ResourceCo has invested over $40 million in new plants and machinery, in what is the most ambitious capital investment program in its history.
Jim Fairweather, ResourceCo CEO, speaks with Waste Management Review about developing new markets for the re-use of end-of-life products.
With the export ban on waste glass now in effect, ResourceCo is leading the charge in giving a second life to glass in South Australia.
For COAG’s export bans to be a success, harmonisation of Australia’s regulatory framework is key. Jim Fairweather, ResourceCo CEO, explains.
South Australia’s new $5 million Asphalt Manufacturing Plant will substantially increase the amount of high-performance recycled materials in local road construction.
As researchers attempt to gain a better understanding of the long-term effects of PFAS, ResourceCo’s Andrew Manning outlines a new engineering initiative.
In December 2018, a Federal Government sub-committee outlined nine recommendations to improve the country’s response to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination.
Recommendations included improvements to voluntary blood testing programs as a source of longitudinal health data and establishing a coordinator-general with the authority to coordinate government responses.
With research to gain a better understanding of the long-term effects of PFAS exposure still ongoing, recovery and re-manufacturing company ResourceCo has invested in a multi-million-dollar purpose-built state-of-the-art hazardous waste disposal facility.
The $5 million double-composite-lined disposal cell is designed by engineers to accept and dispose of a range of toxic contaminants such as PFAS.
The disposal cell’s footprint covers nearly two hectares and is located at Southern Waste ResourceCo at McLaren Vale, approximately 35 kilometres south of Adelaide.
Andrew Manning, ResourceCo Group Environment Manager, says the project was three years in the making. He adds that ResourceCo is collaborating with the South Australian EPA on project delivery.
“The new cell certainly raises the bar in environmental and engineering performance to accept some of the new and emerging hazardous waste streams generated from contaminated sites, and reflects best practice landfill design and construction,” Andrew says.
Construction of the new disposal cell commenced in mid 2019 to the highest liner performance standards, Andrew says. He adds that the design is in full compliance with new South Australian EPA landfill guidelines, released in 2019.
“After assessing and determining the contamination level of the PFAS materials, we can then, in accordance with EPA guidelines, act and deal with it directly,” he says.
PFAS has become a major concern to the environment, humans and animals worldwide, Andrew explains, with the manufactured chemicals used in a variety of products.
“As PFAS has been commonly used in household products and specialty applications such as non-stick cookware, paints, textiles, coatings, food packaging, firefighting foams, hydraulic fluid and mist suppressants, affected sectors expressing interest in the new cell are widespread,” Andrew says.
He adds that PFAS has been used for products within the commercial and industrial, government, defence and aviation sectors.
“Perfluorooctane sulfonate, perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorohexane sulfonate are currently the most common chemicals belonging to the PFAS group, and this facility is equipped to accept all these substances,” Andrew says.
According to Andrew, the double composite lined disposal cell is a new design for the South Australian marketplace and is the only one of its kind to be built to date.
“It offers a higher level of environmental performance to traditionally lined disposal cells,” he says.
The cell uses a multi-layer liner system consisting of three different types of liners made from processed shale materials, high-density polyethylene and geosynthetic clay liners.
This specific combination of liners and leachate collection and extraction systems, Andrew says, provides a high level of confidence that all leachate generated, collected and removed from the cell for evaporation will be safeguarded from the environment. This prevents groundwater contamination.
“We know PFAS compounds readily dissolve into water, which means they can travel long distances from the point of generation. Any impacted water needs to be captured and managed appropriately,” Andrew says.
“Improved cell engineering means it has both primary and secondary leachate collection and extraction layers in place, facilitating an increased level of environmental performance.”
Contaminated water is recovered and removed through the extraction layers, Andrew says, before being diverted into a secondary holding and evaporation ponds.
“Residual PFAS contamination can then be concentrated into sludge, recovered and removed from the evaporation ponds and sent offsite for further destruction,” he explains.
“The double-composite-lined disposal cell allows landholders to actively remove and clean up contaminated sites, and take the hazardous waste away to a purpose-built facility that is of the highest standard to better protect the environment.”
Australia has been working since 2002 to reduce the use of certain PFAS, with other countries phasing out or already discontinuing their use.
“Many industries are already getting in touch with us to find out how we can help, as they review sites where potential contamination has occurred and future remediation is needed,” Andrew says.
SUEZ-ResourceCo’s South Australian waste to energy plant has officially produced one million tonnes of alternative fuel.
Australia’s first waste-to-energy plant celebrated the production of one million tonnes of alternative fuel in November, and as a process aside, the diversion of two million tonnes of waste from landfill.
Working closely with Adelaide Brighton Cement, ResourceCo developed a Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF) as a partial replacement for fossil fuels for the company’s cement kiln in 2006.
The result is a plant capable of sorting, sizing and extracting 300,000 tonnes of combustible material each year. The Wingfield plant in South Australia is operated as a partnership between ResourceCo and SUEZ.
Simon Brown, ResourceCo Managing Director, says the company is proud to play a role in Australia’s efforts to move away from a make, use and dispose model in favour of a circular economy.
