Highly intensive tunnels: Sacyr and WTT

Waste Management Review speaks with Carlos Gros Isla, Sacyr Environment, and Sean Galdermans, Waste Treatment Technologies, about Sacyr’s new high capacity in-vessel composting facility.

Composting, once considered the domain of hippies and eco- friendly farmers, has become a booming billion-dollar industry.

While public and private investment in technologically innovative equipment and facilities have a traceable history on a global level, the Australian organics market is still somewhat in its infancy.

That said, the tide is turning, with a significant number of Australian councils embarking on separate food and garden organic waste (FOGO) collections.

On behalf of eight Victorian councils, for example, the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) negotiated a contract to facilitate kerbside FOGO collection in 2016.

Increasing the recovery of organic waste is one of four key strategic objectives set down in MWRRG’s 2016 Implementation Plan. To achieve this, MWRRG developed an organics processing network through collective procurement contracts in the northwest, southeast and east.

Sacyr Environment Australia, which operates a state of the art composting facility in Melbourne’s Dandenong South, emerged as a viable option for MWRRG’s South East network.

Sacyr Environment Australia signed a contract with MWRRG in 2017. The facility, which runs on Waste Treatment Technologies (WTT) equipment and processes, opened in May this year.

With a capacity to process 120,000 tonnes of organic waste each year, the indoor composting facility is the most advanced of its type in Australia.

When asked why the Sacyr facility has been dubbed the most advanced in Australia, Carlos Gros Isla, Sacyr Environment Australian Business Manage, says while he is hesitant to make comparisons, he has a good grasp on current capacity and innovation.

“People often want to make grand statements such as, ‘this is the biggest building in the world’, and that can be embarrassing,” he says.

“It’s not rocket science. It’s still composting, so comparing our facility to other industrial facilities wouldn’t be fair. But in terms of the composting industry, we could say it is the most advanced as a whole.”

THE EUROPEAN MODEL

According to Carlos, the facility has gained recognition because it functions as a whole package.

He says however that because he and project partner Sean Galdermans, WTT Australia Bid and Project Manager, are both Europeans, the praise can feel awkward.

Carlos adds that processes that appear innovative in Australia are par for the course in Europe.

“This is a pretty standard package in Europe, and has been for the last 20 years, but it’s important to note that it’s not as through Australia is really behind. This technology just simply wasn’t needed before,” he says.

Given the availability of land, Carlos says landfill was not traditionally viewed as a problem in Australia.

“Plus, because they didn’t have to, councils had no incentive to pay additional gate fees and invest in new quality facilities,” he says.

Carlos says the market is changing however, with Sacyr identifying Australia as a market full of new opportunities.

Sean expresses similar sentiments and says that since arriving in Australia two years ago, he has seen a rise in interesting tenders and hot opportunities.

“I think legislation in Australia has been very slow. Regulators haven’t been pushing for the right developments,” he says.

“The Australian population is knocking on government’s doors and saying, what are you doing? All the countries a round us are investing in these new processes, so why aren’t we?”

Sean says the organics and wider recycling movement is now a mainstream conversation.

“Australia has been coping with the luxury problem of space, and as a result, used to landfill the majority of waste into old coal mines. An out of sight, out of mind mentality,” he says.

“That is the music of yesterday, Australians want to focus on the future.”

Sean adds that over the past five to ten years, many councils have made poor investment decisions.

“The problem is that in the waste sector you’re always talking about large sums of money, and when those projects fail, people develop distrust,” he says.

One of the reasons WTT decided to invest in Australia, Sean says, is that the market needed successful stories and high quality products.

“We felt that with over 25 years of experience and over 130 reference facilities, which have a combined throughput capacity of 7.3 million tonnes per annum, we could contribute to this transition and reduce the amount of organics going to landfill significantly.”

COMPOST IN DANDENONG

The Dandenong facility is not the first collaboration between Sacyr and WTT. One of Sacyr’s flagship facilities in Spain was developed using WTT technology, and, according to Carlos, has been operating for almost 15 years.

“There are not many companies that can make the high-quality in- vessel or tunnel composting facilities WTT can,” he says.

“Composting is a very simple idea, but there are huge difference between an average and good composting tunnel.”

Given Sacyr’s long-term contract with MWRRG, Carlos says seemingly small differences in design and process controls can make a big impact.

“Sacyr is very focused on providing for clients specific needs, so to be honest, if a council required a simple composting facility in a rural area, WTT wouldn’t be our first point of call,” he says.

“However, when a client tells us that high quality is their main focus, and that they are willing to pay associated gate fees, which was the case with MWRRG, WTT’s technology is the obvious choice.”

Once Sacyr had confirmed its contract with MWRRG, WTT was engaged to construct the facility’s in- vessel composting system and air and water management process.

Sean says the contract was of standard scope for WTT.

“While over the last seven years, WTT has started to adapt further processes, such as mechanical pre- and post-treatment systems, I would say in-vessel composting, anaerobic digestion and air/water treatment systems is where our core competence lays,” he says.

According to Carlos, Sacyr designed the facility to operate as close to the centre of collections’ gravity as possible.

