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.

 

Potato waste mashup building a new industry

The Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) comprising four of the largest potato producers in Australia, intends to convert 100% of its potato waste into commercial benefit.

Over the next three years, The Mitolo Group, Zerella Fresh, Thomas Foods International Fresh Produce, The South Australian Potato Company, together with Industry Association, Potatoes South Australia Inc, and The University of Adelaide will invest nearly $1million in this research and development. The goal is to save up to 100,000 tonnes of potatoes currently going to waste every year.

Potatoes South Australia, chief executive Robbie Davis said that this is a powerful opportunity for Australia, particularly South Australia which is the largest potato growing state.

“We are seeing up to 40% of potatoes rejected because they do not meet retail specifications. At the same time Australia is importing 20,000 tonnes of potato starch each year, and it just doesn’t make sense that we’re not using these huge volumes of potatoes for alternative purposes,” she said.

Potato starch industry

According to Davis, a large focus of this project is the potential development of an Australian potato starch industry which would provide additional revenue for Australian potato companies. This could generate potentially $1000 a tonne for extracted starch instead of the current value of $0-10 a tonne for the waste.

“Potato starch is used broadly across the food industry, from bioplastics and packaging, to coatings and adhesives. We also want to use the waste from the waste, so after extracting the potato starch, there will be further opportunities using the residual waste from this first stage,” Davis said.

Professor Vincent Bulone from the University of Adelaide is leading this research project from his analytical centre for complex carbohydrate analysis, Adelaide Glycomics.

The project is in line with the University’s industry engagement priority on agrifood and wine. “There are different forms of starch in potatoes that can be used in different products. For example, existing research suggests that the less digestible starches in potatoes, the so-called ‘resistant starches’, can be used to make superior pre-biotics that help prevent infections,” Bulone said.

“Another known starch component can be used to engineer low GI foods, and the skins of the potatoes themselves contain bioactives that can be used for a range of commercial products like nutraceuticals.”

Early start

Fight Food Waste CRC CEO, Dr Steven Lapidge said that the early start that this project had made in the Fight Food Waste CRC’s journey was notable and he considered that the partnership between all of the potato producers was a great example of what CRCs can achieve.

“We’re looking to develop new products from current waste streams that will deliver additional profit to potato producers through domestic and export sales.

“Through investing in research and development we aim to deliver new high-value commercial opportunities for the participants of this project.

 

 

 

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.

Grease trap industry challenged by shuttering economy

The grease trap collection industry is expected to continue to be negatively impacted by the general downturn in tourism and fewer people at events, stadiums and in public places. The directive for all restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs to only serve take-away food is now expected to exacerbate its financial viability.

Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW executive director Tony Khoury told Inside Waste that this will lead to a decline in grease trap servicing as a result of lower food sales, and less grease being generated.

He said it was unlikely that these hospitality venues would plan ahead and contact Sydney Water to cancel or request some form of change to their grease trap collection service.

Khoury outlined a series of issues that he anticipated that his members would face:

These included:

  • Declines in grease trap waste volumes
  • Grease trap scheduling that would not decrease in Wastesafe and the transporter would still service the trap
  • Once the owners received a tax invoice, the charge would be disputed if their trade had reduced or the business had temporarily shut-down
  • In these situations, the transporter would be exposed to a possible bad debt

“As Sydney Water controls the scheduling of these collections, we have requested their urgent consideration to assist us to minimise the impact on our industry.

“The Association calls on Sydney Water to at least guarantee that they will reimburse licensed waste transporters for any bad debts that are incurred.”

 

 

 

 

 

Government assistance needed now, says NWRIC

The National Waste & Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on state governments to provide waste and landfill levy relief to the sector. NWRIC CEO, Rose Read has said this is an obvious and necessary measure that can be implemented quickly.

Read described several measures that could be taken now, beginning with the waiver of landfill levy doubtful debts. Next, she suggested that all planned levy increases could be put on hold for at least six months while current waste and landfill levies for the next three months could also be waived.

