Global recycling sector under pressure

As Australians adapt to a new social and economic order, the global scrap recycling industry is understandably, slowing down. The ambassadors of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) have compiled a wrap-up of how each country under siege is adjusting.

According to BIR, the situation in the United States of America varies from state to state. California has shut down all non-essential industries, but recycling is considered to be essential as it is an important link in the supply chain. However, business is very slow. It is possible to buy and sell but exporting is very tough with no availability of containers.

Smelters closed in Italy

In Europe, Italy has closing smelters as part of the strategy to control the pandemic by shutting all non-essential companies. Owing to a shortage of workers in France, most small to medium-sized businesses are closed. Large enterprises are partially open, with only 40 percent of yards in operation. While there is no more retail business, they are being supplied by those production plants still in operation.

In the UK recycling has been included in the category of critical industries and it appears that larger operators saw a flurry of activity last week, as smaller counterparts attempted to turn stock into money. Some merchants have closed their doors.

In Saudi Arabia, there has been a shift to stringent measures being applied to recycling plants between 7am and 6pm, with a curfew in place for the intervening hours. Factories and ports are still open.

The United Arab Emirates  is still operating yards in Sharjah operation however the report said that business is slow for both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Local mills are struggling in terms of both taking deliveries and payments, while export activity is minimal as the buyers are not there.

Yards are closed in Kuwait and in Lebanon, although the latter’s ports are still open. For the Middle East in general, policy changes are coming daily, building up the uncertainty over April deliveries and supplies worldwide.

India comes to a halt

In India, the situation is dire with Mumbai in total lockdown and no-one can leave their home in many parts of Gujarat. The government had announced a raft of closures, including stopping trains up to March 3. Pakistan, meanwhile, is in partial lockdown and yards are not working normally.

There is no official lockdown in Singapore and while plants are technically open for business. Practically nothing is happening because most workers are either Chinese, who haven’t returned since the Chinese New Year holidays, or Malaysians who can’t return because of border closures. There is also massive logistical disruption to container shipments.

Malaysia is effectively in lockdown regarding import cargoes, with only essential goods permitted. With recycling products not categorised as essential, imports are not being allowed at present.

BIR is the only global recycling industry federation representing around 800 companies and 35 affiliated national recycling associations from 70 different countries. Its members are world leaders in the supply of raw materials and a key pillar for sustainable economic development.

Ambassadors are appointed by the president and represent the organisation around the world. Working on a voluntary basis, they provide information about BIR activities in their respective working regions.

 

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.

 

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.