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GHD navigates an organics overhaul

GHD organics

As landfill becomes an option of last resort for Australia’s organics, GHD is helping its clients navigate new policies, engineering controls and monitoring requirements.

Modern organic waste management is changing. 

Resource conservation and energy recovery are gaining importance as Australia transitions to a more circular economy, says Martin Gravett, Resource Recovery and Waste Management Technical Director with global professional services company GHD.

He says the renewed focus on organics diversion from landfill and emissions reduction is being driven by policy change, including the National Waste Policy, and state waste strategies.

Australia is aiming to halve its food waste by 2030, with most major councils progressively rolling out kerbside collection of household food organics and garden organics (FOGO) over the next few years.

Landfill costs are also rising as new sites become more challenging to establish and levies increase.

While a move toward more sustainable, responsible and circular waste management practices is welcome, it brings a new set of challenges, says Martin.

“Technical know-how and experience count in organics management and inform the selection of the right approach for a given situation,” he says. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution for organic waste management and practical, data-driven insights are crucial if we are to create adaptive and resilient communities.

“Australian organics recycling has historically not required a lot of multi-disciplinary technical support but the landscape is becoming more complex in terms of regulation setting and environmental performance expectations.

“In the past, mostly garden organics processed from municipal sources and other streams were quite manageable but adding food organics into the mix with municipal kerbside collection does add new challenges.”

Martin says GHD has diverse global experience in the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and redevelopment of organics management facilities, including composting, anaerobic digestion, and biofuels plants. 

The GHD team works on every aspect of organics facilities, including initial planning activities to establish organics collection programs, feasibility assessments to provide an appraisal of value-added products and local markets, obtaining approvals, business cases, procurement, commissioning and operational support, as well as process optimisation. 

GHD organics“GHD’s role depends on when we’re brought into the process but we always take a partnership approach with our clients to discover and implement circular solutions for maximum community benefits,” Martin says. “Some local governments have historically processed their organics and are familiar with the technical and commercial aspects. As landfill becomes more expensive and there is a push to divert materials from landfill, particularly organics, there’s also a more compelling commercial imperative.

“The challenge of dealing with organics at an economically viable scale can require more investment and more specialised knowledge than councils may have in-house. Engaging the support of an experienced advisor can bridge those knowledge gaps and de-risk implementation of the new service.”

He says GHD integrates technical and advisory services for water, waste, sustainability, energy and infrastructure. Enhanced organics management is inherently embedded within the company’s commitment to solving the world’s biggest challenges in the areas of water, energy and urbanisation.

Demand for organics facilities is growing as councils roll out FOGO collection, along with the impetus to ensure there is a market for compost and other recycled organic products, including digestate from anaerobic digestion (AD), Martin says.

While more tunnel composting facilities are being built, there is a renewed interest in anaerobic digestion. GHD is partnering with clients on several proposals for AD projects that intersect with the company’s expertise in water and renewable energy services.

“There are still some challenges to overcome in that space, notably around policy and regulation, but there is a renewed focus on the potential for anaerobic digestion to make more commercial sense in Australia than it has before,” says Martin.

“We’re also currently providing procurement support and technical advisory services for in-vessel composting infrastructure projects that include a range of associated services such as FOGO collection planning and implementation.”

Local, state and federal governments, and the private sector, call on GHD’s pool of specialists from around Australia and globally.

GHD’s people are implementing ‘second generation’ organics solutions. Development focuses on what is best for the client and the project, and GHD’s global footprint means input is not geographically constrained.

Recent projects include feedstock characterisation, market assessments, feedstock sourcing studies and processing options assessments, as well as handling, storage, processing and transport requirements for all types of organic materials from municipal collections and commercial food and other organic wastes.

GHD also conducts organic waste to energy assessments, including technical, commercial and regulatory considerations.

“Every geographical situation is different, from transport logistics to market considerations and end products,” Martin says.

“We offer specialised knowledge built on lived experience. There are learnings around what works well and what can be improved if certain things are approached differently.

“Importantly, Australia has the potential to be less reliant on imported synthetic and non-renewable mineral fertilisers – and it’s an opportunity that we must take hold of today. Closing the loop on our organics is a very significant step towards more sustainable management of our wastes generally and restoring our soils for the benefit of people and planet.” 

For more information, visit: www.ghd.com

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