Visits to South Korea and the UK
A Report by ISWA President, David Newman
May has been a busy month for me in ISWA. Early in the month I visited again the Viridor plants in Manchester UK where I was last invited almost 18 months ago, not long after they first begun operating. It was good to see that the plants I saw, an MBT, a MRF and two AD facilities, were operating to target and more or less to capacity. The MBT plant feeds organics into the AD facility and here the key to operational success is the organics yield obtained from the MBT ; AD technology is relatively simple but the yield losses in the various stages of the process in most plants are enormous.
ISWA and Viridor, together with SESA of Italy, and a consortium of other companies, Universities and Associations from throughout Europe, have applied for a EU Horizon 2020 grant to introduce technological innovation into the AD process to raise energy recovery yields. Let's hope we are successful, we will know in about one month's time.
Meanwhile the Manchester project is achieving overall recycling levels which are in the range of 40% and improving, again on target, and the waste to energy facility in nearby Runcorn is now successfully burning Manchester regions RDF. All this is a success story for what was Europe's largest Public-Private finance initiative in waste, over €1bn of investments over the last decade, and a model for advanced economies globally.
Later in the month I flew off to Daejeon in central South Korea, a modern city built as an administrative and a research centre. Here the ISWA National Member (KSWMA) took great care of me and allowed me to speak in their annual conference on recycling markets. My theory is that the volatility of markets has increased (dramatically lower prices for oil, iron ore, copper, plastics and to some extent paper) but recycling is increasing too. Recycling requires long term investments in plants, see above in Manchester, yet short-term price changes determine the viability of companies in the recycling markets. In the UK and USA plastic recyclers are closing every day as virgin materials cost less than recyclates. Recycled metals have seen rapidly falling prices and paper is suffering from declining markets (for print paper) as electronic readers eat away their market share. Who would have guessed even a decade ago that global print paper sales would decline in 2020 to levels of 1990? Yet is happening. Good for the trees of course, not good for paper recycling as less paper is available to recycle and demand for it is weak.
How do local authorities and governments factor these volatilities into their waste planning ? They cannot of course see into the future but the lessons here, in my humble opinion, are on two fronts.
Firstly, recycling (metals excluded) is economically viable when subsidies, taxes or fees make it so. The real case for recycling is environmental, ie it is a better final sink to recover and re-use materials than dump or burn them. But recycling is mostly not cheaper than the alternatives so we have fees and taxes, like EPR schemes, to subsidise it. Therefore, when market conditions make recyclates less competitive, we have to increase the subsidies to ensure recycling continues. And we do this in the name of environmental protection.
Secondly, we need flexible waste infrastructures. It now makes sense to burn plastics for their energy more than it does to recycle them for their materials. In a year's time, this scenario may turn around completely. So waste infrastructures that allow for these rapid market changes will be those that best serve their communities and the environmental challenge of finding final sinks for our waste.
This is a real conceptual challenge as waste planners tend to look at the future in terms of continually rising curves- rising population, rising consumption, rising waste volumes, rising costs and incomes. The sound lesson of these last months in Europe and the USA is that we have to model declining curves into our future planning too.
Thanks again to Steve Ivanec of Viridor and the good friends of ISWA in Korea.
5th ISWA Beacon Conference on Recycling & Waste Minimisation
A Report by Managing Director Hermann Koller
On 27 May I had the pleasure of welcoming over 100 people from 27 different nationalities and 3 continents to ISWA’s “Home City” in Vienna, Austria, for the 5th ISWA Beacon Conference on Recycling and Waste Minimisation. The Conference, jointly organized by ISWA, particularly by its Working Group on Recycling and Waste Minimisation, and ÖWAV took place in the stunning Wappensaal at the Vienna City Hall.
The focus of this year’s Beacon Conference was “Resource and Responsibility”, with special consideration to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), circular economy, re-use and resource efficiency. The conference highlighted the shift in focus over the last 25-30 years, not just in Europe but globally, from waste management to resource management.
The two-day conference saw high-class experts from across Europe come together to discuss these trends and developments in the form of panel discussions. The keynote panel discussion was chaired by Christian Stiglitz (Recycling of Resources, Austria), who coordinated a fascinating discussion of various EPR schemes within Europe.
During this panel, we were also delighted that guests had the opportunity to hear from Thomas Lindhqvist, of Lund University, who famously wrote one of the defining papers on Extended Producer Responsibility some 25 years ago, even coining the phrase itself. He discussed the situation both presently and how waste management organisations can use EPR schemes going forward.
