How confident are you in recycling?

The Australian Council of Recycling has launched a new industry survey to provide an up-to-date measure of confidence in the sector and support better decision making. 

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What happened to MWOO?

One year on from the NSW EPA’s ban on mixed waste organic material, Waste Management Review speaks with key industry stakeholders about resource recovery exemptions.

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Looking to 2020 and beyond: APCO

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly provides an overview of some of the collaborative, sector-led projects that are helping to scale up the circular economy for packaging here in Australia.

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Fuelling the market

Waste Management Review speaks with key industry stakeholders about the potential tyre-derived fuel flow-on effects of the Council of Australian Governments’ proposed export ban.

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Prioritising projects: Infrastructure Australia

For the first time, the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit has included waste management in its remit. Waste Management Review speaks to Infrastructure Australia about responding to some of the industry’s infrastructure challenges. 

Since 2008, Infrastructure Australia has advised governments, industry and the community on investments needed to deliver better infrastructure across Australia.

The nation’s independent infrastructure advisor audits nationally significant infrastructure and develops 15-year rolling plans that cover national and state level priorities.

For the first time, the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit has included waste management in its remit.

Released earlier this year, the audit examines challenges faced by Australia’s waste sector, including growing pressure from population growth, export bans and heightened environmental awareness.

The audit identifies Australia as one of the world’s largest waste producers per capital, with waste management often poorly planned. The sector is also under increased pressure as waste generation increases and the capacity of infrastructure declines.

It points out that Australia is poised to take advantage of Asia’s economic development, but needs to ensure supply and freight chains operate efficiently to do so.

Some of the challenges the audit points out are well-known to the waste sector, including a lack of private investment and a reliance on exports. Likewise, residential encroachment and increase in waste generation are also widely understood.

An often undiscussed challenge highlighted is the impact that transporting waste over large distances has on the right network, leading to congestion and road degradation.

One of the key focuses of Infrastructure Australia is to take submissions and develop an Infrastructure Priority List that governments can use to guide decision making.

Peter Colacino, Executive Director – Policy and Research at Infrastructure Australia, says that the decision to include waste in the audit was an important one, as the waste sector makes a significant contribution to the national economy.

He says community sentiment is starting to shift with changing user preferences towards recyclable products. Peter says a greater focus on what we consume will leader to a greater focus in community and planning.

Communities have previously found it undesirable to live next to landfills, he points out. But as the sector becomes more sophisticated and moves from landfill to reprocessing, he says a different appreciation of the value of those sites will hopefully take hold in the community.

While its not within the scope of Infrastructure Australia to identify the gaps in buffer protection, Peter makes the point that Sydney and Melbourne are not the only cities growing at a faster rate than public services can support.

The audit shows that satellite cities such as Wollongong, Newcastle and Geelong have capacity to grow and in turn take pressure off infrastructure in the faster-growing cities.

“Sydney and Melbourne are growing rapidly because of the quality of life in those cities and access to essential services and social infrastructure. If we’re seeing places like Wollongong and Newcastle be attractive for people to settle in and therefore take pressure off our major cities, we need to ensure that people that choose to live there have access to the same sorts of services.”

The audit points out that cities can support growth by leveraging infrastructure off their fast-growing neighbours and smaller capitals. The document outlines a number of challenges surrounding waste management.

One was that a limited number of new waste facilities and landfill sites have been approved and residential development was encroaching on existing facilities. Without further action, waste freight will have to transport their loads further from the generation point.

“Encroachment is a complex issue because it’s not only with those nodes like a landfill site or a recycling facility, but it’s also around the transport links that need to be used by the sector,” Peter says.

One of the challenges acknowledge in the audit is that Australia’s freight task, including waste transport, disposal and recycling is growing rapidly. The domestic freight task is growing by 50 per cent and expected to continue to grow by another 26 per cent between 2016 and 2026.

“You do see moves from councils to restrict access of heavy vehicles to particular communities for communities that would be trafficked if you like by refuse vehicles if they were transferring waste rather than treating it locally.”

Peter says by limiting the access of waste vehicles to communities, they are forced to travel further leading to greater deterioration of the road network, increasing the cost of waste management and undermining the commerciality of the sector.

In addition, he says the provision of additional bins is another discussed that needs to be understood within the context of added pressure to the transport network.

“Interestingly, the electricity sector is performing relatively well there’s reduced emissions from the sector largely because of the role of renewables. The transport sector on the other hand has seen a growth in emissions. For local councils that’s important as large fleet owners both in terms of light vehicles and heavy vehicles like refuse vehicles,” Peter says.

He adds that electric vehicles presents an opportunity for emissions reduction in future as price parity occurs over time with potential to transition to autonomous vehicles and hybrids in the present.

Peter says Infrastructure Australia’s process follows three phases.

The first, he says, is to make sure the audit serves its role that it creates a discussion.

“It’s not a document that we want to sit on shelves it’s a document that we want the sector to engage with and use our submissions process to provide us with feedback,” he says.

“Secondly we’ll be working over the next year or more in developing the plan which will include package of reform that we hope are adopted by government and we’ll continue to engage with industry and government as we develop that document.”

He says the third process is to ensure the Infrastructure Priority List can be updated so people can respond to the challenges and opportunities identified in the audit through submissions to the list.

Peter says investment interventions on the Infrastructure Priority List are needed to ensure domestic supply chains are adequate and it can respond to respond of the imperative of government to reduce waste moving offshore.

