UNTHA specialist to present at Waste to Energy Forum

UNTHA’s waste-to-energy (WtE) specialist Gary Moore is heading to Australia to join the team at FOCUS enviro for AIEN’s Australian Waste to Energy Forum.

The forum, held 19-20 February in Ballarat, will focus on waste hierarchy fundamentals and their applications, as well as waste diversion and the energy supply landscape.

Other key topics include the appropriate use of alternative WtE technologies and the definition of residual materials.

According to a FOCUS enviro statement, Mr Moore will discuss the latest equipment solutions from UNTHA, and present on whether RDF and PEF represent Australia’s future resources.

“With almost 30 years’ experience within the waste and recycling sector, Mr Moore will be drawing upon international examples from the ever-changing landscape to explore what role alternative fuels will play in the country’s future resource strategy, using successful, global WtE projects as reference points for delegates,” the statement reads.

FOCUS enviro will also host a Demo Day showcasing UNTHA shredding technology in Melbourne 20 February.

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Federal Government releases recycling market review

Australia may need to increase plastic throughput by 400 per cent to sustain viable domestic reprocessing markets, according to the Federal Government’s Recycling Market Situation Summary Review.

To assist national waste policy rollout, the department commissioned Sustainable Resource Use to undertake a literature review of opportunities to grow markets in recycled glass, plastics, rubber, paper and cardboard.

“In summary, the local and global markets for the recyclable materials – paper and cardboard, plastics, and glass – are all volatile in 2019,” the review reads.

According to the review, this is largely due to regulatory restrictions on the import of recycled material to China and other Asian nations.

“The market security and pricing for recyclables is strongly linked to the availability of markets [to transform waste] back into new products, either as packaging or durable goods,” the review reads.

“There is a recognition that government and major brands have a role in procuring recycled content product in order to create the market pull for a healthy circular outcome.”

The review suggests local governments are facing collection and sorting price uncertainty, and are under pressure to commit to recycled material procurement.

“They are also facing calls for greater effort to control contaminants and to adjust collections to accommodate soft plastics and collect glass separately,” the review reads.

“There are also calls for funding assistance [from state and federal governments] to support new reprocessing infrastructure and modifications to sorting and collection systems.”

Identified opportunities: 

In an environment of constrained export markets for plastics, the review suggests dramatically increasing local plastic reprocessing.

“That expansion may need to be a 400 per cent increase in throughput, and this in turn will require new market outlets for recycling plastic resin, both into packaging and other applications,” the review reads.

The review also highlights significant opportunities to undertake secondary sorting of paper and cardboard, free from major contaminants.

“This approach appears to be a path forward, where source separation might be introduced selectively and progressively,” the review reads.

“This would provide scrap paper and paperboard products of ever improving quality and quantity, suitable for domestic reprocessing or for sale into export markets.”

If glass can be collected and provided for benefaction in large enough fragment sizes for sorting, the review suggests opportunities exist for additional cullet use in packaging production.

“Most sorters receive no revenue for their glass but pay a fee. This is at a level well below landfill disposal costs,” the review reads.

“With more material coming back through deposit systems, the MRF tonnes may decrease and access to benefaction will need to be assured.”

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Degraded SKM waste to be re-located in SA

Commingled recyclables stored by SKM Recycling in South Australia have become too degraded to be recycled with currently available technology, according to an independent waste expert.

South Australian Environment Minister David Speirs said the material will be moved to a landfill cell at Inkerman and recovered if appropriate technology and infrastructure becomes available.

“SKM was made insolvent in July 2019, leaving more than 10,000 tonnes of commingled and PET materials at Wingfield and Lonsdale,” Mr Speirs said.

“All avenues to recycle the materials were explored but unfortunately there were no other viable options in the immediate future.”

Mr Speirs said leaving the material stored at the Wingfield and Lonsdale sites is unacceptable, as it will continue to deteriorate.

“Inkerman landfill has the capacity to receive and store the material in a separate part of the existing landfill cell until such time the infrastructure is available in South Australia to process the materials,” he said.

According to Mr Speirs, re-location requires an exemption under the Environment Protection (Waste to Resources) Policy 2010.

“South Australia is a nation leader when it comes to recycling and resource recovery, and I hope to see future innovation in this sector that will allow these materials to reprocessed,” he said.

