claire moffat

Smart dry digestion plant

A new dry digestion plant is being built in Kirchberg, Hunsrück around 40 km west of the German city of Mainz and will process around 15,000 metric tons of source-separated organic waste a year.

The municipal operating company, Rhein-Hunsrück Entsorgung (RHE), has awarded the contract to build the facility to a consortium consisting of Swiss cleantech company Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) and the German construction and composting technology specialist Eggersmann.

Eggersmann will be in charge of the conveying equipment, construction, and biological drying system, while HZI will supply its Kompogas technology, the digestate separation and storage components, as well as the combined heat and power units. The HZI/Eggersmann bidding consortium has won the pan-European public tender on the strength of the most cost-efficient solution.

The new facility will already be the second Kompogas installation in the Rhein-Hunsrück area. The first went into operation back in 1997.

“The old Kompogas plant has been operated by a private operation company and has given us exceptional service over the last 20 years, doing a great deal to assure reliable waste disposal in our region,” explained RHE managing director thomas Lorenz.

Design for greater efficiency
The plant has various technically sophisticated features: The organic waste delivered to the plant will first be prepared in a special separation process before being fed into the digester for anaerobic digestion, and subsequently sieved again. This procedure will maximise the quality of the 10,000 or so metric tons of liquid digestate produced for use as high-grade fertiliser in agriculture.

The digestion process will yield around 1.85 million Nm3 of biogas annually, which will be used to generate 4.26 million kWh of electricity. Another special feature of the Kirchberg plant will be two cogeneration units configured to generate electricity as it is needed:

While one of the units will assure a constant supply of heat and electricity to the plant, the other will only switched in during the day if electricity grid demand is particularly high. The waste heat from the cogeneration units will also be fed into an ORC turbine to generate additional electricity, further boosting the overall efficiency of the plant.

 

Relief arrives with Jobkeeper package

Vital businesses that support and serve the WARR industry will feel some relief following the release of a $132 billion Jobkeeper package by the federal government late yesterday.

Designed to assist workers who have been stood down, the package offers a lifeline to employers whose business have experienced a 30% revenue decline since March 1. By 8am this morning more than 60,000 operators had registered for the subsidy through the Australia Taxation office.

Any worker who was laid off since March 1 can talk to their employers to re-employ them so that they can receive the $1,500 fortnightly payment while the employer will be reimbursed from May.

Even employers whose business has been shut down on government orders will receive money to pay employees who cannot do any meaningful work or attend their workplace.

Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA) executive director Tony Khoury told Inside Waste that it welcomed the government’s Job Keeper $1,500 payment per worker per fortnight.

“Any waste & recycling business that incurs a significant financial hit of 30% revenue reduction caused by COVID-19 will be eligible. This announcement will ensure that a business will continue to directly pay its workers and therefore maintain a connection to those workers.

“In so doing, waste management operators will hang onto their valued, experienced staff,” he said.A statement by Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, and AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said that they had joined forces to urge that every effort is made to ensure Australian manufacturing businesses remain safe and can continue to supply the needs of Australian households, businesses, community organisations and health providers.

Limiting business closures

“It is crucial that businesses in vital areas keep operating through these difficult times and that people remain employed as much as possible.

“This includes businesses involved in manufacturing such as food processing, packaging, pharmaceuticals, chemicals (including sanitising and cleaning products), and health industry supplies. It also includes industries necessary for these activities to continue – those in their supply chains and service partners,” the statement said.

However, they acknowledged that many manufacturing businesses cannot be turned off and on with the flick of a switch. Closures can take time; they are costly and often hazardous.

“Restarting many manufacturing processes is similarly time-consuming, costly, and dangerous. These extra costs and risks need to be weighed in any assessment of a shut down. If they can operate safely they should remain open,” they said.

Retaining employment

They also noted that many workers are employed in industries that supply basic needs. Many more are employed in businesses that can continue to operate safely and without increasing risks of community transmission of COVID-19.

