Problem-solving contaminants: Enviropacific

Enviropacific’s SOLVE facility is open for business and poised to provide an advanced solution for the management of contaminated soil, waste and liquids.

While industrialisation lifted the standard of living for millions across the globe, over the past two centuries, invention upon invention has brought with them a scourge of unknown chemicals.

In 1978, the United Nations Environment Program annual report estimated four million chemical substances had been identified, with 30,000 of those commercially produced. The way these chemical substances enter the environment is complex, from direct application such as pesticides and herbicides to PFAS and waste effluent flows from manufacturing, transport and product consumption.

Every year thousands of new chemical substances are discovered and with that comes the need for exposure assessment, hazard and risk characterisation and, once appropriate – treatment.

In 2014, Lynne Goldman, a former Administrator for Toxic Substances at the US EPA highlighted that in just 25 years to the 1970s, the volume of synthetic organic compounds tripled. However, understanding which chemicals are in use and how many there are is not an easy question to answer, estimating around 84,000 chemicals exist in commerce in the US.

Analysing, understanding and treating the plethora of organic compounds is supported by companies in Australia like Enviropacific. Enviropacific, a specialist environmental services provider, comprises four core services to the market: remediation, water treatment, fuel facilities and hazardous waste. The company operates integrated facilities across Victoria, NSW and QLD, with operations in SA, NT, WA and Tasmania.

Enviropacific sees its role as eliminating the harmful legacies of the past and supporting reactivation and beneficial reuse of urban space once considered a wasteland.

David Tucker, CEO of Enviropacific, tells Waste Management Review a critical part of the company’s mission is to create safer and healthier communities.

“Humankind leaves, and will continue to leave, a brown footprint of contamination. We see our role quite simply as being able to clean that up one step at a time,” David explains.

“We have a clear purpose around making places safer and healthier and I think that resonates really well with our customers, employees and the broader community.”

Importantly, Enviropacific offers the Australian market a specialised alternative for the management of contaminated soils and industrial wastes – diverting it from finite landfill.

Its knowledgeable team combines science, skills and initiative with an environmental focus.

Enviropacific’s journey began in 2001, when two friends, Matt Fensom and Cameron McLean, founded the company, initially starting with remediation works.

Over the next decade, they expanded the business across the eastern seaboard for soil and water treatment. They acquired end-of-life fuel facilities for remediation and enhanced their design capabilities in fuel storage and handling.

One of the most exciting developments for Enviropacific arrived around 2012, when it took on thermal desorption capabilities to treat organic soils.

Thermal desorption effectively separates contaminants from soil by heating it in a chamber and vaporising the moisture and organic contaminants out of the soil. A vacuum or gas system takes the vaporised water and contaminants into an off-gas treatment system which converts them to carbon dioxide and water.

David says that along the way there were a range of successful projects for Enviropacific, but two major ones spring to mind.

He says that one of Enviropacific’s breakthrough projects was the Villawood project in NSW, a remediation of a 13-hectare former pesticide manufacturing facility. The $15 million project was awarded in 2012 and saw the treatment of around 37,000 tonnes of impacted material using onsite ex-situ thermal treatment.

Five or 10 kilometres away from Enviropacific’s treatment facility in Altona, the company between 2013 to 2015 undertook one of the most significant remediation projects in Victoria. RAAF Base Point Cook is the longest continuously operating military airfield in the world and saw Enviropacific excavate and treat more than 70,000 tonnes of highly contaminated soils onsite. This was done using ex-situ direct fired thermal desorption capabilities.

Historical firefighting training activities had significantly tainted the underlying soil and groundwater and contaminated it with a range of chlorinated solvents and hydrocarbons.  These were presented as DNAPL, LNAPL and dissolved phase contamination, which is why Enviropacific’s capabilities were needed.

“With the risk of these contaminants leaching into the bay, we were called in to treat that material. We installed a site-specific plant, manufactured by Tarmac International in the US,” David says.

Taking on such an advanced capacity came with the award of major water treatment projects in 2016, including a $30 million water treatment plant project at Barangaroo in Sydney and the first large-scale water treatment project for PFAS at Coolangatta Airport on the Gold Coast.

When David was invited by the Enviropacific board to lead the company, he says the market for hazardous waste was evolving, with the EPA taking considerable interest in thermal desorption.

Enviropacific saw a need for a fixed thermal desorption facility and agreed to create a new operation known simply as SOLVE.

SOLVE was established in mid 2018, and by the following year, the site was fully operational.

With a background in engineering, including various Tier 1 contractors, David says he was attracted by Enviropacific’s strong environmental purpose. He says he saw an opportunity to develop the company’s people and processes.

“The issue of stopping, reversing or perhaps even preventing environmental harm was really always the core of the business. Our core competency is our people and their capabilities in applied science and engineering,” David says.

“I’m still a strong believer that while the company has grown and doubled over the last three years, we certainly see potential to do that again and SOLVE is very much an important part of that.”

Enviropacific’s SOLVE facility treats more than 20 kinds of contaminated soils, wastes and liquids using thermal desorption to remove and destroy contaminants.

Strategically located in Melbourne’s Altona industrial precinct, Enviropacific has the capabilities to remediate Category A and B contaminant streams, including PFAS, scheduled and other prescribed industrial waste.

David says that SOLVE aligns well with the EPA’s enthusiasm for reliable and integrated facilities that treat contaminated materials. It also allows it to service a broad customer base, including property developers, infrastructure construction contractors, industrial sites and local government.

“We have a vision to not only serve our own clients and provide an integrated service for them, but also a direct service to the market and both run in parallel,” David says.

As the company developed SOLVE, Amy Wells, an experienced engineer and operations manager, was brought on in late 2019 to lead the plant as Facility Manager.

With more than 20 years’ experience, Amy remains focused on building a positive and collaborative problem-solving culture at Enviropacific.

Amy’s significant contracting experience, ability to manage people and teams and background in running fixed facilities were key reasons behind her appointment.

“Knowing that there is a belief that people can learn and grow is really important to getting the right people on board when you’re integrating these technologies,” Amy explains.

She says that having a fixed facility has numerous advantages, including providing customers with a stable and reliable service.

“We can get rid of problems in different communities and then start to treat these different contaminants together in a way that wouldn’t work project by project.”

The SOLVE plant, a Tarmac plant, is one of around 25 around the globe, and David says Enviropacific keeps a close eye on their experiences overseas. David says the efficiency of the plant and reliability makes it one of the best.

“The facility is licensed to process 100,000 tonnes per annum. There’s around 200,000 tonnes of capacity in the market.”

Last year saw the advancement of numerous projects for SOLVE, including Fitzroy Gasworks, Melbourne Metro, West Gate Tunnel and proposed infrastructure and associated development projects. Increasingly stringent state and federal environmental regulations are driving greater treatment, recovery and reuse, and creating greater avenues for Enviropacific.

Additionally, the growing infrastructure and property renewal market is also opening doors for the company.

At this stage, the end use of a majority of SOLVE materials is for landfill capping and construction, but Enviropacific hopes to find other beneficial uses as the market develops.

SOLVE adopts strict controls, including screening prior to assessing treatment suitability and undertaking the thermal desorption process. The thermal desorption process sees the material heated to temperatures of around 500°C and contaminants are desorbed from the solid matrix and collected into the vapour stream.

Once this is complete, the material is ready for rehydration in a pugmill, cooling and stockpiling. The off-gas stream passes through a cyclone to remove larger particles and the gas containing desorbed contaminants is oxidised at temperatures reaching 1100°C.

This destroys harmful organic compounds and the gas cools rapidly to prevent contaminant formation. Fine particles are removed via a baghouse and the acid gas created in the process is neutralised through an acid scrubbing process.

Continuous emission testing ensures compliance with regulations. The treated materials are stockpiled and subject to stringent validation sampling to ensure successful treatment.

The material must be classified for end use and accepted to the site where it will be beneficially reused as engineered fill.

Amy says that proof-of-performance testing, including receival, storage, handling and treatment of new contaminants, allows Enviropacific to take on new projects and expand its service offering.

She adds that information sharing with Enviropacific’s diverse range of experienced engineers, from wastewater treatment to hazardous waste, paves the way for upstream and downstream solutions.

Moreover, the site’s Altona location lends itself to securing adjacent projects and sources of contamination from one of Melbourne’s largest manufacturing precincts.

Amy says the company is looking to provide its services to other states, including NSW, QLD and SA. For example, liquids have already been brought in from QLD as part of an expansion trial, and solids from NSW.

“Our growth will be internally by taking our capabilities interstate, but we also want to take on new contaminants and capabilities too.”

One issue that Amy is proud to be tackling is PFAS.

“People are keen to see a solution and to know that we can take PFAS and treat it here in a very safe way takes that hazard away,” she says.

“There are a number of federal defence sites that are looking for a known way to treat it instead of leaving it in-situ and trying to care take it.”

As PFAS is soluble, concentrates can be pushed through the SOLVE facility and destroyed.

David says there are immense opportunities to increase the company’s capabilities in both soil and water treatment in a staged manner.

