New policy rules out incineration of waste

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government has ruled out any incineration of waste under a new ACT energy policy.

The territory government has released its ACT Waste-to-Energy Policy 2020-25, following ten weeks of community and industry engagement to develop the policy and move towards its 90 per cent resource recovery by 2025, as stated in the ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011-2025.

The Waste Feasibility Study, completed in May 2018, found that the ACT is unlikely to meet the 90 per cent target, or move beyond 80 per cent resource recovery, without some form of waste-to-energy.

“The policy establishes underlying principles and outcomes to guide the transition to a circular economy and provides clear direction about the types of activities that are permitted,” the ACT Waste-to-Energy Policy 2020-25 states.

Resource recovery rates in the ACT have plateaued at around 70 per cent for the last decade, which means that approximately 300,000 tonnes of waste are going to landfill each year.

Shane Rattenbur, ACT Greens Leader and Environment Spokesperson said the policy explicitly bans the “thermal treatment” of waste in the nation’s capital.

According to the policy, new facilities, proposing thermal treatment of waste, by means of incineration, gasification, pyrolysis or variations of these for energy recovery, chemical transformation, volume reduction or destruction will not be permitted in the ACT.

“When it comes to managing our waste, as the nation’s climate action capital, we can – and must – do better. We should be a waste management leader, ” Rattenbury said. 

“The new ACT Government policy starts to lay the foundations for this, by ruling out thermal treatment of waste, but still allowing cool technologies for organic waste treatment, such as anaerobic digestion.”

The policy’s key outcomes include anaerobic digestion of waste is permitted and encouraged, production of, but not burning of RDF is permitted, the waste hierarchy is respected and recycling is not undermined, improved resource recovery rates and existing waste-to-energy operations are not negatively impacted.

“These initiatives will continue the focus on improving avoiding, reusing and recycling waste in line with the waste hierarchy,” the policy states.

“Where waste-to-energy activities are permitted in the ACT, only residual waste will be eligible as a fuel.”

All waste-to-energy facilities will be required to have a licence under the WMRR Act, and any proposal that is not consistent with the policy will be refused a waste licence. 

“New facilities, proposing thermal treatment of waste, by means of incineration, gasification, pyrolysis or variations of these for energy recovery, chemical transformation, volume reduction or destruction will not be permitted in the ACT,” the policy states.

“Existing waste-to-energy activities will be encouraged to improve their environmental impact over time.”

“There are cleaner, greener and more efficient ways of managing our waste, than burning it. The last thing we need are the toxic emissions or greenhouse gases from burning waste in Canberra,” Rattenbury said. 

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ACT appoints new Sustainability and Environment Commissioner

UNSW Canberra climate scientist Sophie Lewis has been appointed as the ACT’s new Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment.

The Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment is responsible for preparing State of the Environment reports every four years, conducting investigations into environment-related matters and raising environmental awareness.

Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Shane Rattenbury said Dr Lewis would bring a strong climate change focus to the position given her research background.

“Dr Lewis has extensive experience in researching Australia’s changing climate extremes, including as a lead author with the International Climate Change Panel assessment reports that are used worldwide to develop policies around climate change,” he said.

“In 2019, Dr Lewis was the ACT Scientist of the Year in recognition of her research, particularly her research on climate extremes and their specific relevance to Canberra.”

Dr Lewis said she was looking forward to working with the community and the government to build on the territory’s success in addressing climate change and environmental protection.

“The ACT is already a world leader in addressing climate change in particular, but there is still a lot to be done to address the challenges and vulnerabilities around our environment and sustainability, and I’m keen to be involved through the Commissioner position,” she said.

“As we have seen with our recent extreme heat, drought and fires, climate change is a huge challenge now and for our future, as it will continue to impact on our environment at local, national and international levels.”

Dr Lewis said she is committed to using her role to promote the involvement of children in finding solutions to environmental challenges.

“There is also much we can do to help children understand climate change and to involve them in taking the essential action we need to achieve zero-net emissions, and have the best possible chance to preserve our environment and their future,” she said.

Mr Rattenbury thanked interim Commissioner Margaret Kitchin for her contributions, initiating and progressing important work over several months.

