Circular Economy, Equipment, Features, Queensland

WestRex upgrades reduce waiting times/increases recycling rates

WestRex has upgraded its facility in the Brisbane suburb of Wacol to increase the site’s capabilities to receive, process and treat liquid and solid waste.

The upgrades began five years ago when WestRex took ownership of the site. The improvements  were implemented so the company could process more materials, such as packaged waste and hazardous chemicals. Prior to this, it was primarily setup for waste oil recycling.

Operations Manager Chris Mann said that the WestRex focus on customer service meant that they would need to diversify the capabilities of the site to ensure they could provide a complete waste management offering.

The upgrades would increase the diversity and throughput of solid and liquid hazardous waste in treatment systems. To ensure that best practice waste management could be achieved, a few upgrades were required, with the site now operating at a recycling rate of 93 per cent.

“In order to grow the business, we had to remove some of the older equipment and build new infrastructure to be able to do the work,” Mann said.

Upgrades to water treatment process
The Wacol facility’s water treatment process receives water contaminated with oil. The water is usually from industrial sites, people cleaning out their own oil tanks such as petrol stations, or oil spills that have mixed with water and need to be separated. The facility had a 170,000-litre pit to process liquid waste. WestRex installed three pits with a combined capacity of 250,000 litres. There are two additional pits to process solids.

Another upgrade to the water treatment process was removing the RM-10 water treatment system and introducing the Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) treatment system. A DAF system clarifies wastewater by removing contaminants by dissolving the wastewater under pressure and then releasing the air at atmospheric pressure in a flotation tank. With the increased capacity, and the DAF system’s implementation, Mann said the scale to which they treat water has more than doubled.

Mann said the pits, systems and pump upgrades had reduced customer wait times.

Mann compared it to when seven or eight tricks were queued up for hours waiting to unload. They now wait for “half an hour on a bad day”.

“We can literally unload four or five trucks at once. We don’t see those big traffic queues anymore,” he said. “The workers unloading the trucks are in the field of logistics, so they must be constantly on the move instead of sitting in a queue for hours.

“They need to be unloaded back out to the next job. Hopefully, the improvements we made mean they can be more productive.”

The upgrades to the facility have also meant it can now deal with flammable liquids.

Mann said this ability has helped set the site apart from other facilities. WestRex has implemented a new bulk flammable liquid pump that increases the speed of the process “like no other”.

”We are one of the only sites that can quickly unload flammable liquids and deal with them,” he said. “That’s something that sets us a little bit apart. Our main competitors don’t really target that waste quite so much.”

While most of the work has been completed, some peripheral improvements are still pending to make certain processes easier.

Mann described the upgrades as an organic build that improved systems and facilities as the business has grown in scale and effectiveness over the past couple of years.

“We’ve improved it as we’ve gone along,” he said. “We decided to start with oil, and it was great. However, we needed to provide another service requiring a process called chemical stabilisation, so we built a facility for that.

“However, it was only of a small capacity. As our market has grown we have made the decision to upscale to increase the capacity, so we have responded to this and commissioned equipment with a larger capacity.”

Hazardous waste removal
Once the hazardous waste is removed from the liquids, the recycling process is carefully crafted for each substance. Mann said what happens to the waste, oil, and water once these systems have finalised their treatment is equally as important as the process itself.

As mentioned, once the contaminants are removed, the water is sent back to an oxygen treatment facility to get repossessed as wastewater. The water is then treated, tested, and transported back into the sewer.

Mann said that in terms of other hazardous materials, WestRex’s purpose is to reduce waste that goes to landfills.

However, unfortunately, it’s still currently impossible to stop all waste from ending up there. Therefore, small amounts of contaminants or solids that come from the liquids end up in landfills.

“Water goes back to the oxygen treatment facility and gets reprocessed as any other wastewater,” said Mann.

“We treat and remove the contaminants and we have strict guidelines as to what we’re allowed to release.

The contaminants, if it’s oil, get reprocessed and recycled. Other contaminants – usually small amounts – end up in landfills because there’s not much else we can do with it.”

WestRex has been involved in waste management of liquid and solid hazardous material and organics recycling since its conception in 2012. It recovers and delivers solutions to waste and contaminated site problems.

As well as recycling wastewater, oils and hazardous products, it also hasan organics recycling facility in Leyburn.

Mann said ongoing improvements and proactive maintenance of WestRex facilities, as well as maintaining a strong customer focus, remain a priority.

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