019, there were six days with more than six million drink containers returned a day, and the daily average is now 5.8 million drink containers a day being processed across the state,” Ms Upton said.

“This shows strong community support for the NSW Government’s Return and Earn scheme as more and more people are recycling drink containers rather than throwing them away.

“Since the scheme started, more than 1.2 billion drink containers have been returned, which is a massive turnaround in the way people dispose of their empty drink containers.

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Ms Upton said that as well as reducing litter, Return and Earn is creating jobs and helping charities create an alternate income stream.

“Employment charity Hoxton Industries is running Return and Earn bulk depots at Villawood and Ingleburn, enabling them to create jobs for people who would otherwise face barriers to mainstream employment,” she said.

Garry Carr, Director of Hoxton Industries, said running a Return and Earn depot has transformed the employment charity’s operations.

“Return and Earn meant we could expand our operations, employ ten additional staff, and return nearly $200,000 to the community,” Mr Carr said.

“Our mission is to create jobs for people who face barriers to mainstream employment, and we can now do this in new areas and with new employment skills.”

Ms Upton said that, as a result of Return and Earn, eligible drink container litter volume have dropped by 44 per cent and now represent an all-time low of 37 per cent of the NSW litter volume stream.

“At the same time, the state’s overall litter volume has dropped by 48 per cent.

“Return and Earn has been a success because it is backed in by the people of NSW and it’s fantastic to see them help to reduce the amount of litter in the environment,” Ms Upton said.

WMAA rebrands to WMRR

At the beginning of the year, the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) changed its name to the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR).

In a statement, WMRR said the name, chosen and adopted by its members, reflects the needs of its diverse and growing membership and acknowledges the ever-increasing participation by materials recovery facilities, reprocessors and remanufacturers.

WMRR said the evolution of its brand is reflective of the focus of an essential industry, acknowledging the need for, and value of, collaboration with all stakeholders in the supply chain in order to continue its transition to a circular economy successfully.

In addition to a rebranding exercise, WMRR will soon launch a new working group in each state – the Resource Recovery and Market Development working group – to bring all elements of the supply chain to the table. An energy from waste working group will also be created, operating in place of what was formerly the RER working group.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said the working groups and branch committees form the backbone of the association and in 2019, WMRR will continue to collaborate through a variety of forums such as networking events and meetings, as well as influence policy settings through a raft of important measures, from policy submissions to position papers.

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“Another initiative to look forward to is the development of an accreditation program to develop the industry’s professional skills and recruitment of a Training and Development Manager will soon commence,” Ms Sloan added.

Work is also progressing on a number of highly anticipated conferences and events, including the 2019 Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Conference in March, the 2019 Energy from Waste Conference in August, and the various state-based Women of Waste breakfast events.

The statement said that beyond WMRR, 2019 is a year to watch, with two major elections coming our way – federal and NSW and the untapped opportunities for growth in our domestic remanufacturing sector.

“WMRR is determined to make 2019 a year of action and will continue to pressure the Federal Government to get on with the job and act on the key positions that WMRR has consistently been advocating for in order to to drive investment, economic and job growth as well as protect the community and environment,” the statement said.

“But WMRR can only do all of this with the support and contribution of our members. As we embark on a new year, we hope you will continue to join in the conversation, take advantage of the services WMRR has to offer, and support the association’s important work.”

First automated vehicle to hit the road in Victoria

Automated vehicle technology will be tested in rural Victoria in 2019 in the first on-road trial approved under the new Automated Driving System (ADS) permit scheme.

On January 21, Acting Premier Jacinta Allan announced that Bosch has been awarded $2.3 million from the Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) trial grants program and granted the state’s first ADS permit for on-road testing of highly automated driving systems.

“Victoria is leading the nation in the future of on-road technology and this trial is an exciting step towards driverless vehicles hitting the road.

“The tragic fact is that you’re five times as likely to be killed on a rural road than in the city.

“That’s why we’re rolling out a record roads investment in rural Victoria – and this is another way we can improve safety and save lives,” Mr Allan said.

In 2018, Victoria finalised regulations to support the ADS permit scheme, which authorises the use of automated vehicles for testing and development on Australian roads.

Bosch is currently developing its automated vehicle technology and will begin testing on high-speed rural roads later in 2019.

The aim of the Bosch trial is to use the technology to improve safety on rural Victorian roads – where drivers are five times as likely to be killed in a crash than in metropolitan areas.

Bosch Australia president Gavin Smith said the company is eager to start this trial with technologies that will show how road safety can be improved and how road trauma on rural roads can be reduced.

The testing will be conducted on roads that expose the automated vehicle to a range of different conditions including traffic, weather and infrastructure.

In late 2017, VicRoads called for expressions of interest from companies, industry bodies and other transport technology organisations to apply for funding to spur the development of these emerging technologies. which will lead to reduced deaths and serious injuries.

Other successful applicants will be announced soon.

The trials will support Victoria’s readiness for CAV technologies and the knowledge gained will provide a better understanding of the infrastructure required to get these vehicles on the road, maximising their safety benefits.

Advanced Safety Truck Concept to help understand fatigue

By mid-2019 the National Road Transport Association expects it will be able to inform the proposed review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law for an overdue reform of fatigue laws it announced last week.

Results from current monitoring technology and how best to alert commercial vehicle operators are likely to become available by then as the industry body looks to accelerate the uptake of proven vehicle safety technologies.

Although the influence of fatigue as a factor in reported road crashes is still largely unknown current estimates, according to NatRoad, indicate that eight to 20 per cent of all crashes are fatigue-related.

In order to refine current fatigue monitoring systems to accurately predict fatigue events, further study is required of fatigue metrics like body responses, breath rate, posture and eye movement – if industry and government bodies are serious about achieving a vision of zero road deaths.

The Advanced Safe Truck Concept (ASTC) project, supported by the Cooperative Research Centre Projects funding scheme, will bring together technology, research and operational expertise to develop innovative driver state sensing concept for use in commercial vehicles.

The Australian Government Funded Cooperative Research Centre Programme Research is conducting data gathering and research for the project in collaboration with an ASTC consortium involving Seeing Machines and Monash University, among others.

Drivers are providing data to the Monash University Accident Research Centre from real world operational environments.

Ten trucks have been fitted with a new sensing platform where data has been collected over a six-month period. This is estimated to generate over 30,000 hours of real-world data that is critical for technology development.

“This is a significant research effort to develop enhanced technology to measure and predict driver states in real-time, using Seeing Machines’ driver monitoring technology as the core sensing means,” said NatRoad in an online statement.

“The aim is to link driver monitoring systems to events happening outside of the cab (forward-facing) and link this monitoring to other technologies available in heavy vehicles.”

“A further aspect is the ultimate aim of all heavy vehicles having in situ technology that records location so that it detects road conditions and important safety variables such as speed limits, lane widths, forward merging points, as well as inputs on congestion and incidents.”

“In some ways, these technologies all exist now, but are not linked.”

Towards a circular economy

2018 has brought a host of challenges for local governments, giving rise to calls for Federal Government leadership to promote and strengthen a circular economy in Australia, writes Australian Local Government Association President David O’Loughlin. Read more