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ACT revokes all charity bin licences to combat illegal dumping

The ACT Government has immediately revoked the licences of all charity bins operating on public land throughout Canberra, in a bid to tackle a rise in illegal dumping.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said the decision was made with the support of charity bin operators.

“This decision has been made due to the growing challenges faced by charity operators in managing illegal dumping around the diminishing number of clothing bins around the city,” he said.

“Despite a range of measures to address the problem, including CCTV and improved compliance, some Canberrans are still continuing to dump goods next to bins, leaving our city untidy. It’s unfair for the charities to have to clean up these dump sites, so they have been withdrawing these services.”

According to Mr Steel, COVID-19 has also impacted the availability of charity workforces to manage the bins.

“I am urging all Canberrans to please stop taking items to charity bins from now. We have already started the process of removing the remaining ones from locations around Canberra, and will continue to do so in the coming days and weeks,” he said.

Mr Steel said the ACT Government remains committed to continued collaboration with the charity sector to ensure opportunities for the reuse and recycling of unwanted items.

“Following the public health emergency, we will seek to meet with the charity sector and other interested organisations to work on the future of textile recycling in the ACT,” he said.

“This will involve identifying alternative collection points in the future, as well as looking to improve textile recycling beyond what is already available in the ACT.”

High quality items including clothing, books and homewares will still be accepted by charities with shop fronts currently accepting goods.

“I would also ask Canberrans to be mindful of the current COVID-19 challenges and to consider storing their items at home temporarily during this time and to avoid unnecessary travel. Poor quality and broken goods should go in the rubbish bin,” Mr Steel said.

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Capital compost: ELB Equipment and Corkhill Bros

Phil Corkhill, of Corkhill Bros, explains the process and equipment requirements essential to managing Canberra’s green waste collection service.

When the Canberra Business Chamber sought to find the territory’s oldest surviving business in 2019, Corkhill Bros was among a handful of those recognised.

Operating in multiple capacities since 1954, Corkhill Bros has been running a public green organic drop-off facility in the nation’s capital for more than 35 years.

While the drop-off facility always received a steady flow of material, its intake jumped in April 2017. The surge in material followed the introduction of separate green organics kerbside collection in the ACT.

The ACT Government subsequently tasked Corkhill Bros with collection and processing via a government contract. As Canberra does not have individual councils, this means Corkhill Bros manage the entire territory.

By July 2019, all Canberra residents had access to separate organics collection after the service was rolled out progressively over three-years.

As a result, Phil Corkhill, of Corkhill Bros, says the family-run business now deals with an average of 350,000 tonnes of green waste each year.

“As a company, we’re committed to a circular economy waste management and resource recovery approach. This means it’s very important that we achieve high recovery rates and nutrient-rich feedstock,” he says.

According to Phil, all organic waste processed at the facility is reused for the benefit of the community, with the resulting material turned into high-quality landscaping supplies and compost.

“We grind our green organics daily, before allowing the product to sit for three months to achieve quality pasteurisation and composting,”
he says.

“This allows the particles to break down before additives are introduced and turned into the piles for mixing.”

To manage the process efficiently with minimal downtown, Corkhill Bros work closely with machinery supplier ELB Equipment.

“When dealing with that level of material, operators can’t afford equipment breakdowns or to work with suppliers that don’t remain significantly engaged in the business,” Phil says.

“We manage and process all of Canberra’s green waste, and as such, require efficiencies of scale. ELB can provide those efficiencies, which is why we continue to work with them.”

Phil says Corkhill Bros currently operates a Topturn X55 Compost Turner, Multistar L3 recycling screen and four Nemus 2700 screens all supplied by ELB at its Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre.

“ELB calls us at least once a month, not just to check in on existing equipment, but to enquire about future needs and maintenance requirements. They are always on the front foot,” he says.

“I consider them more of a partner than a supplier – they’re a very proactive company.”

Corkhill Bros uses the Multistar L3 and Nemus mobile machines for screening and mixing. Phil says both recycling screens facilitate consistent operations, particularly in contrast to drum screens or flatbeds.

“Drum and flatbed screens often suffer significant blockages, which in turn creates inefficiencies,” he says.