“When you build a facility in regional areas, while the initial costs are lower, each link in the chain ends up incurring significant transport costs,” he says.

“Sacyr’s idea was to build a facility in close proximity to councils, ultimately constructing the facility within a pre- existing building.”

Carlos says Sacyr was engaged by MWRRG because the group wanted to explore the capabilities of a new market player.

“Sacyr had already built a desalination plant in Western Australia, so we were engaged in the Australian water business. But in terms of our waste division, this was our first Australian project,” he says.

On the otherhand, WTT had been involved in a number of Australian projects since opening its subsidiary office in 2018, including facilities in Wogamia and Kembla Grange NSW for SOILCO and a REMONDIS facility in Port Macquarie

AEROBIC DESIGN

After material enters the Sacyr facility, Carlos says it runs through a four-step process.

“The first step is pre-treatment or decontamination. At this stage we remove anything that shouldn’t be in the green bin or is not organic,” he says.

“From there we sieve, cut and mix the material to create a homogenous mixture. We ensure it is spongy and of the right size so it can be degraded to optimum levels in the in-vessel tunnels.”

The next stage, Carlos says, is the actual composting. He adds that in Australia, the EPA regulates a high level of pasteurisation.

“The actual composting happens in two different stages. The first is fermentation to achieve the required pasteurisation, which runs for 72 consecutive hours above a certain temperature threshold,” he says.

“After we’ve achieved the pasteurisation criteria, the material is taken to the compost tunnels, before it is transferred to the maturation hall for further curing.”

The Dandenong compost tunnels, Sean says, induce a highly intensive composting process to maximize organic breakdown.

“By controlling the temperature, oxygen and moisture content of each individual tunnel at all times, we’re able to tailer a recipe for each batch, and provide our client – the operator – with maximum flexibility and ease of operation,” he says.

Given the complexity of WTT’s technology, Sean says the company likes to function as a one-stop-shop.

“Instead of delivering a package, showing what it can do and leaving, we like to be involved on a long term basis to make sure clients feel comfortable with the technology,” he says.

While the facility is currently running smoothly, Carlos admits there were some teething problems.

“Both companies tried to adopt a design that has worked for us in Europe, but the reality is with waste you never know what you will receive,” he says.

After a number of trials, Carlos says the team developed a system suitable for the material it receives. He adds that because Sacyr recognises the added value of WTT’s experience, the two organisations were in constant contact throughout the process.

Sean says WTT’s knowledge centre worked to facilitate communication.

“WTT can essentially log into the facility 24 hours a day and see what the operators see, which means we can read the information, feed it back into the system and troubleshoot,” he says.

“Combined with the client’s operational team, it’s really a golden combination.”

Related stories:

Compost by the river: SOILCO

Charlie Emery, SOILCO General Manager, speaks to Waste Management Review about SOILCO’s plans to build the largest organics recycling facility in the NSW Northern Rivers region.

The NSW Northern Rivers region is perhaps best known for its Pacific beaches, scenic drives and dramatic valleys surrounded by rivers and wildlife. Home to tourist hubs such as Tweed Head, Byron Bay and Minyon Falls, by 2021 the coastal region will also be home to one of Australia’s latest organic recycling facilities.

As early adopters of the NSW Government’s Love Food Hate Waste program, Tweed Shire Council is committed to proactive food waste reduction and recycling initiatives.

As part of this commitment, the council has commissioned a state-of-the-art organics recycling facility in Stotts Creek. The composting facility will be the largest of its kind in the Northern Rivers, processing nearly 25,000 tonnes of organic waste each year.

SOILCO, a NSW organics recycling business, has been tasked with facility design, construction and operations.

According to Charlie Emery, SOILCO General Manager, once commissioned, the facility will complement council’s recently introduced food and garden organics (FOGO) kerbside collection program.

Since FOGO collections began, Charlie says the region has seen a 20 per cent reduction in organic waste to landfill. This, he says, illustrates that residents are willing, and even motivated, to engage with the closed-loop processes when given the opportunity.

Charlie says collected FOGO is currently transferred for processing at a facility located outside the local government area, meaning council must deal with additional logistics and associated transport costs.

“Once the SOILCO facility is up and running, council will be able to process its own FOGO, right next to the existing resource recovery centre. This will reduce transport and logistics costs and further streamline council services,” he says.

Following a competitive tender process, SOILCO was awarded the Stotts Creek contract in July.

“Like other progressive regions in the state, Tweed Shire Council has a long-term goal of achieving zero waste, which resonates with SOILCO’s overarching mission and current operations in the Illawarra and South Coast regions of NSW,” Charlie says.

The Stotts Creek Organics Recycling Facility will function as an enclosed composting facility, meaning SOILCO will construct a processing building alongside multiple aerated composting tunnels, biofilter and product storage infrastructure.

“The model is based on upgrades to our own facilities in Kembla Grange and Nowra, where we used Waste Treatment Technologies’ technology for positive aeration in an enclosed environment,” Charlie says.

“This allows us to improve processing controls and monitor the material to ensure compost production compliance.”

While organics compliance is a hot topic in NSW, following the EPA’s October reiteration of its controversial 2018 Mixed Waste Organic Outputs decision, Charlie says composting of source-separated materials has been largely unaffected.