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National Cleantech Conference seeks EOIs

The National Cleantech Conference and Exhibition (NCTCE) is seeking expressions of interest from event sponsors and exhibitors looking to showcase clean technology innovations.

In its second year, NCTCE will take place at the Brisbane Conference and Exhibition Centre on the 3-4 August.

Cleantech’s 2020 theme is fast tracking sustainable growth, with a program covering all sectors including water, energy, waste, mobility, agriculture, manufacturing and built environment.

According NCTCE Event Director Peta Moore, developing clean technologies is key to mitigating the impact of climate change, while creating new economic opportunities.

“I, like so many, am filled with horror as I watch the fires destroy so much of our country. While I am one of the lucky people not personally affected by the flames and smoke, it has still been an emotional time, a time of despair and frustration,” she said.

Ms Moore said after years working in the cleantech sector, she knows of multiple organisations, businesses, start-ups and innovators developing sustainable solutions around the country.

“As a team of conference organisers, my business, Nectar Creative Communications, is doing what we know how to do best. We are putting on NCTCE and are determined to make a positive impact on this issue by supporting the sector’s growth and commercial implementation,” she said.

The two-day program will focus on cleantech as an instigator of innovation, economic development, creative collaborations and inclusive prosperity.

Program Director Tiffany Bower said the national platform will bring all the major players from the cleantech sector together.

“NCTCE is not focussed on just one solution – it’s a multi-sector event – because it will take a holistic approach, across technologies, behaviours and policies,” she said.

“The conversations at the event will encompass energy, water, waste, built environment, transport, agriculture and manufacturing, because these days, projects aren’t just an ‘energy’ project or a ‘water’ project – they are often across all of these sectors.”

Ms Bower said a key topic of the 2020 event will be investment opportunities and access to funding.

“Many people don’t realise there are government agencies at all levels already doing great work in this area. There is funding available and resources they can access to help build their cleantech innovation and business,” she said.

“Our speaker program aims to spotlight the best-practice case studies, the innovative partnerships and new business models to help delegates navigate their way through the implementation process.”

NCTCE is working in partnership with industry groups such as Climate-KIC, EnergyLab, Cities Power Partnership, Brisbane’s CitySmart and the Australian Electric Vehicle Association.

“It’s really important to us that this conference is accessible to the small businesses and start-ups that comprise the majority of the cleantech industry,” Ms Moore said.

“We have kept ticket prices as low as possible, while ensuring a world-class education and professional development program.”

Tickets go on sale mid-February. For more information click here.

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WA announces CDS operators

Refund point operators have been announced for Western Australia’s new container deposit scheme, ahead of its 2 June launch.

According to Premier Mark McGowan, sixty-five entities have been selected to deliver 145 refund points.

“WA’s first container deposit scheme, Containers for Change, is taking shape, and it’s pleasing to see so many organisations from all sectors of the community getting on board,” Mr McGowan said.

“Around 40 per cent of refund points will be operated by social enterprises, including charities, disability sector organisations, Aboriginal corporations and sporting and community groups.”

Mr McGowan said refund points will be established in every region across the state, from the Kimberley to the Great Southern.

“Today’s announcement is just the starting point for the Containers for Change network, which will grow significantly in coming months and years,” he said.

“The number of refund points across the state will grow to at least 172 by June, and to 229 by the end of the scheme’s first year.”

Logistics and processing applicants have also been selected, with state-of-the-art compacting trucks and on-site compacting to be used for the first time in an Australian container deposit scheme.

“This will mean less heavy vehicle movements on Western Australian roads – the equivalent of one truck instead of five,” Mr McGowan said.

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Immersed in industry: VWMA Waste Expo site tours

The Victorian Waste Management Association’s recent industry site tours took delegates through a range of resource recovery and manufacturing facilities.

The partnership between the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) and Waste Expo Australia was particularly significant in 2019, given current challenges facing the Victorian arm of the sector.

While the event had a national focus, Mark Smith, VWMA Executive Officer, says Victoria was lucky to have Waste Expo located in Melbourne.

“We support Waste Expo because of the relevance this national event brings to the Victorian landscape, with thought provoking discussions and presentations on everything important and impactful to the sector,” he says.

