MWRRG announces shortlist for advanced waste processing facility

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) has announced a shortlist of companies to develop an alternative to landfill in Melbourne’s south east.

In March 2020, MWRRG called for expressions of interest for solutions to provide an alternative to landfill for 16 councils.

After a competitive tendering process, three companies have been shortlisted to join the solution development stage of the procurement: Veolia Environmental Services Australia, Sacyr Environment Australia and a Pacific Partnerships and REMONDIS consortium.

According to a MWRRG statement, landfills in the south east of Melbourne are filling up and no more are planned to be built.

“Household rubbish in the 16 councils is projected to increase by 40 per cent over the next 25 years,” the statement reads.

“Veolia Environmental Services Australia, Sacyr Environment Australia and Pacific Partnerships and REMONDIS will work with the 16 councils to develop an advanced waste processing solution that delivers environmental, economic and social benefits to the community.”

MWRRG said the best outcomes will be achieved by minimising waste and reusing or recycling, with leftover material managed through advanced waste processing.

“Advanced waste processing will help the Victorian government deliver on its circular economy strategy – Recycling Victoria – a 10 year plan that will completely overhaul Victoria’s recycling sector and reduce waste going to landfill,” the statement reads.

“Advanced waste processing solutions will play a significant role in achieving the new target to divert 80 per cent of household rubbish from landfill by 2030.”

The advanced waste processing procurement will ensure facilities meet best-practice environment protection requirements and energy efficiency standards, and do not displace or inhibit innovation to reduce or recycle materials.

Additionally, the procurement will ensure the facilities reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to the waste and energy services they displace.

“Advanced waste processing technologies have been used successfully and safely overseas for years as an alternative to landfill,” the statement reads.

“The new facilities are expected to attract investment of around $650 million and create jobs during construction and permanent operating jobs.”

It is expected the process will take close to two years to reach a final tender stage, with a 20 to 25-year contract to be awarded by 2022. Construction is expected to commence in 2023.

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Melbourne composting facility receives final EPA approval

An industrial composting facility in Melbourne’s Dandenong South has received final environmental approval from EPA Victoria.

The facility is operated by international waste management company Sacyr, with a biological and air treatment system designed by Waste Treatment Technologies.

The $65 million facility operates under a contract negotiated by the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) on behalf of eight councils.

“Through this collaborative contract, Sacyr Environment Australia receives enough kerbside material to run its facility, which has processing capacity of up to 120,000 tonnes annually,” a MWRRG statement reads.

The facility is a part of Melbourne’s food and green waste processing network, which has a target of 400,000 tonnes of capacity by 2021, as set out in the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan.

The facility, operating with conditional approval from the EPA, has processed household food and green waste from Melbourne’s south east since May 2019.

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Highly intensive tunnels: Sacyr and WTT

Waste Management Review speaks with Carlos Gros Isla, Sacyr Environment, and Sean Galdermans, Waste Treatment Technologies, about Sacyr’s new high capacity in-vessel composting facility.

Composting, once considered the domain of hippies and eco- friendly farmers, has become a booming billion-dollar industry.

While public and private investment in technologically innovative equipment and facilities have a traceable history on a global level, the Australian organics market is still somewhat in its infancy.

That said, the tide is turning, with a significant number of Australian councils embarking on separate food and garden organic waste (FOGO) collections.

On behalf of eight Victorian councils, for example, the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) negotiated a contract to facilitate kerbside FOGO collection in 2016.

Increasing the recovery of organic waste is one of four key strategic objectives set down in MWRRG’s 2016 Implementation Plan. To achieve this, MWRRG developed an organics processing network through collective procurement contracts in the northwest, southeast and east.

Sacyr Environment Australia, which operates a state of the art composting facility in Melbourne’s Dandenong South, emerged as a viable option for MWRRG’s South East network.

Sacyr Environment Australia signed a contract with MWRRG in 2017. The facility, which runs on Waste Treatment Technologies (WTT) equipment and processes, opened in May this year.