That said, the EPA maintains strict regulatory rules for the production and application of compost derived from FOGO, meaning SOILCO’s facility has to consider decontamination and provide rigid process controls.   

Charlie says through the installation of a pre-sort and aerated composting tunnels, SOILCO can produce clean, compliant and nutrient-rich products.

While still in the planning and approval phase, Charlie says SOILCO has already identified existing urban and agricultural end markets for their product.

“There’s a large demand for quality compost in the region, so we’re confident in the facility’s long-term economic viability,” he says.

“As time goes on, and the benefits of food waste diversion receive wider recognition, we are sure to see an increase in facility throughput and additional capacity has been designed for.”

In addition to existing end markets, Charlie says SOILCO is looking to work with local businesses and large generators of food, such as hotels, of which there are many in the heavily visited region.

He says SOILCO operates food waste collection services out of their other NSW facilities, and intends to provide commercial collection to businesses in the Northern Rivers area as well.

“That way we’re not just capturing existing tonnage through the municipal contact but creating further commercial opportunities for food waste diversion through a system we have already established,” Charlie says.

“This provides an opportunity for local businesses to participate in the composting process and creates a real sense of community.”

After lodging its development application in November, Charlie says SOILCO is working towards a two-year design and construction timeline.

“The facility is set to be operational by mid-2021, after which, SOILCO will operate the facility for 10 years, before transferring ownership back to council,” he says.

Related stories:

Tightening standards to build markets for recycled organics

The drive to divert organic waste from landfill around Australia has created a supply of recycled organics that remains largely underutilised and undervalued, writes Angus Johnston, Principal Consultant at Jackson Environment and Planning.

Too much organic material is released as low-quality pasteurised products, containing too much contamination. Due to the policies and regulations of state and federal governments, a lot more supply will come on-line in the next five years. There remains an urgent need to tighten standards for compost use and build markets that will absorb this supply.

Urban markets for compost (e.g. landscape supplies) are well developed but highly competitive, because supply often exceeds demand. These markets cannot consistently use all the organic matter available for recycling. Using compost for gardens and landscaping also squanders the opportunity to return carbon and nutrients to the soils they were extracted from — the farms where our food and fibre are grown.

Fortunately, there is enormous potential demand for use of compost in agriculture. At an average annual application rate of 10 tonnes per hectare, we only need 100,000 hectares to absorb one million tonnes of compost.

There is roughly 65 million hectares of farmland in NSW alone. However, this demand can only be accessed at the right price, quality and specification. That price doesn’t have to be low, but quality and performance absolutely must be high.

The highly regulated nature of the organic recycling sector means that state and local government can strongly influence whether compost price and quality conditions are met by industry. Industry can also play a role by agreeing on and adopting higher product standards.

Organics recycling is suffering from the same issues that caused the China National Sword packaging crisis.

Local government procurement of recycling services often has a much greater focus on transfer of risk and price than on recycled product quality, beneficial use and value adding. This approach creates an incentive for contractors to do the minimum processing necessary to divert waste from landfill and comply with state government regulations. They then release these low-quality outputs into the market as ‘compost’.

Low quality products that cost less to manufacture can then be sold at a lower price point. Such products undermine the market for higher quality products that cost more to produce. If a farmer can purchase a product claiming to be ‘compost’ for $10 per tonne (delivered), why would they pay $100 per tonne?

If that low-cost compost does not deliver enough tangible result, or is clearly full of rubbish, farmers often apply their negative experience to every product claiming to be a compost. Only a few farmers take the time to understand the difference in value between the $10 and $100 product.

This scenario has played out repeatedly in agricultural and other compost end markets, and is still happening right now around the country.

Every time contaminated immature products are sold as “compost” we undermine the credibility of compost and organic recycling. There are producers that make quality fit-for-purpose composts and have built up trust for their brand in certain markets. They can command high prices for their products, however, they are the exception rather than the rule.

There needs to be tighter standards and improved quality assurance and quality control. For example:

  1. Mandatory requirement for independently audited quality assurance programs at each processing facility
  2. Regular auditing of batch test results to requirements of the relevant Resource Recovery Orders and Exemptions (in NSW) or equivalent standards in other states
  3. Physical contamination requirements reduced to 0.2 per cent (plastic, glass and metal) and 0.02 per cent (film plastic) by weight for all soil conditioners
  4. Soil conditioners to meet the AS4454 definition of compost or mature compost (not just pasteurisation)
  5. Define compost using selected test results (such as respirometry) rather than a minimum six weeks process duration

Some established commercial composters may see the tighter standards above as a threat because their current operations have been set up to meet lower standards. Many are locked into long-term contracts at set gate fees. This is where state and local governments have a role in supporting industry to make a transition to higher standards by helping to fund facility upgrades, allowing variations to contracts, and regulating free riders who don’t adopt tighter voluntary standards.

