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Altona MRF Sets National Standard For Transpacific Sites

Transpacific Cleanaway materials recycling facility at Altona
Designed to maximise storage space and guard pedestrian safety, Transpacific Cleanaway’s commercial materials recovery facility in Victoria is the template for its future recycling centres.

The Transpacific Cleanaway commercial materials recovery facility (MRF) in Melbourne’s western suburbs is a model that demonstrates the value of experience and partnership when planning a site.

The MRF on Harcourt Road, Altona, opened in October 2012 and has 15 employees. It provides Transpacific Cleanaway with a central facility for the company and its customers throughout Victoria to process and bale recovered waste. It handles cardboard, plastic, news print and Styrofoam, among other materials.

Rob De Angelis, Transpacific Cleanaway’s Recycling Manager for the Victoria and Tasmania regions, has managed the site since its inception. He explains that it came about through a chain of events.

“Cleanaway previously had a smaller MRF located in Altona. Then five years ago, we acquired two recycling companies with facilities in Victoria. Running three sites was not cost or resource efficient. At a similar time, packaging company Orora was closing its Fairfield Mill in Victoria and was looking for another facility to use as a recycling centre to process and pack its waste cardboard.”

The two companies negotiated to co-locate at one site, where Cleanaway could process Orora’s waste cardboard along with product received through its own business.

Relocating to a new, unpopulated warehouse also presented a rare opportunity to design the layout from scratch and customise it for the business’s needs.

A planned layout

Rob says that Peter Rowland, from Rowland Engineering who was to supply the MRF equipment, and he worked together for two days solid to plan the design of the warehouse to make it efficient and safe.

“We had strict criteria for the site,” explains Rob. “The first was safety, as we wanted to ensure that the interaction between mobile plant and pedestrians was minimal.

“The second was using space effectively. In many recycling centres, when they install a baler they lose a lot of workable area because of bad positioning. We wanted to maximise working areas.

“The final must-have was a large receivable area for unprocessed stock. So if we ever had a long period of downtime, we could store a large amount of loose product.”

Rob also didn’t want his employees to touch the product more than once, if that could be achieved.

This partnership between Rob, with his practical knowledge of how a recycling centre works, and Peter, with his experience of plant equipment, led to the meticulous planning of the perfect MRF.

“The entire site and the shed is set up for a smooth end-to-end process,” says Rob. “At one end, you’ve got receivable product separated by type and the processing area. The middle of the shed houses the processed product, and at the other end is the baled product ready for sending out to market.”

The site opened in Spring 2012, ahead of the other plants closing. The facility uses Godswill baling equipment. It also has features like a bespoke ramp, which means forklift operators can move bales directly from the storage area and drive them straight into the truck’s trailer.

The main baler went live in October 2012 and the site started to receive high volumes of cardboard from December. This was followed by the commingled “harvest” sorting, plastic and news print, which came online in stages up until July 2013.

The recycling process on site using the specific equipment is efficient, requiring only a small operations team.

The main waste that comes into Altona is clean cardboard, and only
one person is needed to feed that 
baler. The facility has one person on plastic processing and the news print section requires one or two people. The commingled recycling section sees manual sorting of cardboard, paper, film and Styrofoam. A conveyor belt pushes this up the sort line for a small team to process by hand.

Measures to ensure safety and support smooth administration are clear to see. Trucks arrive into a one- way road to a dedicated reception and weighbridge station. The warehouse has clearly-marked bays for trucks bringing in materials and for those collecting processed product. Around the entire site are clearly-marked walkways, including areas behind the equipment which are protected by moveable wooden walls.

Drivers like the site due to its design, which facilitates fast and convenient drop-offs and collections. Employees and drivers also appreciate its on-site amenities. It has a fully-equipped staff kitchen and dining area, with complimentary drinks and newspapers, a covered outdoor smoking area, and well-maintained bathrooms.

The facility also houses offices and meeting rooms, which are well-used by visiting employees hosting training courses.