With a capacity to process 120,000 tonnes of organic waste each year, the indoor composting facility is the most advanced of its type in Australia.

When asked why the Sacyr facility has been dubbed the most advanced in Australia, Carlos Gros Isla, Sacyr Environment Australian Business Manage, says while he is hesitant to make comparisons, he has a good grasp on current capacity and innovation.

“People often want to make grand statements such as, ‘this is the biggest building in the world’, and that can be embarrassing,” he says.

“It’s not rocket science. It’s still composting, so comparing our facility to other industrial facilities wouldn’t be fair. But in terms of the composting industry, we could say it is the most advanced as a whole.”

THE EUROPEAN MODEL

According to Carlos, the facility has gained recognition because it functions as a whole package.

He says however that because he and project partner Sean Galdermans, WTT Australia Bid and Project Manager, are both Europeans, the praise can feel awkward.

Carlos adds that processes that appear innovative in Australia are par for the course in Europe.

“This is a pretty standard package in Europe, and has been for the last 20 years, but it’s important to note that it’s not as through Australia is really behind. This technology just simply wasn’t needed before,” he says.

Given the availability of land, Carlos says landfill was not traditionally viewed as a problem in Australia.

“Plus, because they didn’t have to, councils had no incentive to pay additional gate fees and invest in new quality facilities,” he says.

Carlos says the market is changing however, with Sacyr identifying Australia as a market full of new opportunities.

Sean expresses similar sentiments and says that since arriving in Australia two years ago, he has seen a rise in interesting tenders and hot opportunities.

“I think legislation in Australia has been very slow. Regulators haven’t been pushing for the right developments,” he says.

“The Australian population is knocking on government’s doors and saying, what are you doing? All the countries a round us are investing in these new processes, so why aren’t we?”

Sean says the organics and wider recycling movement is now a mainstream conversation.

“Australia has been coping with the luxury problem of space, and as a result, used to landfill the majority of waste into old coal mines. An out of sight, out of mind mentality,” he says.

“That is the music of yesterday, Australians want to focus on the future.”

Sean adds that over the past five to ten years, many councils have made poor investment decisions.

“The problem is that in the waste sector you’re always talking about large sums of money, and when those projects fail, people develop distrust,” he says.

One of the reasons WTT decided to invest in Australia, Sean says, is that the market needed successful stories and high quality products.

“We felt that with over 25 years of experience and over 130 reference facilities, which have a combined throughput capacity of 7.3 million tonnes per annum, we could contribute to this transition and reduce the amount of organics going to landfill significantly.”

COMPOST IN DANDENONG

The Dandenong facility is not the first collaboration between Sacyr and WTT. One of Sacyr’s flagship facilities in Spain was developed using WTT technology, and, according to Carlos, has been operating for almost 15 years.

“There are not many companies that can make the high-quality in- vessel or tunnel composting facilities WTT can,” he says.

“Composting is a very simple idea, but there are huge difference between an average and good composting tunnel.”

Given Sacyr’s long-term contract with MWRRG, Carlos says seemingly small differences in design and process controls can make a big impact.

“Sacyr is very focused on providing for clients specific needs, so to be honest, if a council required a simple composting facility in a rural area, WTT wouldn’t be our first point of call,” he says.

“However, when a client tells us that high quality is their main focus, and that they are willing to pay associated gate fees, which was the case with MWRRG, WTT’s technology is the obvious choice.”

Once Sacyr had confirmed its contract with MWRRG, WTT was engaged to construct the facility’s in- vessel composting system and air and water management process.

Sean says the contract was of standard scope for WTT.

“While over the last seven years, WTT has started to adapt further processes, such as mechanical pre- and post-treatment systems, I would say in-vessel composting, anaerobic digestion and air/water treatment systems is where our core competence lays,” he says.

According to Carlos, Sacyr designed the facility to operate as close to the centre of collections’ gravity as possible.