There is a cost to implementing higher standards, but there are also rewards:

  • Access to much greater demand from agricultural markets
  • Fewer complaints from the public and customers
  • Fewer fines and less negative attention from the regulators
  • Reduced product related risk
  • Higher barriers to entry for new competitors
  • A more ‘level playing field’ during tendering

The packaging recyclers did not seek to tighten their own standards and neither did the processors of mixed waste in NSW. Both groups could have agreed to produce cleaner products to a higher standard but chose not to. For these recyclers either their customers or their regulators decided to tighten their standards for them, at great financial and reputational cost to the recyclers involved. Some businesses didn’t survive the change.

Tighter standards need to be introduced in consultation with all stakeholders, and with time allowed for the industry and their customers to adapt.

The Australian Organics Recycling Association provides an ideal forum for industry led tightening and enforcement of standards.

Related stories: 

Sydney trials kerbside food waste collection

A City of Sydney waste trial will see food scraps from up to 4000 homes diverted from landfill, and used to create green energy and plant fertiliser.

The trial involves separate collection and recycling of food scraps from residential properties in the council area.

Participating households have received a small kitchen caddy to store food scraps, an initial supply of compostable caddy liners and a food scraps bin to be placed on the kerb for pick up.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the trial was an important step in the evolution of waste collection, and a critical component of the city’s waste strategy and action plan, endorsed by council in 2017.

“There have been many advancements in waste separation technology, but the most effective method is when our residents separate the waste themselves at the source,” Ms Moore said.

“Food scraps generally make up one-third of the average red lid bin, so this trial will divert a significant amount of waste from landfill.”

The collected waste will be sent to EarthPower, Australia’s first food waste-to-energy processing facility.

“The scraps will be processed using anaerobic digestion technology, where microorganisms break down biodegradable material in a chamber without oxygen,” Ms Moore said.

“This process produces biogas, which is converted to green electricity and a nutrient-rich sludge that is dried and granulated to produce nutrient rich fertiliser.”

330 houses and 53 inner-city apartment blocks have been selected to take part in the trial.

“If successful, we’ll look at providing this service across the entire council area,” Ms Moore said.

Related stories:

NSW EPA: let’s chat compost

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has developed an engaging conversational learning program to support professional development in the organics sector.

Simulated conversational experiences, or chatbots, have been gaining traction across numerous industries.

Conversational learning is a unique concept that delivers knowledge in focused, micro-learning chunks, requiring only three to five minutes of a learner’s time.

It aims to put learners in control, use conversation and story-telling to stimulate engagement, build knowledge and allow for active discovery and decision making.

With an increase in chatbot messenger apps offering instantaneous customer service, news and other relevant notifications, chatbot experiences are even making inroads in the waste sector.

To support the compost industry, e-learning provider IMC has been working with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) via its organics program.

IMC and the EPA have developed four-five minute chatbot modules dubbed “Let’s Chat Compost” on the topics of assessing odour, pasteurisation, composting and managing contamination.

The learning sessions aim to simulate ordinary conversations, akin to those you’d have with a friend or colleague – personal, fun and to the point.

They embed personality into the learning content and create a dynamic interaction like one-on-one teaching, making social and interactive e-learning “in dialogue” possible.

The Let’s Chat Compost modules allow users to continue or refresh their learning through the EPA’s existing Compost Facility Management eLearning program, released at the end of last year.

Presented in social media messenger style, the app uses conversation and memes to engage learners to expand on their composting knowledge.

The Compost Facility Management course comprises seven modules and has been designed for regulators and people in all roles working in organics facilities.

It uses interactive content, animation and video to engage learners, with the aim of embedding high-level skills and knowledge for best practice facility management.   

IMC has leveraged its expertise from working with clients such as National Rugby League, the Department of Health and Human Services, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi to craft unique and conversational learning experiences.

Amanda Kane, Organics Manager at the NSW EPA, says Let’s Chat Compost aims to draw attention to the key processes most relevant to processors, regulators, local government, consultants and waste collection operators.

“Let’s Chat Compost will be a tool to reinforce learning and act as a reminder for what’s happening inside a compost pile that might be causing an odour, or why it’s important to manage contamination and the importance of pasteurisation,” Amanda says.

“IMC’s concept was developed in Germany and designed to look as much like a phone chat as possible. It was in recognition of the platforms we use in everyday life.”

She says that developing smartphone nuggets is an exercise in communicating the most important content in an engaging way.

“The main goal of the nuggets is to get people to take up the course, but also as a reminder for those that have completed the course,” Amanda says.

The app can send notifications to those who have completed the course, encouraging them to share the modules with their colleagues or revisit aspects of their learning.

Amanda adds that companies could adapt the program to suit their organisational tone and include additional relevant occupational health and safety and company information.

“The result is not only contributing to the production of a quality product, but upskilling the industry and minimising the environmental impact of one’s operations.

“It’s critical that processors are operating within the conditions of their license, and that if any issues do arise, they know how to respond and communicate with the EPA and advise us what’s happening.”

She says that the smartphone nuggets are aimed to be accessible on multiple devices and link back to course content.

The modules also include expert tips from industry leaders such as SOILCO and Australian Native Landscapes (ANL).

“We wanted to have industry voices to communicate those messages. All of the course content was filmed at sites around NSW using various technologies,” Amanda says.