History suggests unemployment rises much faster than it falls. The costs of unemployment – both human and economic – last for many years beyond the passing of the economic downturn. Many people, particularly those who are older and less skilled, will never be re-employed.

Both the AWU and Ai Group welcome the measures the Government has introduced to improve the provision of mental health services in Australia. Avoiding unnecessary business closures will help avoid further escalation of the adverse mental health outcomes associated with unemployment.

A waste bacterium for our times

Scientists have discovered a bacterium that feeds on toxic plastic, not only breaking it down but using it as food to power the process.

The research has been published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology and identifies a new strain of Pseudomonas bacteria which is known to withstand harsh conditions, such as high temperatures and acidic environments. The bacterium, is the first that is known to attack polyurethane and was found at a waste site where plastic had been dumped.

The German researchers, at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ in Leipzig who are behind the discovery, fed the bacterium key chemical components of polyurethane in the laboratory and found the bacteria can use the compounds as a sole source of carbon, nitrogen and energy.

However, they believe that it might be 10 years before the bacterium could be used at a large scale. According to the research, the next step would be to identify the genes that code for the enzymes produced by the bug that break down the polyurethane.

 

City of Parramatta paving the way to a sustainable future

The City of Parramatta Council is trialling two innovative sustainable road solutions aimed at reducing waste materials and combatting heat. An asphalt product incorporating recycled soft plastics from plastic bags and packaging, waste glass and waste toner from used printer cartridges Reconophalt, will be used in the first trial in Epping and Ermington.

City of Parramatta, Lord Mayor Cr Bob Dwyer acknowledged the growing problem that single-use plastics and other materials pose to the environment.

“Finding new ways to recycle and reuse materials means we can reduce the amount of waste that ultimately enters landfill,” he said. “By taking tonnes of plastic and glass from local recycling plants and using it to create roads, we are able to turn trash into treasured infrastructure.”

According to the manufacturer of Reconophalt, Downer, the equivalent of approximately 500,000 plastic bags, 165,000 glass bottles, and 12,500 toner cartridges is diverted from landfill for every 1km of a two-lane road.

Partial DPIE funding 

This project has been partially funded through the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s ‘Waste Less, Recycle More’ initiative, which has been funded by the waste levy.

The second trial, which is being conducted in partnership with Blacktown and Campbelltown councils and Western Sydney University, will examine how lighter coloured roads can help reduce the amount of heat being absorbed and retained by roads on hot days. Renoir Street, Old Toongabbie; Roslyn Avenue, Northmead; Corry Court and carpark, North Parramatta; and part of Binalong Park car park, Old Toongabbie are among the first roads in NSW to be coated with a new ‘cool’ seal coat, GuardTop CoolSeal, a light grey coloured coating, which can be 5-14ºC cooler than regular dark asphalt on a hot day. It is applied to asphalt surfaces to protect and maintain the quality and longevity of the surface.

Researchers from Western Sydney University will collect and analyse data taken from the trial sites, before determining the product’s overall impact in reducing heat.

“As Western Sydney can be several degrees hotter than suburbs in the east, it is crucial we explore ways we can keep our streets cooler – especially in the summer,” Dwyer said.

“Parramatta is going through an incredible period of growth and transformation, and Council is dedicated to building a sustainable and innovative City that will meet the needs of our community well into the future. These road projects are just two examples of how we are achieving this,” he added.

Waste industry strengthens as nation under pressure

Inside Waste has continued to strengthen over the past year with pageviews and readership showing sustained growth. This places us in a sound position to support the industry as it negotiates an adapted environment.

In response to the profound changes caused by COVID-19, the national waste industry has stepped up its communications and advocacy to government to ensure that recent commitments made at COAG stay on track and association members remain informed during a time of disruption.