The overall result of Rob and Pete’s meticulous planning is a site that is practical, efficient and safe.

So pleased is Transpacific with the facility that it is using it as a template for its future commercial MRFs. The first in Hemmant, Queensland, is due to come online in Summer 2015/16. That will be followed by one in New South Wales.

The Altona MRF makes a huge contribution to Transpacific Cleanaway’s overall resource recovery and recycling capability in Victoria.

It is now the main disposal point for recycling for its network infrastructure in the state, for both commercial and industrial customers. It also provides centralised distribution to commodity markets for the company’s six regional baling sites across the state.

“The metropolitan trucks dispose of their recycling here and the regional sites have their own mini recycling facilities,” explains Rob. “They sort and process the materials coming in. They bale it and send it here. We cross docket it, and then send it out to our markets.”

Transpacific Cleanaway is a signatory to the Australian Packaging Covenant, and the site receives some product from specific channels as a result. News print arrives from media companies, Fairfax and News Limited. The company also has agreements with Devondale Murray Goulburn to recover its dairy packaging.

Rob says that large corporates and manufacturers consider resource recovery of their waste as pivota l
to their sustainability story, which contributes to their reputation with their customers and stakeholders.

“It’s a growth area,” he says.
“The market now looks at the cost benefits of recycling – landfill prices have increased. Whether the client receives rebates, it’s a cost neutral service or a minimal charge, it makes good commercial business sense to recycle your business’s waste.”

Another key to the success of 
the Altona site is the growing manufacturing and third-party logistics sectors in Victoria, 
mainly around food, beverages 
and furniture, which use a lot of packaging. In addition, many goods are imported.

“The more we import, the more packaging that creates,” says Rob. “That material can be recovered.”

The next step is to find markets
 for the recovered materials, which are distributed directly from the Altona site.

Waste packaging is seen as an increasingly valuable commodity to trade. Transpacific Cleanaway forecasts how many tonnes of categories of material the Altona site will have available through its central trading desk in Brisbane. The team then approach markets, nationally and overseas, to find contracts based on those forecasts.

Rob says that business managers 
have become very aware of the value
of waste cardboard and plastics, and the commodities present in other end- of-life products. On the other hand, they’re not always aware of the costs involved in collecting it, transporting it, processing it and send it out to market.

“A lot of queries we get now are around how much would we pay for
a company’s waste,” explains Rob. “It comes down to how it’s presented, how much of it there is, and the market for it. It’s then a commercial process to work out the cost involved for us, as to what we would pay for that product.”

The products the Altona site distributes to market include OCC 90/10 – a high-quality corrugated cardboard. It specialises in newspaper, graded ONP 9, which means the product was uncirculated and has
not been in a municipal MRF. It also sells mixed plastic film, low-density polyethylene (LDPE).

Key to securing the ongoing success of Transpacific Cleanaway’s commercial MRF in Altona is volume of material. It currently operates between 4.00am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday, and on Saturday mornings. However, 
it has the capacity to handle double
 the amount of product it is currently processing, and could run 24 hours, seven days a week.

“Volume dictates what we do and we react to what the market wants, both for recovery and supply of materials,” says Rob. “More volume means reduced processing costs. For a new waste product stream to be viable, it has to have high volume around it.”

Rob says hard plastics could be the next stream it considers processing at Altona, but that building growth in its existing markets is the immediate focus.

Another important role for the Altona site into the foreseeable future is for community engagement. Transpacific has become more active in educating the public about recycling and resource recovery. It welcomes school visits and tours at its commercial and municipal MRFs and landfills, and the MRF is ideally placed to host such tours.

Rob believes that education is the key to recycling. He says giving people an insight into a MRF in action, like Altona, and what happens to items they throw away, can help the business.

“Recycling from source is paramount,” says Rob. “If rubbish is sorted correctly when it leaves the home or the business, it’s easier to handle and process out to market.”

The Altona MRF processed 85,000 tonnes of recycled material in the last financial year, so Rob knows better than most the benefits of better recycling for his team and the business.

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