Infrastructure Partnerships Australia calls for EfW investment

New research from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia suggests the “looming waste crisis” is a once in a generation opportunity to embrace energy recovery as an effective way to manage waste and provide baseload power.

With COAG’s waste export bans fast approaching, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Chief Executive Officer Adrian Dwyer said time is running out for governments to avoid a waste crisis.

“Greater energy recovery from waste could help divert 13.7 million tonnes of landfill each year by 2030 and reduce emissions by up to 5.2 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent each year,” Dwyer said.

The report, Putting waste to work: Developing a role for Energy From Waste (EfW), suggests appetite among community and industry stakeholders to reform the waste sector is growing, in response to a decreasing tolerance for landfill and increasing social awareness of related issues.

“This is occurring in conjunction with large infrastructure operators and investors providing significant capital and expertise to meet Australia’s waste challenges,” the report reads.

“With the right policy settings, these factors could be leveraged to create enduring change within Australia’s waste sector.”

Putting waste to work outlines a series of key recommendations to support the roll out of energy recovery facilities and unlock close to $14 billion in private investment by 2030.

“EfW has been used for decades around the world to divert non-recyclable waste from landfill, reduce emissions and produce energy, yet Australia has been slow off the mark in harnessing a role for technology,” Dwyer said.

“Energy recovery is the missing piece in both the waste and energy puzzles, and it needs greater consideration by governments.”

According to Dwyer, a lack of scale, social licence and impetus for change has lead to EfW and other forms of advanced waste processing being underutilised in Australia.

“As we emerge from the COVID crisis and look for ways to stimulate jobs and output, the EfW sector offers a major opportunity to reduce emissions and drive investment,” he said.

The report calls on Australia’s governments to implement five main actions:

Recommendation 1: Governments should define a role for EfW through their recycling and waste management plans and strategies. These documents should openly address energy recovery and the potential role it can play in improving waste management outcomes in Australia.

Recommendation 2: Governments of all levels should help to establish social licence for EfW – broadly and locally – be engaging communities openly on the benefits of advanced forms of waste processing and addressing any concerns.

Recommendation 3: Governments, through the National Federation Reform Council (NFRC), should develop nationally consistent guidelines for the development of EfW projects and other waste management technologies.

Recommendation 4: Governments, through the NFRC, should adopt EU emissions standards for EfW facilities, applied through nationally consistent regulation.

Recommendation 5: Governments, through the NFRC, should seek to establish a national market for EfW, including nationally consistent regulations in relation to feedstock and the development of market opportunities for by-products.

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Setting up for successful energy recovery in Australia: Veolia

As Veolia Australia and New Zealand progresses Australia’s first thermal energy recovery facility in Western Australia, Waste Management Review explores what to consider when looking to establish a successful new waste to energy facility.

When GHD was commissioned by the Federal Government in 2009 to prepare a study into waste technology and innovation, it predicted there would likely be a growing acceptance of thermal technologies in Australia.

This view, it said, was down to the fact that the level of sophistication was increasing and there were more examples of proven performance in advanced economies overseas.

Ten years down the track, the National Waste Report 2018 shows us that landfill gas, processed engineered fuels and anaerobic digestion are still the common forms of energy recovery in Australia. About 1.97 million tonnes of waste was used for energy recovery, 90 per cent of which was achieved through landfill gas.

Thermal treatment, on the other hand, is creeping up as an emerging technology, with Australian governments and the private sector increasingly recognising its local potential even though thermal technologies have been successfully used overseas for many years.

According to Sustainability Victoria’s 2018 Resource Recovery Technology Guide, combustion processes have been widely deployed for processing waste materials across the globe and have the strongest technical and commercial track record of all residual waste treatment technologies.

It cites the European example, where energy recovery facilities are coupled with recycling schemes to achieve resource recovery and landfill diversion rate above 75 per cent.

Locally, we’re seeing a step change in community acceptance of energy recovery through Waste to Energy facilities, with Veolia Australia and New Zealand emerging as a leader in this space. The company is now looking at applying its international experience in energy recovery to the Australian landscape.

Earlier this year, construction began on Australia’s first thermal energy recovery facility (ERF). Based in Kwinana, WA, the site will be operated and maintained (O&M) by Veolia Australia and New Zealand post-construction for 25 years.

Leveraging its experience in operating more than 65 ERFs across the globe, Veolia stands ready to spearhead efficient, effective and economically viable renewable energy solutions.

Across all of Veolia’s operations, ERFs serve as a complementary technology to recycling, while providing communities with sources of affordable and reliable energy. ERFs also benefit Veolia’s customers by reducing their environmental footprint as well as costs associated with landfill taxes.

In France, Veolia operates 45 energy recovery facilities, supplying almost 40 per cent of the nation’s active plants, 43 of which comprise an energy recovery system. Thermal energy supports district heating networks, green houses or is transformed into electrical energy which is then on-sold to distributors.

Across the European Union, around 27 per cent of municipal waste was incinerated using energy recovery. This rises to more than 30 per cent in countries like France and more than 50 per cent in Scandinavian nations.