Leading associations such as Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), National Waste & Recycling Industry Council of NSW (NWRIC) and Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WRC) have made specific calls to state governments and authorities to make cash injections and debt guarantees, as well as waive levies and taxes that are applicable to the WARR industry.

Focused communications

From this week, WMRR will send a custom weekly newsletter to members to keep them abreast of the specific impacts of the virus on their businesses.

“Now more than ever, we must remain connected, work together, and share knowledge that will both sustain and support our industry and its people,” WMRR CEO, Gayle Sloan said.
Meanwhile, WCRA has called on Sydney Water to guarantee that they will reimburse licensed waste transporters for any bad debts that are incurred.

WCRA executive director Tony Khoury said that the association will continue to keep the industry informed about COVID-19 related matters as they continue to develop.

“WCRA will also continue to lobby for waste services to be treated as essential,” he advised.

Inside Waste, along with other titles within the Prime Creative Media stable, remains committed to bringing the strongest news to our core readers as they navigate new community and business terrains. Our newsletters are continuing as usual and daily updates to the website and social media. If there are any specific articles or news you would like us to cover in insidewaste.com.au please let me know at claire.moffat@primecreativemedia.com.au.

EPA stays fixed on regulation despite challenges

The NSW EPA has assured the waste and environment industries that it will continue to fulfil its responsibilities as the state’s primary environmental regulator while maintaining the health and safety of staff, communities, industry and other partners.

In reference to the evolving situation with COVID-19, the agency explained in a statement that this includes working to minimise any disruptions to its regulatory activities, offering the industry guidance if required, and asking for cooperation from industry and partners.

“Please be assured that the EPA will continue to be guided by the latest advice from NSW and Commonwealth health authorities and will consider the impact of that advice in the delivery of our regulatory functions,” the EPA said.

Business continuity plan

The EPA said that it has a business continuity plan in place which is being reviewed regularly in light of the most up-to-date advice, to enable us to meet our regulatory responsibilities. That includes planning to allow staff to work remotely where appropriate so that we maintain our compliance, enforcement and pollution response activities as best we can to prevent environmental and community harm.

That means that compliance with licence conditions and issue clean-up notices and prevention notices where necessary will continue to be required.

However, the EPA may consider requests for exemptions on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the provisions of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

“As we continue to closely monitor the situation, we are providing on-going, up-to-date and appropriate communication with our employees, regulatory partners and government,” the statement said.

Expectations from the regulated community

As the country face the current unprecedented situation together, the NSW EPA has strongly recommended the implementation of a business continuity plan, if one is not already in place.

“That plan should take into account the updated advice being provided by NSW and Commonwealth health officials, including any sector-specific advice. Now is also the right time to check you have everything in place to enact your pollution incident response management plan,” it explained.

The EPA has asked all licensees to assist in managing risks during this period notifying it by email to info@epa.nsw.gov.au:

  1. If you anticipate any significant risk to your ability to comply with your licence or licences under which you operate.
  2. If you need advice on business continuity preparedness for your operations.

The EPA stressed that this is not a legal obligation but, rather a request to assist the EPA and the NSW Government in managing the current situation in the public interest.

It explained that a business continuity plan would help meet responsibilities for any environmental impacts from activities because as licence conditions and other regulatory responsibilities remain in place, associated obligations will also remain in place.

These include the priority responsibilities of maintaining and operating pollution control equipment, and storing, transporting and disposing of waste appropriately. The EPA said that it expected licensees in the waste industry to continue to maintain good communications with clients and the EPA, particularly around any predicted service disruptions. Licensees must continue to notify the NSW EPA of pollution incidents and other regulatory or compliance issues.

WMRR delivers COVID-19 clinical and related waste guidance  

The peak body for the management of clinical and related waste in Australia, the National Biohazard Waste Industry (BWI) committee has developed guidance to help hospitals, aged, and health care providers manage COVID-19 affected materials as well as those managing waste, both within and outside these facilities.

BWI is a division of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR).

