Cleanaway is expanding its presence in the construction and demolition (C&D) waste market as rising waste levies drive investment in resource recovery and diversion of waste from landfill.
The company has spent more than $15 million upgrading its resource recovery sites in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria with the installation of equipment that separates, sorts and recycles materials such as concrete, brick, steel, timber, and soil.
These investments, and the $29 million acquisition of the Grasshopper Environmental collections business in NSW, complement Cleanaway’s presence in the C&D market, which also includes the Cleanaway ResourceCo Resource Recovery Facility in Sydney, where fuel is produced from waste.
Earlier this year Cleanaway introduced primary, secondary and tertiary recovery processes, including a shredder, trommel screening machine and picking station, as part of upgrades of its Brooklyn and Clayton South resource recovery centres in Melbourne.
This type of plant was first introduced at its New Chum landfill and Willawong recycling and transfer station in Queensland last year, and at its Wingfield transfer station in South Australia soon after.
“These prized infrastructure assets are helping us create a circular economy in which resources are reused and recycled, which in turn is consistent with our mission of making a sustainable future possible,” Chief Operating Officer Brendan Gill said.
“C&D resource recovery is a small but important element of our total waste management offering, helping our customers achieve their diversion and sustainability targets.
“We will continue to look for opportunities to maximise resource recovery and diversion from landfill, without over-exposing us to the cycles of the building sector.”
The primary recovery, or ‘pre pick’ process, at Brooklyn involves removing large recyclable items like metal, timber and concrete using an excavator.
The remaining material is then put through resource recovery equipment, including a shredder and a trommel (the secondary process) before moving to the picking station (tertiary process).
Clean timbers are shredded and used in a composting process or as wood chips for use in public spaces, concrete is used for road making materials, metal is recycled though Cleanaway’s partnership with Sims Metal Management, and ‘fines’ material is sometimes used as landfill cover.
Regional Manager Solid Waste Services Victoria Melinda Lizza said the equipment had increased recovery rates from low figures to more than 40 percent of all waste received at Brooklyn, reducing volumes sent to landfill and State Government landfill levy payments.
“We are in a position to start improving that by offering new services including accepting a broader range of heavier materials such as soils, which previously would not have been accepted at Cleanaway resource recovery centres,” Ms Lizza said.
The Victorian upgrade, which was partly funded by a grant from Sustainability Victoria, included the purchase of additional ‘yellow gear’ equipment such as wheel loaders and material handlers.
“Our Lysterfield transfer station, which also accepts C&D and commercial and industrial waste, has also been upgraded with site enhancements to improve the customer experience,” Ms Lizza said.
“We recognised we needed to adapt to market requirements and other factors, such as increasing landfill levies.
“For us to remain competitive and meet community expectations we had to move away from putting waste in landfill and do more recycling.
“Already it’s paying dividends, with a lot more material and smaller items recovered and available for reuse or sale.”
General Manager Solid Waste Services Queensland David Wheeley said the Queensland Government’s decision to follow others states in introducing a waste levy had changed behaviour in the market by encouraging the recovery of C&D waste.
He said Cleanaway was an early adopter of ‘mobile’ equipment, avoiding the higher costs of large, fixed facilities, which were subject to the risk of changes in technology.
Recoveries have increased from minimal amounts before the installation of the resource recovery machinery to up to about 65 percent at Willawong and New Chum.
General Manager Solid Waste Services South Australia and Tasmania Conan Hookings said resource recovery machinery would be introduced at the Inkerman landfill in September, complementing the operations at the Wingfield transfer station.
He said about 50 percent of material received at Wingfield was being recovered, compared with less than 10 percent when the recovery process was manual.
“We are getting a payback on this in less than 12 months and the customer reaction has been fantastic,” Mr Hookings said.
In 2020 Cleanaway purchased the Grasshopper Environmental business, which has been providing waste management services in the building, demolition and infrastructure, and commercial and industrial sectors in Sydney and nearby regions since 1978.
For Cleanaway, the second largest player in the C&D sector in Australia, the acquisition bolstered its presence in NSW.
Grasshopper was the first C&D waste management supplier company in NSW to be licensed by the independent Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) advisory and ecolabelling program.
Also in NSW, Cleanaway and environmental services company ResourceCo jointly own the Cleanaway ResourceCo Resource Recovery Facility in Sydney, where dry, non-recyclable waste is processed into commodities such as aggregates, metal and timber for reuse and recycling, or process-engineered fuel (PEF) for use in cement kilns or sale to waste to offshore energy plants.
The Sydney PEF plant, the largest of its type in Australia, is producing an alternative fuel source that is reducing reliance on coal and gas and diverting waste from landfill.
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