As Veolia Australia and New Zealand lays the foundations for Australia’s first thermal ERF facility, Waste Management Review caught up with Guillaume Wallaert, Vice President of Waste Municipal & Commercial Offers at Veolia in France, and Laurie Kozlovic, Chief Strategic Development & Innovation Officer at Veolia Australia and New Zealand.

These experts provide insight into some of the myths surrounding ERFs, and considerations for successfully starting, operating and maintaining an ERF.

While the various forms of ‘energy recovery” can be confusing for some, Guillaume sums it up into six options: thermal treatment; RDF in various forms, including a dedicated combustion facility, co-incineration and gasification; anaerobic digestion and biogas from landfill.

“Thermal energy’s main advantage is that it’s reliable, we know it works, and you can reduce the volume of waste quite significantly while creating high quality energy for industrial purposes,” Guillaume says.

When it comes to the different forms of ERF, Guillaume says, there are various considerations that will work better for some ERF proponents more than others. For example, thermal mass burning is costly and combined heat and power systems (CHP) need to be prioritised to ensure energy recovery remains efficient. However, it’s a mature technology that offers good waste reduction of up to 90 per cent in volume and 70 per cent in weight. It can also be adapted to a large scope of waste.

RDF, on the other hand, can be costly due to the need for pre-treatment, but Guillaume says it’s mature technology provides a high calorific value. He says CHP mode needs to be prioritised to enhance energy. Guillaume also considers it to be more suited to commercial and industrial waste.

“We have seen for the past 10 or 20 years RDF being developed especially in Germany, over there we are quite a big player,” he says.

He adds that RDF is also dependant on secure outlets, namely cement kilns, which can present a challenge and create a reliance on export markets.

“If you don’t have cement kilns taking RDF then you need to create your own outlets. For example in the Czech Republic, we are converting coal-based power plants into RDF and biomass-based power plants, which is another option.”

Co-incineration is another viable option and according to Guillaume, it is a mature technology with a low carbon footprint, but requires high quality RDF and reliable and long-term users.

In RDF gasification, he says the limitation can be cost, while highlighting it is a less mature technology. Fortunately, it provides good waste traction, a solid carbon footprint and high levels of material recovery, but requires very high quality input. Anaerobic digestion is also quite costly, Guillaume says.

He says it’s a mature technology with high organic valorisation and a low carbon footprint. It can also only be adapted to organic fractions, requires good input quality and downstream solutions for digestate or compost.

Finally, biogas from landfill offers a low cost, mature and simple technology with a very high footprint, he says. It can also be adapted for all waste.

Veolia’s ERF in Portsmouth, UK.

Guillaume’s significant experience has taught him about the nuances of energy recovery. When he homes in on how the landscape has changed over the past decade, he reflects on thermal treatment.

As one of the most developed systems in the EU, he says that combustion technology has embraced the principles of moving grates. He estimates more than 1200 facilities globally have used the technology, with 500 of these in the EU and the remainder in Asia, China, the US and Japan. Importantly, advancements in technology have supported a range of contemporary standards.

As ERF facilities produce flue gases from the combustion process, the European Union (EU) has set the standard via various directives. For example, Directive 2010-75/EU provides direction on emissions limits and flue gas treatment for the combustion process, which has been quoted as best practice by the Victorian Government. Guillaume says that EU regulations requiring additional flue gas treatment have been in place as early as 2002.

In Australia, the Kwinana Waste to Energy project will use Keppel Seghers moving grate technology, a proven technology used extensively in Europe. The plant has obtained all the necessary regulatory approvals from the WA EPA laid out in the Public Environmental Review document and Air Quality – Stack Emissions standards.

SOCIAL LICENCE TO OPERATE

Obtaining a social licence to operate is often a deciding factor of whether an ERF project successfully gets off the ground in the Australian market. This makes it critical that ERF proponents select the right strategic partner to operate and maintain a facility.

With ERFs relatively new to Australia, notably thermal treatment, Laurie Kozlovic, Chief Strategic Development & Innovation Officer at Veolia Australia and New Zealand, highlights the factors that have stalled investment in the past. Additionally, he points to the lessons Veolia is applying to manage the new energy landscape.

Firstly, he points out that there’s been a growing interest from the government, consumers and suppliers for more ERFs which provide a viable alternative to landfill within a waste hierarchy.

“In some parts of the country, the increase in waste levies has inspired a discussion around alternatives,” Laurie says.

Victoria, for example, announced in its long-awaited circular economy policy that it would raise the waste levy from $65.90 a tonne to $125.90 by 2022-23. Given the plan to double the levy over two years, this may inspire complementary energy recovery solutions.

Secondly, he says that when it comes to the economic factors driving ERFs, proponents need a clear regulatory environment to inform their investments.

“A lot of investments are made based on the ‘rules of the game’ so to speak, so the regulators need to be clear whether they want energy recovery as a complementary part of their waste management strategy and if so, how they want it to happen,” Laurie says.

“You can’t build 50-year infrastructure with a two to three-year policy framework, so for us, a clear and consistent long-term policy and strategy is important for getting the right investors into the sector,” he adds.

When it comes to Veolia’s O&M contract in Kwinana, Laurie highlights that the market signals were suitable for Veolia to be involved.