“We have a very strong vision for SOLVE. The first focus is always on ensuring developing our capabilities and markets to deliver 100,000 tonnes per year and we’ll be looking at augmenting the facility to increase capacity,” he says.

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Leading excellence: Veolia

Waste Management Review caught up with Veolia Australia and New Zealand’s Marc Churchin to discuss his vision for the newly created solid waste portfolio as the company moves towards a new organisational structure.

Veolia Australia and New Zealand, which offers environmental services across waste, water and energy, has been organised around state lines for decades.

But a recent restructure sees a national focus on each of these business lines and is aiming to propel the company into a new era.

Veolia adopted its new line of business structure at the end of 2019. The change will see senior managers focused more deeply on their area of expertise, with national teams delivering waste, water or energy and industrial services across the country.

Seen as an opportunity to solve the nation’s future waste challenges, Veolia believes the new structure will allow it to better tap into its experience and scale. As a result, it will aim to realise a range of operational efficiencies – ultimately benefiting its customers.

Chief Operating Officer Marc Churchin heads up the National Solid Waste division in Australia. Marc tells Waste Management Review that Veolia customers are demanding a higher level of efficiency, greater levels of service and a more innovative approach to solving their waste challenges. He says the new structure aims to make it easier to deliver on all of these areas.

To that end, Marc’s remit includes solid waste collection services, transfer stations and waste-to-energy (WtE) nationally.

With close to 1000 employees under the solid waste banner, this division is a key part of the business.

Marc will continue to work closely alongside his peers, Tony Roderick (formerly Vic/Tas Group General Manager) and Craig Balthes (formerly Group General Manager of QLD). Tony and Craig now hold the title of Chief Operating Officer for the Energy & Industrials, and Water divisions respectively.

“There’s a need for ongoing collaboration between our business lines, so we’ll continue to work closely together.

“For example, Tony is responsible for liquid and hazardous waste treatment, so there are obvious synergies there. Similarly, there are clients we look after where water and solid waste treatment solutions are part of a larger offering.

“That’s the beauty of having scale and deep expertise in specific areas,” Marc says.

He adds that having a distinct focus allows Veolia to concentrate more on markets, processes and technologies most relevant to its business and customers.

Marc also hopes to be able to bring efficiencies to his business by observing and implementing best practices and creating consistencies by streamlining processes nationally.

“I’ve worked in three or four parts of our business and seen pockets of excellence right across the country, but it’s been difficult to pick those up and try and overlay them in other areas. By going down a national line, we now have the opportunity to do this more effectively.”

LESSONS FROM THE LAND

Marc Churchin has been exposed to multiple aspects of Veolia’s business, including the company’s esteemed Eco-precinct, supported by its mechanical biological treatment facility.

While moving house isn’t always the most enjoyable exercise, Marc has had the pleasure of working for Veolia in three different jurisdictions: Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. He’s also travelled the UK extensively and seen the success of the line of business structure first-hand.

These experiences have given him a well-rounded knowledge of the business and prepared him for the challenges ahead.

“I’m really pleased to have had the varied experiences I have across the whole business – not only locally, but internationally. I plan to bring that to the table when it comes to thinking about how we continue to build our solid waste operations and offering.”

Marc recalls starting his career in the sales team in 2005 at Veolia’s office in Buckhurst Street in South Melbourne, before moving into the sales manager role and subsequently heading up the Victorian commercial services collection business.

In 2011, he moved to Perth in the midst of the resources boom to take up the role of WA State Manager as Veolia integrated its waste, water and energy businesses.

“My experience in WA was exciting. Although it was familiar in some aspects being a city-based operational role, 50 per cent of our overall business emanated out of the Pilbara which was 2000 kilometres north in the iron ore mining areas. We therefore had different market drivers and customers.

“One of the big things I noticed was the focus on Indigenous engagement and employment. We set up a waste management joint venture which is still in existence today. It now turns over $40 million per annum with a local Indigenous group up there, and is a significant contributor to not only local employment, but our bottom line.”

His hard work saw him later promoted to NSW Group General Manager in 2018. This gave him exposure to some new aspects of Veolia’s business, including the Sydney desalination plant and its esteemed Eco-precinct in Woodlawn.

Despite his experience and long list of achievements, Marc is adamant that changes to the Veolia waste business ultimately need to benefit the customer.

“One of our biggest customers is a large government client, and when you go through this type of reorganisation, one of the first big things you do is talk to them about the change and the expected benefits for them.

“And from their perspective, they were really pleased, because they have been previously dealing with up to six different senior managers right across the country. This change means a single point of contact and increased accountability.”

Marc says that another practical example of how the new structure benefits customers is the ability to align its various fleets across the country to one specification of vehicles, simplifying the purchasing and procurement process.

“Instead of having a different fleet, or service experience in say Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or regional areas, this will start to look and feel the same right across the country, with a consistent and tangible operating rhythm.”

In saying that, Veolia will continue to offer a bespoke service to meet the unique requirements of its customers in various local jurisdictions.

“One of the things that we’re conscious of is not losing that local flavour, particularly in regional areas where we’re very strong across the country,” Marc says.

“But equally in capital cities, having worked in three major national capitals, I can tell you that there is a definite view that everyone is different and each particular jurisdiction across Australia is different.

“Some councils are very keen on food and organic processing, other councils don’t want that, so you have to be nimble enough to meet the requirements of different customers and their expectations.”

He says that having worked in three states allows him to get a feel for what does and doesn’t work in particular areas.

“We have senior managers with a long tenure in the industry that will continue to represent Veolia in those places, so they know the customers and policy makers well and what drives the decisions they make,” he says.

TAPPING INTO EXCELLENCE

Marc says the decision to base the Australian waste business on the UK model makes sense, given the alignment between the two businesses.

For this reason, he says he has continued to draw on subject matter experts in the UK to advance Australian projects.

“I’ve spent a bit of time in the UK and having a look over their business and different activities and I think it’s fair to say it is a very mature business.

“They’ve had WtE facilities running for over the past 20 years based on regulatory triggers that have made it beneficial to do that. The UK also has a number of advanced recycling plants and technologies. While we have some of these emerging in Australia, it’s not to the same degree.”

Following the lead of its UK counterpart, Marc says Veolia Australia and New Zealand is well placed to lead the future transition, with the foundations currently being laid for Australia’s first large-scale WtE facility.

“I think there are a number of exciting opportunities that could be available for Veolia in the next five to 10 years in WtE, and we’ve got access to some of the best talent and technology globally to take advantage of that,” Marc says.

Veolia is keen to think out of the box when it comes to forming partnerships that drive a circular economy. It recently signed a Heads of Agreement with Coca-Cola Amatil to establish a plastic processing plant which would focus on recycling PET plastic soft drink bottles.

This initiative would dramatically increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of plastic going to landfill. Coca-Cola Amatil has already set the bar with its target of seven out of 10 bottles made from 100 per cent recycled PET by the end of 2019. In November 2019, the company indicated this was on track.

“We also want to be using our expertise with major partners to drive value for them. As an example, the NSW Government is about to launch into their new 20-year waste strategy, so for the last 12 months they’ve been seeking feedback from the industry, councils and others. We’ve played an active role in working alongside the government and helping them navigate the complex waste challenges they’ll need to solve over the next 20 years.

“Looking forward, I believe that one of the things we need to be thinking about is how we build treatment process and capacity to ultimately cope with future demand, rather than simply looking at a particular waste types or waste streams in isolation of this.”

Given international waste bans have opened up sovereign risk, building local capacity is an area Marc feels strongly about.

“If we continue to rely on foreign markets for waste treatment and processing, we’ll face exactly the same problem that happened to us recently where a regulatory and policy change in a foreign jurisdiction meant we had no control over things and it adversely impacted companies and residents locally,” he says.

Whether it’s greater incentives for recycled products, or taxes and levies on virgin products, there are key mechanisms that can help to drive investment in better treatment and processing options. From plastic to organics, liquid and hazardous waste or residuals, Marc says Veolia stands ready to provide support.

“We have technologies right all over the world and in many cases we’re actually technology agnostic. There could be two or three different treatments for a particular type of waste stream, but we work with a customer to figure out what’s best for them. Fundamentally, we’re positioning ourselves for the future,” he says.

“The coming years will prove crucial for the waste and resource recovery sector, so we want to ensure we continue to work with the private and public sectors to solve the challenges ahead.”

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Boosting tyre supply chain visibility: Tyre Stewardship Australia

Lina Goodman, Tyre Stewardship Australia CEO, speaks with Waste Management Review about its world-first foreign end market verification program that will significantly increase waste tyre supply chain visibility in local and international markets.

When Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) was formed in 2014, its initial guidelines called for market development activities to focus on early stage research and development.

One year later, TSA launched its key investment mechanism, the Tyre Stewardship Research Fund.

In an ever-evolving space, the fund has to date directed $4.9 million to 34 research and development projects.

As TSA’s goal is to reduce the environmental, health and safety impacts of the 56 million equivalent passenger units generated annually, it’s an agenda the voluntary product stewardship scheme does not take lightly.