As a strategic Waste Expo partner, VWMA ran three concurrent industry tours on the Friday following the expo, a first for the leading waste and resource recovery event.

Hosting a wide range of delegates including representatives from the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group, industry heavy weights such as TOMRA, local government agents and small business owners, VWMA’s tours were designed to educate and stimulate conversation.

The day’s events included a construction and demolition tour, an organics tour and a packaging process tour.

“Working with industry partners Alex Fraser, the Australian Packaging and Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the Australian Organic Recycling Association (AORA), VWMA ran the tours to bring the steps industry is taking to support Victoria’s recycling agenda into focus,” Mark says.

As attendees gathered at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Friday morning, many expressed difficulty over choosing which tour to attend.

After an opening address from Mark, delegates piled into three separate buses, each with an industry specific tour guide.

The construction and demolition tour, sponsored by Alex Fraser, included site visits to Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility, Alex Fraser’s Sustainable Supply Hub, a Level Crossing Removal Project site and the Toll Shipping’s terminal at Webb Dock.

Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility is established on a site acquired 18 months ago by the company, with Bingo pouring $23 million into the facility since then. The site allows Bingo to convert waste into seven different products and has capacity for around 300,000 tonnes per annum. The company aims to achieve a 75 per cent recovery rate on-site.

At Webb Dock, Alex Fraser has worked with contractor Civilex to develop a heavy-duty pavement which incorporates reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) that meets VicRoads guidelines. The pavement base layers are comprised recycled glass sand and recycled concrete.

As part of the Level Crossing Removal Project, the Western Program Alliance used Alex Fraser’s recycled sand as bedding material for the combined services conduit housing the communications and power cables. The grade separation was undertaken at Kororoit Creek Road in Melbourne. The low embodied energy material replaces virgin sand with all 900 tonnes diverted from landfill at a lower cost.

Finally, Waste Management Review got to explore where Alex Fraser’s recycling happens, touring its Laverton North supply hub where more than one million tonnes of C&D waste, and one billion bottles of glass waste is reprocessed to make the quality construction materials needed to build greener roads.

A climb to the top of Alex Fraser’s high recycled technology asphalt plant topped off the excursion. The new $18 million faciliity is capable of producing over half a million tonnes of green asphalt per year, utilising the recycled glass sand and RAP produced in its collocated recycling facilities.

Shifting material focus, the Organics and Composting Tour’s first stop took attendees to the South Melbourne Market, where they were told about the market’s 32 tonne a year dehydrating compost initiative.

From there, VWMA and AORA directed the tour bus to Sacyr’s new indoor compositing facility. Michael Wood, Sacyr Environment Australia Consultant, guided the group through the 120,000 tonnes per annum facility, and explained the challenges associated with adapting a European model to an Australian environment.

The group was then guided through Cleanaway’s South East Organic Processing Facility and food depackaging unit.

Melinda Lizza, Cleanaway Development Manager, explained the depackaging unit’s 150,000 tonnes per annum capabilities, before handing the tour over to Michael Lawlor, Cleanaway Operations Supervisor.

After the tour, the group had lunch with the Cleanaway crew and discussed interactions with the EPA and growing levels of scrutiny on the compost industry.

From there, the group was driven to Bio Gro’s Dandenong South Facility, where Sage Hahn, Bio Gro General Manger, explained the company’s approach to organics diversion and composted mulch production.

After taking the group through the Bio Gro site, Sage fielded a range of technical questions and detailed the mineral additive process of mulch manufacturing.

Doug Wilson, AROA Victoria Admin Officer and compost group tour guide, says the day allowed delegates to closely inspect organics processing.

“At the very time when the state government is bringing the circular economy into focus, the organics tour took delegates on an interactive experience with some of Melbourne’s most exciting and innovative organics recovery technology,” he says.

The APCO packing tour, which was delivered in partnership with the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Australian Institute of Packaging, took attendees to Ego Pharmaceuticals, the South Melbourne Markets and recycled plastic manufacturer Replas’ Carrum Downs site.

Of the APCO tour, Mark says industry is at a critical time where collaboration is essential to address challenges in the packaging supply chain and achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“Great stuff happens all across Australia by the waste and recycling industry and many organisatsions that we partner with,” Mark says.

He added that these were areas of interest that were not spoken about enough.