“The framework and guidelines were first in place there, and seemed to be further progressed than others, so that’s why it happened there. Whether it’s the best place or not, I guess only time will tell,” Laurie says.

“As an operator of a facility like Kwinana, we’re responsible for delivering an energy output based on the volume that’s coming in, and we need to be sure we can achieve that based on the material coming into the facility. That’s a key part of our role – working with our partners to provide them with the best advice and global experience to make the facility a success.”

DE-BUNKING THE MYTHS

Managing Australia’s ERF transition effectively, Laurie says, means breaking misconceptions. He recognises that not everyone will be in favour of energy recovery, but those that choose to take that position should do so with an informed view.

“It’s important that any misconceptions are cleared so that the people who are making decisions on ERFs know exactly what it is all about,” he says.

That said, Guillaume says that even with Europe’s extensive experience in ERFs, there are some broader misconceptions globally, including the common argument that ERF “cannibalises” recycling.

Guillaume points out that the EU has a common target to achieve a 65 per cent recycling rate for municipal waste by 2030. He says that the other 35 per cent then becomes a critical residual component.

“We’ve all heard this a few times: if you have a ERF facility you won’t recycle any longer. We have plenty of evidence that proves that wrong. In fact the more you recycle, the more you develop ERFs and we have to combine both to create an efficient solution,” Guillaume says.

This view is shared by Laurie, who says that we need to share the global experience where ERFs are mature technologies and in the middle of cities around the world.

“I think there’s a lot of work to be done in educating key stakeholders to ensure you don’t get decisions made on unproven technologies or ideas that sound great at the time but haven’t been tested or proven in other markets,” Laurie says.

Pondering on the planning phase, Laurie says that there is no one-size-fits-all answer for energy recovery in Australia. There are not only unique circumstances in different geographies, but other variables such as the type of waste a facility is receiving, their pricing mechanisms, energy offtake, allowable inputs and desired outputs.

“That is why we’re technology agnostic, because there are different solutions appropriate for different environments,” he says.

He says Veolia Australia and New Zealand will assess the above variables and then draw on its global counterparts to come up with the right solution or technology for that particular market.

“The beauty of having access to some of the best experts in the world, who have successfully managed multiple plants using various technologies around the world, is that it allows us to draw on that experience and make informed decisions in our own market.”

Veolia’s foliage lined RERF in Leeds, UK.

Pointing to the European example, Guillaume says that in many cases, ERF facilities operate in close quarters to urban communities in Europe. As such, he says integrating these facilities into the surrounding environment has become a focal point.

In Leeds in the UK, Veolia partnered with architects in the UK to line its ERF facility with healthy green foliage, helping it blend in with the local scenery while providing a striking architectural landmark. Guillaume says the facility is the largest of its kind, and helps improve community confidence in ERF by creating a positive and innovative landmark for the Aire Valley region.

“This is a key point for all countries adopting a ERF solution and also in countries where the technology is relatively new such as in Australia,” he says.

Likewise, he says that collaborating with stakeholders and local authorities from the outset of a ERF project is important. In some cases, he says projects in Europe are led by the local council or statutory authority with integrated facilities that incorporate materials recovery facilities.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT TECH

Choosing a reliable technology is also an important part of achieving long-term success, says Guillame. A poor choice in technology, he says, can be the difference between seven years of equipment service life, and 40.  Effective management can also significantly determine long-term financial outcomes. For example, predictive maintenance can eliminate costly maintenance cycles.

“If you use predictive maintenance, you can potentially do it once every 18 months or even every two years instead of every year with the right data and tools,” he says.

With Australia steadily advancing towards increased ERF, Laurie recognises there are still barriers to entry in the Australian market. Competition by low cost landfill, emerging legal frameworks, cheap energy prices and emerging market maturity could see operators face hurdles. Moreover, a lack of space (geographically) and higher demand for district heating helped propel projects forward in markets such as Europe – drivers which simply don’t exist in Australia.

But even if operators get all of these ingredients right and the approvals process progresses, there are some deciding factors that can make or break a project. This is where Guillaume highlights the importance of finding the right risk allocation among engineering, procurement and construction players. Getting a project to financial close, he says, requires robust and experienced contractors.

He adds that the banks and investors will look closely at all revenues the proponent expects to gain from the facility, including expected gate fees and energy spot prices.

“It’s a really key point we’re always discussing with customers – a project has to be affordable for a city,” he says.

Adding to these views, Laurie highlights the importance of sizing your ERF appropriately.

“If you look around the world there are both small-scale and large-scale ERFs. You don’t want to be in a situation where you make your ERF too big and you end up having problems being able to find volumes to feed them. On the other hand, if you make them too small and you’ve got to return your investment on a smaller volume, then it doesn’t make it economical to run. It’s why there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to ERFs,” Laurie says.

As for how the Australian ERF market will evolve? Laurie is optimistic about its future based on what’s already been achieved around the world.

“There’s no doubt that ERF’s will become a more integral part of Australia’s waste management strategy in coming years – and with new approaches and technologies emerging all the time, this knowledge will only prove valuable as we start to apply what works best within our local regulatory and commercial frameworks,” Laurie says.