With research and development into tyre-derived product well and truly proven, TSA needed to change tack, enhancing its strategic focus as it underwent Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reauthorisation.

Last year, it broadened the original guidelines of its Tyre Stewardship Scheme, allowing it to drive a more immediate consumption of Australian generated tyre-derived product.

In doing so, TSA launched a demonstration and infrastructure stream, which proved to revolutionise its existing remit through practical outcomes, approving new products consuming almost a million tyres per year.

The stream ensures TSA can support an array of sectors, including in roads, advanced manufacturing, civil infrastructure, rail, building construction and more.

It generated an additional $3.2 million in new sales for the Australian recycling market annually, but importantly led to critical sustainable outcomes.

One of these many projects was the announcement of a test of new mixes of crumb rubber asphalt on a 335-metre stretch of road in the South Australian City of Mitcham.

In another innovative initiative, the Victorian Department of Transport is now conducting the first large-scale crumb rubber asphalt trial on an arterial road, in a two-year trial with the Australian Road Research Board.

To support TSA’s next evolution, TSA also welcomed a new CEO in Lina Goodman, who brings extensive experience in delivering commercial and environmental outcomes.

Mahdi Disfani, Lina Goodman and Heather Holmes-Ross test crumb rubber asphalt in the City of Mitcham.

Lina’s breadth of experience comes as a paradigm shift is occurring in the waste sector, with increased commitments from federal, state, territory and local governments to procure recycled materials, including in major road projects.

She joined TSA in January 2019 after a long career in sustainability including roles at VISY, Honeywell and TIC Group.

To that end, she tells Waste Management Review auditing and verifying downstream international venders is one of TSA’s current focuses.

“With a significant volume of Australian end-of-life tyres exported for processing in foreign end markets, verifying environmentally sustainable and ethical management of exported tyres is central to the integrity of the Tyre Stewardship Scheme,” Lina says.

In 2018/19, Australia produced 450,569 tonnes of tyre waste. Over this time, approximately 43 per cent of all end-of-life tyres were exported as either casings, tyre-derived fuel shred, baled whole, or off-the-road tyres exported for crumbing, with the largest portion being shred at 29 per cent.

Given the scale of exports and well-known consequences of unsustainable management, TSA has developed a world-first foreign end market verification program for end-of-life tyres.

Despite an international ban on whole baled tyres in the works, verifications of final destinations is paramount, as tyre products are still sent offshore for further processing.

“We are taking new steps and are a lot more agile, dynamic and creative about how we want to function in the industry and wider marketplace. I like to call it next generation TSA,” Lina says.

“Our aim is to support initiatives that bring together strong partnerships across the supply chain, crossing research institutions and industry partners, to demonstrate both the technical and financial viability of products.”

DOWNSTREAM VERIFICATION

In 2019, TSA engaged third-party quality assurance company Intertek to develop a platform and process to audit downstream vendor behaviour. According to Lina, the program will verify sustainable outcomes, ensure exporting processor accountability and educate operators both domestically and offshore.

“Intertek audits the sites based on a set of criteria including modern slavery, occupational health and safety, technology and hub and spoke,” Lina says.

“In terms of technology, auditors assess whether the technology is fit for purpose, and with hub and spoke they ensure the material is being processed at the collection site and not transferred to other unverified locations.”

During the first round of audits, there were some issues to work through. One of these saw Intertek identify staff working inside buildings that were locked from the outside, which created a fire hazard.

“We also came across sites engaged in environmentally unsound practices, and some that wouldn’t allow our auditor to enter,” Lina says.

“In that instance, the auditor took photos around the perimeter of the site and spoke to people living and working in the area – it’s quite an investigative process.”

Under the verification program, for foreign end-markets to accept material from TSA accredited participants, they too require will TSA verification.

To receive verification, Lina says operators first run through an education program to understand TSA’s expectations. From there, operators conduct self-assessment questionnaires, providing photographs and procedural details.

“Intertek and TSA will then verify that information, and if we identify any red flags, we will send an auditor to the site,” Lina says.

“The whole idea is to ensure overseas operators are not causing any environmental or social harm. That’s the bottom line.”

According to Lina, TSA has recently conducted a number of audits in Malaysia and India, with many ticking all the relevant boxes.

“The program enables us to ensure the material is being recycled in an appropriate manner, and also guarantees that Australian recyclers are informed about where they are sending their material,” she says.

“We need greater overall visibility of the reverse supply chain of waste tyres. We can’t really be sure that materials are being appropriately managed if we don’t have them verified by a third-party organisation.”

In addition to the downstream verification process, Lina says TSA is enhancing its international relationships through associations with groups such as the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG).

The IRSG is an inter-governmental organisation comprising rubber producing and consuming stakeholders, with 36 member countries and over 100 members covering the entire natural and synthetic rubber value chain.

“The IRSG has traditionally worked within the new tyre and rubber segment of the market,” Lina says.

“However, they recently recognised the need to include sustainability and end-of-life tyres into their discourse.”

As part of the partnership, TSA is hoping to join the IRSG’s sustainability committee, which Lina says will help facilitate connections with international governments.

“Joining the IRSG will create a direct line to governments in places that currently receive our material, such as Cameroon and India,” Lina says.

SUSTAINABLE OUTCOMES

To facilitate greater market transparency, TSA is also working on a new suitable outcomes indicator, which Lina says models the good, better and best of tyre recycling.

“One recycler is not the same as another recycler, there are various levels of measurable environmental outcomes,” she says.

Lina says TSA has begun identifying its participants against good, better and best outcomes, with recyclers judged on process, and retailers judged on their choice of recycler.

“We have thousands of consumers who visit our green tyres website and want to do the right thing for end-of-life tyres. They ask, who can I buy tyres from? Who provides sustainable outcomes?” Lina explains.

“We really need to shine a light on organisations that have invested locally and are making an effort to transform tyres into products for local use, and I think the sustainable outcomes indicator will help that.”

EXPORT BAN AND THE PSA

The recent Meeting of Environment Minister’s confirmed a phased approach timeline for the ban on waste exports, as announced by the Australian Council of Government’s (COAG) earlier this year.

All whole tyres, including baled tyres, will be banned from export by December 2021. While Lina says whole tyres represent only a small percentage of what is exported, TSA is supportive of government putting regulatory levers in place.

“Of the 223,000 tonnes of end-of-life tyres recovered in 2018/19, 84 per cent was exported and 16 per cent remained in Australia for use within local applications. Of the volume exported, 25 per cent was whole-baled tyres and 68 per cent was exported as shred,” she says.

“That said, the ban has led to increased conversation locally about investment in new facilities and upgrades, and because of the ban, the market conditions are now right.”

Lina adds however that for the ban to really change the state of end-of-life tyre processing, it needs to come hand in hand with a strengthened Product Stewardship Act.

“It’s wonderful to have the COAG statement, but we need the act reviewed to provide us with more opportunity for market development and to keep all tyre importers accountable for the products they bring into the country, not just a select few,” she says.

“We are a voluntary scheme – we have eight tyre importers now contributing to the levy and one automotive brand, but we really need all of them participating.”

While questions remain over the long-awaited Product Stewardship Act review’s outcomes, Lina says she is heartened by the progress made by TSA over the past 12 months.

“If the Product Stewardship Act review can address the issue of free riders, or as I have heard them to referred to as “environmental pirates”, we will have more funds to redirect to organisations that want to address end-of-life tyres commercially,” she says.

“That said, there is already a whole range of support programs in place. We are excited by the opportunities that will arise from the export ban and our market development strategy, which is already delivering significant outcomes. The next generation of TSA is looking bright.”

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It’s time for glass out: Australian Paper Recovery

Victoria’s challenging commodities markets has inspired a rethink of traditional processing from commercial and industrial recycler Australian Paper Recovery.

As Victoria deals with the fallout of SKM, numerous solutions to the state’s ailing recycling market are being proposed, including additional bins for difficult waste streams.

Earlier this year, the City of Yarra announced plans to trial a fourth kerbside glass bin in 1300 households.

In making the decision, the council acknowledged that there less landfill space in future and this will place additional pressure on the waste and recycling industry.

Months later, other councils, such as Macedon Ranges Shire followed suit.

The City of Yarra’s move towards a fourth kerbside glass bin collection service is part of a bigger push towards cleaning up Victoria’s recycling crisis.

The Victorian Government is working in partnership with local government and the waste industry on a major overhaul of kerbside collection, with expressions of interest to be released in 2021.

It comes as KordaMentha secured a $10 million loan from the Victorian Government to help clean up SKM waste stockpile sites and resume waste processing.

Darren Thorpe, Australian Paper Recovery’s Managing Director, says the situation should serve as a wake-up call that the current system is broken and needs to be repaired.

“In the past it’s just been about quantity, with a let’s produce as many tonnes as we can per hour attitude, but now it’s all going to be about quality as we transition to a sustainable circular economy,” Darren says.

Australian Paper Recovery (APR) has collected waste paper, plastic and cardboard since 2002, but it’s recent market trends that are prompting a new approach to its traditional role as a commercial and industrial (C&I) processor.

