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.

 

NSW waste facility receives $66,496 grant for weighbridge

A weighbridge at the Waste 360 waste transfer station on Cosgrove Road, Strathfield will now be installed after the organisation received a grant of $66,496.

The grant has been awarded under the Weighbridge Fund, part of the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative and will enable Waste 360 to collect valuable data that helps to provide more accurate information on the volumes of waste and recyclables generated in NSW and supports improved environmental performance across the state.

However, this grant has exhausted the Weighbridge Fund and the program is now closed, according to the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

“This is the final round of funding under the Weighbridge Fund grants program which is part of the $48 million Waste and Recycling Infrastructure Fund, targeting household, business and industry waste,” EPA Executive Director Circular Economy and Resource Management Sanjay Sridher said.

More than 35 waste and recycling facilities have received over $2 million in grants under the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative to support the installation of weighbridges.

Sridher said that this program has played an important role to support the modernisation of the waste sector in NSW.

According to Sridher, the program has enabled better data collection through the use of weighbridges at licensed facilities and improves understanding of the volumes of waste and recyclables and facilitates the collection and payment of the waste and environment levy.

Waste 2020 conference cancelled

The annual Waste 2020 Conference which was scheduled for 5-7 May in Coffs Harbour has been cancelled  with Impact Environment conference convenor Greg Freeman advising the industry yesterday.

“We have been monitoring and evaluating the situation with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) over the past few weeks to ensure we were taking proper steps to protect the health and wellbeing of all stakeholders,” Freeman said

On the afternoon of 13th March Australia’s chief medical officer has told premiers, chief ministers and the Prime Minister that mass gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled amid fears about the spread of coronavirus.

“As such, and in light of all the information and advice given to date, we have unfortunately had to make the difficult decision to cancel the upcoming Waste 2020 Conference which was scheduled for 5-7 May in Coffs Harbour.

“This decision is one that was not taken lightly, and we understand that there will be much disappointment within the waste industry as many of you look forward to this conference each year.

Freeman explained that the decision was also impacted after a significant number of attendees, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors notified the organisers that they were unable to take part in the event due to stringent travel restrictions imposed, making it not viable to run at a reduced capacity.

“We will make contact with all registered delegates, presenters, sponsors and exhibitors to discuss the next steps over the coming days,” he said.

Freeman advised that questions or concerns regarding the conference can be emailed to either wasteconference@impactenviro.com.au or connie@impactenviro.com.au and the team would respond as soon as possible.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and our sympathies are with those affected by the virus,” he said.

Industry leaders mixed reaction to Waste Response Strategy

The COAG Waste Response Strategy has drawn mixed response from senior leaders who, on the whole welcome the strategy, but are concerned that the implementation is unclear and that fast-tracking of specific actions was essential.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) said it applauded the strategy, stating that it illustrated a depth of understanding and recognition of the needs of sustainable waste and resource recovery industry in Australia. WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan, said that members felt encouraged to see that governments were in it for the long haul.

Processing facilities needed now

However, she added that it was imperative to fast track infrastructure because there was only two years until the roll-out of the plastics ban and a significant volume of waste plastic to be managed. As a result, Australia needs to start building processing facilities now for them to be up and running ahead of 2022.

“The strategy not only acknowledges that waste plastic is a significant and complex issue, it also takes positive initial steps in mapping out what all jurisdictions must do to tackle this challenge.

Beginning with harmonising policies and programs to phase out single-use and hard to recycle plastics, to the Commonwealth supporting industry to invest in new plastics processing capacity through competitive grant funding, and commercial and concessional loans. These are all incredibly positive steps,” Sloan said.

She added that WMRR also welcomed the funding commitments by states, including WA’s $15 million provision to support local processing of plastics and tyres and $5 million for access to industrial zoned land, and ‘Recycling Victoria’ announced prior to the COAG meeting.

“WMRR appreciates that the federal, state and territory governments are listening and that our essential waste and resource recovery sector remains firmly on the agenda. As we work through the strategy, the industry is committed to working closely with all levels of government to ensure a smooth and successful implementation of the bans, and ultimately, to develop a strong re-manufacturing and reprocessing sector in Australia, driving the country towards a more circular economy,” Sloan said.

However, Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA), executive director Tony Khoury, was more circumspect. He told Inside Waste that he couldn’t find anything in the documentation that detailed how the export bans would be enforced.

 

Without proper enforcement, he explained, there was a high probability of non-compliance, with good recycling operators placed at a significant disadvantage.

 

Lack of reference

Khoury also pointed to a lack of reference or commitment to any specific form of funding, stating that as there are three levels of government involved, querying the funding for infrastructure, public education, consistency, and enforcement.  He said that the document ignored the issues of existing contracts and, if these bans proceeded, collection and processing contracts could require variation and again, it was unclear who would fund the variations.