“It was exciting to see demonstrations of the circular economy in action. Parts of our sector are leading on this front and there are scale interventions that only really need the appropriate government policy to delivery environmental, economic and social benefits to Australia.”

He says this was clearly demonstrated on the tours in the Victoria context.

“Industry is leading on parts of this and it’s important to acknowledge the good work being done locally.

“A big thanks to all our partners for coming on board and collaborating with us.”

This article was published in the December issue of Waste Management Review. 

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Lithium Australia seeks international recovery patent

The International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organisation has published two patent applications from Lithium Australia.

The applications detail Lithium Australia’s lithium phosphate recovery process, which extracts the material from lithium-bearing silicates and solutions.

According to a Lithium Australia statement, the patents seek to protect intellectual property derived from the company’s research and development activities.

“Intellectual property is managed by way of formal patent processes to retain ‘know-how’ as trade secrets, with the support of specialist legal practitioners,” the statement reads.

Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin said the technology improves the sustainability of, and reduces the environmental impacts associated with, the manufacture, use and disposal of lithium-ion batteries.

“Importantly, these technologies can facilitate vertical integration within the battery supply chain, potentially reducing the number of process steps involved, and lowering costs for consumers,” Mr Griffin said.

“The ability to integrate metal recovery from lithium-ion batteries and regenerate cathode materials represents a major advance for the battery industry as a whole.”

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QLD proposes local government waste reform

The Queensland Government is reviewing waste regulations after a Queensland Treasury Corporation review highlighted anti-competition concerns and a lack of regulatory harmonisation.

The state government’s Local Government Waste Management Reforms Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) is now open for public comment.

“Local government stakeholders have raised concerns about their ability to administer waste management in the absence of a state level regulatory framework for the administration of waste management, and the need for all councils to develop local laws for waste administration,” the RIS reads.

“Some stakeholders expressed the view that some local governments are acting in an anticompetitive manner while implementing local government waste management provisions.”

The RIS examines two regulatory mechanisms, section seven of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulation 2011, and chapter 5A of the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008.

According to the RIS, both sections provide a regulatory framework for local governments to administer waste management activities within a local government area.

Section seven allows local governments to designate areas for general and green waste collection, and to determine the frequency of those collections. Chapter 5A gives local governments the ability to impose obligations and requirements on premises outside designated areas.

The RIS suggests that when paired with powers granted under the Local Government Act 2009, section seven and chapter 5A give local governments the ability to stifle competition.

“The Local Government Act 2009 provides for local governments to make local laws, including anti-competitive laws, where the benefit to the community is considered to outweigh the cost,” the RIS reads.

Alternatively, the RIS highlights local government concerns that without these powers, commercial operators will only collect from profitable segments of the market, thereby undermining the economies of scale that come from mandating all services.

The RIS proposes two options: no change to current regulations, and amendments that will retain local government’s ability to mandate domestic waste collection, but only allow local governments to designate areas for council commercial waste collection when strict criteria are met.

The Local Government Association Queensland is supporting the retention of present regulations, suggesting changes will lead to a clear cost shift to local communities for the sole benefit of the private sector.

Additionally, the association suggests changes could reduce service certainty, reduce the ability to control and regulate collection activities and impact contract arrangements and negotiations.

Submissions close 31 February.

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Landfill levy waived for bushfire victims

Landfill levies have been waived for residents in bushfire affected areas across Victoria, following an announcement from state Premier Daniel Andrews.

“As Victorians begin returning to their homes and land following the recent bushfires, the state government will make sure people can dispose of their bushfire waste without paying the landfill levy,” Mr Andrews said.

“This is practical and immediate support for people who are undertaking the heartbreaking task of cleaning up their homes and properties.”

According to Mr Andrews, bushfire waste includes debris from homes, businesses, sheds, stock, fencing and equipment that has been damaged.

“The levy waiver will also make it easier for people to dispose of dead livestock,” he said.

The Victorian EPA will work with landfill operators and councils in fire-affected areas to apply for the exemption.

“If residents or business owners have any questions or concerns about bushfire waste clean up and disposal, they can contact EPA for further information,” Mr Andrews said.

The exemption follows similar measures in NSW, with the state government waiving the levy in bushfire natural disaster areas in November 2019.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said thousands of people across NSW are reeling from the effects of the November bushfires, which are still burning.