APR has, over time, become an important resource for the C&I sector. It has handled more than two million tonnes of pre-consumer and post-consumer waste and processed it into new materials for domestic and international markets.

Darren’s extensive background in paper recovery helped propel the business forward, while also learning extensively along the way.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Darren’s career began in October 1984 at the Smorgon’s Paper Mill, following in the footsteps of his father and uncles. It was there that Darren made his start as an accounts payable clerk, learning the intricacies and nuances involved with fibre collection and recovery.

He then worked his way up to Regional Sales Manager, before the business expanded into rural Victoria in the mid 80s. But despite a streak of successes, the mill was unfortunately sold in September 1989, and the corrugating plant sold to Visy in partnership with Amcor.

Following this, Darren went onto work for Southern Waste Paper – now part of Visy, where he remained for 12-and-a-half years before starting APR in 2002.

Over the years, Darren turned his attention towards the C&I sector, with the paper manufacturing sector evolving throughout the mid 90s and early 2000s.

“Back in the 90s, there were seven paper mills in Victoria and now there’s four, so it makes a massive difference to fibre recycling. That is why the export market presented such a viable opportunity as there was no use for it here in Victoria,” he says.

“The closure of the Broadfield and Fairfield Mills also created an opportunity to send product overseas.”

The present state of the industry led Darren towards the overseas markets, working for Visy in WA. The same path inspired Darren to establish his own business in 2002, moving to Springvale, in Melbourne to start APR.

“For the first 18 months, we were just trading paper overseas because that’s what the market demanded,” Darren says.

In 2005, APR moved to Dandenong and started another operation at Laverton.

More than 17 years on, the company now has five facilities in Victoria, including its materials recovery facility (MRF) in Truganina, a C&I processing site at Dandenong and secure destruction and shredding facility in Fairfield.

Its network ensures it can partner with major organisations such as Australian Paper to deliver fibre for processing at Australian Paper’s Maryvale facility.

APR established a purpose-built facility in 2013 in Dandenong South at Thomas Murrell Crescent to allow it to service the market effectively.

Extensive planning went into improving on-site logistics, with a traffic management plan ensuring smooth vehicle movements.

“We needed to get vehicles in and out of the facilities in an efficient and safe manner, so we built a purpose-built facility in Dandenong in 2013 and designed it so we could get vehicles in and out in a timely manner,” he says.

Darren says that due to the ease of use of the facility, APR tripled its volumes. Working with major retail and hospitality outlets, APR covered the broader market segment.

But when China’s National Sword policy was announced in 2017, and a glut of materials was released into the market, APR began to reconsider its strategy and look at entering the municipal solid recycling space.

“We moved into the domestic space because of National Sword as we were dealing with regional MRFs who had a problem getting rid of mixed paper because the quality that they were making wasn’t meeting export or local quality specifications,” Darren says.

“So that’s when we went to Sustainability Victoria with a proposal in late 2017 which they supported. We were fortunate enough to get a grant of $475,000 to build our value-add fibre sorting facility.”

The proposal led to a new MRF at Truganina, which processes up to 39,000 tonnes of kerbside recyclables per annum.

The MRF sees materials run along a conveyor belt with contaminants removed, before running over several ballistic separators to pull out any fibre. Containers are then dropped down to conveyors to extract metal such as steel. Manual sorters take off milk, detergents and soft drink bottles.

As the MRF was continually refined, APR envisioned a plan to partner with other regional MRFs and value-add their fibre products.

But new opportunities soon emerged as the City of Yarra embarked on a single-stream glass recycling program.

GOING GLASS OUT

APR took a “glass out” approach and started to partner with the City of Yarra, with other metropolitan councils soon following suit.

“If you put all the commodities together in a single stream recycling program you have a lot of contamination due to the fact that broken glass is mixed in with other products,” Darren says.

“Once you separate glass, it’s a very valuable and recoverable resources that can be utilised in a circular economy through the likes of O&I and others such as aggregate companies such as Alex Fraser, Sunshine Groupe and Fulton Hogan.

“But when it’s contaminated with other products, it’s too hard for them to use, so by moving to a separate glass collection we are able to produce a much cleaner and valuable resource.”

He adds that glass is the biggest source of contamination in kerbside bins besides fibre, polymers, aluminium and steel. “We’ve made it quite clear to the councils that we will only receive material that has glass out.”

Taking its “glass out” strategy a step further, APR in September agreed on a new partnership with the City of Ballarat. From 30 September, the council will ask its residents to take their glass to several free drop-off sites around the municipality using containers provided by council or their own.

City of Ballarat Mayor Samantha McIntosh in a statement said that for many years, Ballarat shipped its recycled material overseas for processing, which was no longer an option.

With quality now being a key priority, Darren says APR has continued to partner with a number of local manufacturers, including Huhtamaki and Norske Skog for fibre. Norske Skog is one of the world’s largest suppliers of newsprint while Huhtamaki produces consumer packaged goods such as egg, paperboard and plastic packaging.

Darren says that wherever possible, products are repurposed into their original form in a circular motion such as cleaning products or soft drinks. In other cases, waste streams like milk bottles are repurposed as plastic pellets. He says the main priority is adding as much value as possible and keeping products out of landfill.

“Vicfam Plastics is a company we’re working with to make the plastic pellets and they’ve been greater partners with us in other commodities in our business.”

Darren says APR aims to be as diligent as possible in ensuring material is contaminant-free and is in the process of auditing materials that come in from both councils and the C&I space.

Overall, Darren is excited about the future possibilities for APR and predicts the company’s current plans will only lead to further growth for the company.

“Our facility is the way of the future. The commodities that we’ll generate out of the sorting facility will provide end users with a quality product,” he says.

“All indications are that our MRF will be at capacity by Christmas and, as such, we’ll be looking to build a new facility taking on board the learnings from this facility.”

However, APR will only enter the market when a need presents itself, as its focus is quality, not quantity.

Its next stage is to build a receivable area with an additional 1200-square-metre facility planned in four to five months time at a cost of around $1.3 million.

While ensuring its operations are economically viable is the number one priority, Darren hopes APR can make a vital contribution to the sector at a critical juncture.

“We’ve shown the initiative to go out there and do something different because no-one wants to keep doing the same thing and have a broken system. We need to make some changes even when it’s difficult,” Darren says.

He says that the challenges going forward will be getting the message out to the community to stop ‘wishcycling’.

“Education, commitment and understanding by residents will certainly be a major influence in the way we view recycling in the future. Developing more local production opportunities and government procurement policy for recycled products will also be part of the now ‘broken system’ we are trying to fix,” Darren says.

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Urban-inspired collection: Volvo

Volvo’s new Vice President of Sales Tony O’Connell details the company’s latest waste collection iteration – the Volvo FE Low Entry Cab.

With more than 67 per cent of Australians living in a city, one of the biggest challenges going forward for the waste transportation sector will be maintaining and improving safety.

Likewise, minimising one’s environmental impact and increasing efficiencies will be ongoing hurdles, not to mention keeping pace with population growth and its impact on waste generation.

Original equipment manufacturers are cognisant of the task that lies ahead and it’s this determination to innovate that has driven Volvo to continually refine its waste collection range.

To tackle this challenge head-on, Volvo earlier this year launched its FE Low Entry Cab. The company has for years offered the FE and FM as a custom solution for select waste transportation and recycling solutions.

Building on its previous success in the refuse sector, Volvo has made excellent ergonomics, superior all-round visibility and a low vantage point key traits of its latest iteration.

Close to the coalface of its customers is Volvo’s people, with experienced professionals who know the ins and outs of their customer’s needs – fleet managers and councils.

Tony O’Connell, Volvo’s former Aftersales and Services Vice President, is a Volvo industry stalwart. With more than 14 years’ experience with the company, Tony was recently promoted to Vice President of Sales. Tony brings experience across a number of areas, including Soft Products and Retail, National Retail and Project Manager roles.

CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO

In his most recent role, Tony served across Volvo’s dealership network in Australia and New Zealand and focused on improving customer support. This allowed him to develop a grassroots understanding of his customers and challenge Volvo to improve its product offering.

“I really enjoy working with customers and our dealer network to ensure their needs are met and we are best positioned as our customers’ long-term business partner,” Tony explains.

“I like to solve issues before they become problems, and working in a company like Volvo where there is a lot going on, I enjoy negotiating those challenges.”

The FE Low Entry Cab (LEC) design was born out of a need for an efficient and safe refuse vehicle in the busy city of London. The first Volvo FE LEC was released in 2009 but proved popular and quickly became a standard offering.

“We know London is a recognised leader for requirements on direct vision in heavy vehicles, so it is good to be able to draw from the innovative work done in the UK,” Tony says.

“Additionally, London is the epitome of urbanised living, and if the truck suits their strict safety requirements we are confident it will suit Australian cities also.”

Volvo’s newest iteration comes as manufacturers are continually challenged to ensure drivers and refuse workers have maximum visibility and agility in their vehicles and avoid accidents wherever possible. By lowering the driving position and reducing hidden angles, Volvo is able to significantly improve all-round visibility.

