New South Wales, News

Improvements needed for solid waste

Earlier this month, the NSW WCRA held its annual update and dinner at Kirribilli, with a range of speakers and topics covered. This included Nestlé’s Margaret Stewart talking about the future of soft plastics, NSW’s EPA CEO Tracy Mackey covering off on the latest regulatory and waste management issues, the NSW WRCA’s Tony Khoury talked about the importance of laws and regulations, while others talked of the improvements needed in certain sectors.

One of the keynote speakers was Glenn Horne from Halgan Liquid Waste, who while praising the improved recycling of solid waste materials, it could still be better.

“The past 30 years have seen dramatic changes in solid waste operations resulting in improved recycling and reuse of material,” he said. “Unfortunately, within the same period, there have not been many significant improvements within the liquid industry.”

He said that while some smaller players have entered the industry with similar treatment systems that have been effective, nothing new has been developed.

“In the 80’s the NSW State Government built a “World’s Best Practice” treatment facility at Homebush,” he said. “This facility was able to accept and treat all types of liquid waste and was the major treatment facility, catering for liquid wastes generated across Australia. The Homebush facility remains the major treatment site, and is yet to be challenged for capability, although it is reaching its use by date.

“To a waste generator, liquid waste is seen as a secondary waste stream when accompanying the general waste activity.  When you compare the liquid waste volumes to general waste annually, it is easy to see why greater solid waste volumes attract resources and capital.”

He said that when it comes to international trends, environmental regulations, aided by larger volumes overseas, have seen changes to liquid waste processing plants that have improved the ability to extract and reuse both hydrocarbon and organic materials from liquid waste streams.

Read more: Perth MRF reopens after fire

“New technology to achieve better liquid recovery does require higher capital cost,” he said. “The capital cost compared to the available volumes are possibly the main deterrent to progress…but as social expectations and environmental regulations tighten, there will need to be change.”

Cleanaway’s NSW regional manager Paul Vujic, also made a speech. He said that if NSW is to achieve the required improvements in environmental and commercial sustainability, the liquid waste sector will require an investment in improved technology.

“The liquid waste industry requires more certainty around the regulatory framework providing better foundations for the sector,” he said. “A good example is the Used Lube Oil (ULO) and PSO, where there have been excellent environmental and commercial outcomes. On the other hand, an example of where the regulatory framework does not support commercial investment is e waste.”

He also said that the industry needs to be focus on improving risk management across all environmental, health and safety areas.

“The smaller market volumes combined with large distances to processing sites are a challenge for waste transporters and specialised liquid treatment plants,” he said. “The industry is held back by red tape and time where it can take upwards of five processes to obtain the approvals and build new plants. In a changing market, this poses challenges for all across the liquid waste sector.”