 

“Industry has long argued that a greater proportion of NSW waste levy revenue be committed to support recycling. WCRA recently presented DPIE and the NSW Government with recommendations on how NSW waste levy funds can be used to better support recycling, “Tony Khoury.

 

At this time, WCRA has not received a reply to these recommendations.

 

“The COAG documentation is silent on the impacts that these export bans will have on competition in the Australian recycling market. In some cases, the export bans will result in market control by one processor, for example mixed paper & cardboard. WCRA supports the referral by NWRIC to the ACCC for the competition watchdog to investigate this matter.

 

“There is no commitment in the documentation to government procurement policies that will give preference to Australian recycled content. On one-hand the COAG decision seeks to control what can or cannot be exported from Australia, whilst ignoring what is being imported into Australia.”

“WCRA supports the intent of COAG’s objectives and we also do not support the export of waste products. We applaud COAG for its decision in allowing the export of clean paper/cardboard and that bus, truck and aviation tyres be exported for re-treading to a verified re-treading facility.

But he concluded that the key answered question is which Government Department in Australia would be responsible for signing-off on whether a tyre re-treading facility is lawful, legitimate or otherwise?”

National Waste Recycling Council (NWRC) CEO Rose Read also told Inside Waste that the strategy was a positive move to bring all states together and align with national plans.

“The national response is a very positive initiative by COAG and it clearly puts waste into the category of an essential service. Waste recovery is now being viewed as a supply chain resource and this response acknowledges that business can get materials back into the stream which are delivering added value.

Read said that the national change in thinking about waste as a resource instead of a problem, was a significant paradigm shift that now needed to permeate all levels of government, councils, business and the community.

“Sequencing the demand for these resources in time for industry to use recycled products in construction is critical.”

Despite the funding challenges faced by the governments with the existing COVI-19 crisis, Read was confident that there was enough investment capability within the private sector and from the landfill levy that could underwrite the actions required to more the strategy forward.

 

Waste collectors put on alert for employee safety

Members of the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association (WCRA) have being alerted to their responsibilities to employees who may be exposed to Covid-19.

Fishburn Watson and O’Brien (FW&O) law specialists have advised WCRA that members should remind workers of their obligations of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. FW&O principal, Ross Fox advised that waste contractors and recycling employers with large workforces should consider preparing a written Covid-19 policy and circulating it to their workers.

He explained that employers in NSW had an obligation to ensure a safe workplace and this meant providing employees with personal protective equipment such as hand sanitiser and gloves.

“It may be prudent for employers to provide personal protective equipment to their employees, particularly those with public-facing duties,” Fox said. He added that many contractual obligations may become difficult to meet as a result of the pandemic.

“This may result in members being unable to comply with contractual and service obligations, such as a lack of staff to drive trucks. It’s important to get legal advice up front on these matters,” he advised.

Fox referred to a Force Majeure clause within many agreements that gives parties special rights if circumstances arise that make it impossible to perform the agreement. The text of each Force Majeure clause is different, so it is important to check specific agreements.

“If the Covid-19 pandemic makes performance of a contract impossible, then it is possible that Force Majeure clauses may apply. Alternatively, the doctrine of frustration of contract may apply to relieve parties of obligations.

“We recommend that any organisation that is considering invoking a Force Majeure clause, seeks specific legal advice as there are often specific requirements and legal impacts,” he said.

 

Unpaid carers leave

Meanwhile, Fox said that workers without personal or carers leave such as casuals can take leave, but they are not entitled to be paid for it.

“Workers with no accord paid personal/carer’s leave may wish to take paid annual leave instead. Annual leave must be taken by agreement between the worker and the employer, but employers are not entitled to unreasonably refuse a request for annual leave.

 

Potential insolvency

Fox has gone further and alerted members to the serious financial impacts on the supply chain and that some may need to delay projects and investment.

 

“Where members businesses are experiencing financial distress, it is critical to seek advice on protection from creditors and legal obligations to avoid default and personal liability. At this time, personal asset protection is also likely to become critical for members,” he said.

$24m push to councils to stem organics in landfill

Local councils along with the alternative waste industry, will receive $24 million from the NSW government to support improved kerbside separation of food and garden waste and encourage other better uses of waste.

According to NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, the funding will help local councils and industry adopt and improve sustainable management of organic waste while the government undertakes consultation. He said that the initiative would help reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, is financially viable and will create a beneficial product that helps improve soil health.

“We know from the $105 million investment currently provided under the Waste Less Recycle More initiative that recycling food and garden waste through a dedicated kerbside bin works,” Kean said.

