Acquisitions in the spotlight part three: SUEZ

Waste Management Review talks to some of Australia’s largest waste management companies about the role of scalability in the future of the waste sector. 

This article is the third in a three part series featuring Bingo Industries, Cleanaway, Corio Waste Management and SUEZ. 

SUEZ Australia and New Zealand has developed its own action plan internally. It focuses on circular economy and driving partnerships and innovation across new technologies.

CEO Mark Venhoek calls for a fundamental change in the market through new infrastructure with WtE one part of the bigger solution underpinning broader initiatives.

As part of this paradigm shift, he wants the packaging sector, federal government and state and territories to step up and show more leadership in taking responsibility for their material processing.

When it comes to the broader structure of the industry, Mark says it’s not for SUEZ to comment on the specifics of others out there, but strong leadership is key.

“I do believe if you have a strong sector with various leaders it’s probably easier to make some changes.

“We have quite a bit of industry fragmentation around the industry but I guess the leadership for me is so not so much about market share or revenue, but what the changes we are going to make in terms of say, building new infrastructure and innovation.”

He says the fundamental changes required in the marketplace will not necessarily be supported by the size of one’s business, but strong leadership in areas such as safety and compliance.

Importantly, long-term visibility by the regulator and certainty of volumes is required to commit to sites and large-scale capital investments such as in WtE. In this vein, decisions such as the mixed waste organics ban in NSW are not helpful and undermine planning and confidence. 

Mark says a WtE solution could support markets such as plastics that have fallen victim to the laws of supply and demand or don’t meet contamination standards.

“It would be a very good support and potential backup plan to ensure those volumes don’t end up in a landfill,” he says.

He says that SUEZ Australia and New Zealand is looking at a range of WtE projects. Some that have already been announced include the East Rockingham facility in WA as well as a joint venture with Australian Paper in Victoria. 

With the growth of population and the fact that planning new facilities can take five to 10 years, SUEZ is also committed to expanding its Elizabeth Drive Landfill in NSW.

“In the interim, typically in the NSW, Sydney and greater region, we’ll still have a level of dependency on landfill I’m afraid, and a result of that we will have to expand that facility. It’s in the interest of the public to be able to secure a proper outlet.”

Mark says that resource recovery parks such as Lucas Heights are likewise only one part of the solution, covering only a small percentage of Sydney’s waste and not the residual stream. 

“It will solve part of the problems that we might have but only on a small scale,” he says. 

“Most of those facilities are capable of treating a small percentage of the waste that is being generated even if there are niches, so you need solutions for the mainstream volumes.”

Mark says that where relevant, SUEZ will partner with companies that have an appropriate site and permit and align with the company’s vision and strategy. In some cases it may also reduce investment uncertainty, he adds.

SUEZ is driving a number of unique projects overseas. The company has opened one of Europe’s most advanced packaging sorting facilities for lightweight packaging in Ölbronn, Germany with an annual processing capacity of 100,000 tonnes.

In this case, Mark says the commercial environment in Germany is conducive to building a facility on a long-term contractual basis.

“There’s nothing stopping us from opening these kinds of facilities,” he says. 

“If I look at the one in southern Germany, it is the most modern across the globe but it is governed by a very special system around the Green Dot, meaning plastics, paper, cardboard and metal are collected separately and treated by these levels of infrastructure.”

In the Bang Phli district near Bangkok, the company plans on building a recycling plant that turns plastic waste into circular polymers, strengthening its presence in South-East Asia.

Mark says that in Bangkok, there is not nearly the level of scalability of Australia to support the conditions.

In terms of whether a four-bin system of food and glass could be the answer to Australia’s recycling concerns, he says that anything that can be done to support source separation at a higher level would make an impact on generating better quality raw materials.

“We are very supportive of the COAG initiative [waste ban] and planning they put ahead, but I do believe we can do it,” he says.

“There will be a bit of pain in the coming years, but I am also sure with collective passion and energy, we can see some magnificent outcomes.”

Click here to read part one and two

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SUEZ-ResourceCo hits one million tonnes of PEF

SUEZ-ResourceCo’s South Australian Wingfield facility has officially produced one million tonnes of alternative fuel.

SUEZ-ResourceCo Chairman Mark Venhoek said the facility uses technology to harnesses the energy value found in construction and demolition and commercial and industrial waste.

