Scott Morrison visits New York MRF

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has highlighted his commitment to working collaboratively with state governments and industry to grow Australia’s recycling infrastructure capacity.

The statements were made following a tour of the Sims Metal Management materials recovery facility (MRF) in Brooklyn New York.

Commenting on the scale and scope of the MRF, Mr Morrison said he was excited to see similar technology employed in Australia.

“What we’re seeing here is truly exciting, and it is truly achievable because it is commercial, and it’s a partnership between the public and the private sectors,” Mr Morrison said.

“I mean, up to about two thirds of the revenue that is generated here doesn’t come from the contracts they have with governments, it comes from the products and the revenue streams that are generated by selling that outside of this facility.”

Mr Morrison said the facility’s success highlighted that improving the recycling sector was achievable through public and private sector partnerships.

“There are many environmental challenges that we face, and we need to take action on all of them, but this one for Australia, in a highly urbanised society, one where our waste is our responsibility, these are the commercial solutions that we need to have in place,” Mr Morrison said.

“And this will be a centrepiece of our focus, not only on our domestic environmental agenda, but on our international environmental agenda.”

Sims Metal Management CEO Alistair Field said it was important that contractual arrangements with city governments were mutually beneficial.

“We work very closely with New York City, and in the times that we have ebbs and flows and commodity cycles, there has to be an understanding of how our business can manage through those cycles,” Mr Field said.

“We have seen instances here in the US and throughout the world where that has not worked. So that’s a really key arrangement and our commercial arrangement with business and government.”

When asked by media why similar technology wasn’t being implemented in Australia, Mr Morrison said the scale of operations was challenging.

The Prime Minister added that he would work closely with state governments and the Commonwealth to build that scale.

“The discussion I had with the states at the last meeting of COAG was a very enthusiastic one. I think there’s a real willingness to identify the things that can facilitate this sort of commercial activity,” Mr Morrison said.

“One of the things we are looking at is the procurement practices of our road building agencies, to ensure that they are incorporating recycled asphalt into their procurement in the tens of billions of dollars that we are spending on roads.”

Mr Morrison said higher energy costs in Australia were also a challenge, however noted the potential inherent in waste to energy processes.

“One of the exciting things about waste management is that it can generate its own energy, and plants like this can potentially become fully energy self-sufficient, through recycling waste and converting it through gasification and other processes into energy,” Mr Morrison said.

Related stories:

Veolia hosts MRF education day

Veolia opened the doors of its Echuca materials recovery facility (MRF) to local councils and commercial businesses on 11 September, to educate them on MRF operations and processing.

Veolia Commercial Services General Manager Daniel Paone said educating customers and the wider community was an important part of Veolia’s approach to materials recovery.

“Veolia owns and operates the MRF in Echuca, which has a design capacity of approximately 20,000 tonnes per annum. The MRF processes mixed recyclables that are collected throughout the region,” Mr Paone said.

“By working with our customers, we can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill and avoid contamination risk, which not only has a negative impact on the environment, but puts the safety of our people at risk. The more our customers and the community understand how the facility works, the more effectively we can serve the community and our customers.”

Veolia Sustainability Coordinator Francesca Stafford said the open day highlighted a range of issues caused by contamination including safety risks for MRF employees, a reduction in commodity recyclability and an increase in sorting and disposal costs.

“Hosting an industry open day like this one is an essential component of our wider engagement strategy,” Ms Stafford said.

“Education and awareness is fundamental to sustainability, and allowing our clients to see the issues first hand will help them drive positive change within their local communities.”

Related stories:

Commingled trust: Wastech Engineering

Wastech National Projects Product Manager Mike McConnell takes Waste Management Review through the company’s materials recovery facility concept design process. 

When China placed contamination restrictions on imported waste in 2017, Australian material recovery facilities (MRF) had to face up to the realisation that their technology wouldn’t meet the 0.5 per cent rate.

According to a 2018 federal analysis of Australia’s municipal recycling infrastructure, a major issue for MRFs is the lack of technical capacity to sort commingled, highly contaminated municipal waste materials to a standard that meets stringent export specifications.

In the wake of China, prices for plastic, cardboard and paper have dropped. Demand for higher quality material however had risen, which offers significant market opportunities for processors willing to invest in technical capacity and optical sorting upgrades.

Wastech National Projects Product Manager Mike McConnell says the complexity of current challenges makes turnkey solutions more attractive than ever.

“The industry is presently facing a unique set of challenges, and many recycling companies don’t have the time to sit down and analyse how to best upgrade their facilities,” Mike says.

“Through evaluating the industry via reports on waste volumes, equipment needs, collection methods and operational requirements, Wastech is able to provide clients with fully realised MRF concepts and design.”

According to Mike, the key to good business practice when developing a MRF is building trust with the client.

“Effectively turning a client’s initial request into a well-functioning MRF requires trust between both parties. We need to understand their volumes, waste composition and material process flows,” Mike says.

“At a minimum you will be working with the client for six months, and in some cases, it might take two years. It’s really important both organisations understand each other and the process.”

Mike says concept design begins with a study of the client’s needs, starting on the base level of whether they require a retrofit for an existing MRF or to develop an entirely new facility.

From there, Wastech looks at the client’s required volumes, tonnes per year and what waste streams the proposed plant will be dealing with.

Mike places high importance on this initial stage, noting the significant variability of waste streams and therefore the customer’s equipment needs.

“Understanding the composition of the waste stream is key as it informs all equipment purchasing decisions,” Mike says.

“For example, what kind of screening is needed? Does the client require optical sorting? Are they dealing with coloured or uncoloured containers? Are they dealing with both?”

