Waste Management In Action

Collaboration at the weighbridge: Mandalay Technologies

Through the installation of Mandalay Technologies’ weighbridge system, WMRC is better positioned to deliver on its commitment to efficiently manage waste for Perth’s central western communities.

In the Western Australian Government’s Waste Strategy 2030, Environment Minister Stephen Dawson notes that the state has one of the highest rates of waste generation per capita in the nation, and the equal to second lowest rate of resource recovery.

“We have an obligation to our current community and generations to come to generate less waste, extract more from our valuable resources and to better manage the disposal of our waste,” he said.

Dawson added that with an increasing population and the state’s current waste management performance, maintaining the status quo was not an option.

Since the waste strategy was released in early 2019, the Western Australian Government has made significant strides.

In October this year, the state’s container deposit scheme was launched, seeing 10 million returns in less than two weeks.

Additionally, the state’s 2020-21 budget, released October 8, allocated $35 million to support the implementation of COAG’s forthcoming waste export ban, via infrastructure grants funding and industrial land.

While state government support is critical, achieving Western Australia’s objective to recover more value from waste requires equally committed local governments.

As such, the Western Metropolitan Regional Council (WMRC) functions via a multifaceted, multi-stakeholder approach, whereby member councils collaborate to capitalise on economies of scale.

In the past financial year, WMRC doubled its recycling rate from 23 to 46 per cent of all materials received.

ECONOMIES OF SCALE

WMRC was established 30 years ago by agreement amongst its five inner suburban member councils – the Towns of Claremont, Cottesloe and Mosman Park, the Shire of Peppermint Grove and the City of Subiaco.

At the time, Claremont’s regional landfill was not far off closure, meaning Perth’s western suburbs would have to rely on remote disposal sites.

Stefan Frodsham, WMRC Chief Executive Officer, explains that transport efficiency was therefore an essential element for municipal waste management services.

Consequently, the initial objective for WMRC was to construct and operate a waste transfer station.

“Increasingly over the past 30 years, waste minimisation, reuse and recycling have been seen as vital to environmentally responsible waste management in the region, so the WMRC soon established community recycling services at the new waste transfer station,” Frodsham says.

The WMRC’s member councils in Perth’s central western suburbs are relatively small, providing services to council areas ranging from just 600 households in the Shire of Peppermint Grove, to 7200 in the City of Subiaco.

“As such, it would be costly and inefficient for them each to have specialist in-house waste management expertise and services, so the shared services model which the WMRC embodies to this day made perfect sense,” Frodsham says.

According to Frodsham, the joint model allows member councils to benefit from WMRC’s economies of scale in waste management services.

These benefits extend to efficient waste transfer, procurement of haulage, treatment and disposal services, community recycling drop-off points and advocacy in representing the interests of member councils to State and Federal Governments.

Frodsham adds that WMRC is governed by five councillors, each appointed by their respective member council.

“This ensures the perspective of each of the WMRC’s member councils is represented in strategy, policy and major operational decisions,” he says.

While unusual for a regional council, WMRC services many residents from adjoining councils, with its West Metro Recycling Centre located within the boundaries of the City of Nedlands and the Town of Cambridge.

As a result, WMRC has had to scale its waste management services to meet the demands of a population of close to 100,000 – more than double that of its member councils’ 47,000 people.

WMRC also caters for commercial customers drawn from across its central west metropolitan catchment area.

“Modern waste management is a complex business,” Frodsham says.

“Long gone are the days when WMRC’s business mostly involving receiving municipal solid waste and hauling it for landfill disposal.

“Nowadays, we receive multiple waste streams from a wide cross section of customers.”

A DATA CENTRIC SYSTEM

To manage growth at the West Metro Recycling Centre and deliver on its commitment to minimise and efficiently manage waste for Perth’s central western communities and organisations, WMRC recently sought to upgrade its weighbridge system.

“We want to consign as much waste as possible for recycling and treatment instead of disposal,” Keith Swift, WMRC Operations Manager says.

“It’s essential to our business that we can accurately track, record, report, receipt and despatch of waste.

“And the key to this is a modern, flexible weighbridge operating system.”