“The technical makeup of star screens circumnavigates that problem through curvature, to create a reliable piece of equipment capable of processing organics in all weather conditions.”

The core of the Multistar L3 screen consists of one or two screen decks, with the rotating shafts of the coarse screen deck moving the material horizontally. Phil says particle size can be controlled by varying the rotation of the star shafts.

“The particle size of the material can be changed within seconds using frequency converters on the operator console, within the range determined by the star geometry,” he says.

All functions are monitored by a central control unit, which reports on the current operational status to streamline site operations.

In regard to Corkhill Bros’ four Nemus screens, Phil says he uses the barrels for final screening and blending. “Nemus 2700s are very high production machines, with some great improvements on the previous mustang model,” he says.

With a large steep-walled hopper and high-performance discharge system, the Nemus 2700’s material flow enables 10 per cent more throughput than predecessors,
he adds.

“The clearance between the drum and sidewall also allows for a wide range of material inputs, with hole sizes up to 100 millimetres,” he says.

Fine particles are discharged by a cross belt and profiled discharge belt, with the Komtech design preventing material trickle at transfer points to facilitate high capacity.

Corkhill Bros’ Topturn X55 Compost Turner runs in a separate part of the Mugga Lane facility to facilitate open air windrowing,
Phil says.

As one of the most widely used compost turners in the world, the Topturn’s frame is designed for heavy-duty applications, namely varied and unpredictable municipal green waste.

Phil says the turner’s large hydraulically driven drum, with efficient conveyor and throwing blades, accelerates the turning and rotating process. This, he adds, means all material is mixed before passing through the drum. Since purchasing the machine in 2017, Phil says he has noticed a rise in material quality.

“I’ve been nothing but happy with ELB’s compost turner. It really helps us maintain workflow and product excellence,” he says.

While Corkhill Bros works with multiple manufacturers and suppliers, Phil says ELB’s commitment to service, including spare parts and process maintenance, is a standout in the industry.

“I’m always impressed with their methodology and business model, as it’s very customer focused. We deal with multiple manufacturers and suppliers, and I’d like to think some of them could aspire to the ELB model.

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ACT MRF stores paper and cardboard amid bushfire crisis

Paper and cardboard processed through the ACT materials recovery facility (MRF) will be temporarily stored to manage the impacts of the bushfire crisis in NSW.

According to Recycling and Waste Reduction Minister Chris Steel, the MRF at Hume processes approximately 470 tonnes of paper and cardboard each week from kerbside recycling bins, local council areas and commercial entities.

Mr Steel said the material is then packaged and sent to a Visy pulp and paper mill in Tumut, for recycling into paper and cardboard products.

“The operator of the MRF, Re.Group, has advised the ACT Government that although the Visy mill at Tumut has not been directly impacted by the fires, a number of their plantations and stored wood chips were burnt around the Eden area,” Mr Steel said.

“Visy’s products are manufactured using a combination of recycled content and wood chips, and the impact of the fire on the plantations means that Visy temporarily needs to slow production of recycled paper and cardboard.”

As Visy has been unable to accept all of the ACT’s paper recycling at this time, Mr Steel said the Hume MRF has reached storage capacity.

“While about half the volume of paper and cardboard will continue to be sent to Visy each week, the ACT Government has taken the decision to temporarily store the remaining material at Mugga Lane and West Belconnen resource management facilities over the coming weeks,” Mr Steel said.

“The additional storage locations have been determined in consultation with ACT Fire and Rescue to minimise fire safety risks, and ACT Fire and Rescue has also been involved in assessing the stockpiles at the Hume MRF.”

Mr Steel said temporarily storing the baled paper will help prevent land filling in the short term, while the state government waits for the recycling industry to recover from the fires and process the material.

“Landfilling is the last resort, and will only be considered if the recycling industry is unable to recover and increase production levels, and stored material can no longer be safely managed,” Mr Steel said.

“The ACT Government will continue to work closely with Re.Group to review arrangements and explore all options to avoid landfilling paper and cardboard. Re.Group are actively looking for other markets to sell the recycled paper and cardboard to and have been advised by Visy that they are working to resume full operations as soon as possible.”

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