“As these vehicles operate in highly urbanised areas in close quarters with road users, it is important for them to have the suitable manoeuvrability and visibility,” he says.

Tony says that the FE Low Entry Cab’s low profile and safety credentials make it an attractive proposition for urban distribution as well as the waste segment.

“Volvo knows that safety is paramount for councils and operators who provide waste management services in busy residential streets and high-traffic urban environments,”
he says.

Tony says Volvo aims to disrupt the current state of the segment and target those looking for safer, more versatile options, with the Volvo FE LEC ready for immediate sale.

“We want to place driver comfort, safety and visibility at the forefront, and we believe we can offer our customers the tailored solutions they need for their business,” Tony says.

Tony says that for this reason, all FE and FM models feature world-class safety and technological innovations, including forward collision warning with autonomous emergency brakes in almost all models. He says that Volvo trucks are also engineered to be significantly quieter in order to cause as little noise pollution as possible.

AGILE VISION

Considerable testing has gone into ensuring driver needs are at the forefront of Volvo’s success. Tony says that this involved relentless testing to support maximum visibility out of the front and side windows as well as the mirrors.

In providing excellent ergonomics and superior all-round visibility, Volvo has ensured the windows on either door (optional) allow the driver to clearly see what or who is right beside them. This simple, yet effective feature is particularly important for use in high-traffic urban areas where the safety of vulnerable road users is paramount.

“The literal step up to the cab and the 90-degree angle at which the door opens have been included with driver ease-of-access in mind, aiming to maximise driver convenience when swiftly entering or exiting the cab,” Tony says.

The Volvo FE LEC can accommodate up to four people with the low instep aiming to save drivers time. A range of telematics and connected services also assist in truck monitoring, tracking, preventive maintenance and servicing.

As far as safety is concerned, Volvo has made numerous advancements in its latest model. Tony says the low vantage point of the FE LEC allows the driver and passenger to have maximum visibility of all pedestrians, cyclists and road users surrounding the vehicle.

“As workers in the segments we are targeting often have to leave the vehicle multiple times a shift, it is important they are able to do so safely by having a clear view of their surroundings,” he says.

In the FE LEC, the step has been brought lower to the ground to allow for ease of access. Tony says that as drivers are doing multiple stop shifts where they are hopping in an out of the truck, the walk-up start with a lower step ensures less strain is placed on the driver. A kneeling function has also been included to allow for the vehicle to get 90 millimetres closer to the ground.

“Safety is so important to us at Volvo Trucks. These improved driver ergonomics reduce the chance of a driver tripping or missing a step.

“Some drivers get in and out of the cab more than 200 times a day, the LEC therefore ensures higher safety and productivity.”

KEEPING IT GREEN

Sustainability and a low emissions profile are also values integral to Volvo and part of the design of any new vehicle. In designing the vehicle, Volvo has made the FE Low Entry Cab Euro 6 compliant with an eight-litre up to a 350-horsepower diesel engine ahead of the standard regulations.

“The engine emits clean, frugal power on the road, as to deliver on our promise to work towards cleaner transport solutions,” Tony says.

“In addition, the cab fulfils both EU and Volvo unique safety demands, including legal requirements ECE-R 29/02 and Volvo’s even stricter internal safety requirements such as the Swedish BOF 10 and barrier testing at 30 kilometres an hour.”

To ensure Volvo can service the market with servicing, part and maintenance across the country, Tony says the company offers the largest dealer network in Australia and New Zealand.

“The total cost over the lifetime of the truck is also something our customers value and we consider our offers, including uptime solutions, to be highly competitive,” he says.

“With specific reference to the Volvo FE LEC, this truck has been brought to market as a result of local demand. It’s another example of listening to our customer base and delivering.”

And as the ever-growing waste market continues its upward trajectory, Volvo aims to leverage its global capabilities to meet niche local demands.

“I look forward to capitalising on our global capabilities more in the future to deliver on our promise to tailor our solutions to our customers’ needs,” Tony says.

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Particle size innovation

Melbourne’s Knox Transfer Station is pioneering refuse-derived fuel using an Australian-first technology to achieve a small particle size.

Over the years, Melbourne’s Knox Transfer Station has grown from being more than just a transfer station to a hard waste processor for a number of councils.

Operated by KTS Recycling and located in Wantirna South, the company also runs transfer stations in Coldstream, Skye and Wesburn.

Craig Davis, Process Manager at KTS, joined the company 14 months ago to support the company’s entrance into the refuse-derived fuel (RDF) market. RDF is used as a renewable substitute for fossil fuels in cement kilns and specialised energy-from-waste plants.

The motivation for KTS to get involved with RDF was inspired by its collection of hard waste and mattresses through parent company WM Waste Management Services. To maximise resource recovery and find a home for residual plastics, textiles, wood and other materials, the company started looking at RDF around five years ago.

“We were shredding and extracting metals from hard waste and mattresses and hand sorting cardboard and timber with the remaining material going to landfill,” Craig explains.

KTS’ expansion into recycling mattresses initially saw it shred and recycle metal with the remainder sent to landfill, but it believed it could be doing more.

“We didn’t just want to be seen as a wheel’s business and a processor, we wanted to do something different and stay ahead of the curve,” he says.

PROCESS ENGINEERING

In late 2017, KTS Recycling began to establish an interim RDF manufacturing facility at its Knox Transfer Station with support from Sustainability Victoria’s Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund.

Extensive trial and error was required to ensure the material could meet specification, in particular the particle size for the fuel’s end user.

Craig’s background working with various shredders and grinders at SUEZ and Veolia helped fast track the process, experimenting with a number of different shredders, trommels and screens on-site.

However, despite extensive experimentation, no processes could consistently achieve its less than 50-millimetre output particle requirements. This led KTS to look outside of its existing resources and investigate a new and innovative resolution.

Owner Mark Jeffs flew to Europe last year to check out the UNTHA XR3000 mobil-e in action. As a specialist in machinery and manufacturing technology, Craig also went overseas earlier this year to inspect and test the XR3000.

Mark and Craig were both impressed by the single-pass shredding and lower rotation speed capabilities of the technology. As lower speeds generally have lower wearing costs and a reduced fire risk, the machine was seen as highly advantageous for KTS.

The XR3000’s ability to handle up to 30 tonnes of commercial, industrial and wood waste per hour was also a big plus.

Having previously engaged with FOCUS enviro on a number of other waste processing and technology choices, KTS turned to the company to provide an RDF solution.

FOCUS enviro then called on the product knowledge and experience of its technology partner UNTHA.

After discussing KTS’ requirements, the 37-tonne mobile machine was shipped to their Knox headquarters in July 2019, becoming the first ever Australian company to use the technology. The UNTHA XR3000 mobile-e has been applied successfully in more than 9000 successful installations worldwide.

A diesel mechanic by trade, Mark has achieved a long line of innovations through KTS and parent company WM Waste Management, including becoming one of the first organisations to trial and purchase electric refuse vehicles.

Mark says that alternative fuel is becoming more and more important in Australia and as a progressive environmental company KTS wanted to stay ahead of the curve.

“We acknowledged that by investing in world class RDF production technology, we could produce a high-quality resource, efficiently, and hopefully really drive the market for this crucial energy source,” Mark says.

Rod Tanner, Business Support Manager at KTS Recycling, says one of the most important criterions of the company’s operations is to ensure a reliable small particle size.

“The challenging aspect to our operations is that we make our product today, but we don’t really get feedback from the markets until weeks later so we have to do a lot of our testing locally to ensure we get our products right.”

Michael Strickland, KTS Project Manager, says that there would be big ramifications if deleterious materials ended up in the fuel.

COUNCIL COLLABORATIONS

Rod says the majority of customers in hard rubbish are local government and are accountable for landfill diversion targets, making the business case even more attractive.

“We service customers all over Melbourne and even some regional councils as far as mattresses go,” Rod says.

“We’ve actually got a contract with the North East Regional Waste Management Group so we service all the way up to Albury-Wodonga.”

He says that with more than a dozen customers working with KTS Recycling, the company is looking at opening up conversations with more commercial and industrial operators.

KTS’ process will involve taking RDF-compliant material from its other sites and processing it in Wantirna South.

Rod says that at this stage the main material going through the UNTHA is typical kerbside hard waste collected items, including mattresses and foam. Depending on calorific value results over the coming months, the company will also look at increasing its commercial and industrial waste processing.

Rod says that KTS is committed to doubling its initial output of RDF over the next four years.

While RDF remains relatively niche in Australia, the markets in Europe have grown exponentially.

According to data compiled by the UK association RDF Industry Group, the proportion of refuse-derived and solid recovered fuel has been steadily increasing each year since it began in 2010 to 2017. The sector is worth around £0.5 billion ($0.89B AUD) annually and RDF production supports more than 6800 jobs in the UK.

Gary Moore, UNTHA Director for Global Business Development, says the company is continuing to work with itscustomers to maximise throughputs, minimise impurities andmaximise margins.