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SA EPA releases WtE position statement

Proponents of thermal waste-to-energy (WtE) activities in South Australia must engage the community in “genuine dialogue” and ensure the provision of accurate and reliable information, according to the South Australian EPA’s recently released thermal WtE position statment.

“A proposal to undertake a thermal WtE activity has the potential to generate interest and concern within the community, including non-government environmental organisations or other interest groups,” the statement reads.

“WtE projects requiring development approval will be subject to community consultation and/or notification as required by the Development Act 1993 and the EP Act during the development, assessment and licensing notification processes respectively.”

Additionally, refuse-derived fuel produced with EPA approval will no longer be considered waste under clause 4(a) of the Waste to Resources Policy, meaning its use in thermal WtE activities will not attract the payment of the waste levy.

“Thermal WtE activities receiving waste in accordance with the Resource Recovery Criteria, Thermal Efficiency Criteria, and holding an EPA Resource Recovery Approval will not be liable for payment of the waste levy, with the exception of thermal WtE activities receiving kerbside collected MSW,” the statement reads.

“For thermal WtE activities receiving kerbside collected MSW from a council or any other party contracted by a council, it is an additional requirement to demonstrate that the council’s kerbside collection system achieves the current MSW diversion target published within the Waste Strategy.”

Released following industry consultation in 2019, the statement aims to help planning authorities, licensees and development proponents understand the position of the EPA and the regulatory requirements for thermal WtE activities.

“The EPA will use this position statement to assess development assessment referrals and activities of prescribed environmental significance requiring a licence under Schedule One of the Environment Protection Act 1993 relating to WtE activities,” the statement reads.

According to the statement, South Australia’s Waste Strategy supports the efficient recovery of energy from residual waste and niche waste streams through best available technologies that suit local conditions, and can deliver environmental benefits and economic opportunities.

“In keeping with the waste management hierarchy and circular economy objectives, thermal WtE activities using waste that would otherwise be disposed to landfill are supported once sufficient material resource recovery has been undertaken,” the statement reads.

“The production and use of refuse derived fuel from waste that would otherwise be disposed to landfill will be supported where it includes appropriate material resource recovery, as set out by this position statement.”

When assessing a development application referral involving one or more prescribed activities, the EPA has the power to request further information, direct conditions for approval by the planning authority, or direct the refusal of the application as a referral body according to the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016.

“Following the receipt of formal development approval, the conduct of any prescribed activity of environmental significance will also require an environmental authorisation from the EPA in the form of a licence,” the statment reads.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia’s (WMRR) South Australia branch is hosting a free members-only webinar on 29 April to deliberate key elements of the position statement.

At the webinar, WMRR members will hear from South Australian EPA Chief Executive Tony Circelli and Senior Environment Protection Officer Waste Reform Projects Brian White.

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Co-locating trust: social licence and WtE

Waste Management Review examines the implications of the social licence to operate in the emerging Australian waste-to-energy market.

In November 2019, Craigieburn residents on Melbourne’s urban fringe called on Hume City Council to reject a proposed waste-to-energy (WtE) facility in the suburb. The calls came amid concerns the plant would produce hazardous emissions, causing air pollution.

Katherine Lawford, No Toxic Incinerator for Hume spokesperson, said the community was upset, citing concerns the plant would lead to large volumes of waste transported into Melbourne for incineration.

The group was also apprehensive, Ms Lawford said, that the plant would undermine recycling efforts and encourage wastefulness. At the time of writing, there was no publicly accessible information on whether the proposed facility would use incineration or gasification technology.

While the Craigieburn facility’s fate is uncertain, No Toxic Incinerator for Hume’s concerns are not novel, with similar protests occurring across the country. Negative public reactions to WtE therefore foreground issues of residential encroachment, misunderstood technology and social licence to operate (SLO).

SLO, which evolved from broader concepts of corporate responsibility, centres on the idea that a business needs not only appropriate government or regulatory approval, but also a “social licence”. First used by Jim Cooney, an executive of international mining company Placer Dome, at a 1997 World Bank Meeting, SLO grew rapidly in use and pervasiveness. The term is now commonplace across a wide range of sectors including resources, farming, forestry and waste.

The Next Generation’s (TNG) failed 2018 WtE proposal, lodged by Dial A Dump Industries’ Ian Malouf, worked to gain SLO, but in the end, what went wrong is a matter that cannot be conclusively defined. The proposal, which sought to build and operate a large-scale combustion facility in Eastern Creek, Western Sydney, led to widespread public protest.

The proposal placed the facility strategically close to the NSW power grid, with Mr Malouf offering to supplement free power for 1000 homes.

As reported by Waste Management Review in 2018, TNG also conducted multiple presentations to council and officers, two public exhibitions, 8000 DVDs and pamphlet drops delivered door to door, and online, radio, news and television promotion during consultation.

It’s worth noting that the plant was to be co-located with the Genesis Xero Waste Recycling Facility, meaning residents were potentially already accustomed to living near waste and resource recovery operations. The idea of co-location is highlighted by CSIRO’s Engaging Communities on Waste Project as a useful mechanism to drive greater community acceptance.

