Sussan Ley tours Wetherill Park PEF facility

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.

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Renewable focus: ResourceCo

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.

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ResourceCo and Cleanaway open Wetherill Park PEF plant

The largest resource recovery and Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF) plant in Australia has been unveiled at Wetherill Park in Sydney.

Owned in a joint venture between resource recovery company ResourceCo and Cleanaway, the plant is licensed to receive up to 250,000 tonnes a year of dry commercial and industrial, and mixed construction and demolition waste, to recover commodities including metal, clean timber and inert materials, with the balance converted into PEF.

Over its lifetime, the plant is expected to abate more than four million tonnes of carbon emissions.

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Cleanaway’s customer base and waste supply in NSW will help drive volume to the facility to divert waste from landfill.

PEF is used as a substitute for fossil fuels in both domestic and offshore markets in the production of cement.

The plant will supply Boral, Australia’s largest construction material company, with PEF for its Berrima cement kiln as a substitute for coal.

Chief Executive Officer Sustainable Energy at ResourceCo Ben Sawley said the new plant will divert up to 50,000 truckloads of waste from landfill, while also reducing reliance on fossil fuels such as coal and gas.

“It will replace over 100,000 tonnes of coal usage per year alone and will take the equivalent of 20,000 cars annually off the road in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Sawley said.

“We’re committed to playing a key role in Australia’s future sustainable energy mix, by reducing waste and lowering carbon emissions through production of a commercially viable sustainable energy product,”

“The opportunity to tap further into this market is huge and it makes good sense, both environmentally and economically,” Mr Sawley said.

Cleanaway Chief Executive Officer Vik Bansal said this is an important new resource recovery solution in New South Wales that creates a landfill diversion option for commercial and industrial, residual recycling, and some construction and demolition waste.

“Investment in resource recovery and innovative waste to energy solutions is essential to making a sustainable future possible, and one of the ways we’re delivering on our Footprint 2025 strategy,” Mr Bansal said.

Cleanaway and ResourceCo’s Wetherill Park facility

The project was supported by a funding from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), which had committed $30 million in debt finance to support development of the plant, as well as an additional plant at a second Australian location still to be identified.

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the priority in managing waste must be to reduce the amount waste produced in the first place.

“With what remains, we need to invest in proven technologies to repurpose it, including as alternative fuels. By turning waste into PEF, this facility is showing how industrial processes can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.

“We can also reduce the amount of waste materials going into landfill, an important factor in cutting our national greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Learnmouth said

CEFC Bioenergy and Energy from Waste Sector lead Henry Anning said the CEFC was working with the waste management sector to increase energy efficiency and energy generation, as well as reduce carbon emissions.

“With Australia’s waste sector facing considerable disruption, now is the time to adopt new ways of doing business,” Mr Anning said.

“With the right investment in proven technologies, companies can turn our urban and industrial waste into new energy sources, creating an important revenue stream while also reducing landfill gas emissions.

“In Australia there is a growing commercial opportunity for resource recovery, reinforced by tightening state government landfill regulations. We are working alongside waste companies to invest in long-term infrastructure that can make a lasting difference to the way we handle our waste,” he said.

Cleanaway to enter into JV with ResourceCo

Cleanaway has entered into a binding joint venture agreement with ResourceCo to acquire a 50 per cent interest in ResourceCo’s Wetherill Park facility.

ResourceCo’s new Wetherill Park facility has the capability to divert 250,000 tonnes of waste per annum, reducing emissions and saving costs for businesses in the long-term – more information on that here. 

Located in western Sydney, the facility receives dry commercial and industrial waste. After extracting any commodities suitable for recycling, the balance of non-recyclable waste is converted into Process Engineered Fuel (PEF) that will be used as a substitute for fossil fuels in domestic and offshore cement kilns.

According to an ASX statement, the investment provides Cleanaway with a further waste disposal solution in NSW and forms an integral part of its Footprint 2025 strategy.

Waste processed by the facility includes residuals sourced from the Cleanaway Sydney transfer station, currently under construction, and other recycling facilities, in addition to commercial and industrial customers with source-separated collection systems.

The purchase price for the 50 per cent interest comprises a $25 million payment at completion plus an earn out of up to a further $25 million payable in two instalments over two years once the facility generates agreed earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation targets.

The joint venture, to be branded “Cleanaway ResourceCo RRF” is part financed by a $10 million loan facility from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, with additional funding from the New South Wales Environmental Trust.

The transaction is expected to be complete during the first quarter of financial year 2019, subject to satisfaction of customary conditions precedent and commissioning and performance standards.

Cleanaway Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Vik Bansal said the investment plays a key role in the development of the company’s post collections footprint in NSW and its overall Footprint 2025 strategy, which encompasses the development of prized waste infrastructure assets across Australia.

“This facility is the only one of its kind on the East Cost of Australia and enables us to increase waste internalisation rates, and importantly, to offer an advanced resource recovery solution to our customers,” Mr Bansal said.

ACOR call for $150M into regional recycling

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) is urging the federal government to grow regional Australia’s recycling industry with a one-off investment of $150 million.

The investment would go towards better sorting, increased reprocessing, community education and government procurement of recycled content product.

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ACOR Chief Executive Officer Peter Shmigel said recycling has a good base in regional Australia, which can be grown for more jobs and economic value in country areas.

“It’s one of the readily accessible ways to diversify regional economies and make them more resilient against droughts and global market forces,” he said.

“Our industry already has a good place in the bush including lube oil recycling, battery recycling, tyre recycling, industrial plastics recycling and consumer packaging recycling in country areas.”

Mr Shmigel said an independent report from MRA Consulting showed investment in local recycling could lead to the creation of 500 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We can use waste plastics and glass that can’t go back into bottles as part of asphalt in government-funded road projects,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Roads are the biggest asset in country areas and they can be recycled content rather than virgin materials at competitive cost and quality – if governments positively procure for that,” he said.

Mr Shmigel said using recycled content materials in the Snowy 2.0 scheme alone would massively contribute to more jobs and deliver on the community’s recycling expectations.

ACOR members with operations in regional areas include Southern Oil Refinery, Kurrajong Recycling, Re-Group, Visy, Envirostream, Tomra, SIMS Metal Management, ResourceCo, O-I and Downer Group.

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