“Australia is one of the world’s most exciting countries when it comes to waste-to-energy potential, and it’s great to now be a part of it,” Gary says.

A CHANGE IN DIRECTION

At the August Council of Australian Government’s meeting, federal and state and territory environment ministers agreed to work towards banning recyclable waste being exported overseas.

While a timeline has yet to be established, Robbie McKernan, FOCUS enviro Director welcomes the move and sees it as an opportunity for surplus non-recyclable material to be manufactured into RDF.

“The prime minister’s announcement will only fuel the need for alternative pathways for material that would otherwise be sent overseas,” Robbie says.

“RDF is a high quality resource and its success is well documented in markets around the world.”

Robbie says RDF is a first class alternative to landfill and can be supplied to many different types of energy facilities using fossil fuels.

Calorific value is another challenge and KTS is working on bringing its moisture content down. To rectify this, KTS is continually trialling a combination of different waste compositions with one of them including mattresses.

To support the shredding process, KTS has also acquired an EDGE density separator from FOCUS enviro to remove inert materials such as glass, ceramics and concrete prior to feeding material into the UNTHA.

KTS’ RDF process sees waste come in and be sorted and shredded into various piles before removing inerts through the EDGE density separator. The shredded materials are baled and wrapped into their finished product.

The new XR3000 mobil-e takes advantage of an electromechanical drive without having to forgo the advantages of a mobile machine.

Consistent 30-millimetre to 400-millimetre particle sizes are achievable.

Three different cutting concepts are available depending on the material and fraction size – a ripper, cutter or knife system. The system comprises an internal pusher that allows the material to be pressed against the shredding shaft to maximise production.

Robbie says FOCUS enviro now offers the complete alternative fuel production industry pre-shredders, density separators, industrial baling and bale wrappers and all technology components requirements to manufacture RDF.

“This means our clients can source a complete RDF production line from a single supplier in Australia which is unmatched in the industry,” Robbie says.

Robbie says the UNTHA X3000 mobil-e is unlike anything FOCUS enviro has previously seen in the marketplace.

“We had the chance to see it in the factory and some customer sites in the UK but it’s only when you see the machine in action that you understand it is in another league entirely,” he says.

“We’ve supplied shredders for decades so we were completely taken aback by the jump in machine capabilities and process diagnostics, from the drive system to pusher arm and the knife changeover features.”

Robbie says the ability to produce a homogenous and defined output fraction in a single pass has opened up more opportunities in difficult-to-shred applications.

“UNTHA are now dominating the plastic granulation, tyre-derived fuel, mattress, biomass, pulper ropes and e-waste resource recovery market with their ability to reduce materials efficiently with consistent size and minimal fines,” he says.

He adds that post-consumer and production waste plastics is another example where the machine is working with little to no competition in performance on an industrial level.

The range of shaft and cutter configurations means the shredders are suitable for thermoplastics, duroplastics and elastomers.

In the burgeoning waste-to-energy market, the shredder is also ideal for gasification or biomass markets.

“At the end of the day we’re making a product that substitutes black coal and cement kilns have to burn products regardless so if you can use a renewable fuel that’s best practice from a greenhouse gas perspective,” Michael says.

Craig says that the early results are highly positive and KTS has been able to trial new materials such as car and truck tyres, which has already reduced disposal and transport costs, allowing KTS to send pre-shredded tyres to an end user.

The testing forms part of KTS’ broader vision to be a geographical hub for PEF in Melbourne.

“Understanding where our waste stream is sitting will allow us to explore options for new residuals. We’re learning as we’re going, but we’ve already come a long way,” Craig says.

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Waste of the nation

Waste Management Review speaks to Australia’s first Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Trevor Evans about his future priorities.

The Liberal Government’s May re-election saw a shakeup of the Department of Environment and Energy. While Energy Minister Angus Taylor retained his position, Melissa Price, who served as Environment Minister from August 2018, was replaced with Sussan Ley.

Cabinet shakeups aren’t uncommon following an election, and as such, the appointment of a new Environment Minister was not particularly noteworthy on its own. What was significant, however, was the introduction of an entirely new parliamentary portfolio, the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management.

The role was awarded to Queensland Member of Parliament Trevor Evans, who has held the seat of Brisbane since 2016. He is one of the youngest MPs elected to the House of Representatives.

Waste Management Review spoke to Trevor in June.

According to Trevor, Minister Ley will still hold final responsibility for all matters inside the portfolio. His role as assistant minister will be to assist in the fulfilment of waste targets and policy drafting.

“As my title suggests, I have a particular focus on the government’s initiatives and funding around waste reduction and recycling, and some of our environmental management,” Trevor explains.

“This new role is a really exciting one for me personally, as I’ve always been an incredibly passionate advocate for Australia’s unique environment.”

As a child, Trevor says he wanted to be a zookeeper because of his love of Australian animals.

“Instead, I find myself in the house of animals that is Parliament House,” he jokes.

“I’m taking the passion that I’ve always had for our local environment, building on a lot of local work I’ve done in my Brisbane electorate on conservation and bringing those passions to this role.”

Highlighting the importance of industry led initiatives was a common thread throughout Waste Management Review’s conversation with Trevor, who before entering politics served as National Retail Association President.

“I’ve done a lot of work at the coalface when industry meets consumer demand,” Trevor says.

“I was there at quite an interesting time, where industry and the retail sector were starting to react and plan for the first product stewardship schemes.”

Trevor says it’s this background that informs his belief that private sector is best placed to deal with the complexities of individual product areas and international supply chains.

Trevor plans to use his new position to grow conversations around waste reduction and recycling.

“I believe there is a huge information and awareness gap at present, where many members of the public are incredibly passionate and want to be as involved as they possibly can,” he says.

“I think one of the key aspects of the role will be helping to bridge that gap. I’ll be doing everything I can to help everyone have the best information at their fingertips.”

In the lead-up to the federal election, the waste industry saw unprecedented bi-partisan support.

An ‘election score card’ created by multiple industry associations showed that both major parties had outlined substantive commitments to recycling infrastructure, establishing local markets for recycled content and developing solutions for plastic waste.

So after the election, the waste industry was not asking, ‘what policies will the Liberal Party propose?’ but rather, ‘will they make good on their promises?’

Trevor says the central responsibility of the assistant minister portfolio will be the rollout of the government’s $167 million package of initiatives and funding programs.

Programs include the $100 million Australian Recycling Investment Fund, $20 million Product Stewardship Investment Fund and $20 million for plastic recycling through Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) grants.

“On top of that, I have responsibility for the Federal Government’s role in the new National Waste Policy,” Trevor says.

“The first priority in that space is to work with the states and territories on the action plan.”

The National Waste Policy, which provides a framework for collective action on waste by industry, government and communities, was updated in 2018 after the failure of the 2009 policy.

The policy highlights the importance of interjurisdictional collaboration and proposes targets such as reducing total waste generation by 10 per cent by 2030. Other targets include an 80 per cent average recovery rate from all resource recovery streams by 2030, 30 per cent recycled content across all goods and infrastructure procurement by 2030 and phasing out problematic and unnecessary plastics by 2030.

During the election cycle, the Labor Party proposed mandatory targets for all government departments to purchase products made from recyclable material.

When asked by Waste Management Review whether the Liberal Party has plans to implement similar measures, Trevor says the biggest opportunity for government to pursue that idea would be through the National Waste Policy.

“Different states and territories and different levels of government will bring different things to the table there,” he says.

“You can expect that governments’ own procurement processes will be a big part of the negotiations in terms of how all levels of government come to the table to achieve the National Waste Policy.”

While Trevor didn’t confirm specific procurement figures, government has committed to working with state, territory and local government on getting more recycling content in road construction – building on the $2.6 million 2019 budget allocation to the Australian Road Research Board.

Trevor says developing the National Waste Policy implementation plan, securing appropriate funding and setting robust targets will be his core concerns over the coming year. He adds that the policy is still in the planning stage.

“The most important priority in that space is to work with the states and territories on the action plan to underpin the strategy.”

LOCAL INDUSTRY

According to Trevor, the Federal Government is heavily invested in improving recycling rates and growing the local recycling industry.

“For us, the centrepiece for our efforts to grow a local recycling industry is the $100 million in funding we are proving to support proposals and more local industry in the recycling chain,” he says.   

The Australian Recycling Investment Fund is a new initiative, which Trevor says is designed to support the manufacturing of low-emission and energy-efficient recycled content products, including recycled content plastics, paper and pulp.

The fund will be administered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which according to Trevor, will receive guidelines from government about the mandate and how to best invest in new industry.

Whether there were any specific projects in the investment fund pipeline, Trevor says not yet.

“There will be a period of time where we will ensure that scheme is set up and properly instructed with key criteria from government. Then there will no doubt be invitations put to industry to participate in that process,” he says.

Trevor says government have also provided a further $20 million to the pre-existing CRC grants program, to support plastics innovation and research.

“CRCs are a place where the tertiary education and research sector come together with government and business to look at challenges in a shared way, and collaborate when it comes to ideas and innovation,” Trevor says.