“ResourceCo’s ethos is to recover, recycle and re-use products to extract their maximum value – in this case dry non-recyclable material,” Simon says.
“The plant is a great example of what’s possible when it comes to circular economy initiatives.”
Cement produced by Adelaide Brighton, using PEF from the Wingfield plant, has been used in a host of major infrastructure projects across South Australia.
According to Simon, the Wingfield facility uses world-leading technology to harness the energy value in construction, demolition, commercial and industrial waste, otherwise destined for landfill, transforming it into a baseload fuel.
When unveiling a plaque to mark the one-millionth tonne milestone, Steven Marshall, South Australian Premier, acknowledged the facility as a great example of what’s possible in the resource recovery industry.
“South Australia leads the nation in resource recovery, and projects like this are fantastic for the environment as well as the economy,” Steven says.
“We know that for every tonne of waste recycled, there are more than three times the amount of jobs created compared to when sent to landfill.”
David Speirs, South Australian Environment and Water Minister, says the SUEZ-ResourceCo facility reinforces South Australia’s reputation as a national leader in waste management and circular economy initiatives.
“The waste management and resource recovery industry is a major player in South Australia’s economy with approximately 4800 people employed, and we want to this number to grow,” David says.
Mark Venhoek, SUEZ-ResourceCo Chairman and SUEZ Australia and New Zealand CEO, says in addition to creating employment, the SUEZ-ResourceCo partnership has resulted in significant environmental outcomes.
He adds that the facility has contributed not just to significant landfill diversion, but also a reduction in the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.
“PEF presents a cost-effective, sustainable solution to the generation of baseload energy, while helping to address the complex issues of waste management – it’s a win/win,” Mark says.
“Since launching as Australia’s first waste-to-energy plant in 2006, the facility has helped reduce annual green house gas emissions to the equivalent of the electricity supply of 50,000 homes.”
Nick Miller, Adelaide Brighton Limited CEO, shares Mark’s enthusiasm.
“SUEZ-ResourceCo’s alternative fuel reduces Adelaide Brighton Cement’s reliance on natural resources, as well as the use of raw materials in the cement manufacturing process,” he says.
“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.”
Tony Circelli, South Australian EPA Chief Executive, says the plant illustrates an innovative way of dealing with waste that would otherwise have gone to landfill.
“The EPA has driven a regulatory risk-based framework to ensure that innovation can occur with strong attention and adherence to their social license,” Tony says.
“The outcome is positive both for the environment and the people of South Australia.”
As Australia moves towards banning international waste exports, ResourceCo’s Process Engineered Fuel site is fulfilling an important role in Australia’s resource recovery framework.
Governments around the world are seeking to establish effective ways to preserve the Earth’s limited resources and deal with surrounding issues of waste.
It’s within this landscape that facilities such as Cleanaway ResourceCo’s resource recovery plant in New South Wales are demonstrating what’s possible.
The Wetherill Park facility, which is Australia’s largest plant of its kind, has processed more than 100,000 tonnes of dry commercial and industrial and mixed construction and demolition waste since opening in July last year.
Waste that would have otherwise been diverted to landfill is now being converted into a range of commodities including the baseload energy source – Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF).
The plant’s role in advancing Australia’s circular economy is generating interest both in Australia and overseas, including a recent visit from the Fijian Prime Minister.
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley also recently toured the state-of-the-art resource recovery facility to see first-hand the scale of the operation.
“We have a clear focus on reducing waste to landfill and increasing the nation’s recycling capacity and within that context, the operation at Wetherill Park is impressive,” Minister Ley says.
Chief Executive Officer Sustainable Fuels at ResourceCo Ben Sawley says the plant can divert up to 50,000 truckloads of waste from landfill, while also reducing a reliance on fossil fuels such as coal and gas.
“In one year alone, it can replace 100,000 tonnes of coal usage and takes the equivalent of 20,000 cars annually off the road in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” Ben says.
As developed countries move away from the make, use and dispose model in favour a circular economy, the importance of supporting and establishing new markets for re-manufactured products is critical.
To that end, the Federal Government has committed to working with industry leaders to decrease the amount of waste going to landfill and maximise the capability of the waste management and resource recovery sector.
At the recent Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) meeting, leaders agreed Australia should establish a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, while building the nation’s capacity to generate high-value recycled commodities and associated demand.
They tasked environment ministers with advising on a proposed timetable and response strategy following consultation with industry and other stakeholders.
That strategy will draw on the best science, research and commercial experience, including that of agencies like the CSIRO and the work of Cooperative Research Centres.
“We are at a point where the circular economy needs to be the mainstream economy.
“There are some fantastic individual industry examples and concepts in the market and our focus is on working with industry as we broaden our approach,” Minister Ley says.
“This is going to require government and industry working together to ensure greater consistency across local, state and federal regulation and a sensible approach to supporting markets for remanufactured products.”
Ms Ley says the feedback from industry to date has been extremely positive and the clear message is that the ideas and the opportunities are there, along with the investment potential.
“What we will seek to address during the Meeting of Environment Ministers and the months that follow is a policy framework that gives the recycling industry a greater sense of direction and the comfort it needs to invest,” Minister Ley says.