Following this, Wastech examines what outputs the client is looking for in relation to desired end markets and purity.   

“Looking at material process flow involves working out how the MRF will achieve the client’s specified requirements, most significantly the levels of purity needed to achieve the finished product,” Mike says.

“We formulate a material process flow and mass balance analysis, which then helps us determine what equipment is needed, and then we review that in detail with the client.”   

Through a partnership with CP Group, an American separation and material recovery equipment manufacturer, Wastech is able to support MRFs for commingled recyclables, municipal solid waste, construction and demolition material, commercial and industrial waste, waste-to-energy operations and e-waste.

Wastech offers a range of screening equipment, notably the OCC Screen which automatically separates cardboard from other fibres and containers.

The company also provides optical sorting sensors, collection hoods to transport handpicked film, eddy currents for nonferrous material, metering drums, air drum separators, silo blowers, trommel screens, balers and conveyor belts.

“Following the initial design presentation, we can adjust and modify equipment choices,” Mike says.

“Once the client is happy and following multiple reviews of the initial concept and design, we conduct a number of site visits where we measure the existing or proposed facility to figure out how the equipment will best fit into the space.”

Following this, Mike says Wastech develops a 3D model for the client, which allows them to fully visualise the proposal.

“We find 3D visualisations to be a much more effective communication tool than simple facts and figures or drawings,” Mike says.

The next stage is the tender process, where Wastech provides a quote for the facility’s realisation.

“When we’re working with clients on the design and concept over a period time, be it local government or private companies, a real trusting relationship is established. They know what we are offering is value for money,” Mike says.   

“In addition to relationship building, we have a long history of delivering MRFs, so clients know if they request a certain level of purity that’s what Wastech will supply.”

Mike says the SUEZ MRF in Bibra Lake, Perth, is a recent example of Wastech’s turnkey process.

Wastech was commissioned to upgrade an already existing SUEZ MRF through the introduction of optical sorting equipment, which, according to Mike, led to a significant increase in efficiency and subsequent output.

A spokesperson for SUEZ said in May that the company is committed to taking action to expand recycling and sorting processes.

“SUEZ’s investment in a state-of-the-art optical sorting system, in partnership with Wastech, is one of the ways we have enhanced our infrastructure to increase our recovery, and therefore recycling rates at our MRF in Bibra Lake,” the spokesperson said.

“This investment, alongside working with our customers, has allowed us to ensure contamination is kept to a minimum and helped to keep the kerbside recycling system sustainable.”

Related stories:

Climate change impact: MRA Consulting

MRA’s Mike Ritchie speaks to Waste Management Review about the waste sector’s contribution to national emissions and its role in meeting Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.  

Read moreClimate change impact: MRA Consulting

WALGA releases CDS discussion paper

At its annual policy forum, The Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) released the Sharing the Benefits of the container deposit scheme (CDS) discussion paper.

WALGA Manager Waste and Recycling Rebecca Brown said the paper would form the basis for advocacy on key components of CDS regulations.

CDS laws were introduced into the Western Australian Parliament in December 2018, with the scheme expected to start in early 2020.

The scheme is expected to deliver a net positive benefit of around $152 million over the next 20 years.

WALGA proposes negotiations between local governments and material recovery facilities (MRF) on how to best share cost benefits of the CDS start at a 50/50 basis — net the verifiable inclusion costs for MRF’s.

Ms Brown said a 50/50 starting point would provide both parties with an equitable share of the benefits of CDS, while including considerations of the costs to the MRF operator.

The paper also explores how CDS will influence the cost of operating an MRF, potential sampling protocols and approaches to transparency.

At the policy forum, Ms Brown also announced the development of a new WALGA resource for local government that provides an overview of the legislative framework, anticipated implementation timeframes, contractual relationships and local government considerations of the CDS.

Related stories:

TOMRA and CEMAC technologies partner

Sophisticated sensor technologies are helping Australian material recovery facilities improve their sorting capacities beyond what is possible with manual sorting. 

Read moreTOMRA and CEMAC technologies partner

Potential emergency plastic tax by 2021: report

The plastic waste crisis is expected to deepen, potentially leading to a federal response in the form of an emergency tax by 2021, according to global wealth manager Credit Suisse.

It argues that reactionary policy measures are highly likely in the short term and could include a tax on virgin resins or additional tariffs placed on imported plastic goods in its report, The age of plastic at a tipping point.

Related stories:

With too much plastic waste domestically and with no large export markets available, Credit Suisse estimates there will be a sharp increase in plastic being sent to landfill and illegal dumping.

“Our headline view is that things will get worse before they get better: the policy initiatives in the National Waste Strategy won’t take hold until FY20/21,” the report said.

Credit Suisse expects bans on single use-plastics to be extended to the six most common plastic packaging and tax incentives to be provided to help hit the 2025 target of 30 per cent recycled content in packaging.

The long lead time from policy approval to implementation is problematic, particularly for new waste infrastructure, which the company said will likely lead to a more supportive project approval environment for waste infrastructure.

Waste managers are expected to benefit from this scenario, with short term potential from council re-negotiations and long-term potential to fast-track waste infrastructure approvals, according to the report.

“Plastic has infiltrated almost every aspect of human life. It is the most prolific material on the planet, growing faster than any commodity in the last 33 years,” the report said.

“Plastic packaging has become one of the most intractable environmental challenges of our age. None of the commonly used plastics are biodegradable; they accumulate in landfills or the natural environment rather than decompose.

“To curtail the situation in the short run, it is a matter of when, not if, we see reactionary policy measures,” the report said.

X