He adds that going forward there will need to be more commercial thinking around deriving value from waste, including through new products and waste-to-energy.

“What we need to ensure and what is Infrastructure Australia’s role is that significant investment is well targeted and effective and that is the role of our Infrastructure Priority List,” Peter says.

“We also think there’s an opportunity for greater reflection on lessons learnt through post-completion reviews after projects are reviewed to understand if they’ve fulfilled their ambitions that was set out in their planning, whether or not they’re effective and if there’s lessons that can be taken away and applied elsewhere.”

Submissions to the Infrastructure Australia audit will be open to 31 October, for more information click here.

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Veolia sets WtE benchmark

Veolia Australia and New Zealand is drawing on local and international experts in the lead up to its 25-year operations and maintenance contract on Australia’s first thermal waste-to-energy facility. 

Waste-to-energy (WtE) in Australia has historically been slow to progress, but Veolia recently set a new precedent for the sector.

Earlier this year, construction began on Australia’s first thermal WtE facility. Based in Kwinana, WA, the site will be operated and maintained (O&M) by Veolia Australia and New Zealand post-construction for 25 years.

Leveraging its experience in operating more than 65 WtE plants across the globe, Veolia stands ready to spearhead efficient, effective and economically viable renewable energy solutions.

Avertas Energy was named the supplier and will process 400,000 tonnes of waste, equivalent to a quarter of Perth’s post-recycling residuals. In addition, Avertas Energy will generate and export 36 megawatts of green electricity to the local grid per year, enough to power more than 50,000 households.

As the preferred supplier of baseload renewable energy, Avertas Energy will also support the green energy needs of the Western Australia Local Government Association (WALGA) and its members.

Macquarie Capital and the Dutch Infrastructure Fund (DIF) are co-developing the Kwinana plant, now known as Avertas Energy. Infrastructure company Acciona was appointed to design and construct the facility.

Veolia’s global experience will see it leverage the expertise of international engineers, project and site managers.

Veolia’s Toby Terlet in front of a 25 megawatt generator at its WtE plant in Birmingham, UK.

As the company operates 10 facilities in the UK, these sites served as the perfect methodology to replicate to local conditions.

One of Veolia’s oldest WtE facilities is its Birmingham plant in the UK and it was there that Veolia’s Project Director for Kwinana, Toby Terlet, gained significant experience.

Drawing on previous experience in Australia with Veolia, Toby moved to the UK in 2014.

Toby tells Waste Management Review that around five years ago, thermal treatment was still being discussed in Australia as an emerging technology.

“At the time, I didn’t know much about converting municipal waste into electricity, although I did have some experience with manufacturing waste-derived fuels for cement kilns and clinical incineration,” Toby explains.

Toby saw the UK experience as an eye-opener, with Britain up to 25 years ahead of Australia in WtE.

After Veolia won the O&M contract on the Kwinana project, Toby returned to Australia to a project director role based in the site’s heartland in Perth.

In the lead up to 2021 and over the life of the contract, Veolia’s network of on-call local and international expertise will help anticipate and prevent issues ahead of time.

Toby says that having a general understanding of how WtE facilities operate and the effort needed to maintain a facility will help achieve more than 90 per cent availability.

“The technology works well. However, it’s just as important to have skilled and experienced operations and maintenance teams to run the facilities,” Toby says.

“Education about the treatment of waste can always be improved.  Birmingham is a positive example of how recycling, reuse and WtE can coexist. We need to better educate people on where WtE fits and how it provides an alternative to landfill.”

While WtE will continue to be a better option to utilise stored energy than landfilling, Toby says this needs to be complemented with a strong education program.

“I believe the process will slowly shift towards waste being converted to electricity through WtE rather than sitting in a landfill for the next 100 years,” Toby says.

“Segregating waste at the front end will always be the best option, complemented with the most economically viable technology to pull out things which may have been missed. This is the ongoing challenge for Australia.”

His passion for WtE as a viable solution within a waste hierarchy inspires him to break the stigma surrounding it.

“One of the biggest misconceptions around WtE is that it will burn anything. This is what I thought prior to leaving Australia. It didn’t take long to understand that waste is a fuel and needs to be blended to provide the right consistency based on the calorific value (CV).”

Toby says that obtaining the optimum CV will also be an ongoing challenge to work through. Wastes such as MRF residue have a high CV and this can create spikes in the heat transfer lowering throughput, so it’s about finding the right balance.

To make the project economically viable and provide financial close, supply agreements will start at the minimum amount of waste needed.

“The majority of volumes are contracted for a long period of time and some projects opt for smaller agreements to cover any shortage. I think based on a large number of states currently having issues with a reliable source of electricity, green energy production will be high on the agenda.”

While it’s still early days for the project’s construction and planning, piling recently finished with the civil works with concreting now well under way.

Looking to the future, Toby says stakeholders will identify all design improvements throughout the next 12 months to ensure the Kwinana project is the most efficient not only in Australia, but around the globe when handed over in late 2021.

“I’ll be proud to recruit the best O&M team for the project who will have the utmost dedication to safety and a passion to make a difference and spread the positive energy needed to make more of these facilities possible,” Toby says.

“This is just the start of Veolia’s determination to drive the circular economy approach and resource the world by identifying and developing complementary projects to better utilise resources which are currently going to landfill.”

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