“The grants are already delivering great results in many key industries to Australia’s future, so funding CRC work specifically to encourage research, in and around plastics, will lead to some really world-leading solutions here in Australia.”

Trevor says growing industry will be a central priority for his government, particularly given stresses caused by changes to international import regulations.

China’s National Sword policy is the obvious cornerstone. Other restrictions have taken place in India, which banned solid plastic imports in March, and Malaysia, which launched an investigation into international plastic imports in June.

“It is important to note that Australians want, and should expect, that our country supports international recycling supply chains,” he says.

According to Trevor, it is beneficial for Australia to be involved in international recycling chains, both on an economic and environmental level.

“What we have to be conscious of is that there are strict rules around the quality of waste streams being traded around the world,” he says.

“Where companies do the wrong thing, it’s very reasonable for us to expect there to be appropriate compliance and enforcement efforts. Companies that do the wrong thing let down not just their industry, but all Australians that want to see those recycling chains succeed.”

HARMONISATION

Talking about challenges that arise from a lack of centralised policy, specifically around waste levies and interstate transport, Trevor says harmonisation was one of many competing policy goals.

Additionally, Trevor says he will address considerations of the proximity principle at the meeting of environment ministers later this year.

“I can say – at this stage – I do see a case for harmonisation, or increased harmonisation, in many aspects of the waste and recycling industries,” Trevor says.

“There is a case to be made there, however, at this stage, while we are negotiating with the states and territories on the action plan, I’m not going to get too prescriptive about where that needs to be.”

In reference to the effectiveness of banning problematic waste streams, Trevor says state level initiatives have seen positive benefits.

He adds that changing consumer behaviours requires cooperation between government and industry, along with awareness at the small business level.

“I think blanket bans are a clunky policy tool. What’s better is to look at proactive ideas around true cost and substitution,” he says.

“There is certainly some scope for harmonisation between the different approaches between states and territories, and that’s something I hope to influence.”

Trevor makes notes of early state actions around single-use plastics. He adds rather than straight out banning plastic bags, which would come up against genuine questions of consumer convenience, commercial industry worked closely with consumers and government to move towards substitutes.    

“Now the attention, rightly, focuses on some of the heavyweight plastic bag substitutes that have come in, along with some of the definitions of compostability and biodegradability.”

In reference to the Product Stewardship Act review, Trevor says the act is very important piece of work.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity for government to work more closely with industry and look forward to finding ways to achieve real tangible outcomes for something that is very complex and serious,” he says.

Trevor says that while government is not in a position to reveal whether it is looking to introduce more mandatory schemes, it has put $20 million on the table to support the creation of new schemes via the Product Stewardship Investment Fund.

“There is always a debate around the nature of a scheme, in terms of whether they are industry-led, voluntary or mandatory. It is very much a ‘horses for courses’ approach,” Trevor says.

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

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Sustainability allies: Veolia

Waste education, awareness and engagement are taking centre stage at major sporting events, as Veolia takes its relationships with stakeholders to new heights.

As a nation devoted to sport, the Australian sporting events industry showcases some of the world’s best athletes.

Tapping into this enthusiasm, forward thinking waste management organisations are using sport as a platform to demonstrate leading recycling practices and promote sustainable behaviours.

The scale, location and complexity of events means developing and implementing an appropriate waste management strategy can take months of meticulous coordination between stakeholders to ensure seamless operations on the big day.

Added to this, there are growing expectations around responsible waste management at events. It’s no wonder organisers increasingly rely on the expertise of forward thinking operators.

Companies such as Veolia are not only tasked with delivering a solution for general waste management, recycling and landfill diversion, but also providing value-added services like waste education and increased source segregation.

DRIVING CHANGE

For more than 20 years, Veolia has been working closely with event partners such as Incognitus to implement effective sustainable solutions. One aspect of this is incorporating waste reduction and recycling programs to improve diversion at major sporting events around the nation, such as the Melbourne Cup Carnival and the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.

Veolia and Incognitus have been tackling issues like waste contamination and improved source segregation head on. These include introducing a range of proactive measures to increase awareness among event attendees, organisers and employees. However, the success of this approach is heavily reliant on its customer’s full support and shared vision for sustainability.

Anthony Roderick, Veolia Group General Manager – Victoria & Tasmania, says that one of Veolia’s strengths in the events space is its ability to build long-term partnerships with customers, allowing for a dynamic and flexible approach.

“Trust and transparency provide us with the ability to challenge each other for continuous improvement as we grow together,” Anthony says.

“We’re conscious that our customers are motivated by a range of operational factors, but it all boils down to value and wanting to partner with a ‘safe pair of hands’ that can facilitate effective and compliant waste disposal.”

SPORTING A NEW APPROACH

Francesca Stafford, Veolia Sustainability Coordinator, has a long-term passion for sport and its ability to bring people together and inspire collective outcomes.

“Sporting events are a platform for people to come together at any point in time and if we can capture that passion and sense of community, and communicate positive messaging that goes beyond the event, I think that is really important,” Francesca says.

“We work with businesses to help them understand the importance of best-practice recycling methods and how they can use these to reduce the environmental footprint of their operations.”

Francesca adds that by leveraging their enthusiasm, energy and business strategy to promote change, Veolia develops a long-term approach to sustainability and it grows from there.

THE RACE THAT STOPS THE NATION

The 2018 Melbourne Cup Carnival was a great example of stakeholders working together towards a common goal. As South-East Asian countries were tightening contamination tolerances around the same time, Veolia was spurred into action.

“One of the challenges is that people have lost faith in the industry and I think tackling this is about sharing a story that shows people that if they do engage in this correctly, there will be real outcomes and an impact,” Francesca says.

Veolia and Incognitus developed a collaborative approach working with James Reid, Executive General Manager Operations. Over six weeks, a specialised events team, equipment and source separation systems were deployed onsite at Flemington Racecourse.

Nine drivers, two-full time operations staff and 20 “Sustainability Champions” tasked with facilitating education sessions ensured maximum diversion was achieved for the 800 tonnes of waste generated at the event.

Francesca says extensive efforts were placed on educating cleaning and kitchen staff at the event to recycle food waste using aerobic digesters provided by ORCA, glass crushers by Bottle Cycler, as well as correctly sorting general and cardboard waste streams.

Over a four-day period, Veolia’s team of Sustainability Champions were able to build on staff knowledge and provide feedback on recovery figures from the previous day and any issues encountered. Francesca says immediate feedback was important to instilling behavioural change.

At the conclusion of the event, a comprehensive and instructive waste management report was prepared by Veolia, which provided an analysis of the success of the program and key learnings.

James says installing glass crushers onsite significantly reduced transport costs, particularly as Flemington has seen an increase in glass use with the site serving and using more premium beverages.

Food waste is also recycled on site using ORCA units, which break food down over a 24-hour period. The residual waste water is captured and used to produce biogas.

A VEHICLE FOR CHANGE

Earlier this year, Veolia and EventCorp commenced a five-year partnership with the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.

Francesca says the timing of this event allowed Veolia to apply key learnings from its most recent Melbourne Cup Carnival service delivery.

“To maximise recycling at the Grand Prix, it was really important to offer patrons the ability to segregate their waste front-of-house.”

Veolia’s experience with other large-scale clients in the retail and commercial property sectors allowed it to educate retail, cleaning and kitchen staff on best source separation practice.

She says that quite often, Veolia is working with staff where English is not their first language.

“This, coupled with the transient nature of the event industry means we need to ensure our education strategy overcomes these barriers effectively. This was achieved by making sure that staff were empowered to feel as though they were part of the solution.

“We explain what happens to each waste stream and by equipping them with that information and supporting it with adequate signage, we can modify behaviour,” Francesca states.

Anthony says that if consumers go to the right efforts to separate the material, the onus is then on the recycling company to close the loop.

From an operational perspective, Anthony says that when it comes to waste collection, best practice is eliminating as much waste as possible and then driving collections with lean operations that minimise labour. He hopes to leverage Veolia’s global experience and advance Australia’s processes in areas such as waste to energy, water reuse and plastics recycling and remanufacturing.

LESSONS FROM THE FIELD

Craig Lovett, Principal/Partner at Incognitus, says understanding the infrastructure in the surrounding environment and tailoring a service around that is crucial.

“I think the answer is total control of waste streams, engineering the outcome right from the outset and working out what ends up inside the venues front-of-house,” Craig says.

He recalls planning for the Sydney Olympic Games of which Veolia was a contractor. Despite being almost 20 years ago, the learnings gave recognition to the value of sustainable waste practices.

Craig says that basic questions were asked such as the amount of newspapers arriving on site and how products were being delivered to the kitchen. PET was the only accepted front-of-house single-use packaging, with Styrofoam boxes banned from the kitchens of the Olympic venues and replaced with cardboard. Two bins were established front of house with signage stating PET cups, cans and food packaging were recyclable.

He says that the key to a successful collaboration with waste contractors is understanding each other’s skillset, capabilities and infrastructure. Engaging all stakeholders with simple messaging, including caterers, is also crucial.

