Lismore City Council’s commercial waste sorting facility: Wastech Engineering

Lismore City Council’s commercial waste sorting facility: Wastech Engineering

Lismore City Council is reducing waste to landfill through a new commercial waste sorting facility with increased recycling capabilities.

Located in the Northern Rivers region of NSW is the Lismore Recycling Recovery Centre, the heart and hub of local waste management services.

The site handles over 100,000 tonnes of waste per year from Lismore City Council and surrounding councils, redirecting as much as possible from landfill. However, around 20,000 tonnes of commercial and industrial (C&I) and construction and demolition (C&D) waste were still being sent to landfill.

Each tonne sent to landfill was costing the council around $81.30 through the state’s waste levy, money that the council would have preferred to use on improving the local community and providing economic opportunities for residents. The materials recovery facility (MRF) at the site sorted through recyclables. However, it required additional infrastructure to handle an increased amount of C&D and C&I waste that was being collected.

A large transfer station shed had been used to sort the C&D and C&I waste by hand and with a bobcat – a process that didn’t allow the council to redirect enough recyclable waste from landfill. Waste from three different streams was being collected at the site, but the council lacked the necessary sorting machinery to process it efficiently.

Kevin Trustum, Lismore City Council’s Commercial Services Business Manager, says the council performed research and audits to find the best way to go about improving the site’s sorting output.

“We went out to tender with a specific location on the site in mind, a large shed that would house a processing plant next to the transfer station,” he explains.

“Four tenders were submitted with a variety of different options and technology. 

“We selected Wastech Engineering to build the sorting facility as it provided the council with the optimal combination of technology.”

To assist in its construction, the council received more than $1 million in funding from the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, funded by the NSW waste levy.

Wastech’s system uses a combination of mechanical screening to filter the waste via a two-stage trommel that removes any fines, often made up of dirt and fine construction waste, from the inbound material. Removing the fines makes sorting the material easier and cleaner, and reduces contamination in the products sorted.

The incoming material is then further manually sorted by 10 to 12 staff members, who are able to extract significant amounts of paper, cardboard, plastics, aluminium and clean timber for recycling.

An overband magnet and air knife is located at the end of the system that removes any ferrous metals and light fraction from the residual waste stream.

With the creation of additional jobs, Lismore City Council has been able to provide additional employment for community members living with a disability through its partnership with not-for-profit disability service provider House With No Steps.

The service has helped people living with a disability find employment at the Lismore site since 2014, providing them with valuable skills and experiences in the workplace.

“We took their needs into account and made sure the sorting facility was user friendly. Thick rubber mats and air conditioning have been installed to keep workers on their feet comfortable,” he adds.

The plant is connected to the site’s solar system which provides renewable energy to the MRF. The council aims to set up an 80-kilowatt system for the sorting facility on the roof of the shed to help run the plant during the day, with an estimated energy saving of 50 to 60 per cent.

Kevin says construction of the sorting facility was reasonably fast, taking only a few weeks to set it up in the designated area on site.

“Wastech Engineering’s construction was efficient, and they had a great relationship with council at all levels from their sales to their maintenance department.

 “If ever there was an issue, all we needed to do was get on the phone and they offered exceptional levels of repair and advice,” he says.

The sorting facility is now up and running after being completed in early October. Lismore City Council has performed trials with different waste streams to gather data and confirm how the sorting facility will work. An estimated 10,000 additional tonnes of waste are expected to be redirected from landfill as a result of the facility. 

Kevin says the support from the NSW Government and EPA was vital to the council, as it otherwise would not have been able to fully support the improved infrastructure.

“It’s important for regional centres to ensure we can continue supporting the community and creating jobs,” he says.

“We’re always looking at ways to reduce the amount of waste that needs to be sent to landfill, which this sorting facility helps us achieve. 

“In future, we could look at possibilities to tackle household waste or the use of waste to energy to reduce mains power usage.”