“Already more than 40 councils across NSW have food and garden kerbside collections with good results. To help make this change, we’re investing $24 million to support local councils and industry operators which were putting organic waste in red bins to produce mixed waste organic outputs, Kean said.

The $24million investment includes:

  • $6.26 million Research and Development grant – available for alternative waste treatment operators to develop new products, purchase new equipment, undertake infrastructure and technology upgrades and develop new end markets for waste-derived products.
  • $5 million Local Council Food Organics Garden Organics (FOGO) grant – to support councils previously producing mixed waste organic outputs to plan for or improve FOGO collections through community education.
  • $12.5 million Local Council FOGO Infrastructure grant – to support councils previously producing MWOO to implement kerbside organic collection bins.
  • $240,000 The Greenlight Organics research package – to strengthen the evidence base and create momentum for kerbside source separation of organics.

According to an EPA spokesperson, along with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, the EPA will also undertake research into organics to improve investor confidence in collection and processing.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) is working to have grant documentation available soon, with grants due to open by mid-2020.

Funding may be continued

If the funding is not exhausted in the initial rounds funding may be continued, depending on demand. This is an interim boost while the 20-year Waste Strategy is under development which will bring industry, councils and the community together to find the best, long-term solutions for waste management and resource recovery in NSW.

The spokesperson added that, the NSW Government will provide stimulus funding to support local councils and the alternative waste industry with improving kerbside separation of food and garden waste and other better uses of waste.

“Organic waste can be a valuable resource and we want to make the best use of it. We also want to encourage innovative solutions to waste management,” he said.

Inside Waste spoke with Morne Hattingh, Tamworth Regional Council manager, waste and resource recovery who acknowledged the high associated costs of improving kerbside separation of food and garden waste and encouraging other better uses of waste.

“There are also many aspects involved in creating a circular economy where good quality resource recovered products move from kerbside collection to the open market. The recent funding announcement by the NSW government will assist Tamworth Regional Council in improving the separation of food and garden waste within our Local Government Area. Whilst this a welcome first step in the right direction further funding will be necessary to materialise the circular economy,” Hattingh explained.

She added that the council will utilise the funding provided by the government to off-set the cost of implementing basic auditing systems and communication campaigns that will help educate residents on the importance of separating waste.

“Source separation is the first intervention point in the recycling system. Focusing on effective waste separation is imperative as it has a knock on effect that, if done well, can positively influence consumer behaviour.”

NSW signals imminent plastic bag ban

Two weeks after the Victorian government released a comprehensive resource recovery strategy and a week after Australia’s first Plastics Summit, the NSW Government has called on the state community to contribute to its plan to tackle single-use plastics, reduce waste and pollution and increase recycling across the State.

The government has released two papers which include a Plastics Plan aimed at managing plastic waste and pollution in the state, and an issues paper that will shape the 20-year waste strategy.

NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian said that the community had high expectations and the government needed to ensure it created the best plans for the future.

“We know that we need to do a better job of dealing with our waste and delivering sustainable solutions. The NSW Plastics Plan and 20 Year Waste Strategy will be key to ensuring that NSW is a leader when it comes to reducing waste, maximising recycling and protecting our environment,” Berejiklian said.

“We also want to make sure any businesses potentially affected by phase-outs have enough time to adjust and source sustainable alternatives.”

Clear pathway

The NSW Plastics Plan discussion paper Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW, outlines a clear pathway to reduce single-use, unnecessary and problematic plastics in NSW and help build its circular economy. Feedback can be made on the discussion paper until Friday, May 8.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean explained that the Plastics Plan set the stage for the phase-out of priority single-use plastics, tripling the proportion of plastic recycled by 2030 and reducing plastic litter by a quarter.

“Lightweight plastic bags are proposed to be phased out six months from the passage of legislation with other timelines to be determined after feedback from the public consultation process.”

Meanwhile, the waste strategy canvasses options to reduce waste and increase recycling, outlines the opportunities and strategic direction for future waste and recycling infrastructure, and for growing sustainable end markets for recycled materials.

Government delay

NSW Labor shadow minister for environment and heritage, Kate Washington pointed to the state government’s delay in addressing the state plastics crisis with its decision to block a Labor bill to ban single use plastic bags in October 2019.

“This came despite broad support for action within the government and state parliament,” Washington said. She also voiced concern that this consultation would continue a cycle of inaction by the government.

However, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO, Gayle Sloan said that the NSW Plastics Plan and 20 Year Waste Strategy were encouraging and would  assist with getting the industry back on track in the state.