In spite of these factors, protest persisted, with Mr Malouf’s application referred to the NSW Independent Planning Commission for determination in April 2018, following 949 public objections. The commission rejected the proposal in July, citing, among other objections, that the project was not in the public interest.

CHANGING ATTITUDES 

According to Sustainability Victoria’s 2018 Resource Recovery Technology Guide, waste and resource recovery facilities represent some of the most contentious land uses operating in Australia today.

For waste and resource recovery planning in Victoria, communities must therefore be involved in determining waste and resource recovery priorities and have opportunities to participate in decision-making and long-term planning.

“Stakeholders have different contributions to make and different involvement needs at each stage of the decision-making process,” the guide suggests.

“At different stages, involvement may take the form of sharing information, consulting, entering into dialogue with certain parties or providing opportunity for stakeholders to deliberate on decisions.”

According to Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association Executive Officer, contention around waste facility land use stems from a lack of understanding of the role waste management plays in society and the technologies employed.

“While working with Sustainability Victoria in 2016, I was involved in social research with CSIRO that looked at community attitudes and perceptions about the sector. After surveying 1212 Victorians, we found that there are a number of factors that can build or improve SLO, including better community understanding of how the sector contributes to Victoria’s lifestyle and economy, and also governance (controls and oversight) arrangements by regulators.”

Government often views SLO, Mark says, as something an individual site or operator needs to secure. He would argue, however, that SLO exists on two levels  – the industry as a whole and individual sites – with both occupying a shared space with government.

“I’d also argue that government does not clearly understand its role in building public confidence in the sector,” he adds.

Mark says that with recent developments such as the export ban, the waste sector will require significant infrastructure upgrades and expansion.

“This expansion can’t and won’t happen if the private sector, who own and operate the bulk of assets in Australia, continue to encounter barriers to investment, such as communities slowing down development,” he says.

“We do occupy a shared space with government, so I think it’s important for government to reflect on their role and responsibility in building SLO and educating the public, especially around WtE.”

Similar concerns are referenced in Victoria’s Waste Education Strategy report, released in 2016. In the report, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio suggests that despite investment in waste education, success in addressing critical long-term issues has been inconsistent across state and local government, industry, schools, community organisations and third-party providers.

To address this, and facilitate greater instances of SLO, the strategy proposes increasing the Victorian community’s perception of waste management as an essential service.

As part of this strategic direction, Ms D’Ambrosio said the state government would work with the waste industry to help them engage local communities and encourage best practice approaches to community engagement.

CSIRO’s latest research, an update on Mark’s aforementioned 2016 project, also formed part of this strategy.

The 2019 project, titled Changes and perceiptions in Victorian attitudes and perceptions of the waste and resource recovery sector, surveyed 1244 Victorians living in metropolitan and regional Victoria. Respondents were asked for their views on living near WtE facilities, as well as waste and resource recovery complexes – including possible impacts, benefits and trust.

CSRIO identified eight key factors that drive social acceptance in the waste sphere, which were fairness and equity, governance, quality of relationships, trust in the sector, impacts to wellbeing, benefits of wellbeing, attitudes about waste and knowledge.

Andrea Walton, CSIRO Resources and Communities Team Leader, says urban growth, particularly in outer suburbs surrounding waste sites that previously had a significant buffer, bring local communities and waste sites into closer proximity.

“Population growth puts more pressure on the waste management system through the generation of increased waste volumes. Effective forward planning of waste management has become an expectation of citizens, partly because they view waste management as an essential service,” Andrea says.

“This type of planning builds trust in the sector and contributes to people’s social acceptance of the need for different types of activities and infrastructure to manage our waste.”

SLO has therefore become more pertinent, Andrea says, forming a basis for the approval of new sites, new technologies and the ongoing operation of existing sites.

When asked why CSIRO chose to include WtE in its updated research – WtE was excluded in the initial 2016 report – Andrea says while WtE is not a new technology globally, it is new to Australia.

As such, CSIRO thought it important to understand what Australians thought about WtE and what underpinned those attitudes. CSIRO found that overall, acceptance of living near a WtE facility was low, but significantly higher than acceptance of living near a waste and resource recovery complex that included landfill.

“People support the avoidance of waste and see landfill as the least preferred option for managing waste material. Negative views about living near a landfill mean relatively higher support for WtE. It’s important to note however that support for living near a WtE facility was still modest,” she says.

Perceptions of impacts were also lower for WtE than for a waste complex, with societal benefits assessed more favourably. Moreover, residents viewed WtE as potentially fairer when considered on a broader societal level, provided the burden to local communities was offset by benefits, such as local councils being paid accordingly.   

According to Andrea, a key challenge to achieving SLO is public access to information. CSRIO’s research shows a link between higher knowledge levels and increased social acceptance. That said, self-reported overall knowledge is low, suggesting opportunities for improvement.

“Effective community engagement is fundamental to this process as is communicating with local communities about how these sites are governed and the context of the state’s overall planning and strategies for waste management,” Andrea says.

She notes, much like Mark, that this process needs to involve both government and industry stakeholders.