According to Mr Venhoek, the energy is then used to produce process engineered fuel (PEF) for Adelaide Brighton Cement.

“The partnership has seen both a huge reduction in reliance on fossil fuels and significant diversion from landfill.,” Mr Venhoek said.

“PEF presents a cost-effective, sustainable solution to the generation of baseload energy, while helping address the complex issues of waste management – it’s a win/win.”

According to a SUEZ-ResourceCO statement, the plant was the first of its kind commissioned in Australia, and has helped diverted two million tonnes of waste from landfill.

“The multi-million-dollar resource recovery and alternative fuels plant has been a leader in Australia’s efforts to move away from a make, use and dispose model, to the recovery, recycling and re-use of products to extract their maximum value,” the statement reads.

Adelaide Brighton Limited CEO Nick Miller said PEF has helped reduce the company’s reliance on natural resources.

“Through the use of this alternative fuel, Adelaide Brighton Cement has achieved a reduction of approximately 500,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions since project inception,” Mr Miller said.

“The cement produced by Adelaide Brighton is used in a host of major infrastructure projects across South Australia, including the recent redevelopment at Adelaide Oval.”

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SUEZ provides $165,000 for sustainability projects

More than $165,000 in funding has been secured by groups working to improve their local communities and environment from waste and water management company SUEZ.

The 2018 SUEZ Community Grants Program provides individual grants of up to $15,000 have been awarded to community groups, organisations and schools.

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Recycling education programs, youth sustainability networks, community resources sharing initiatives and sustainable gardens are some of the successful projects that have secured funding.

Since it began in 2014, the SUEZ Community Grants Program has provided more than $740,000 to Australian organisations contributing to stronger communities and healthier environments.

SUEZ Australia and New Zealand CEO Mark Venhoek said the company sees supporting grassroots organisations and projects as crucial in helping communities and their local environments thrive.

“Every year we are inundated with applications from right across the country, from Western Australia to the east coast, for an incredibly diverse range of sustainable projects,” Mr Venhoek said.

“It’s inspiring and heartening to see such dedication to building strong and connected communities, creating a groundswell for sustainable living practices and supporting the circular economy. We look forward to seeing how this year’s recipients put the grants to work to grow the impact of their initiatives.

“We are always blown away by the depth of what’s happening out there in our communities, and it’s a real privilege to be able to continue to support that important work,” he said.

SUEZ, ACOR, SV respond to Environment Minister meeting

Stakeholders have largely welcomed the commitments made on Friday by state and territory ministers at April’s Meeting of Environment Ministers – with some suggestions.

Federal Government, state and territory ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association met on Friday to set a sustainable path for Australia’s recyclable waste, in the seventh Meeting of Environment Ministers. Taking action on recycled waste in the wake of China’s restrictions on imports was the focus of the meeting. Australia is one of over 100 countries affected by China’s new restrictions, affecting around 1.3 million tonnes of our recycled waste. Read the story on the outcomes of the meeting here.

Australia’s National Waste Policy will be updated by the end of this year to include circular economy principles, along with a target endorsed of 100 per cent Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.

They pledged for new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic solar panels and batteries, while also agreeing to explore waste to energy further and advocate using recycled materials in government procurement.

While making a number of pledges, ministers agreed to have a teleconference in mid-June to discuss progress on recycling, and to meet in late 2018 to further progress delivery of the commitments on Friday.

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SUEZ Australia & New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Mark Venhoek welcomed the government’s focus on making 100 per cent of products recyclable and re-useable by 2025. He noted that swift action and investment needs to be made to ensure that this goal is met.

“As a waste industry, we are falling behind globally and we require fast action to stimulate the local market for recycled and recovered products,” Mr Venhoek said.

“We support the government’s 100 per cent recycled packaging goal which will create a sustainable demand for these products, but believe that it should be mandatory that packaged products can be re-used.

“Collaboration to achieving this is key and without investment from government and a commitment from packaging manufacturers and industry working together, we will not achieve this goal.”

Mr Venhoek also welcomed the commitment from different levels of government to explore waste to energy projects and the support for the technology from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

“Energy from waste technology is the missing link in the waste management hierarchy and waste infrastructure in Australia. After reduction, re-use and recycling, there is a crucial element: to recover the energetic value from waste,” he said.