“We’ve had a 23-year history of working with Veolia and although not exclusively, most times we did because they were prepared to be collaborative.”

Anthony agrees sport plays a role in inspiring the community to take ownership of their waste.

“Melbourne is synonymous with hosting world-class events. If we’re fortunate enough to be in a position to service these clients we have a responsibility to help them reduce their environmental impact and ensure the events are remembered for the right reasons,” he says.

He notes that Veolia is more than just a waste management company – it’s a global resourcing company with sustainability capabilities across municipal and hazardous waste, water and energy.

“We’re creating solutions that allow us to lead in that space. We tend to narrowly focus on waste and recycling [as an industry], but the globe demands something bigger and Veolia is in a position to change that.

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Cutting-edge technology: FOCUS Enviro & Biomix

Biomix is investing heavily in innovative technologies and taking a bold approach to managing more than 100,000 tonnes of green organics per annum.

Measuring, monitoring and understanding soil properties is a nuanced undertaking, as biological, chemical and physical indicators all play a role in the success of what we put in the ground.

The ongoing business of providing high quality compost is another area conducive to the outcomes of soil health, and thus EPA guidelines and industry regulations govern a best-practice approach.

Soil nitrogen and appropriate levels of water improve soil longevity, in addition to providing valuable nutrients and organic carbon through high productivity farming practices.

It is within this burgeoning landscape that innovative organics recycling practices are bucking the trend.

Vanessa Lenihan has been at the coalface of industry progress, working with farms to identify ways to overcome the soil challenges they face. Her more than 15 years’ experience in the water industry, including sewerage quality management at South East Water, is laying the groundwork for innovation as she leads the composting business Biomix.    

Vanessa has for the past few years performed consulting work for Enviromix – a parent company of Biomix. In 2016, Vanessa was asked to project manage the construction of Biomix’s Stanhope facility, managing the design, construction and approvals process over 14-months.

After successfully project managing the construction and commissioning of the new site, Vanessa in February this year joined the company as CEO – a natural transition given her past experiences. Biomix processes 100,000 tonnes per annum of garden and food organics, selling its compost to the broader amenity market, broadacre, viticulture and horticulture industries.

“Biomix is in the industry of organics resource recovery and so is the wastewater industry. Sewage is just a different form of organics so there’s actually a lot of synergies between the two and the lines between the two industries have become blurred,” Vanessa says.

Understanding the biological process of wastewater created synergies to administer this to the biological process of composting, including managing inputs and quality controls.

BREATHING LIFE INTO COMPOST

Biomix at the end of 2017 unveiled its premium compost facility at Stanhope. The company designed an EPA-approved in-vessel composting system, engineering its own vessels to better manage air flow and odour. Its compost is produced to AS4454-2012 specifications and regularly sent off for independent and accredited lab testing.

“The thing that is unique about Biomix is the composting vessels were designed by us. We worked with the mechanical engineering firm that designed them and we own the intellectual property around the vessels,” Vanessa says.

She says that one of the challenges Biomix had is that when it opened the vessels in late 2017, the business began to grow exponentially at a rate it had not anticipated. Likewise, low rainfall onsite and high evaporation presented a challenge to processing compost at the site.

To support its next transition, the company turned to integrated processing supplier FOCUS Enviro for support – a supplier of EDGE Innovate shredding, screening, separating, stacking and sizing equipment. From November last year through to January this year, Biomix acquired three unique new products from EDGE Innovate.

Nick Marshall

The EDGE MPS48 Picking Station, EDGE FTS Mulch Master (deep stacker) and EDGE TRT622 Trommel replaced a series of conventional machines traditionally used for composting.

“Because we grew so fast we had to manage parts of the business quite differently to what we’ve had previously,” Vanessa says.

“The EDGE Picking Station is really focused on removing contamination upfront and the Mulch Master has allowed us to process our windrows and get water to them in a way that is highly beneficial.”

The EDGE Picking Station was designed to improve safety for waste management sites by reducing the effects of dust, noise and climate conditions for workers. It helps eliminate contaminants such as organics, hard plastics, glass and other deleterious materials.

Vanessa says that Biomix has seen a significant reduction in water loss through windrows by using the Mulch Master, halving the number of times to turn a windrow.

“Every time you turn a windrow you lose at least 20 per cent moisture.

“The Mulch Master allows us to halve the number of turns during the process.”

She says that the Mulchmaster has increased volumes through deep stacking of compost, having previously used excavators and loading circles with a higher cost and slower processing time.

Vanessa says that the machine has allowed Biomix to increase the moisture content of its compost as the auger softens the materials and water jets allow the spread of moisture.

RE-THINKING THE PROCESS

The Mulch Master combines traditional flipping and rotation with constant material flow to overcome traditional challenges of compaction, contamination, material bridging and the risk of combustion.

Designed for low density, bulky materials such as mulch, compostand soils, the EDGE FTS Mulch Master boasts a large hopper capacity of 15 cubic metres.

A 25 per cent additional buffer capacity over the standard EDGE FTS units with a bespoke hopper design prevents material bridging. A variable high speed conveyor enables an even spread of material further regulated via a double screwed forward/reverse auger.

Biomix’s new EDGE trommel also allows it to produce a 14-millimetre-minus product. Vanessa saysthe screen has doubled throughput and comes with an on-board vacuum system attached that pulls out contaminants such as light plastics.

“We’re filling a front lift bin a day of light plastics and there’s no way we’d be able to specifically pick them out by hand – that’s how effective the vacuum system is.”

Vanessa Lenihan

The TR622 Trommel screen is ideal for multiple applications such as topsoil, recycling, composting and construction and demolition waste. The TR622 comprises a 180-degree radial conveyor, a unique load sensing hydraulic drive system, eco-power saving functionality and a user-friendly HMI control panel to suit varying applications.

A hydraulic sliding feature allows for a speedy drum exchange and enables operators to easily lift out the existing drum to replace it with various drum types available.

Its 22-foot-long drum allows it to produce enhanced screening results and top quality fine materials such as compost, gravel, sand and topsoil easily.

Ronan McKenna, State Manager of FOCUS enviro, says the company last year trialled the machinery to ensure it met Biomix’s tonnage requirements.

He says that many of EDGE’s products have been tried and tested in other major markets such as North America.

“The Mulch Master is a brand new piece of technology that no-one else has used before, so once customers see it and get it round on their site it speaks for itself.

“The machines are fast becoming a popular replacement for traditional windrow turners for multiple reasons, including reduction in maturation pad areas and machinery capital outlay.”

Robbie McKernan, FOCUS enviro Director, says the company considers it an honour to be working with Biomix – a forward-thinking organisation open to a fresh approach to compost.

“There is a lot more evidence mounting to support new processes such as big stacking as opposed to traditional windrow methods,” he says.

“As a supplier, we value opportunities like this where businesses look at their processes as a whole and work out where savings can be achieved, as opposed to a ‘business as usual’ approach.”

Ronan says that FOCUS Enviro is continuing to see demand from organics recycling companies across Australia.

“We have been in a fortunate position to support the food and garden organics (FOGO) aspirations of customers across the country over the past two years. This has shaped our product knowledge to offer a purpose-built solution to meet processing challenges with safety and material quality front of mind.”

The new EDGE equipment is starting to pay dividends for Biomix, and the company is now looking at accelerating its output.

Ronan McKenna

Biomix is currently working with farmers to incorporate compost into traditional fertiliser program. With funding from Sustainability Victoria, Biomix is working with SESL to determine a protocol that outlines an optimum blend of compost and fertilisers.

This will inform a three-year application program for farmers. The first round of trials on farms was completed earlier this year, with the second now underway. Vanessa says it demonstrated the need for a balanced approach to compost.

Biomix is also working with La Trobe University on the application of compost for pastures.

“We’re becoming a lot more scientific and precise in how we’re selling our compost. We’re moving away from just selling compost to incorporating it into the broader agribusiness sector,” Vanessa says.

“We see compost as being really important to the future of improving soil health and its structure and then being able to retain moisture in it and reducing the amount of watering farmers need to do.”

Vanessa says that moisture is so important for the composting process that Biomix designed its vessels to minimise water loss during processing.

Odour management and controlling the processing period to kill off any pathogens and weed seed is an important part of the Biomix process.

Vanessa says that one of the unique attributes Biomix has is its capability to process compostable packaging, films, coffee cups and pods.

“One of the biggest changes coming through the industry is the introduction of compostable materials into the waste streams and we’ve set ourselves up to be able to process that.”

As for the future, Vanessa predicts improving FOGO infrastructure, gaining a higher nitrogen compost, embracing compostable packaging and tackling contamination will be key to improving the uptake of compost.

“We have a step change in the Victorian Environment Protection Act coming in 2020.

“This will force us to focus on how our business is being managed and innovative further to embrace this change,” Vanessa says.

She says the changes to the Environment Protection Act will hopefully address some of the grey areas currently experienced in organic waste acceptance and management.

With a strong uptake of FOGO collections from councils, along with a changing regulatory environment, the need to embrace new technology and processes is more important than ever.

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