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BINGO ramps up circular economy drive

Never say never is a value that is intertwined in BINGO’s corporate identity. It sets the tone for innovation and technology as BINGO works towards its vision of a circular economy and waste-free Australia. To enable this vision, BINGO has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its Eastern Creek Recycling Ecology Park precinct in recent years, with more investment to follow. Set on a site that is just over 52 hectares in size, it incorporates two materials processing centres (one of which is a state-of-the-art recycling centre), a landfill – one of the biggest in the country – as well as a recycled product area.

The biggest feather in its cap is the Materials Processing Centre 2 (MPC2), which has been in operation for almost 18 months. What makes MPC2 special is the state-of-the art technology it’s equipped with – automated cranes, screens, air density separators, eddy current separators, magnets, optical sorting equipment, as well as advanced environmental and safety features to ensure B&D waste is recycled into various recovered materials. These recovered materials then make their way to a range of third parties to start a new life instead of being dumped  landfill.

MPC2 uses a dual infeed system – there is the ‘west’ side and the ‘east’ side of the infeed plant. Both are separating waste streams. If a rogue piece of waste slips through the net and causes downtime in the east infeed, the west side and processing plant can carry on running. Also impressive is the tipping floor, which is capable of handling and clearing up to 300 tonnes per hour. It’s where BINGO and third-party trucks unload their multi-tonne loads of waste to be sorted.

Brad Searle is the company’s development manager, and he knows that it’s a great piece of kit and is proud of the way the team and the company has gotten the plant up and running, especially as it concentrates on its part in Australia’s circular economy.

“Trucks come in from all over Greater Sydney to the tipping floor where they deposit waste,” he said. “A lot of it has already been pre-sorted at  transfer satellites within our network. One of the things that makes MPC2 special is that it has been designed to process mixed B&D waste. Picture a bin that is packed with a diverse range of waste types, which when fed into MPC2, is methodically sorted into a range of different ECO products as well as alternate fuels.”

Once the waste has been initially sorted on the tip floor, two overhead cranes, each capable of grabs of up to five tonnes, lifts it into two eight-metre-deep pits situated on either side of the tipping floor. It is then that the waste starts on its processing journey to be split up into the various off takes.

This whole resource recovery park is designed to make sure all the recycling and reuse is squeezed out of every piece of waste that comes through to meet its circular economy targets. As well as trying to create a business where it can make money from the off-takes, BINGO is aware there is limited landfill space available in Sydney and its immediate surrounds, which is why reuse and recycling are part of its DNA. Throw in the company being big on producing refuse-derived fuel (RDF) from the materials that can’t be recycled, and it starts looking like a one-stop shop for all waste and resource recovery needs.

While the hole in the ground at its Eastern Creek facility is big – and it is huge – Searle points out that it will eventually run out, thus why it makes its circular economy strategy a priority.

“The Greater Sydney region is quickly approaching a landfill cliff in 2025 where demand will outstrip supply.

“While BINGO’s void will be one of few remaining landfills servicing Sydney post 2028, it is critical that we continue solving for last mile to preserve finite inert landfill capacity as far into the future as possible.

“BINGO’s vision is centred around solving for a waste-free Australia through maximising diversion from the landfill. With current and planned initiatives within the company, we are well on track to achieve a 90 per cent diversion rate.”

Adam Mensforth is the MPC2 plant manager, and it’s his job to keep the place running smoothly. With a lot of machinery on the go all the time, planned maintenance is key, but even that can’t stop some of the more insidious waste streams causing an issue.

Read more: Bendigo court orders clean up of waste site

“Our biggest risk in here are lithium batteries, because of the fire risk,” he said. “In fact, we had a fire here recently. Fortunately, our systems are set up to prevent such events. One of the guys in the control room saw a flash on one of the monitoring screens from our closed-circuit cameras. And it turned out it was a lithium battery that had caught fire. We were able to safely deal with the issue. We are seeing more battery waste like vapes in our rubbish now.”

As for the maintenance of the plant itself, the company has come a long way from when the plant opened. Searle said that 18 months ago they didn’t realise how big of a component planned maintenance would be – and for good reason.

“We probably underestimated that aspect because nobody, including BINGO, has operated a plant on this scale,” he said. “We were addressing issues as they arose but how the plant is run now compared to 12 months ago is a lot different in terms of maintenance. Through a very proactive approach to maintenance, we have seen significant improvements in plant uptime as well as plant recycling rates.”

In the first financial year of operations (including the commissioning and hand over phases) MPC2 processed approximately 620,000 tonnes of mixed inert waste. The waste diverted from landfill abates approximately
85,560 t CO2-e. This emission reduction is equivalent to taking 19,040 cars off the road for a year.

In the future, BINGO aims to make the site energy self-sufficient. This will become possible through rooftop solar power as well as a power generation project currently under development to convert gas to green electricity. Searle says that this project will support its ambitions decarbonisation agenda through providing green electricity to offset current and future energy demand for the entire NSW network.

Another aspect the company is looking at is AI. Currently it has cameras capable of “reading a Jack Daniel’s label” on the tipping floor, said Mensforth. A lot of the cameras have 4G connectivity and are being monitored offshore where operators are looking for signs of fires or waste not being in the correct stream.

“Those doing the overseas monitoring are communicating with us what they’re seeing on the floor,” he said. “And that is a step towards AI. We are building a database, and once those things have been spotted and verified, then they can be picked out of the waste stream. The data will also lead to improved waste reporting.”

Currently, the plant runs two eight-hour shifts. When the plant closes in the early evening, the planned maintenance staff get to work. While the plant has a license to run 24-hours, Searle said they are yet to take up that offering.

BINGO is in it for the long haul when it comes to creating a circular economy. As Searle and Mensforth both stated, the waste and resource recovery industry is changing all the time. Both see BINGO as having a lot to offer in this space, and with its state-of-the-art plant going great guns, there is plenty of work to be done yet.

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