“Done well, these initiatives help to improve trust in the sector and ultimately more acceptance of a waste operator’s activities. However, this sort of interaction has to be genuine and meaningful to local communities,” she says.

NEXT STEPS FOR EASTERN CREEK

In October 2019, Cleanaway and the Macquarie Capital Green Investment Group announced plans to co-invest and co-develop a WtE plant in Eastern Creek, not far from Mr Malouf’s proposed 2018 site.

According to Mark Biddulph, Cleanaway Head of Corporate Affairs, the proposed facility aims to divert up to 500,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfill, and use it to generate electricity for more than 65,000 homes and businesses. He adds that the proposal is still in the early stages of the approvals process, having only recently received the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements.

Despite this, Cleanaway hosted a community workshop in November 2019, with the aim of engaging a broad cross section of the community to seek questions, ideas and feedback. Further community engagement will take place throughout 2020.

“Cleanaway is committed to involving the Western Sydney community in the development process and engaging with them often and openly,” Mark says.

Should the facility be approved, Mark says Cleanaway is looking forward to setting up a visitor and education centre onsite to encourage further knowledge sharing. He adds that Cleanaway also plans to invest in a number of local community programs.

“Building trust and SLO within the Western Sydney is critical to Cleanaway. To do this we’re committed to ongoing engagement, transparency and best practice operations that reflect and align with sustainable waste management,” Mark says.

“It’s essential to bring the community with us on the journey.”

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Leading excellence: Veolia

Waste Management Review caught up with Veolia Australia and New Zealand’s Marc Churchin to discuss his vision for the newly created solid waste portfolio as the company moves towards a new organisational structure.

Veolia Australia and New Zealand, which offers environmental services across waste, water and energy, has been organised around state lines for decades.

But a recent restructure sees a national focus on each of these business lines and is aiming to propel the company into a new era.

Veolia adopted its new line of business structure at the end of 2019. The change will see senior managers focused more deeply on their area of expertise, with national teams delivering waste, water or energy and industrial services across the country.

Seen as an opportunity to solve the nation’s future waste challenges, Veolia believes the new structure will allow it to better tap into its experience and scale. As a result, it will aim to realise a range of operational efficiencies – ultimately benefiting its customers.

Chief Operating Officer Marc Churchin heads up the National Solid Waste division in Australia. Marc tells Waste Management Review that Veolia customers are demanding a higher level of efficiency, greater levels of service and a more innovative approach to solving their waste challenges. He says the new structure aims to make it easier to deliver on all of these areas.

To that end, Marc’s remit includes solid waste collection services, transfer stations and waste-to-energy (WtE) nationally.

With close to 1000 employees under the solid waste banner, this division is a key part of the business.

Marc will continue to work closely alongside his peers, Tony Roderick (formerly Vic/Tas Group General Manager) and Craig Balthes (formerly Group General Manager of QLD). Tony and Craig now hold the title of Chief Operating Officer for the Energy & Industrials, and Water divisions respectively.

“There’s a need for ongoing collaboration between our business lines, so we’ll continue to work closely together.

“For example, Tony is responsible for liquid and hazardous waste treatment, so there are obvious synergies there. Similarly, there are clients we look after where water and solid waste treatment solutions are part of a larger offering.

“That’s the beauty of having scale and deep expertise in specific areas,” Marc says.

He adds that having a distinct focus allows Veolia to concentrate more on markets, processes and technologies most relevant to its business and customers.

Marc also hopes to be able to bring efficiencies to his business by observing and implementing best practices and creating consistencies by streamlining processes nationally.

“I’ve worked in three or four parts of our business and seen pockets of excellence right across the country, but it’s been difficult to pick those up and try and overlay them in other areas. By going down a national line, we now have the opportunity to do this more effectively.”

LESSONS FROM THE LAND

Marc Churchin has been exposed to multiple aspects of Veolia’s business, including the company’s esteemed Eco-precinct, supported by its mechanical biological treatment facility.

While moving house isn’t always the most enjoyable exercise, Marc has had the pleasure of working for Veolia in three different jurisdictions: Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. He’s also travelled the UK extensively and seen the success of the line of business structure first-hand.

These experiences have given him a well-rounded knowledge of the business and prepared him for the challenges ahead.

“I’m really pleased to have had the varied experiences I have across the whole business – not only locally, but internationally. I plan to bring that to the table when it comes to thinking about how we continue to build our solid waste operations and offering.”

Marc recalls starting his career in the sales team in 2005 at Veolia’s office in Buckhurst Street in South Melbourne, before moving into the sales manager role and subsequently heading up the Victorian commercial services collection business.

In 2011, he moved to Perth in the midst of the resources boom to take up the role of WA State Manager as Veolia integrated its waste, water and energy businesses.

“My experience in WA was exciting. Although it was familiar in some aspects being a city-based operational role, 50 per cent of our overall business emanated out of the Pilbara which was 2000 kilometres north in the iron ore mining areas. We therefore had different market drivers and customers.

“One of the big things I noticed was the focus on Indigenous engagement and employment. We set up a waste management joint venture which is still in existence today. It now turns over $40 million per annum with a local Indigenous group up there, and is a significant contributor to not only local employment, but our bottom line.”

