Two-hundred million bottles: Alex Fraser

A new glass additive bin at Alex Fraser’s Clarinda Recycling Facility is boosting its reprocessing capability by 40,000 tonnes a year and has the capacity to double that production annually.

Late last year, Alex Fraser was among 13 recipients of the Victorian Government’s $4.67 million Resource Recovery Infrastructure Grants program.

It used the $336,500 grant towards the construction of the new glass and brick additive bins at its Clarinda Recycling Facility, where they are used to blend recycled glass sand and brick into a new, sustainable roadbase product.

This single piece of recycling infrastructure is markedly increasing the distribution of recycled glass and brick into road and rail projects throughout Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs.

Delivering on end-market demand is a central focus for Alex Fraser, with Clarinda currently processing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of recycled products for use on road construction and maintenance projects across Victoria.

Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser Managing Director, says the facility is currently reducing the landfilling and stockpiling of problematic glass by 40,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of 200 million bottles.

He adds that with the new additive bins in full production mode, Alex Fraser has the capacity to double this annual production.

“By reprocessing this priority waste into high quality sand, we’re able to supply rail and road projects with a range of high-spec, sustainable materials that cut costs, cartage and carbon emissions, and reduce the strain on natural resources,” he says.

“We’re pleased to be working with the Victorian Government to overcome one of the state’s biggest recycling challenges.”

Matt Genever, Director of Resource Recovery at Sustainability Victoria, says SV recognised the Clarinda Recycling Facility as an important site for resource recovery in Melbourne.

“Processing up to one million tonnes of recycling per annum, the site serves a dual purpose, both as a hub for C&D waste in the south-east and through supply of aggregate and sand into new construction activities,” he says.

“We are acutely aware of the shortage of quarried materials to supply the state’s significant infrastructure program and having a site of this scale located in close proximity to these major projects is essential in ensuring ongoing supply of recycled construction products and materials.”

Recently, the Southern Program Alliance opted to utilise almost 200,000 tonnes of tonnes of Alex Fraser’s recycled materials on the Mentone and Cheltenham Level Crossing Removal Upgrade (LXRA).

The project, expected to be completed in early 2021, is set to save 170,000 tonnes of material from landfill and will reduce the strain on natural resources by 185,000 tonnes.

With the additive bin now in full operation at the Clarinda Recycling Facility, Alex Fraser is increasing its handling of priority recovered materials – like glass fines and brick – to around 800 tonnes per week.

“Glass is a high-volume waste stream, so it is imperative its recycling facilities are well located close to the point of generation and close to its end-markets,” Peter says.

He adds that as inner-metropolitan quarries deplete, natural sand is being trucked up to 100 kilometres, driving up costs, traffic congestion and emissions.

The additive bin will not only help with Melbourne’s glass waste problem, but provide an inner city supply solution that reduces these impacts.

“We are not only reprocessing waste materials, but ensuring that the material is recycled into a valuable resource that is needed and contributes toward Victoria’s growing circular economy,” Peter says.

Alex Fraser’s Clarinda facility has the capacity to recycle a million tonnes of C&D waste each year. Peter explains that the reprocessed material typically goes out to road and rail projects as recycled aggregates, road base or asphalt.

“With the new additive bins, we are able to blend recycled glass sand and brick into a product that meets Vicroads specifications for most road bases which are being used in huge quantities on municipal works and Big Build projects throughout the south east,” he says.

You can read the full article in the July edition of Waste Management Review.

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Waste to Energy Forum announces program updates

The Australian Waste to Energy Forum, one of the country’s most comprehensive waste events, returns to the Mercure in Ballarat 18-20 February 2020.

In its fifth consecutive year, the forum aims to provide a platform for all interested parties to discuss developments in Australia’s growing waste-to-energy (WtE) sector.

The theme for this year’s Australian Waste to Energy Forum, On the road to recovery, was selected to address two key areas: the application of waste hierarchy fundamentals; and changing perceptions about WtE facilities and their role within an integrated waste management strategy.

As in previous years, the event will run as a single stream, so all attendees can participate in all sessions. The aim is to provide a platform for discussion of challenges facing the industry, as well as showcasing latest technology and processes from Australia and around the world – both thermal and non-thermal.