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Stan Krpan said leadership is crucial to ensuring we have a sustainable recycling industry that Australians can be proud of.

Mr Krpan said yesterday’s commitments align with the Victorian Government’s suite of waste strategies and programs that move the state toward a circular economy.

“Supporting our local recycling industry to move towards a circular economy is reflected in the ministers’ commitment to increasing our recycling capacity, advocating for the increased use of recycled material and creating targets for the use of recycled content in packaging,” he said.

“We are also encouraged the strong support of product stewardship schemes and the increasing in the procurement of recycled goods government and industry buy,” he said.

“Large procurements by government and companies can influence upstream design to reduce waste and packaging and trigger other innovations.”

ACOR Chief Executive Officer Pete Shmigel said the right chords have been struck by ministers about investing in recycling’s future, but we did not hear two very important sounds: implementation details and dollars in the till.

“The recycling industry welcomes commitments about ensuring recyclability of packaging products, buying recycled content products by governments, expanding domestic reprocessing capacity and developing a new national plan,” he said.

“However, today’s ministerial announcement lacks comprehensive targets for all measures, and consequences for underperformance, that make practice from theory.”

Mr Shmigel said pro-recycling policy principles are welcome, but pro-recycling positive action and investment is now to be expected.

“As ACOR, we look forward to working directly with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to identify and facilitate a strengthened investment presence in resource recovery – including in an expedited timeframe. There are good projects that merit backing among our members.”

“As ACOR, we strongly question the timeframe given for products’ recyclability as packaging is getting more complex each day and resulting in greater contamination and community cost each day that passes. By 2025, millions of tonnes of potential contamination would have passed through the system without the producers of packaging taking greater responsibility for their decisions.

Mr Shmigel said similar commitments were given in the 2009 National Waste Policy and, on current timeframes, it will be 16 years by the time they have been realised, describing it as “truly mediocre”.

“Finally, further work is urgently needed at state levels to ensure that recyclate does not need to be disposed to landfill in the short-term.”

Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) Chief Executive Officer Gayle Sloan said it is extremely pleasing that the National Waste Strategy will be updated by the end of this year and WMAA looks forward to participating in this.

“The endorsement by Ministers of a target of 100 percent of Australian packaging being recyclable or reusable by 2025 is heartening, and we look forward to working with government to develop meaningful targets from at least 2020 to ensure that this actually achieved,” Ms Sloan said.

“Industry recalls targets set previously under the National Packaging Covenant that were never monitored or achieved, and once this failure was recognised it was just too late.”

Ms Sloan said while there was no new funding for recycling in Friday’s announcement, one thing WMAA will advocate to start immediately is government at all levels spending existing funds differently.

“Ministers must go much further than simply advocating for increased use of recycled materials in the goods that government and industry buy.

“With over 90 per cent of the community supporting recycling and the purchase of recycled products by government, government needs to hold itself to account and if it does not prioritise the use of recycled material, to report to the community why it does not, this should be the norm going forward, not the exception,” she said.

WMAA in a statement said the federal government must show leadership in this space and act now to grow demand for recycled products that can develop markets and jobs in both metropolitan and regional areas. For example, it said Commonwealth Federal Assistance Grants to local government should be predicated on councils using more recycled glass sand and not virgin sand.

“Industry absolutely recognises that there is a place for waste to energy in Australia as an alternate to landfill, and we support this technology. However, it cannot replace recycling and remanufacturing.”

Director of Boomerang Alliance Jeff Angel, which looks after 47 national, state and local groups, described the voluntary approach to recycled products as “weak.”

“Mandatory rules, as in Europe, are the only assured way to establish a stable and growing market to justify the investment into new manufacturing,” Mr Angel said.

“If we can have an enforceable renewable energy target, then we can have a similar system for recycled content. A lot of questions remain to be answered about the 100 per cent recyclable, compostable or reusable target including collection capacity – it’s not just about labels.”

Federal Government Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg on Friday said finding a solution to the 1.3 million tonnes of recyclable waste is an urgent and important issue which requires a coordinated approach from supply right through to demand.

“It is also an opportunity for Australia to develop its capabilities and capacity in recycling through effective cooperation and collaboration among the three levels of government,” he said.

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