His hard work saw him later promoted to NSW Group General Manager in 2018. This gave him exposure to some new aspects of Veolia’s business, including the Sydney desalination plant and its esteemed Eco-precinct in Woodlawn.

Despite his experience and long list of achievements, Marc is adamant that changes to the Veolia waste business ultimately need to benefit the customer.

“One of our biggest customers is a large government client, and when you go through this type of reorganisation, one of the first big things you do is talk to them about the change and the expected benefits for them.

“And from their perspective, they were really pleased, because they have been previously dealing with up to six different senior managers right across the country. This change means a single point of contact and increased accountability.”

Marc says that another practical example of how the new structure benefits customers is the ability to align its various fleets across the country to one specification of vehicles, simplifying the purchasing and procurement process.

“Instead of having a different fleet, or service experience in say Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or regional areas, this will start to look and feel the same right across the country, with a consistent and tangible operating rhythm.”

In saying that, Veolia will continue to offer a bespoke service to meet the unique requirements of its customers in various local jurisdictions.

“One of the things that we’re conscious of is not losing that local flavour, particularly in regional areas where we’re very strong across the country,” Marc says.

“But equally in capital cities, having worked in three major national capitals, I can tell you that there is a definite view that everyone is different and each particular jurisdiction across Australia is different.

“Some councils are very keen on food and organic processing, other councils don’t want that, so you have to be nimble enough to meet the requirements of different customers and their expectations.”

He says that having worked in three states allows him to get a feel for what does and doesn’t work in particular areas.

“We have senior managers with a long tenure in the industry that will continue to represent Veolia in those places, so they know the customers and policy makers well and what drives the decisions they make,” he says.

TAPPING INTO EXCELLENCE

Marc says the decision to base the Australian waste business on the UK model makes sense, given the alignment between the two businesses.

For this reason, he says he has continued to draw on subject matter experts in the UK to advance Australian projects.

“I’ve spent a bit of time in the UK and having a look over their business and different activities and I think it’s fair to say it is a very mature business.

“They’ve had WtE facilities running for over the past 20 years based on regulatory triggers that have made it beneficial to do that. The UK also has a number of advanced recycling plants and technologies. While we have some of these emerging in Australia, it’s not to the same degree.”

Following the lead of its UK counterpart, Marc says Veolia Australia and New Zealand is well placed to lead the future transition, with the foundations currently being laid for Australia’s first large-scale WtE facility.

“I think there are a number of exciting opportunities that could be available for Veolia in the next five to 10 years in WtE, and we’ve got access to some of the best talent and technology globally to take advantage of that,” Marc says.

Veolia is keen to think out of the box when it comes to forming partnerships that drive a circular economy. It recently signed a Heads of Agreement with Coca-Cola Amatil to establish a plastic processing plant which would focus on recycling PET plastic soft drink bottles.

This initiative would dramatically increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of plastic going to landfill. Coca-Cola Amatil has already set the bar with its target of seven out of 10 bottles made from 100 per cent recycled PET by the end of 2019. In November 2019, the company indicated this was on track.

“We also want to be using our expertise with major partners to drive value for them. As an example, the NSW Government is about to launch into their new 20-year waste strategy, so for the last 12 months they’ve been seeking feedback from the industry, councils and others. We’ve played an active role in working alongside the government and helping them navigate the complex waste challenges they’ll need to solve over the next 20 years.

“Looking forward, I believe that one of the things we need to be thinking about is how we build treatment process and capacity to ultimately cope with future demand, rather than simply looking at a particular waste types or waste streams in isolation of this.”

Given international waste bans have opened up sovereign risk, building local capacity is an area Marc feels strongly about.

“If we continue to rely on foreign markets for waste treatment and processing, we’ll face exactly the same problem that happened to us recently where a regulatory and policy change in a foreign jurisdiction meant we had no control over things and it adversely impacted companies and residents locally,” he says.

Whether it’s greater incentives for recycled products, or taxes and levies on virgin products, there are key mechanisms that can help to drive investment in better treatment and processing options. From plastic to organics, liquid and hazardous waste or residuals, Marc says Veolia stands ready to provide support.

“We have technologies right all over the world and in many cases we’re actually technology agnostic. There could be two or three different treatments for a particular type of waste stream, but we work with a customer to figure out what’s best for them. Fundamentally, we’re positioning ourselves for the future,” he says.

“The coming years will prove crucial for the waste and resource recovery sector, so we want to ensure we continue to work with the private and public sectors to solve the challenges ahead.”

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VIC EPA approves Laverton WtE plant

The Victorian EPA has granted a works approval for a waste-to-energy (WtE) plant in Laverton North.

The facility, to be developed by Recovered Energy Australia, will process 200,000 tonnes of source-separated residual municipal solid waste each year.

According to an EPA statement, Recovered Energy Australia propose to deliver approximately 15 mega watts of electricity to the grid annually.

“EPA assessed the proposal against all relevant environmental policies and guidelines and looked at any potential environmental and human health impacts that could result from the facility,” the statement reads.