“We know that the effects of these bushfires will be felt for months, and even years to come, and we hope that this streamlined waste process can provide a little relief for those coping with the effects of these horrible bushfires,” he said.

The NSW exemption will apply until 29 February 2020.

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Treading carefully on waste exports

It’s time we transformed into an economy that values all our resources and takes accountability onshore, writes Matt Genever, Director Resource Recovery, Sustainability Victoria.

The announcement by the Council of Australian Governments in August that Australia would ban the export of certain types of waste came as a surprise to most in the industry.

Global markets are already closing their doors to some degree, but Australia is still exporting around four million tonnes of material annually despite import restrictions set by China and other countries. Thus, the decision will certainly have implications for Australia’s domestic sector and the impacts will depend on how the ban is enacted and what materials are targeted.

Waste versus commodity

The intent of the ban is clear and easily justifiable. The images seen across media earlier in the year of mixed Australian waste, including soiled nappies, turning up at multiple Asian ports were not well received by the community. The social license of this great sector is already under siege and these images certainly didn’t help.

However, the situation is much more complex than this. It is unlikely that anyone could successfully argue that soiled nappies represent a tradeable commodity, but it does beg the question of where, and how, we draw the line between a waste and a commodity.

The recyclables being targeted as part of the ban include plastics, paper, glass and tyres.

Over the years, we’ve become more opportunistic in moving large volumes of plastics and paper offshore, which has led to less work being done locally to fully separate or “add value” to these resources.

In the case of tyres, there are valid questions being raised about where whole tyres, in particular, end up and how they are treated.

It’s this idea of “value adding” that offers the greatest opportunity for Australia, and equally where the most work needs to be done from the perspective of defining the boundaries of the ban.

How far does one need to go to add value? Is it simply separating material into different material types or is it fully commoditising it into a manufacturing-ready feedstock?

This is a conversation that Australia, and other nations, has been having for years.

In fact, there is a whole document dedicated to this called: Australian Waste Definitions: Defining waste related terms by jurisdictions in Australia. It is certainly not bedtime reading, but it is worth looking at the many and varied definitions we have for waste across each state and territory.

Words like “rejected”, “abandoned”, “surplus” and “discarded” commonly appear, as does the phrase “where not intended for recycling”.

In a world where one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, there is a fine line that must be walked here in developing these definitions.

Balance is everything

The complexity in defining a waste and how and when it becomes a commodity should not be the driving force that diverts us from this course of action. Like so many things in this system, it’s really all about balance.

We have an obligation to protect human health and as global citizens this needs to extend far beyond our own ocean-locked borders. Having said that, we also have an obligation to ensure that we are positioning our sector to develop its own domestic capacity and have the ability to participate in a thriving global commodity.

The sweet spot in here offers pause for some very optimistic reflection. There are already strong signs that industry is in a state of growth.

New investments are coming online and many businesses have already taken the leap toward commoditising the materials they collect. From hot-washed PET going into new bottles to government procurement of glass sand, the tide is most certainly turning.

So, Australia’s collective decision to ban exports needs to support and accelerate the change underway but at the same time consider our place in a global marketplace – one where we already have high operating costs (energy, in particular) and high
labour costs.

When one door closes, a window opens

Regardless of definitions, the idea of value-adding or commoditising our resources is one that is appealing. The opportunities for economic growth, new skills, new infrastructure and new jobs in the recycling sector are significant, but are only the tip of iceberg.

When we start commoditising our resources domestically, a whole range of opportunities for local manufacturing emerge. I was immensely pleased with the level of interest in Sustainability Victoria’s recent Buy Recycled Conference 2019.

I spoke with a number of manufacturing businesses that have the capacity right now to absorb more recycled content but are unable to source it from the local market. With the door to exports closing, its heartening to see the window into our domestic manufacturing is well and truly open.   

While there are probably more questions than answers in the commentary above (in the spirit of walking a fine line, I too must traverse my own path of balance), there is no doubt in my mind that the rewards here far outweigh the risks.

We’ve got to get the definitions right. We’ve got to get the balance right. But it’s high time we transformed into an economy that values all our resources, takes accountability for their management onshore and is focused on adding value and commoditising material when it reaches end of life.

This article was published in the December 2019 edition of Waste Management Review. 

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