Armidale Regional Council is turning to technology to maximise space and efficiencies at its regional landfill.
Waste avoidance and a reduced reliance on landfills are key to Australia’s move to a circular economy.
Armidale Regional Council’s new landfill, commissioned in 2020, is believed to be the latest landfill approved in New South Wales.
Consisting of five cells, each able to hold 211,000 cubic metres of waste, the Armidale Regional Landfill has a projected lifespan of 50 years. High-tech lids and geosynthetic clay liners are used to maximise space, reduce demand on resources and increase environmental benefits.
Guada Lado, Manager Regional Waste, says the council is treating the new landfill as though it’s the last for the region.
“It’s very hard to find a location and get approval for a landfill,” Guada says. “A lot of neighbouring council’s landfills are nearing the end of their current lifespan. The new Armidale landfill is based on the premise that although the population will increase our waste will stay roughly the same.”
Guada says the council is optimistic that through improved resource recovery, technology and as the circular economy progresses, it will be able to reduce the amount of waste it produces.
The national waste policy comprises ambitious targets to manage waste, including reducing total waste generated by 10 per cent per person by 2030, recovering 80 per cent all waste by 2030 and halving the amount of organic waste sent to landfill by the same time. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 27 per cent of solid waste generated in 2018-19 was sent to landfill for disposal where it can release leachate, toxins and greenhouse gases.
Traditionally, waste in a landfill cell is capped at the end of each day. That usually requires sourcing excavated soil to cover the waste in order to reduce windblown litter, dust and odour. The next day the cap is scraped back to expose the landfill face so that deposition of waste can continue. However, not all of the cap can be removed and reused, with the residual taking up landfill space.
The new landfill lids at Armidale will reduce the amount of daily soil cover required and the associated transport and resources used to move that soil.
The lids are lightweight, easy to manoeuvre, can be used in all weather conditions, are safe to use and are easily fitted to existing machinery.
The manufacturer predicts that council will save about 10 per cent of its airspace, hopefully extending the life of the landfill.
Guada says that the council is currently commissioning a mobile treatment plant to treat leachate containing PFAS and has installed a solar system to provide 24/7 base load power at the landfill, reducing its carbon footprint.
It’s all part of the region’s journey to better environmental outcomes.
“Council does as much as it can to keep waste out of landfill. It has a top class, crate-based recycling program available to all residents, offers a food organics/garden organics (FOGO) collection from households which it composts and sells back to residents, and doesn’t landfill green waste unless it’s heavily contaminated,” Guada says.
However, there will always be some waste that needs to be landfilled, including medical waste, nappies, and sanitary items.
Down the track, optimistically there will be solutions for some of those things, but currently there is still a lot of waste that’s not recyclable.
“The advantage of being regional is that we have space, but the challenges are that we don’t have the volumes of potentially recyclable material, such as hard plastics, textiles, polystyrene and solar panels, to run additional recycling programs on our own,” Guada says.
“We are however exploring ways of working with other councils in the northern region to overcome this. In the city there is less space, particularly for waste facilities, but they potentially have the volumes and local markets for recycling and progressing in a circular economy.
“It’s going to take a lot of work, not just on council’s part but also by industry, government and the community working together to reach waste targets. We’re all on that journey.”