In a statement to members and the media, BWI said they were seeking to offer general guidance to stakeholders. BWI recommends that organisations contact and work with their waste management providers if they have any specific questions or require further information.

Under AS 3816:2018 Management of Clinical and Related Wastes, clinical waste is defined as any waste that has the potential to cause injury, infection, or offence, arising but not limited to medical, dental, podiatry, health care services and so forth.

Current situation

“At this time, we are not aware of any evidence that direct, unprotected human contact during the handling of healthcare waste has resulted in the transmission of COVID‐19, nor is COVID‐19 regarded as a Category A infectious disease (World Health Organisation, 2020),” the statement said.

According to BWI, it also understands that the WHO and some Australian health officials have, in fact, declared that clinical waste from infected patients should be treated as normal clinical waste with no additional measures. It noted that this, however, may not be a uniform stance.

“In light of the dynamic and evolving nature of the COVID‐19 situation, along with the growing body of knowledge including the significant range of unknown characteristics, such as survival on surfaces, BWI said it was prudent to suggest the adoption of additional measures.

“As governments evaluate the transmissibility and severity of COVID‐19, these additional measures aim to offer a degree of precaution and assistance to staff who will be responsible for the management of higher than normal, and potentially more hazardous clinical waste volumes generated during this time,” the statement said.

Additional measures  

BWI said that it also hoped that additional measures would afford a greater level of protection to healthcare facility staff and waste handlers, both within and external to the facility, responsible for the management of clinical waste.

It is the recommendation of BWI that these proposed measures should be adopted alongside current PPE and other relevant practices. At a minimum, individuals handling clinical waste should wear appropriate PPE (boots, aprons, long‐sleeved gowns, thick gloves, masks, and goggles) and perform proper hand hygiene after removal of wastes.

BWI would like to reiterate the importance of all facilities continuing to work and engage with their waste management providers on these recommended additional measures:

  • Implementation of double bagging of waste from patients confirmed as infected with COVID‐19. This can most easily be achieved by first lining all clinical waste Mobile Garbage Bins (MGBs) with clinical waste bin liners. By placing infected waste into a primary clinical waste bag and tying this bag up prior to disposal in the lined MGB – the bag lining the MGB must also be tied up ‐ a significant increase in protection can be achieved
  • Bins or containers that have been used in isolation rooms or in close proximity to patients confirmed as infected with COVID‐19, the exterior surface should be wiped clean in accordance with WHO guidelines prior to collection
  • Discreet notification and identification of any bins carrying infected waste in a discreet manner, as clearly agreed upon with your waste management provider

BWI stated that there could be an understandable reluctance to overtly label bins containing COVID‐19 waste. Therefore, this could be as simple as the addition of a simple mark or sticker as clearly agreed and documented between the facility and your waste management provider.

Additional waste types and best practice

For soiled linen, towels and incontinence aids BWI stated that it is critical to conduct hand hygiene when there is suspected or direct contact with faeces (if hands are soiled, soap and water are preferred to alcohol‐based hand rub).

In all healthcare settings, including those with suspected or confirmed COVID‐19 cases, faeces must be treated as a biohazard and handled in accordance with the current Australian Standards.

Nappies and incontinence aids, if used, should be disposed of, as they would in all situations, as infectious waste. The WHO provides guidance on the minimum requirements for soiled linen and towels that these are to be disinfected for reprocessing. Single‐use materials should be treated as infectious waste.

Implementation of measures

BWI said that these needed to be implemented as soon as practicably possible. It said that the WHO guiding document Guidance laid out in this statement was adapted from the March 3, 2020 WHO guiding document, Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for COVID‐19.

It also advised that the contents of the technical brief from the WHO is based on the information currently available for SARS‐CoV‐2 and the persistence of other viruses in the coronavirus family. It reflected input and advice from microbiologists and virologists, infection control experts, and those with practical knowledge about water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and infection prevention and control (IPC) in emergencies and disease outbreaks.