Additionally, the forum will explore ways local government can co-operate with industry to develop appropriate infrastructure and deliver optimum waste services to their constitutes. Attendees will also hear case studies of projects that have successfully applied WtE technology.

Program overview:

The program features a range of speakers including Stephen Adamthwaite from EPA Victoria, who will present discuss WtE proposals, with particular reference to how proposals will fit under the new EP Act.

Trevor Evans, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, will deliver the Minister’s Address via video, after an official opening from City of Ballarat Mayor Ben Taylor.

Toby Terlet, Veolia Kwinana Project Director, will then detail challenges faced by a WtE facility in Tyseley, UK, including major upgrade works at the same time as industrial action, heavy snow and a declining national public sector budget.

This keynote presentation will discuss how Veolia worked proactively through the challenges with City of Birmingham to further cement the successful long-standing partnership and resulting in a 5-year contract extension.

Johnny Stuen, City of Oslo Waste-to-Energy Agency Technical Director, will deliver the second keynote presentation: providing an overview of the waste management system in Oslo, volumes technology and development work.

Oslo has optical sorting facilities, one for biological treatment/biogas production, and two WtE plants. The commercial WtE plant is the bigger of the two, and has competed projecting a full-scale carbon capture plant at site, awaiting investment decision.

Mr Stuen will also address why and how the source sorting system works, providing a detailed overview of technology, concept and market work for the biological treatment of organic waste in the system. He will also address regulative processes, development processes and further work.

Attendees will also hear from DELWP’s Angela Hoefnagels, Sustainability Victoria’s Matt Genever, CSIRO’s Daniel Roberts, Recovered Energy’s Ian Guss and ResourceCo’s Henry Anning.

Other discussion topics include WtE in a Circular Economy, Anaerobic Digestion, License to operate, current project updates, project development considerations and future opportunities and developments.

The Forum will also provide an opportunity for organisations to gain visibility and exposure in an interactive conference environment, with a number of social events and networking functions.

For more information click here.

Image curtesy of Paul Benjamin Photography. 

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Treading carefully on waste exports

It’s time we transformed into an economy that values all our resources and takes accountability onshore, writes Matt Genever, Director Resource Recovery, Sustainability Victoria.

The announcement by the Council of Australian Governments in August that Australia would ban the export of certain types of waste came as a surprise to most in the industry.

Global markets are already closing their doors to some degree, but Australia is still exporting around four million tonnes of material annually despite import restrictions set by China and other countries. Thus, the decision will certainly have implications for Australia’s domestic sector and the impacts will depend on how the ban is enacted and what materials are targeted.

Waste versus commodity

The intent of the ban is clear and easily justifiable. The images seen across media earlier in the year of mixed Australian waste, including soiled nappies, turning up at multiple Asian ports were not well received by the community. The social license of this great sector is already under siege and these images certainly didn’t help.

However, the situation is much more complex than this. It is unlikely that anyone could successfully argue that soiled nappies represent a tradeable commodity, but it does beg the question of where, and how, we draw the line between a waste and a commodity.

The recyclables being targeted as part of the ban include plastics, paper, glass and tyres.

Over the years, we’ve become more opportunistic in moving large volumes of plastics and paper offshore, which has led to less work being done locally to fully separate or “add value” to these resources.

In the case of tyres, there are valid questions being raised about where whole tyres, in particular, end up and how they are treated.

It’s this idea of “value adding” that offers the greatest opportunity for Australia, and equally where the most work needs to be done from the perspective of defining the boundaries of the ban.

How far does one need to go to add value? Is it simply separating material into different material types or is it fully commoditising it into a manufacturing-ready feedstock?

This is a conversation that Australia, and other nations, has been having for years.

In fact, there is a whole document dedicated to this called: Australian Waste Definitions: Defining waste related terms by jurisdictions in Australia. It is certainly not bedtime reading, but it is worth looking at the many and varied definitions we have for waste across each state and territory.

Words like “rejected”, “abandoned”, “surplus” and “discarded” commonly appear, as does the phrase “where not intended for recycling”.

In a world where one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, there is a fine line that must be walked here in developing these definitions.

Balance is everything

The complexity in defining a waste and how and when it becomes a commodity should not be the driving force that diverts us from this course of action. Like so many things in this system, it’s really all about balance.

