Energising the circular economy transition: Solo Resource Recovery

Energising the circular economy transition: Solo Resource Recovery

A collaborative partnership between Solo Resource Recovery and Recovered Energy Australia is set to accelerate waste diversion across Metropolitan Melbourne. 

In February last year, the Victorian Government released its highly anticipated circular economy policy Recycling Victoria – the largest package of recycling reforms in the state’s history.

With over $300 million in investment, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the policy would “give new life to old rubbish” and drive positive environmental outcomes for the state.

The 10-year policy and action plan outlines a series of sweeping reforms, including almost doubling the landfill levy and the introduction of a state-wide four bin kerbside system.

The policy also highlights the state government’s intentions to encourage appropriate waste-to-energy (WtE) investment through its industry and infrastructure development package.

According to Greg Buckler, Solo Resource Recovery (SOLO) Contracts Manager, the converging effects of kerbside reform, rising levies and waste infrastructure investment will have a significant impact on local governments in coming years.

To help its council and commercial customers manage those impacts and drive positive environmental change, SOLO has partnered with Recovered Energy Australia (REA) to facilitate delivery of their residual waste gasification to energy plant in Melbourne, which is expected to be operational in 2023.

“We recognised that in Metropolitan Melbourne there needs to be a range of investment in new and innovative waste and recovery infrastructure to improve the resilience of the sector,” Buckler says.

“We see this partnership as an opportunity to work with municipal and commercial customers that want to demonstrate leadership and tangible progress towards Victoria’s circular economy transition.”

The REA facility will recover energy and divert 200,000 tonnes per annum of residual household and commercial waste from landfill.

Once fully operational, it will generate enough energy to power over 30,000 homes and will remove over 220,000 tonnes of CO2 from the environment each year.

Buckler explains that for SOLO’s council customers, landfill disposal has historically been the only option for residual waste, but with new innovative solutions like this now evolving, the time is right for change.

“The main feedback we get from councils is that everyone is looking to transition to a circular economy,” he says.

“There are a lot of diversion targets in our sector. This collaboration with REA represents a tangible and timely avenue to achieve our client’s targets and to progress those specified in the new Recycling Victoria policy.”

SOLO is a 100 per cent Australian owned and operated family company, established in its own right in 1990.

SOLO’s founding father commenced waste operations in 1932 in Murwillumbah – now part of the Tweed Shire – Northern New South Wales, where SOLO’s Head Office is located.

SOLO and its predecessors have held the now Tweed Shire waste collection contract continuously for 88 years since 1932.

SOLO provides over 1.1 million domestic collections each week and services over 10,000 commercial customers nationally.

In Melbourne, the company provides services to almost one third of the city’s Metropolitan councils.

Victoria currently disposes over four million tonnes of waste to landfill every year.

Sustainability Victoria forecast this to increase to over five million tonnes by 2030.

Therefore, meeting Recycling Victoria’s ambitious targets requires timely commitment to new and innovative alternatives that will reduce the city’s reliance on landfill and optimise value from waste.

“Landfill is not a viable long-term solution for MSW and commercial waste. Rising levies, environmental impacts and capacity constraints are necessitating new investment in a range of alternative waste recycling and recovery infrastructure,” Buckler says.

“By partnering with REA, we’re able to offer councils the opportunity to expedite their waste and resource recovery strategies, maximise their landfill diversion and support the circular economy at a cost that is competitive with landfill.

“This in turn will provide our council customers with more sustainable solutions for their residual waste in the long-term.”

SCALABLE SOLUTIONS 

In a 2017 Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning WtE Case Study for Melbourne’s West, the department noted that the region’s residents have made it clear that the burden and impacts of waste management should be shared across the community.

As such, the case study argues that ‘mega’ waste sites, landfill or otherwise, are not appropriate, and the concepts of environmental justice and shared responsibility should be embraced.

Buckler feels similarly, noting that while mega sites in Europe and Singapore are touted as WtE success stories, Australia’s population density and available feedstock call for unique, smaller scale solutions.

“Smaller scale WtE facilities such as REA’s are ideally suited to the relatively low density and distributed populations that characterise Melbourne and more generally, Australia,” he says.

“This relationship with REA also allows us to offer a solution for residual waste that will insulate our Melbourne customers from further price shocks due to rising landfill costs and capacity constraints.

“The Laverton North facility offers Melbourne’s Metropolitan communities a local solution to a local problem.”

Once operational, the facility will employ gasification technology, which unlike traditional WtE approaches, does not burn waste.

Rather, the facility will operate at extremely high temperatures in a low air environment that will convert waste into a gas that is used to produce high pressure steam and electricity.

The Victorian EPA has assessed the technology and found that the REA gasification process is well proven and reliably demonstrates compliance with the most stringent environmental guidelines.

They have now provided approval for its installation.

“SOLO recognises that waste services are changing dynamically with new directions in government legislation, community demand and council objectives,” Buckler says.

“SOLO’s partnership with REA will enable our valued customers to transition to a circular economy where the environment, consumers and industry all benefit.”

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