It’s encouraging news for companies like ResourceCo, which is committed to playing a key role in Australia’s sustainable energy mix by reducing waste and lowering carbon emissions through production of a commercially viable sustainable energy product.
“The plant transforms waste from selected non-recyclable waste streams that would otherwise go into landfill into a range of commodities including a baseload energy source known as PEF, which is used as a substitute for fossil fuels in both domestic and offshore markets in the production of cement and energy,” Ben says.
“The opportunity to tap further into this market makes good sense, both environmentally and economically.”
ResourceCo operates a suite of 22 plants across Australia and South-East Asia, and has been at the leading edge of resource recovery for 25 years.
“Investment in resource recovery and innovative waste-to-energy solutions is critical to achieving a sustainable future,” Ben says.
ResourceCo has appointed leading expert Henry Anning to its newly created energy arm to spearhead renewable energy solutions.
As more Australian businesses seek genuine alternative energy solutions, international alternative fuels leader ResourceCo has moved to provide further industry support.
Earlier this year, clean energy expert Henry Anning took on the newly created role of Chief Executive Officer of ResourceCo’s “specialised” energy arm.
Henry previously led the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s (CEFC) bioenergy platform and oversaw the investment of more than $400 million in energy projects – worth a billion dollars in the sector. This included supporting ResourceCo’s vision to roll out and build new Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF) manufacturing plants Australia-wide, including its latest plant at Wetherill Park in Sydney.
He was also an Associate Director at Low Carbon Australia, where he focused on bioenergy sector finance and industry engagement.
Henry says it’s an exciting time to be joining ResourceCo, as the company’s waste-derived fuel provides a unique solution for the manufacturing sector.
“Businesses are needing low-cost, long-term renewable energy solutions fast as soaring gas and electricity prices are really hurting them. For many, gas prices have increased four-fold over the last five years,” he says.
Henry explains that there are a lot of manufacturers who are using natural gas, in particular, for heat, such as hot water, steam or hot air. He says manufacturers have expressed their frustration about the uncertainty surrounding gas prices, market volatility and short-term energy fixes.
“Manufacturers and other high energy users are wanting certainty on lower energy prices and ResourceCo is uniquely placed to provide a lower cost, renewable, long-term energy solution.”
In response to these market demands, ResourceCo is expanding its suite of 24 plants across Australia and South-East Asia by developing new energy plants with biomass boilers to use PEF. The product is manufactured mainly from timber waste materials but also includes cardboard, paper, textiles and plastics.
At its own cost, ResourceCo can install a waste-derived fuel biomass boiler between five to 40 megawatts, effectively combusting waste timber from construction, demolition, commercial and industrial sites. Henry says that this provides customers with over a 90 per cent renewable heat source as an alternative to gas and significantly reduces energy costs.
“We are targeting businesses who are using between 100 thousand gigajoules or a petajoule of natural gas. By setting up the infrastructure of the energy plant, owning and operating it for the customer, we’re taking away any responsibility for capital costs while demonstrating responsible environmental management.”
Subject to the approval process and depending on the scale of the new plant, ResourceCo estimates construction will take up to 18 months.
“It’s about us being a long-term energy partner, providing a fixed cost solution and allowing the manufacturer to focus on their core business,” Henry says.
“These businesses have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into their own facilities and need certainty about their energy costs as well as assurance they’re receiving a quality product.”
Henry says while there are other biomass feedstocks on the market, ResourceCo’s waste derived fuel is a fantastic environmental and business solution that is cost effective, simple and reliable.
ResourceCo’s proven track record as a leading provider of alternative waste fuels is demonstrated by its long-term partnerships with major companies such as Boral, Adelaide Brighton Cement, Suez and Cleanaway.
“We’ve been providing PEF to major industrial customers for more than 10 years and strong business-to-business relationships are critical and a top priority,” Henry says.
“We know where our PEF is going, that it’s being used properly, and has the full backing by the environmental regulators in each jurisdiction, both locally and overseas.”
ResourceCo only takes construction demolition and commercial industrial waste and deals directly with the customer.
Its business model is to ensure a strong chain of custody, environmental compliance and investment in local communities.
The company recycles more than 95 per cent of incoming materials while processing over two million tonnes of materials annually. Its alternative fuel complies with the requirements of the Australian Governments Clean Energy Regulator under the Emissions Reduction Fund.
“Heat is too often a forgotten energy in Australia, with electricity regularly being the focus of policy discussions to reduce emissions,” Henry says.
“PEF is a proven and successful technology, with hundreds of plants throughout Europe using waste-derived fuel for heat and electricity.”
He says that the waste-to-energy market is earmarked to become more sophisticated over the next five years, as the sector continues to experience significant growth.
“To achieve zero waste and carbon emissions is of course the ultimate goal and while this in reality is a long way off, major steps must be taken by the sector now to move towards long-term solutions.
“Future and consistent recognition of the different types of waste to energy available in the market is vital to show this is a much better solution than landfill.
The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO Rose Read highlights the association’s priorities in 2019 and its long-term plan for resource recovery in Australia.