Lessons from the EU: Eggersmann and Skala

Duncan Bowett, Eggersmann UK Managing Director, speaks with Waste Management Review about the growing Australian resource recovery market and a local partnership with Skala.

While the European Union did not escape China’s National Sword restrictions in 2018, harmonised waste regulation facilitated a swift regional response. Higher population density was another factor, with greater material output working to incentivise private investment.

According to Duncan Bowett, Eggersmann UK Managing Director, the regulated EU system, and associated technology outlays, is better equipped at separating waste than its Australian counterpart. This, he says, inevitably leads to a higher-quality recycling product.

“The UK presently falls under EU legislation, so we have to follow the European directive on recycling and waste, whereas in Australia, it’s very much a state by state system in terms of what material is collected, sorting, processes and levies.”

Duncan suggests the disjointed nature of Australia’s resource recovery system, in conjunction with the country’s relatively small population, works to disincentivise private investment in higher grade processing technology.

He adds that given the rate of Australian construction and infrastructure building, this creates a significant level of missed economic and environmental opportunity.

“Australia’s big build movement is in full swing, and when you’re knocking down buildings and building new infrastructure, you’re using a lot of aggregates,” Duncan says.

“We went through a similar growth period in the UK 20 years ago and used landfill tax increases to capitalise on resource recovery potential.”

That forward thinking, Duncan says, has fostered a healthy resource recovery environment, where projects such as Eggersmann’s 2019 UK Clyde Valley turnkey facility are viable.

The Clyde Valley Residual Waste Project, which commenced operations in December 2019, involved five local authorities.

Designed to improve recycling and residual waste treatment to complement existing recycling and composting activities, the project was awarded to waste management company Viridor.

Following this, Eggersmann was tasked with plant design, build and installation.

As a result of the facility, Duncan says 90 per cent of the partner council’s waste is diverted from landfill and used to produce refuse-derived fuel.

The facility features a twin-line system with waste material delivered to an in-feed hall, where it is stored before its fed into the system. Each line, Duncan says, operates at approximately 36 tonnes an hour to produce the required 190,000 tonnes per annum throughput.

Further implemented technology includes two static high-torque, slow-speed shredders, which reduce the maximum waste size down to less than 300 millimetres.

The material, Duncan says, is then delivered via twin conveyors into two trommel screens that force separations at 80, 200 and 300 millimetres.

“Following the trommel process, the material is passed through a conveyor, with overband magnets and eddy current separators used to remove any ferrous and non-ferrous metals,” Duncan says.

“Post metal recovery, Eggersmann designed an optical sorting system that positively ejects all dense plastic material.”

The complexity of the Clyde Valley facility design is made possible by the nature of EU waste policy harmonisation and resulting private industry certainty, Duncan says.

“Waste companies, and any business working in the private sector, have to remain economically stable, and as result, will find loopholes and clever ways to extract more profitability,” he adds.

“There will always be a waste footprint, but harmonised regulation is the way forward. It has to be.”

Despite Australia’s current lack of centralised waste regulation, Duncan is positive that through industry advocacy and growing public awareness, the sector will grow in a manner that encourages private and public investment.

“Resource recovery can be difficult and it can be expensive, but there is a lot of innovation happening, and at this point, many new processes are becoming possible,” he says.

“Australia is already making strides in the way it deals with FOGO, energy and biogas. I definitely see the market changing over the next few years.”

To capitalise on future growth, Eggersmann developed a partnership with local bulk material handling and recycling equipment supplier Skala 18 months ago.

“Eggersmann has grown substantially through acquisitions, and because of that we have a wide network of partners around the world, which is how we started working with Skala,” Duncan says.

Skala, which in addition to equipment supply, designs and builds small plants and distributes Eggersmann equipment throughout Australia. Duncan adds that they also oversee Eggersmann’s fixed plant and static equipment operations.

In the case of small plants Skala takes the lead, however, when dealing with larger projects, Skala functions as Eggersmann’s Australian representative. Duncan says this takes the form of installation, maintenance and ongoing spare parts support.

“Time differences are a problem in the globalised market. If I’m in Australia having problems with my plant at half past noon for instance, calling someone in the UK who’s asleep is not going to help me,” he says.

“If you don’t have local support you have a very small window of action, which is not fair on the client.”

Through a combination of Eggersmann’s significant resources and Skala’s depth of Australian market knowledge, Duncan says they are able to provide a fully turnkey service.

“We’ve been really impressed with what Skala brings to the table in terms of local knowledge and support,” he says.

“Waste and recycling is certainly the topic on everyone’s lips at the moment, so it’s important Eggersmann can turn to Skala and help grow the sector.”

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