We have an obligation to protect human health and as global citizens this needs to extend far beyond our own ocean-locked borders. Having said that, we also have an obligation to ensure that we are positioning our sector to develop its own domestic capacity and have the ability to participate in a thriving global commodity.

The sweet spot in here offers pause for some very optimistic reflection. There are already strong signs that industry is in a state of growth.

New investments are coming online and many businesses have already taken the leap toward commoditising the materials they collect. From hot-washed PET going into new bottles to government procurement of glass sand, the tide is most certainly turning.

So, Australia’s collective decision to ban exports needs to support and accelerate the change underway but at the same time consider our place in a global marketplace – one where we already have high operating costs (energy, in particular) and high
labour costs.

When one door closes, a window opens

Regardless of definitions, the idea of value-adding or commoditising our resources is one that is appealing. The opportunities for economic growth, new skills, new infrastructure and new jobs in the recycling sector are significant, but are only the tip of iceberg.

When we start commoditising our resources domestically, a whole range of opportunities for local manufacturing emerge. I was immensely pleased with the level of interest in Sustainability Victoria’s recent Buy Recycled Conference 2019.

I spoke with a number of manufacturing businesses that have the capacity right now to absorb more recycled content but are unable to source it from the local market. With the door to exports closing, its heartening to see the window into our domestic manufacturing is well and truly open.   

While there are probably more questions than answers in the commentary above (in the spirit of walking a fine line, I too must traverse my own path of balance), there is no doubt in my mind that the rewards here far outweigh the risks.

We’ve got to get the definitions right. We’ve got to get the balance right. But it’s high time we transformed into an economy that values all our resources, takes accountability for their management onshore and is focused on adding value and commoditising material when it reaches end of life.

This article was published in the December 2019 edition of Waste Management Review. 

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Balancing the good and the bad of plastics

There is a raft of potential changes and interventions that can be made to better position plastics as the remarkable material that it is, writes Matt Genever, Director Resource Recovery, Sustainability Victoria.

I recall not too long ago seeing a 1950s TV advertisement from the United States promoting the virtues of disposable plastics. A typical American family seated around the dinner table, enjoying a meal on plastic tableware – off the plaid orange and brown tablecloth (classic 50s!) – and sweeping the whole lot into the bin when they’re done…plates, bowls, knives, forks…all of it.  Selling the dream of a “hassle-free” life.

Thankfully things have changed, somewhat, since then. We saw the first global plastic waste revolution in the 80s – then in the 90s, with the move away from traditional glass packaging spurring the creation of the first kerbside recycling programs. More recently, the focus has been on the significant impact of poorly managed plastic entering our marine environment and the accumulation of microplastics.   

It is fair to say that the balance isn’t quite right yet. This useful, flexible, malleable and now ubiquitous material can play an infinitely useful role in our world, from lightweight prosthetic limbs to 3D models printed seemingly from mid-air. On the flipside, its use has also become a pervasive vehicle to feed our throwaway culture.

In Australia, we generate around 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, that’s around 100 kilograms of plastic waste for every person in the country. Despite the options for reuse and recycling, almost 2.2 million tonnes (87 per cent) are sent to landfill (National Waste Report 2018). However, recently shoots of new growth have emerged, signalling a dramatic change in the way we use, recover and, ultimately recycle plastic globally.

There is a raft of potential changes and interventions that can be made to better position plastics as the remarkable material that it is.

Demand and supply both need a kick start

There has been a good deal of talk on the role of government procurement in stimulating growth in the recycling sector, and rightly so. This is a fundamental step we need to get right in order to grow a healthy recycling ecosystem.

One of the things that strikes me is the fragmented nature of our current secondary manufacturing market for recyclables. On one side, there are materials that have well developed markets that need little or no intervention at all – like the use of recycled aggregates in roadbase and other civil construction. On the other side, there are markets that, even if government sent a strong procurement signal, would not necessarily be ready to respond immediately.

Plastic is a great example of this. The emerging opportunities are endless, from compressed plastic railway sleepers to companies like Advanced Circular Polymers who are producing food-grade recycled rPET and rHDPE. But in reality, there are only a handful of companies currently producing domestic, market-ready recycled products at scale in Australia.