“These include ANL’s open windrow or the in-tunnel systems that JR Richards & Sons have up at Grafton and then using team members at all levels to communicate the message, including EPA regulatory staff as well.

“We have had 300 people sign up, and the overall feedback is that people are finding it to be a rewarding learning experience.”

EVA Environmental Director Geraldine Busby, who also worked on the initial training course, oversaw the development of smartphone nuggets.

Carmen Locke, Instructional Designer, IMC AG, says conversational learning allows learners to make decisions while being actively immersed in a one-on-one learning scenario. This increases their ability to retain content, understand concepts and develop new skills and behaviours.

To use Let’s Chat Compost click here.

Related stories: 

Food for soil

By introducing food waste recycling and a dedicated sustainability portfolio, the Melbourne Cricket Ground is hitting more than 75 per cent landfill diversion.

Known simply as the “G”, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) attracts more than three million people each year.

With a capacity bigger than most regional towns, the seven-day-a-week stadium is often filled to the brim, hosting major AFL matches, cricket, concerts and Australian and international soccer.

But its ability to manage its waste in a smarter way is largely a hidden success story, reducing total waste produced by 259 tonnes, despite increasing its patron numbers by 197,214 in 2018.

Such was its commitment to waste management that it pragmatically invested in three compactors to prevent waste going to landfill.

Vince Macolino, the MCG’s Environmental Sustainability Specialist, says that in one isolated occurrence, the stadium was advised through its contractor KS Environmental that its recycler was no longer operating from midday on a Saturday and were closed on Sunday.

“As an events-based business, we operate Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Our biggest days are Saturday and Sunday and we can have 90,000 people on Saturday that generate waste that needs to be recycled,” Vince explains.

“The only option was to send it to landfill but for us at the Melbourne Cricket Club that’s not an option – we’re not taking steps backward, we’re going forward. So in discussions with KS, we realised that if we buy new compactors, we could store the waste and send it to Dandenong to be stored until the facility opened on Monday.”

Its merely a small aspect of the MCG’s achievements – a stadium that set itself a key performance indicator of 75 per cent landfill diversion and surpassed it in 2018.

Since joining the MCG at the end of 2013, Vince has helped raise the bar with support from the team, lifting its diversion rate by 15 per cent from what was just 20 to 30 per cent a decade ago.

Eliminating plastic straws, recycling organic waste onsite and spreading the subsequent compost on the surrounding lawn are just a few of the recent achievements of the MCG. The MCG has about 26 different waste streams that are separated and processed.

Most recently, it demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by creating a dedicated sustainability portfolio, as Vince moved on from his role as venue presentation coordinator.

He says that one of the MCG’s proud achievements was the installation of a food dehydrator. After taking the initiative in 2016 to audit the stadium’s waste management processes, Vince took a tour of major food waste recycling sites, including the Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne University and Degraves Street.

“We found out that the Gaia unit would be best for the waste we’re generating out of our operations. Due to the amount of organic waste we were processing, it was a three-year payback period.”

Since then, the MCG has implemented a “zero waste to landfill” approach at its corporate suites, collecting all organics waste and processing it via the dehydrator.

Introducing Method recycling bins to promote good source separation, the MCG went from sending 120 80-litre organics bins to landfill per event to nothing on its corporate suite level. The dehydrator unit produces a compost known as SoilFood which is spread on the MCG’s surrounding parkland – Yarra Park.

“By blending SoilFood with sand to create a good ratio and spreading it through the park, we no longer need to transport the majority of our organic waste to compost facilities. We’ve potentially freed up space at those facilities for other users and closed the loop, while applying a highly nutritional soil food to the park lands,” Vince says.

From Boxing Day 2018, the MCG phased out plastic straws in partnership with Epicure. It has also begun trialling chemical-free sprays that ISS Facilities Services have implemented which reduced the amount of chemicals required to clean the stadium.

A bin washing water unit was also installed that saves more than 1000 litres per day. Rather than just establishing soft plastics collection through the Redcycle program, the MCG has taken it a step further to purchase bollards for Yarra Park made from the material through Replas.

Vince says the MCG will continue to improve its processes and reduce contamination into the future, as he attended this year’s Waste 2019 conference to discover some of the industry’s latest innovations.

He says that the MCG is now working with Epicure to put on sustainable ambassadors at event days that would inspect bins and engage and educate staff to reduce contamination.

The stadium is now looking at a range of options for compostable packaging. Vince remains optimistic that big changes are on their way. While the MCG hit 83 per cent diversion in 2018, Vince hopes to one day reach 90 per cent. This may include looking at new areas such as compostable bins, further engaging with patrons and spreading environmental messaging by tackling what Vince says are the little “one per cents”.

“Moving into the role of environmental and sustainability specialist has given me the opportunity to look at the strategy of the MCG for the next three to five years and put together more policies and governance in this space.”

“Looking at it from a procurement point of view and getting our environmental management system up and running will set some clear direction and targets and a vision to drive us into the future.”

Related stories:

Finlay: customisable compost

When landscape supply company Corbet’s Group required a new trommel screen for its commercial compost yard, it enlisted the help of Finlay Screening, Crushing and Recycling Systems.