“When you build a facility in regional areas, while the initial costs are lower, each link in the chain ends up incurring significant transport costs,” he says.

“Sacyr’s idea was to build a facility in close proximity to councils, ultimately constructing the facility within a pre- existing building.”

Carlos says Sacyr was engaged by MWRRG because the group wanted to explore the capabilities of a new market player.

“Sacyr had already built a desalination plant in Western Australia, so we were engaged in the Australian water business. But in terms of our waste division, this was our first Australian project,” he says.

On the otherhand, WTT had been involved in a number of Australian projects since opening its subsidiary office in 2018, including facilities in Wogamia and Kembla Grange NSW for SOILCO and a REMONDIS facility in Port Macquarie

AEROBIC DESIGN

After material enters the Sacyr facility, Carlos says it runs through a four-step process.

“The first step is pre-treatment or decontamination. At this stage we remove anything that shouldn’t be in the green bin or is not organic,” he says.

“From there we sieve, cut and mix the material to create a homogenous mixture. We ensure it is spongy and of the right size so it can be degraded to optimum levels in the in-vessel tunnels.”

The next stage, Carlos says, is the actual composting. He adds that in Australia, the EPA regulates a high level of pasteurisation.

“The actual composting happens in two different stages. The first is fermentation to achieve the required pasteurisation, which runs for 72 consecutive hours above a certain temperature threshold,” he says.

“After we’ve achieved the pasteurisation criteria, the material is taken to the compost tunnels, before it is transferred to the maturation hall for further curing.”

The Dandenong compost tunnels, Sean says, induce a highly intensive composting process to maximize organic breakdown.

“By controlling the temperature, oxygen and moisture content of each individual tunnel at all times, we’re able to tailer a recipe for each batch, and provide our client – the operator – with maximum flexibility and ease of operation,” he says.

Given the complexity of WTT’s technology, Sean says the company likes to function as a one-stop-shop.

“Instead of delivering a package, showing what it can do and leaving, we like to be involved on a long term basis to make sure clients feel comfortable with the technology,” he says.

While the facility is currently running smoothly, Carlos admits there were some teething problems.

“Both companies tried to adopt a design that has worked for us in Europe, but the reality is with waste you never know what you will receive,” he says.

After a number of trials, Carlos says the team developed a system suitable for the material it receives. He adds that because Sacyr recognises the added value of WTT’s experience, the two organisations were in constant contact throughout the process.

Sean says WTT’s knowledge centre worked to facilitate communication.

“WTT can essentially log into the facility 24 hours a day and see what the operators see, which means we can read the information, feed it back into the system and troubleshoot,” he says.

“Combined with the client’s operational team, it’s really a golden combination.”

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Sacyr opens waste treatment plant in south-east Melbourne

International waste management company Sacyr has opened a waste treatment plant in Melbourne with the capacity to process 120,000 tonnes of organic waste per year.

A Sacyr spokesperson said the indoor composting facility will be one of the most advanced of its type in Victoria.

“The facility will be used by councils in the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne, providing service to a population of 1.2 million people to recycle green garden and food waste,” the spokesperson said.

“The resulting compost will have a great commercial value due to the aerobic tunnel fermentation process and the aerobic maturation in the warehouse, resulting in a product that complies with the most demanding standards within the industry and with the rigorous Australian quality standard AS4454.”

According to the spokesperson, the facility takes the process of composting and industrialises it.

“Instead of relying on individuals to compost their organic waste, Sacyr can compost the organic waste of eight south-east Melbourne metropolitan councils and produce up to 50,000 tonnes of quality compost per annum.” the spokesperson said.

“The facility creates several environmental benefits to the Australian waste management sector such as reducing the amount of landfill waste and reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses such as methane.”

The spokesperson said all plant warehouses will be completely sealed and have an efficient deodorisation system so not to affect neighbouring residents.