So, it is important for government and industry to work together to make sure that the supply side is getting the support it needs to scale up as the demand grows through procurement mechanisms.

Industry has the momentum in its supply chain

One of the key factors that helped the United Kingdom to turn around its recycling system was a shift in the supply chain.

Specifically, the major supermarket chains like Tesco and Sainsbury’s moved to control more of the waste and recycling flows in and out of their businesses, in some cases becoming quasi-recyclers in their own right.

In recent months, reflecting on the meetings I’ve had around investment in plastic recycling, it’s encouraging to see how many of these are from the packaging industry and food and beverage supply chain itself rather than from traditional recycling businesses. The convergence of public attitude toward plastic, new national packaging targets and the diminishing export market for mixed plastics is generating huge momentum.

You can’t spell circular economy without “jobs”

It is equal parts frustrating and astonishing that collectively we have not made a stronger link between recycling and the creation of new “advanced manufacturing” jobs in Australia. With a minimum wage of almost $19 and hour and wholesale energy prices sitting around 300 per cent higher than the US, it’s unlikely that we’re going to be a country that goes back to low margin mass-producing widgets. There is a huge opportunity for high-margin, bespoke plastic products to be made locally from recycled materials and exported internationally.

In its Advanced Manufacturing Roadmap, CSIRO notes that Australia could position itself as a sustainable manufacturing hub, focusing on high-value advanced materials and applications. At the core of these materials and products will be polymers, both natural and synthetic.  The options are there for us to either feed from energy-intensive virgin materials or plug in directly from a well-developed, domestic Australia recycling sector.

This paradigm isn’t new. Ten years ago, it was concrete. Five years ago, it was glass. We’ve built businesses, infrastructure and end-uses for these materials and we’ll do the same for plastics.

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Enforcing e-waste

With Victoria’s e-waste ban commencing 1 July, Waste Management Review explores what supporting infrastructure has been put in place and some of the uncertainties surrounding compliance.

Read moreEnforcing e-waste

Compelling proposition

A shift in business practices would support a significant increase in procurement of recyclables, writes Matt Genever, Director Resource Recovery at Sustainability Victoria.

Read moreCompelling proposition

Sustainability Victoria appoints new director

A new director has been appointed to head Sustainability Victoria’s (SV) Resource Recovery Group, with executive experience in government, consulting and product stewardship.

Matt Genever officially joins SV on 2 July and replaces Jonathan Leake who became Director of the Business and Built Environment program last month.

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Stan Krpan said Mr Genever had led a terrific career with a focus on market development, strategy and policy development and delivering effective infrastructure to the resource recovery and waste sectors, in business and government.

“With the resource recovery and waste sectors going through a period of transition, our objective is to reinforce the sector as it stands now, and expand it,” Mr Krpan said.

“Matt has a particular passion for developing new markets for products and materials that can be hard to recycle.”

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“I share his view that Victoria, indeed Australia, has enormous potential to develop new resource recovery capacity for traditional markets like plastic and glass, and new ones like e-waste, food organic and garden organics so we reduce the amount of material that goes to landfill.”

Mr Genever said it was an exciting time to re-join Sustainability Victoria.

“Every industry has been through the same challenges that the recycling sector is experiencing now. It is difficult, but the right investments and improvements should ultimately build resilience and a more sustainable sector,” Mr Genever said.

“Rather than just throwing away waste left over from industrial, commercial or domestic settings, we need to encourage its reuse so more value is obtained as it moves through the economy.”

Mr Krpan said Mr Genever’s executive experience in government, consulting and product stewardship, his collaborative leadership approach and proven ability to deliver results would help to further build SV’s stakeholder relationships across industry and government.

“Matt is a recognised leader in the waste and resource recovery sector and led many of SV’s key strategies, waste and recycling programs for six years between 2008 and 2014.”

Mr Genever is currently Managing Director of the strategic environmental consultancy, Reincarnate, and was inaugural Chief Executive Officer of Tyre Stewardship Australia.

He also worked as Business Leader, Waste and Resource Use at Arcadis Asia Pacific.

Mr Genever holds a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Geography & Environmental Science and is a member of the Waste Management Association of Australia.

 

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