The history of composting is difficult to track, but reports suggest humans have been engaging in the process for over 10,000 years. According to the Complete Book of Composting, the first ‘written’ account of composting can be traced back to the reign of King Sargon during the Akkadian Dynasty.

While composting is a natural process, the sale of organic matter on a commercial basis requires companies to meet strict standards and regulations. For this reason, Corbet’s Group General Manager Andrew Corbet places significant stock in the screening and separation process.   

“An effective trommel screen is crucial to a business like ours given the potential for contamination. You can’t take any chances with the sale of organic material to the public,” Andrew says.

Corbet’s Group, a family-owned logistics and landscape supply business, has been in operation for more than 40 years.

“We produce compost and potting mix with a range of organic materials including topsoil, manure, bark, grass clippings and food waste,” Andrew says.

“Our Sunshine Coast compost yard produces upwards of 5000 yards of compost every month, which we sell to landscapers, bagging companies and large-scale national stores like Bunnings.”

Corbet’s Group produces more than five varieties of compost, meaning flexibility and quick drum change capability were primary concerns for Andrew when making his latest trommel purchase.

“Our products range from potting mix derived from composted bark and minerals, composted green waste for soil conditioning, slash bark for low density media bases and a whole range of other customisable compost products,” Andrew says.

According to Andrew, the Terex Environmental Equipment range, which includes shredders, trommels, recycling screens, waste handlers, grinders and window turners, helps Corbet’s Group effectively manage its processes.   

“We’ve had a number of trommels over the years, quite a few different brands actually, but Terex certainly works more effectively and flexibly in my view,” Andrew says.

Finlay, a specialist supplier of screening and processing equipment for the waste recycling industry, is the exclusive dealer of Terex Environmental Equipment.

Andrew has been a customer of the company for many years, having previously purchased crushing and screening equipment from Finlay Sales and Hire Manager Ronnie Bustard in 2015.

“Not long ago, when Andrew was speaking to me about maintenance for an old piece of crushing equipment, he mentioned the company would soon need a new trommel screen for their compost yard,” Ronnie says.   

“I suggested the Terex TTS 620 tracked trommel and offered to bring it to the Sunshine Coast for a demonstration. It went really well so Andrew made the purchase. It was all very straightforward.”

Andrew says after acquiring the machine, Ronnie and other members of the Finlay staff trained his operators on how to operate, service and maintain the trommel.

“They went the extra mile by coming up here and making sure my staff knew how to operate the equipment,” Andrew says.

“I’m also sure Ronnie and the team would come to the site if we had any problems, but the trommel runs smoothly every day. We’ve had no issues.”

Andrew says he also purchased multiple aperture barrels, which Ronnie fitted to the new trommel before carrying out tonnage tests.

“The trommel drum has a really quick change out time – it only takes a few minutes before we’re up and running again to screen a new material load,” Andrew says.

“The feeder control system continually adjusts its speed, which means we can process compost at a higher efficiency rate than before.”

Ronnie says the TTS 620 trommel enables application flexibility and it can be utilised for any sort of organics screening.

“All the conveyors are built to a modular design which allows each one to be removed independently and easily configured to various applications. It also means the machine is easy to maintain,” Ronnie says.

“The TTS 620 Terex trommel uses less fuel than standard trommel screens because it has a highly efficient engine. It also has a combined hydraulic drive system enabling advanced material processing control.”

According to Ronnie, the trommel screen’s swing out engine cradle gives operators unrestricted ground level access to all service components, while hinged doors on both sides of the drum offer unobstructed access for maintenance and cleaning.

Andrew says another contributing factor to his decision to enlist Finlay was its spare parts servicing.

“They offer fast and efficient turnaround on aftermarket spare parts – whatever make or model, they have you covered,” Andrew says.

Related stories:

Cutting-edge technology: FOCUS Enviro & Biomix

Biomix is investing heavily in innovative technologies and taking a bold approach to managing more than 100,000 tonnes of green organics per annum.

Measuring, monitoring and understanding soil properties is a nuanced undertaking, as biological, chemical and physical indicators all play a role in the success of what we put in the ground.

The ongoing business of providing high quality compost is another area conducive to the outcomes of soil health, and thus EPA guidelines and industry regulations govern a best-practice approach.

Soil nitrogen and appropriate levels of water improve soil longevity, in addition to providing valuable nutrients and organic carbon through high productivity farming practices.

It is within this burgeoning landscape that innovative organics recycling practices are bucking the trend.

Vanessa Lenihan has been at the coalface of industry progress, working with farms to identify ways to overcome the soil challenges they face. Her more than 15 years’ experience in the water industry, including sewerage quality management at South East Water, is laying the groundwork for innovation as she leads the composting business Biomix.    

Vanessa has for the past few years performed consulting work for Enviromix – a parent company of Biomix. In 2016, Vanessa was asked to project manage the construction of Biomix’s Stanhope facility, managing the design, construction and approvals process over 14-months.

After successfully project managing the construction and commissioning of the new site, Vanessa in February this year joined the company as CEO – a natural transition given her past experiences. Biomix processes 100,000 tonnes per annum of garden and food organics, selling its compost to the broader amenity market, broadacre, viticulture and horticulture industries.