“We are also asking state and local governments to be more flexible on certain facility license conditions so that social distancing to protect staff can be maintained and collection time curfews be lifted so that bins and continue to be collected,” Read added.

Substantial cost

Although the NWRIC acknowledged the substantial support the commonwealth and state governments have announced so far for businesses, Read highlighted that levy fees are a substantial cost to the sector. She said that relief in this area will be very important to ensure that the sector keeps its staff in jobs delivering this essential service to the community over the coming months.

NWRIC members comprise both national waste and recycling companies, and state and territory affiliates. According to Read, they are doing everything possible to ensure that bins will continue to be collected and waste and recycling safely processed during these extreme times.

“Our members and state affiliates have been actively adopting measures over the past few weeks to protect their staff and maintain services to local communities, businesses and the health sector”.

“However, like all businesses the waste and recycling sector is experiencing financial stress as business customers shut-down, demand reduces and segments of the economy slow,” she explained.

 

 

Federal Government releases $100billion to save business

Minutes after the Reserve Bank lowered the cash rate by 0.25%, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg this afternoon, said they were accessing up to $100billion to “get Australian’s across a bridge” during the COVID-19 crisis. The details of the spend are sketchy however, both leaders and then the Reserve Bank Governor, Philip Lowe then outlined the financial mechanics to sustain the economy.

This followed an initial stimulus package announced by the Federal government last week. The state governments have also released a series of stimulus packages in the last few days aimed at putting a financial floor under businesses to enable them to survive the impact of Covid-19. The Federal government released a significant package for business and organisations late last week and another is expected shortly.

These are the details of the first package:

Incentive for purchases more than $150K

  • Instant asset write-off for any machinery purchase made up to $150k
  • Asset can be new or used
  • No limit on number of assets
  • Only available until June 30, 2020

Incentive for purchases less than $150K

  • Accelerated depreciation deduction incentive
  • 50% immediate deduction followed by normal depreciation rules applied to the balance
  • Asset must be new
  • Also available for assets <$150k but purchased after June 30, 2020
  • Available until June 30, 2021

NSW to waive payroll tax

The NSW government has allocated $450million to waive payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months. The should deliver immediate relief as these businesses would not have to pay the tax for the rest of this financial year.

The government has also bought forward the next round of payroll tax cuts effectively raising the threshold limit to $1million for the next financial year.

“The Government stands ready to do whatever it takes to keep people safe and ensure our economy withstands this storm,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.

The Treasurer added that he will drawing on the state infrastructure as part of his plan to stimulate the economy, with more than $750 million will be spent on capital works and maintenance of public assets.

WA grants for business

In WA small to medium enterprises (SME’s)  with a payroll of between $1 million and $4 million will receive a one-off grant of $17,500. It’s anticipated that this will bolster 7,400 businesses in and cost the Government $114 million.

Changes to the payroll tax exemption threshold are also being brought forward, in an effort to support 11,000 businesses.

The threshold was previously lifted from $850,000 to $950,000, with an increase to $1 million scheduled for January 2021 but this will now happen earlier on July 1, 2020.

SME’s which pay less than $7.5 million in taxable wages each year can apply to defer their payroll tax payment to July 21, 2020.

The ACT government is prioritising support for small business owners, contractors and “gig” economy workers in the first tranche of a multi-stage stimulus package to help the territory weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said smaller infrastructure projects would also be fast-tracked in a bid to keep the economy moving amid the rapidly escalating global emergency.

Victorian business hotline

The Andrews Labor Government today launched a hotline for businesses dealing with the significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses across the state can now access information on dealing with COVID-19 by calling the Business Victoria hotline on 13 22 15.

Operators calling the hotline will be able to get information about support services, including those available through Business Victoria, which offers mentoring to help operators develop business continuity and recovery plans.

The hotline will provide the latest information on the response to COVID-19 and how this affects businesses, including how to access financial support available through the national stimulus package.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is hurting Victorian businesses and an important way that we can help is by giving them access to the information they need to make key decisions. This dedicated hotline will help businesses of all sizes get the facts and connect them with support services so they can best weather this storm,” Andrews said.