From there, the organisation developed a collaborative working relationship with Mandalay Technologies.

The request, broadly, was for a weighbridge system that would integrate seamlessly with WMRC’s accounting system, ending the costly and time-consuming hand recording and subsequent re-entry of data for invoicing that its legacy system required.

Swift explains that the organisation also wanted the flexibility of custom reports and the ability to quickly provide detailed reports to WMRC’s principal customers and member councils.

Prior to engaging Mandalay, Swift says WMRC had a good idea of the capability of modern weighbridge operating systems and the great improvements they offer to efficiency, especially in relation to synchronising accounts.

“We are also in a business where access to fast, accurate and reliable data is king, including the ability to read live information across the weighbridge remotely,” he says.

“Lastly, we expected a lot for our money as we are in a highly competitive business. Mandalay ticked all the boxes for us.”

According to Swift, the objectives of WMRC’s request for quotation from potential weighbridge software suppliers was clear: replacement of our long-used system to one more suitable for a modern-day waste transfer station serving a diverse set of customers.

“The new software had to be user friendly, and capable of directly interfacing with the WMRC’s cloud-based Xero accounting software,” Swift says.

“It also needed to be capable of producing timely and accurate management reports by customer and category of waste.”

Furthermore, WMRC needed the new software to be capable of being installed and commissioned with minimum disruption to daily weighbridge operations.

“Mandalay achieved all of these objectives,” Swift says.

Mandalay’s weighbridge software has been developed over 20 years with the collective intelligence of over 400 waste processing and quarry facilities.

And in July, it went live, representing the first major upgrade to WMRC’s weighbridge software in almost 28 years of operation.

As highlighted in the organisation’s August 2020 Ordinary Council Meeting Minutes, the investment significantly reduces the organisation’s exposure to risk, as the original software system relied on backup services delivered by the product developer.

“The key benefits that we are seeing now is ease of use at the weighbridge for our operators, which in turn facilitates a faster experience for our customers,” the minutes read.

“Going forward, we will benefit from improved analytics which can be distributed to our member councils, and there are also a number of options that can be added to the current system that could further enhance the service to our local councils, residents and commercial customers.”

Swift explains that close consultation with Mandalay technicians allowed WMRC to create a tailor-made program.

“Minimum inputs at the ticketing stage allow for fast processing of customers,” he says.

“We also achieved two clear goals with the introduction of the new system: a vast array of up-to-date reporting available to multiple stakeholders, and most importantly, a vastly improved invoicing process.

“I look forward to seeing Mandalay’s further innovations.”

In addition to the product itself, Swift notes that the service from Mandalay “was second to none.”

“From our first contact with the Mandalay team it was clear that they were a forward-thinking company who had a genuine interest in the WMRC not only becoming a customer, but also in wanting to add tangible value to the business,” he says.

Swift adds that the WMRC team spoke with Mandalay CEO Simon Kalinowski on more than one occasion, with him succinctly setting out what the Mandalay product could offer WMRC today and into the future.

“Mandalay have a broad spectrum of experience in the waste industry and are not afraid to share those learnings with their customers,” he says.

“We set the team at Mandalay an almost impossible task, with procurement of the product only finalising five weeks before the end of the financial year.

“Obviously, we were very keen to have the new system live by July 1st and Mandalay made that happen.”

With Mandalay’s weighbridge system now live, Swift says WMRC are steadily increasing the range and reach of its services.

Recent examples include WMRC’s new construction and demolition waste recycling service, and its pre-booked bulk waste verge collection service known as Verge Valet.

“We are constantly looking to improve the standards of our customer service, lift our recycling rates and provide better value for money for our member councils and other customers,” Swift says.

He adds that WMRC is busily preparing for the availability of waste-to-energy services as an option for residual residential waste disposal.

Two major waste-to-energy plants are currently under construction in Perth, with the first due for completion in 12 months.

“We’re currently evaluating tenders for the receipt of our residual waste for energy recovery purposes from 1 July 2022,” Swift says.

“We expect to be well positioned to take advantage of this exciting new technology, and to be able to offer a waste-to-energy transfer service to both existing and future customers,” Swift says.

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