Hi-Quality Group shares how rapid change within the waste industry has influenced its operations, and the future of waste within Australia.
From its beginning in 1964 as a quarry business and transport contractor, the Australian-owned Hi-Quality Group is now a national waste treatment organisation with sites across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and the ACT.
Hi-Quality has tailored its services to adapt to the ever-evolving industry, providing waste treatment solutions for construction and demolition, contaminated soil, industrial waste and landfill.
Cory Menant, Business Development Manager, Waste Treatment Services says the company aims to stay at the forefront of changes within Australia’s waste landscape.
“Our industry and the environment sector are always changing. We need to have that flexibility and agility to adapt to all of these changes as they come,” he says.
ADAPTING TO CHANGE
Processing and recycling of waste products is a key focus within Australia and is likely to continue to bring changes to regulations for the treatment and management of waste, Cory says.
He adds that such changes offer Hi-Quality Group a unique opportunity to be innovative.
“Changes such as the plastics export ban can obviously be opportunities for us and for the whole market. A lot of work must be done on plastic recycling in Australia. It’s essential to create demand for the end product,” he says.
New Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) regulations, such as the increased powers for health and environment protections, have required adaption from Hi-Quality’s Victorian operation.
However, Lance Ingrams, Regional Manager Victoria says challenges also provide growth opportunities for both employees and industry.
“Change has certainly been happening in the past five to eight years,” Lance says. “Definitely in Australia we are constantly adapting to the situation of resource recovery.
“One of the first impacts of new Victorian EPA regulations [introduced on July 1] was that levies increased substantially.”
Lance says there was an almost “overnight increase” in demand for companies with a proven process to fulfil environmental and safety standards when the EPA increased its powers to prevent health and environmental harm protection.
Hi-Quality Group, with an established waste treatment substructure in Victoria, has supported the collection, management and disposal of materials returning from major infrastructure projects including the Metro Tunnel and parts of the West Gate Tunnel.
A key focus of Hi-Quality is to divert as much material from landfill as possible. Lance says having the ability to treat multiple waste materials is a fundamental first step towards achieving this diversion.
“We try to provide as many options as possible toward whatever waste stream we are dealing with,” he says. “Most of our clients have more than one waste stream type and it can be such a wide range.
“We are trying to provide as many solutions as possible to supply to the market. We are always thinking, ‘can we remediate?’ ‘Can we rehabilitate the soil?’ We have got those options on site.”
Materials brought into a Hi-Quality facility such as its Sunbury Eco-Hub are treated and identified to maximise their re-usability.
In operation since 2003, Hi-Quality’s Sunbury facility is recognised as a Hub of State Significance, the 12th of 22 key sites managing Victoria’s waste.
Receiving waste streams from the entire metropolitan Melbourne region, the site is used for landfilling, processing both contaminated and non-contaminated materials to be processed for re-use.
Lance says being able to re-use materials back in major projects is an important contribution to the state’s circular economy.
“In the past few years, we have been within the vicinity of handling around 1.5 million tonnes per annum into our site. Through our active quarry, we produce around half a million tonnes out,” he says.
He highlights the Metro Tunnel project as an example of the treatment processes the Sunbury Eco-Hub offers.
“For the Metro Tunnel project there was certainly a range of products. Construction of the station boxes included digging down from the surface,” Lance says. “This contamination included acid-sulphate formation, which we can treat with lime stabilisation within our allocated area on-site” he says.
While he estimates 80 to 85 per cent of the material the Sunbury Eco-Hub processes is from metropolitan areas, some clients bring un-treated material from across Victoria, such as Gippsland and Swan Hill.
Hi-Quality’s specialised Queensland facility treats hazardous material to nullify its effects on both human health and the environment.
Business Development Manager Cory says the facility’s processing of plastic pallets, packaged plastic and other materials requires a slightly different process.
“In Yatala we have the capability to apply different technologies to treat contaminated materials,” Cory says. “For example, we can take a material which is hydrocarbon contaminated, we bring it to our site, bio-remediate it and send it back into the market as a recycled product. This waste, in the past, would have likely been sent to landfill.
“That is where the diversion for us plays a big part, once we retrieve the waste, we will try to find a solution to avoid sending it to landfill. Treatment plays a critical part in Hi-Quality Group. The thinking process is focused on providing a better environmental and sustainable outcome,” Cory says.
Hi-Quality has an established long-term goal for each of its facilities.
“We own these sites. So, we are obligated for the long term to protect the environment and sustain our land going forward,” Lance says. “The whole group is involved in that aspect.
“We are not just here to get a ‘quick buck’ and head out, we have long-term master plans in place.”
A STEADY RELIANCE ON THE CONVENTIONAL
While its key focus is diverting materials from landfill, Hi-Quality understands that treating waste for re-use is not always possible.
For materials such as asbestos, Hi-Quality relies on its landfills in Victoria and New South Wales.
Cory says the protection of landfills will be important for the future storage of un-treatable waste.
“The industry is definitely trending towards increased landfill diversion,” he says.
“In saying that, the amount of waste which is generated is increasing every year, so landfill still needs to be an option.
“The waste levy is designed to encourage more recycling… But landfill will still play a key part in the waste management strategy.”
Lance agrees. He says his experience operating a facility in Victoria has shown that while diversion should be a target, landfill still has an important role to play in waste management.
“You are still going to need landfills to accept certain waste streams, the process of treating certain metals for example is too slow,” he says.
“The equipment and technology to treat some materials is not always available, so there is only one solution. To get the material off site, protect the environment and place those materials into landfill.”
Hi-Quality’s engineered landfills consist of specially designed containment cells that provide a sustainable framework for waste storage.
Lance describes it as combining science with technology to provide a storage solution.
“Basically, it’s a containment barrier, featuring layers of compacted clay and other materials,” Lance says.
“There’s compactable clay, a geo-synthetic clay liner, which is a carpet like material with bentonite powder that is interlocked into fabric, which then basically goes across the clay. The moisture from the clay lubricates the bentonite powder which then creates a further clay liner for the cell construction. It really is amazing stuff.”
The containment cell consists of a ‘low point’ called a sump, where leachate is collected, pumped out of the cell and can be re-used in site operations or directed to dedicated facilities.
Hi-Quality has taken its containment cell design to new levels, creating one of Victoria’s first vertical-lined containment cell at its Sunbury Eco-Hub.
Lance says it’s technology and innovation such as this that helps reinforce Hi-Quality’s goals to provide key solutions to the market.
“It has helped to explore further technologies which are already out there,” Lance says. “We know overseas that recycling and resource recovery is a big-ticket item.”
For Cory, every decision about Hi-Quality comes back to one simple purpose.
“Things can change very quickly in our industry but in everything that we do, we think about our communities and the people we work for,” he says.
“That is what we are pushing for, to offer a better environment for future generations. That is what everyone wants for our communities and that is what can be encouraged with more participation in recycling nationally.”
For more information, visit: www.hiquality.com.au