“Biomix is in the industry of organics resource recovery and so is the wastewater industry. Sewage is just a different form of organics so there’s actually a lot of synergies between the two and the lines between the two industries have become blurred,” Vanessa says.

Understanding the biological process of wastewater created synergies to administer this to the biological process of composting, including managing inputs and quality controls.

BREATHING LIFE INTO COMPOST

Biomix at the end of 2017 unveiled its premium compost facility at Stanhope. The company designed an EPA-approved in-vessel composting system, engineering its own vessels to better manage air flow and odour. Its compost is produced to AS4454-2012 specifications and regularly sent off for independent and accredited lab testing.

“The thing that is unique about Biomix is the composting vessels were designed by us. We worked with the mechanical engineering firm that designed them and we own the intellectual property around the vessels,” Vanessa says.

She says that one of the challenges Biomix had is that when it opened the vessels in late 2017, the business began to grow exponentially at a rate it had not anticipated. Likewise, low rainfall onsite and high evaporation presented a challenge to processing compost at the site.

To support its next transition, the company turned to integrated processing supplier FOCUS Enviro for support – a supplier of EDGE Innovate shredding, screening, separating, stacking and sizing equipment. From November last year through to January this year, Biomix acquired three unique new products from EDGE Innovate.

Nick Marshall

The EDGE MPS48 Picking Station, EDGE FTS Mulch Master (deep stacker) and EDGE TRT622 Trommel replaced a series of conventional machines traditionally used for composting.

“Because we grew so fast we had to manage parts of the business quite differently to what we’ve had previously,” Vanessa says.

“The EDGE Picking Station is really focused on removing contamination upfront and the Mulch Master has allowed us to process our windrows and get water to them in a way that is highly beneficial.”

The EDGE Picking Station was designed to improve safety for waste management sites by reducing the effects of dust, noise and climate conditions for workers. It helps eliminate contaminants such as organics, hard plastics, glass and other deleterious materials.

Vanessa says that Biomix has seen a significant reduction in water loss through windrows by using the Mulch Master, halving the number of times to turn a windrow.

“Every time you turn a windrow you lose at least 20 per cent moisture.

“The Mulch Master allows us to halve the number of turns during the process.”

She says that the Mulchmaster has increased volumes through deep stacking of compost, having previously used excavators and loading circles with a higher cost and slower processing time.

Vanessa says that the machine has allowed Biomix to increase the moisture content of its compost as the auger softens the materials and water jets allow the spread of moisture.

RE-THINKING THE PROCESS

The Mulch Master combines traditional flipping and rotation with constant material flow to overcome traditional challenges of compaction, contamination, material bridging and the risk of combustion.

Designed for low density, bulky materials such as mulch, compostand soils, the EDGE FTS Mulch Master boasts a large hopper capacity of 15 cubic metres.

A 25 per cent additional buffer capacity over the standard EDGE FTS units with a bespoke hopper design prevents material bridging. A variable high speed conveyor enables an even spread of material further regulated via a double screwed forward/reverse auger.

Biomix’s new EDGE trommel also allows it to produce a 14-millimetre-minus product. Vanessa saysthe screen has doubled throughput and comes with an on-board vacuum system attached that pulls out contaminants such as light plastics.

“We’re filling a front lift bin a day of light plastics and there’s no way we’d be able to specifically pick them out by hand – that’s how effective the vacuum system is.”

Vanessa Lenihan

The TR622 Trommel screen is ideal for multiple applications such as topsoil, recycling, composting and construction and demolition waste. The TR622 comprises a 180-degree radial conveyor, a unique load sensing hydraulic drive system, eco-power saving functionality and a user-friendly HMI control panel to suit varying applications.

A hydraulic sliding feature allows for a speedy drum exchange and enables operators to easily lift out the existing drum to replace it with various drum types available.

Its 22-foot-long drum allows it to produce enhanced screening results and top quality fine materials such as compost, gravel, sand and topsoil easily.

Ronan McKenna, State Manager of FOCUS enviro, says the company last year trialled the machinery to ensure it met Biomix’s tonnage requirements.

He says that many of EDGE’s products have been tried and tested in other major markets such as North America.

“The Mulch Master is a brand new piece of technology that no-one else has used before, so once customers see it and get it round on their site it speaks for itself.

“The machines are fast becoming a popular replacement for traditional windrow turners for multiple reasons, including reduction in maturation pad areas and machinery capital outlay.”

Robbie McKernan, FOCUS enviro Director, says the company considers it an honour to be working with Biomix – a forward-thinking organisation open to a fresh approach to compost.

“There is a lot more evidence mounting to support new processes such as big stacking as opposed to traditional windrow methods,” he says.

“As a supplier, we value opportunities like this where businesses look at their processes as a whole and work out where savings can be achieved, as opposed to a ‘business as usual’ approach.”

Ronan says that FOCUS Enviro is continuing to see demand from organics recycling companies across Australia.

“We have been in a fortunate position to support the food and garden organics (FOGO) aspirations of customers across the country over the past two years. This has shaped our product knowledge to offer a purpose-built solution to meet processing challenges with safety and material quality front of mind.”

