Future forecasting: Veolia

Future forecasting: Veolia

With hazardous waste volumes increasing each year, Veolia Australia and New Zealand is drawing on its sector expertise to accelerate technical treatment. 

In 2017-18, Australia produced 7.5 million tonnes of hazardous waste, representing 11 per cent of total waste generated. This is a 34 per cent increase on 2014-15 figures, according to Blue Environment’s 2019 Hazardous Waste report.

“Hazardous wastes trended strongly upwards in the eight years to 2017-18, increasing at a compound annual growth rate of approximately nine per cent per year since 2013-14,” the report reads.

The upward trend comes in spite of downturns in heavy manufacturing, suggesting new hazardous waste streams are emerging alongside new industries.

As such, one could surmise that in 10 years, the makeup of Australia’s hazardous waste sector will look markedly different than it does today.

Future thinking and investment in technology and infrastructure is therefore critical to the safe and sustainable management of hazardous waste, according to Anthony Roderick, Veolia COO – Industrials and Energy.

“It’s not about what the market looks like today, but rather analysing trends to anticipate what it will look like in five to 10 years,” he says.

“Take ports for example. Australia manufactures very little now, and our ports are already filled with vessels containing bulk chemicals, hazardous materials, quarantine and contaminated bilge waste, and that’s only going to increase in the next decade.”

Roderick adds that as populations grow, it is paramount for service providers such as Veolia to consider how they can effectively divert hazardous waste volumes out of communities for reuse in new markets and processes.   

“There’s very little landfill space remaining in most metro catchment areas, and one questions why hazardous materials and residues are going to landfill at all. If we don’t manage the situation correctly now, it will create a multitude of problems in the future,” Roderick says.

“We need to build infrastructure, develop better education programs for industry and communities, and must keep dialogue open with the marketplace.”

To proactively match future markets, Roderick says Veolia is investing in two key areas: capacity and capability.

“By investing in new and innovative technologies, and leveraging our global experience, Veolia is setting up to meet the needs of the future,” he says.

“In turn, we are increasing safety, improving environmental outcomes and developing more efficient treatment processes.”

Veolia is investing in waste and resource recovery infrastructure across all materials, streams and regions.

Roderick highlights upgrades to the company’s Brooklyn Industrial Services Hub as illustrative of this commitment.

Veolia’s Melbourne Brooklyn Industrial Services Hub has been operating since 1997 and is licensed by the Victorian EPA to receive hazardous waste in all forms including packaged waste and bulk sludges, liquids and soils.

The facility utilises two treatment stages, with the first, conventional treatment, employing processing technologies such as chemical stabilisation of contaminated solids, physico-chemical treatment of sludges and resource recovery including decanting, crushing and recycling.

The second advanced treatment stage involves thermal desorption, which utilises heat to increase the volatility of contaminants so they can be separated from waste materials such as sludge or filter cake.

Contaminants are then recovered, and where possible, beneficial reuse outlets are found.

Produced outputs include liquid hydrocarbons for reuse, further treatment or disposal, water for reuse within the Veolia plant and inert material for reuse, further treatment or disposal.

Roderick explains that the primary objective of this technology is to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and deliver better environmental outcomes.

“Veolia’s Thermal Desorption Plant removes concentrations of toxins in hazardous waste, reducing health and environmental impacts” he says.

While the treatment plant successfully receives and processes roughly 50,000 tonnes of hazardous waste each year, Veolia has its eyes on expansion.

“We’re currently in the process of redesigning, installing and commissioning new reactor tanks, filtration processes, fuel control systems, conveyors and pipe work,” Roderick says.

“The upgrades were conceptualised around three key areas: increasing safe-to-work operations, developing more efficient treatment processes and further reducing the volume of waste sent to landfill in Victoria.”

A key focus of the upgrade project is better treatment outcomes and improved remediation of client waste streams including ports, road, rail and air infrastructure sites.

“In Victoria alone, the Big Build pipeline is rapidly accelerating. It’s very important that we understand the challenges associated with remediation at these sites, particularly around challenging waste streams such as PFAS,” Roderick says.

Veolia offers diverse solutions for remediation of PFAS contamination based on scientific data and the results of trials and testing.

To complement fixed treatment, its fleet of mobile treatment assets can be deployed to site for in-situ treatment.

Treatment can also be configured based on the concentration of PFAS, the presence of other contaminants and organics in the source-water and the treated-water specification.

Once the Brooklyn hub upgrades are complete, Roderick says Veolia’s capacity to remediate PFAS contamination will increase significantly.

He adds that as the market is constantly changing, clients and the community are looking for improved efficiency and sustainable innovation.

“It’s important to reframe the conversation and not look at just waste, rather resources that hold commodity value in their own right,” Roderick says.

“Building a more sustainable society is about understanding market trends, aligning with those needs and exceeding market demand.”

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