“The works approval is subject to conditions. These conditions include the requirement for an EPA-appointed auditor to review detailed design, and for further EPA consideration prior to finalising detailed plans.”

Conditions also require the facility to achieve an environmental performance equivalent to European standards.

Recovered Energy Australia has also secured a planning permit from Wyndham City Council to construct and operate the proposed facility, seperate from the EPA works approval.

“Once constructed, Recovered Energy Australia will not be able to operate the waste to energy plant until it obtains an EPA licence,” the statement reads.

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Masdar acquires 40 per cent stake in East Rockingham WtE facility

Global renewable energy company Masdar has made its first Australian investment, after acquiring a 40 per cent stake in Western Australia’s East Rockingham Resource Recovery Facility.

Masdar and Abu Dhabi advisory and development firm Tribe Infrastructure Group have invested in the waste-to-energy project via their Abu Dhabi Global Market-based joint venture holding company, Masdar Tribe Energy Holdings Limited.

Masdar Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi said extending Masdar’s reach into Australia is an exciting step forward for the company’s clean energy operations..

“The problem of dealing with everyday waste is a global challenge, with more than two billion tonnes of municipal solid waste generated each year. To this end, we are proud to be helping the state of Western Australia to deliver clean sources of power generation and sustainably manage its municipal solid waste,” Mr Al Ramahi said.

“The Australian waste-to-energy sector provides excellent commercial potential in the long-term.”

Tribe Infrastructure Group Chief Executive Officer Peter McCreanor said he looks forward to delivering clean energy infrastructure to Australia.

“This is just the first of numerous such development projects we’re working on, and our partnership with Masdar is an integral part of our strategy for Australia,” he said.

“We are proud to have played a leading role in the development and financing of the East Rockingham Recourse Recovery Facility, assembling a world-class team to deliver this important project for Western Australia.”

The $551 million facility reached financial close 23 December 2019 with support from a $18 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and $57.5 million in subordinated debt from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The facilities development consortium includes Hitachi Zosen INOVA, John Laing Investments and Acciona Concesiones.

When complete, the facility will process 300,000 tonnes of non-recyclable municipal, commercial and industrial waste and up to 30,000 tonnes of biosolids per year.

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UNTHA specialist to present at Waste to Energy Forum

UNTHA’s waste-to-energy (WtE) specialist Gary Moore is heading to Australia to join the team at FOCUS enviro for AIEN’s Australian Waste to Energy Forum.

The forum, held 19-20 February in Ballarat, will focus on waste hierarchy fundamentals and their applications, as well as waste diversion and the energy supply landscape.

Other key topics include the appropriate use of alternative WtE technologies and the definition of residual materials.

According to a FOCUS enviro statement, Mr Moore will discuss the latest equipment solutions from UNTHA, and present on whether RDF and PEF represent Australia’s future resources.

“With almost 30 years’ experience within the waste and recycling sector, Mr Moore will be drawing upon international examples from the ever-changing landscape to explore what role alternative fuels will play in the country’s future resource strategy, using successful, global WtE projects as reference points for delegates,” the statement reads.

FOCUS enviro will also host a Demo Day showcasing UNTHA shredding technology in Melbourne 20 February.

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East Rockingham WtE facility announces financial close

The consortium developing the East Rockingham Resource Recovery Facility has reached financial close on its waste-to-energy project (WtE) in Western Australia.

The consortium is led by Hitachi Zosen Inova, with SUEZ operating as waste management partner under a 20-year contract.

SUEZ Australia & New Zealand CEO Mark Venhoek said the project demonstrates SUEZ’s commitment to develop WtE in Australia.

“WtE is currently the missing link in Australia’s waste management hierarchy and will play a key role as we move towards a circular economy,” Mr Venhoek said.

“The project will significantly accelerate the improvement of waste treatment practices in the Perth region, as well as reducing their environmental footprint.”

As waste management partner, SUEZ will facilitate waste supply via post-recycling residuals, operations and maintenance, power off-take and disposal services for fly ash residue and non-processable waste.

The facility will treat approximately 300,000 tonnes of residual waste from municipal, commercial and industrial sources and generate 29 mega watts of renewable energy each year.

The facility is the first of its kind in Australia to use “waste-arising” contracts, which provide flexibility to councils to help them meet waste reduction targets without overcommitting waste volumes.

Hitachi Zosen Inova Australia Managing Director Marc Stammbach said the facility will use proprietary moving grate combustion technology.

“For Hitachi Zosen Inova this project marks our entry into the Australian market and introduces our world renowned and leading technology to Australia – something we’ve been working on for a long time,” he said.

“For the Perth area this project marks a major step towards sustainability and renewable energy from waste.”

Financing of the $511 million project was supported by an $18 million grant from ARENA.

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WtE forum returns to Ballarat

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 program features a range of speakers including Federal Environment Mister Sussan Ley, Blue Environment Director Bill Grant and a keynote from Veolia Kwinana Project Director Toby Terlet.

Mr Terlet’s presentation, Energy Recovery Facilities: What’s not written on the tin, will 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 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.

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

Early-bird registration is now open, with discounts available until 17 January 2020.

For more information click here.

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