Waste Management In Action

A purpose built blueprint: Komatsu

A bold move by a Western Australian Local Government has resulted in a threefold increase in the collection of waste metal from its landfill facility and contributed to the increased life span of the site.

When the Town of Port Hedland, Western Australia devised a specification for a purpose-built wheel loader to work exclusively on its 45,000 tonne a year landfill site, council was aiming to make waste disposal more cost efficient and productive.

Results to date point to a new protocol which could be adopted by similar operations across Australia.

The town determined the dedicated wheel loader would be fitted with puncture proof solid rubber tyres and be equipped with a semi-enclosed grapple bucket to better dig and secure loose material like metal.

Results in the first six months of operation have been positive, with the sale of recovered waste steel increasing to more $5000 per month from a base of $1000 to $2000.

According to landfill engineers, the ability of the lighter and more agile wheel loader to climb deep into the landfill to assist in recovery and compacting has increased the life expectancy of the 22-year-old facility.

The town had been using two machines, a wheel loader and an excavator, to undertake general duties as well as work on the landfill.

When both came up for renewal, having already surpassed council’s machine replacement policy of 8-10,000 operational hours, the decision was made to secure two wheel loaders.

All four machines – the original equipment and their replacements, were sourced from heavy machinery specialist Komatsu, which six years ago invested $10 million in a decentralised service facility in Port Hedland.

The town placed one of Komatsu’s new WA270-8’s on general duties, working on assignments as diverse as drainage maintenance and restricted access programs.

The other was effectively purpose built and customised in a joint venture between council’s maintenance and landfill departments and the manufacturer.

“We had already had some experience with the use of solid rubber tyres fitted to remove the risk of punctures in waste disposal operation,” Dean Jones, Komatsu Business Development Manager says.

“Each tyre weighs 750 kilograms – three times that of a standard fit pneumatic tyre, but experience has enabled Komatsu to warrant their use in defined operations.”

Operator comfort in the air-conditioned cabin was a primary concern in an area where all day external temperatures can remain above 40°C. Operators have positively reported on the combination of the cabin and a single lever hydraulic control for the purpose-fitted bucket.

They are able to work far deeper into the landfill with greater success than that achieved with heavier, more powerful machines, although a machine with greater power is still necessary for overall site maintenance.

According to Rebecca Walter, Port Hedland Landfill Manager, the customised machine, while successful, remains a work in progress – in the spirit of continual improvement.

Further strengthening improvements were made to the grapple bucket’s teeth as operators ambitiously sought to pick larger and heavier resaleable refuse.

Jones adds that Komatsu is monitoring progress closely to further refine the specification, which could become a blueprint for landfill operation across the country.

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