The new EDGE equipment is starting to pay dividends for Biomix, and the company is now looking at accelerating its output.

Ronan McKenna

Biomix is currently working with farmers to incorporate compost into traditional fertiliser program. With funding from Sustainability Victoria, Biomix is working with SESL to determine a protocol that outlines an optimum blend of compost and fertilisers.

This will inform a three-year application program for farmers. The first round of trials on farms was completed earlier this year, with the second now underway. Vanessa says it demonstrated the need for a balanced approach to compost.

Biomix is also working with La Trobe University on the application of compost for pastures.

“We’re becoming a lot more scientific and precise in how we’re selling our compost. We’re moving away from just selling compost to incorporating it into the broader agribusiness sector,” Vanessa says.

“We see compost as being really important to the future of improving soil health and its structure and then being able to retain moisture in it and reducing the amount of watering farmers need to do.”

Vanessa says that moisture is so important for the composting process that Biomix designed its vessels to minimise water loss during processing.

Odour management and controlling the processing period to kill off any pathogens and weed seed is an important part of the Biomix process.

Vanessa says that one of the unique attributes Biomix has is its capability to process compostable packaging, films, coffee cups and pods.

“One of the biggest changes coming through the industry is the introduction of compostable materials into the waste streams and we’ve set ourselves up to be able to process that.”

As for the future, Vanessa predicts improving FOGO infrastructure, gaining a higher nitrogen compost, embracing compostable packaging and tackling contamination will be key to improving the uptake of compost.

“We have a step change in the Victorian Environment Protection Act coming in 2020.

“This will force us to focus on how our business is being managed and innovative further to embrace this change,” Vanessa says.

She says the changes to the Environment Protection Act will hopefully address some of the grey areas currently experienced in organic waste acceptance and management.

With a strong uptake of FOGO collections from councils, along with a changing regulatory environment, the need to embrace new technology and processes is more important than ever.

Related stories:

Regenerating the land: WTT and ELB Equipment partnership

Waste Treatment Technologies outlines how its partnership with ELB Equipment is supporting new composting operations in strategic and cost-effective locations.

Read moreRegenerating the land: WTT and ELB Equipment partnership

Qantas and SUEZ operate world’s first zero waste flight

The first commercial flight to produce no landfill waste took off this morning, as part of Qantas’ plan to cut 100 million single-use plastics by end-2020 and eliminate 75 per cent of its waste by 2021.

With support from SUEZ, all inflight products on board QF739 flying from Sydney to Adelaide and staffed by cabin crew from the Qantas ‘Green Team’, will be disposed of via compost, reuse or recycling.

Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said the trial flight was an important milestone for the national carrier’s plan to slash waste.

“In the process of carrying over 50 million people every year, Qantas and Jetstar currently produce an amount of waste equivalent to 80 fully-laden Boeing 747 jumbo jets,” Mr David said.

“We want to give customers the same level of service they currently enjoy, but without the amount of waste that comes with it.”

Mr David said this flight would typically produce 34 kilograms of waste, with the Sydney to Adelaide route producing 150 tonnes of waste annually.

“This flight is about testing our products, refining the waste process and getting feedback from our customers,” Mr David said.

“About 1000 single-use plastic items were substituted with sustainable alternatives or removed altogether from the flight, including individually-packaged servings of milk and Vegemite.”

According to Mr David, alternative products used during the flight include meal containers made from sugar cane and cutlery made from crop starch, all of which are fully compostable.

“At the end of the meal service, Qantas cabin crew collected items left over for reuse, recycling or composting in multiple waste streams,” Mr David said.

“Customers used digital boarding passes and electronic bag tags where possible, with staff on hand to make sure any paper passes and tags were disposed of sustainably.”

SUEZ Australia and New Zealand Director of Sustainability Justin Frank said SUEZ is proud to be supporting Qantas in meeting their waste reduction targets.

“SUEZ and Qantas have collaborated for over 15 years now and we’re looking forward to continuing to help them achieve their targets of diverting waste from landfill, using sustainable products and avoiding use altogether,” Mr Frank said.

“SUEZ is working with Qantas on other diversion and recycling measures throughout their operations, including head office and lounges to assist them with their waste reduction goals.”

Qantas lounges at Sydney Airport’s domestic terminal went ‘green’ for the duration of the flight.

“In its effort to remove 100 million single-use plastic items every year by the end of 2020, Qantas and Jetstar will replace 45 million plastic cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups and four million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives,” Mr David said.

“Airlines are legally required to dispose of some materials permanently, such as quarantined food from international flights – Qantas will work with suppliers and government to reduce the volume of this waste.”

The zero-waste flight was also 100 per cent carbon offset.

“Qantas operates the largest carbon offset scheme in the aviation industry, with a passenger offsetting their flight every minute,” Mr David said.

“From mid-2019, customers will earn 10 Qantas Points for every dollar spent offsetting their travel from Australia, which is the highest standard earn rate of any frequent flyer initiative.”

Additionally, Qantas last year operated the first biofuel flight between Australia and the United States using biofuel processed from mustard seed and in 2012 operated Australia’s first biofuel trial flights.

Related stories:

X