“Australia absolutely needs to transition away from the current take, make and dispose approach and recognise that valuable natural resources must be designed and used in such a way to manage out waste, and ensure the ability to re-use, repair and recycle. Unless this transition occurs, industry agrees with the government’s sentiment that we will never be able to achieve the targets set, or sadly, create the environment in which we want to live in,” Sloan said.

“Plastics remain at the forefront of the community’s mind and it is encouraging that NSW is looking to align with other jurisdictions to design out unnecessary single–use items. It also appears that NSW is prepared to go further, with mandated recycled content of 30% by 2025 and emphasis on designing out waste and making producers take greater responsibility for collecting and recycling in NSW, including the possible use of more extended producer responsibility schemes. These are all positive policies that may result in less reliance on councils and householders to meet the costs of these schemes,” she added.

Industry remains under pressure

Sloan also acknowledged that the papers’ discussions and plans for market development and infrastructure, were both important, particularly as NSW’s waste and resource recovery industry remained under immense pressure.

Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA) executive director Tony Khoury told InsideWaste that the NSW waste and recycling industry was currently facing many challenges, including increased regulations leading to complexity and higher compliance costs, increasing insurance premiums, tightening end-product specifications, with decreasing end markets, loss of kerbside materials to CDS, decreasing revenues for commodities and compliance costs for C&D recycled products.

He added that there was also no agreed procedure for dealing with a small piece of asbestos in C&D recycling and that fires, fatalities and accidents had led to the formation of a WCRA WHS Group.

Key issues

Khoury was clear in describing these detailed requisites that the industry needed from its regulators:

  • a level commercial playing field
  • regulations that provide certainty
  • consultation and acknowledgment of the content of discussions
  • a regulatory environment that allows waste and recyclables to be managed in a safe, sustainable & environmentally sound manner
  • regulations, laws and proper practices to be enforced by all bodies
  • funding

“It is our hope that the much-anticipated NSW Government’s 20-year waste strategy addresses these key issues,” he said.

 

 

 

Eurobodalla Council moves to clear bushfire waste

Eurobodalla Council has struck a deal with the NSW government to remove bushfire demolition waste from residents’ land. The government will also establish and operate a new waste transfer and recycling depot for non-contaminated bricks and concrete at the adjacent Surf Beach quarry.

The agreement means waste contractors can dispose of fire affected waste at the shire’s three tips, which will be managed and operated by NSW Government contractors for the duration of the clean-up.

Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes explained, “Laing O’Rourke are here to start the government-funded clean up with nowhere to put demolition waste. We helped them to trial waste disposal at our tips to ensure this is a workable solution,” Innes said. However, she added that it had been frustrating because Council first presented a solution five weeks ago. She thanked her staff for persevering to get this agreement across the line.

“I urge the NSW Government to act quickly and bring in the machinery and contractors needed so we can really get this clean-up moving,” Innes said.

The arrangement will see Brou landfill, located off the highway between Bodalla and Narooma, used for disposal of Eurobodalla’s asbestos contaminated clean-up waste. Air monitoring, vehicle wash down facilities and specialist staff, plant and equipment are part of the deal.

At Surf Beach tip near Batemans Bay, permission for a three-metre high overtop will create an additional 100,000 cubic metres of landfill, or the equivalent of four years’ capacity under normal circumstances.

Potential exists for some asbestos demolition waste to be accepted in the second landfill at Surf Beach if required, and only once the fire-damaged cell has been repaired.

Council’s director of planning Lindsay Usher added that the arrangement enables the bushfire clean-up to take place efficiently while ensuring the community’s regular waste management needs are also met in the coming years.

“The sheer volume of bushfire demolition waste would deprive Eurobodalla of long-term waste-management capacity. We expect to receive seven years’ worth of waste in four months,” he said.

“The extra capacity the NSW Government has made available at Surf Beach addresses this for now, however, volumes will be monitored closely and if the amount of waste looks like exceeding agreed site capacities, the deal allows excess to be taken to approved sites outside the shire.”

Eurobodalla’s third waste management facility, a smaller waste transfer station at Moruya, remains closed due to fire damage. Green waste and scrap metal will be recycled there once it reopens within the next few weeks. Council staff will continue to manage Surf Beach landfill for non-bushfire waste and assist contractors at Brou and Moruya.

Residents can continue to use Brou and Surf Beach tips normally for now.

Usher acknowledged community cooperation will be important while the clean-up is underway. “There are still things we don’t know and its possible visiting the tip might not but as convenient as usual while we help fire-impacted residents get their properties cleaned up. As soon as we have more details, we’ll let the community know.”

Council staff will continue to manage Surf Beach landfill for non-bushfire waste and assist contractors at Brou and Moruya for the duration of the government clean-up. Contractor Laing O’Rourke has said it expected to finish most of the clean up by the end of June.