“With the start-up of the plant, more than 65,000 tons of CO2 per year will cease to be released into the atmosphere and the emissions generated by landfill waste will be reduced by 85 per cent, the equivalent of removing 13,900 cars from circulation,” the spokesperson said.

The facilities treatment process combines a mechanical system developed by German company Stadler and a biological and air treatment system designed by Dutch company Waste Treatment Technologies.

“Sacyr’s know how, acquired over more than 20 years, will be an innovation in Australia’s current waste management system,” the spokesperson said.

“This procedure stands out, among other aspects, for its ventilation spigots and leachate collection systems.”

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Clean Energy Finance Corporation supports waste industry

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s Henry Anning speaks to Waste Management Review about the group’s diverse portfolio of finance options for the waste industry which support carbon abatement and energy and cost efficiencies. 

Read moreClean Energy Finance Corporation supports waste industry

CEFC finance composting facility for Melbourne councils

Organic waste from eight Melbourne councils will be sent to a new composting facility, to be built by international waste management company Sacyr Group.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will commit up to $35 million towards the new composting facility.

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The $65 million South Eastern Organics Processing Facility will be the most advanced of its type in Victoria and will produce approximately 50,000 tonnes of high grade compost each year.

The compost will be made from processed household garden and food waste from council kerbside green waste collections in Melbourne’s south-east, which will then be used on local parks and gardens.

Food and green waste makes up an estimated 42 per cent of landfill for Australia’s municipal and commercial waste streams.

The Melbourne councils include Bayside, Cardinia, Casey, Frankston, Glen Eira, Greater Dandenong, Kingston and Monash.

Sacyr expects the fully-enclosed, in-vessel aerobic composting and maturation plant will be operational by mid-2019. It will aim to operate for 15 years, with a potential five-year extension.

The new facility will have an annual processing capacity of 120,000 tonnes of waste each year, the equivalent of 12,000 truckloads of waste. It is expected to abate more than 65,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually. This would cut the greenhouse gas emissions from landfill by 85 per cent if it were to be landfilled, which is equivalent to taking 13,900 cars off the road.

Sacyr Group has built 48 plants around the world and handles more than three million tonnes of waste each year. It currently operates in Australia through its subsidiary, Sacyr Water, which has built and operates the Binningup desalination plant.

The technology used in the plant has been developed over two decades, ensures plant storage reservoirs are completely closed, and uses efficient and reliable deodorisation systems.

Federal Government  Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said converting waste to compost can play a part in Australia’s long-term waste solutions.

“This facility alone, which will be the most advanced of its type in Victoria, can process around 12,000 truckloads of waste per year,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“It means food and organic waste produced by south east Melbourne residents will not end up in landfill and will instead produce high-grade compost for our gardens and parks.”

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the corporation is looking across the economy to identify finance opportunities to reduce Australia’s emissions.

“We’re pleased to be making our first project investment to help councils and communities tackle emissions from their organic waste,” he said.

“When organic waste such as food and green waste ends up in landfill it breaks down and produces methane. With this technology, councils can avoid those emissions by turning their organic waste into reusable compost, while also reducing our unsustainable reliance on landfill as a waste disposal option.

“We strongly endorse the principle of avoiding and reducing waste at the source. Our finance is about effectively manage the remaining waste, so that it doesn’t end up as landfill and we make a meaningful difference to our greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Learmonth said.

CEFC Bioenergy Sector lead Henry Anning said the CEFC finance model for the Melbourne project was an industry first, providing councils with access to a project financing structure that has rarely been leveraged across local government.

“Australia’s waste sector is facing enormous challenges, because of the growing amount of waste we produce as well as increasing community concerns about the way we handle that waste. This new Melbourne facility provides us with a practical and proven way to turn organic waste into a reusable commodity at the same time as avoiding harmful emissions,” Mr Anning said.

“We expect to see more councils and communities consider innovative ways to manage all forms of waste. This innovative project finance model offers opportunities for other groups of councils considering investing in substantial waste management infrastructure to reduce landfill waste.”

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