A special mention must go to Kadi Kenk from Estonia who offered a fascinating speech on a scheme known as “Let’s do It!!” – a civic cleanup campaign in which they encourage ordinary citizens to volunteer and help cleanup the country’s illegally dumped waste. Currently they are preparing for a world cleanup day in 2018 and hope to involve as much as 5% of the world’s population in an attempt to transform the global litter situation.
The series of panel discussions included other very engaging and fascinating talks on topics such as the Circular Economy, Product Life Cycles and e-waste management in developing countries.
In the evening of the first day the City of Vienna, MA 48, invited participants to an evening reception at ‘Urania’, the spectacular roof top bar of an observatory in the Vienna City Centre. During dinner the participants were given the opportunity to watch the starry sky of Vienna through a 30 cm telescope under the guidance of astronomers.
The third Conference day was dedicated to technical visits: the participants, led by Mr. Rainer Kronberger and his team from the City of Vienna, MA 48, were shuttled to the Plastic Sorting Plant of the City of Vienna. This Plastic Sorting Facility, also known as the “Rinterzelt” and striking given its tent-shaped structure with a diameter of 170 meters and height of 68 meters, has an annual throughput of approximately 250,000 tonnes of waste (of which 24,000 tonnes are plastic waste).
The next stop of the Technical Visit was the waste collection venue where the residents of the City of Vienna can bring and dispose of an array of items from hazardous wastes from their households and commerce (i.e. cooking oil; electric and electronic waste; batteries and mercury containing items; chemicals; etc.). It is here that items that are in a condition to be re-sold are also collected to be placed within the MA48 Basar located at another venue close by, which was the last stop of the Technical Visit.
All in all, this was an enlightening and engaging 2 and a half day event, which offered a great insight into the European recycling situation, not just presently, but over the last 30 years and going forward from now. This is an exciting time for the waste industry and the focus on resource efficiency and the circular economy is offering waste professionals and experts some fascinating challenges going into the future and this conference highlighted the current debates and challenges and allowed various experts to get together and discuss and engage in them. My special thanks go out to the City of Vienna, MA 48, and the programme committee, which consisted of representatives from ISWA’s Working Group on Recycling and Waste Minimisation, ÖWAV and ISWA Austria.
A remarkable Landfill Mining Project in Tyrol, Austria
A report by Helmut Stadler, member of the ISWA WGGL
A remarkable and extraordinary landfill-mining project was fulfilled in Kössen in “Kaiserwinkel”, a tourist region of Tyrol in Austria.
The trigger was a flood protection project, which was initiated after catastrophic floods in June 2013, affecting a great part of the whole area of Kössen, resulting in the evacuation of roughly 300 inhabitants, some by helicopter.
ISWA member, Dipl. Ing. Martin Steiner, (pictured) was commissioned to design, manage and supervise the project, including its day-to-day operation.
The clearing of the 15,000 square metre area was necessary because, by its location - next to where one river is emptying in another one, - it hinders the smaller to enter the larger one at high water levels. The clearing has been in process since July 2014 and should be finished in 2015.
One very interesting aspect is that historical artifacts and objects including every day necessities from former times were discovered amongst the different layers of the ground. There were two main periods of landfilling. From World War One up until 1970-mixed municipal waste was deposited, from then until 1985 bulky waste was deposited. The project started with a survey from eyewitnesses from that time and then the opening and prospecting of the ground. Different dating tools were used to detect the age of items. Items including an old motorbike (Horex Regina) and the remains of a public bus were discovered. In the lowest layers materials and military equipment from world war one could be found.
It is very interesting to see the development of civilisation and change of materials from the lower layers to the higher ones (i.e. from glass to plastic).
The waste was first sifted and split into 3 fractions; the coarse fraction was sorted by hand. Masses and volumes had to be estimated as well as costs and revenues. Over 70 different fractions were split automatically and manually. They then had to be analysed to establish whether they could be recycled or which landfill is appropriate.
A project of such scale requires sufficient funding. The overall costs just for the two-year waste sanitation project is approximately 1,4 million Euros, which has to be spent by the town of Kössen.
The project leaders and the community were very happy with the support they received from organisations and other communities from across the country.
Another remarkable aspect is that refugees of 13 nations of four continents (e. g. from Syria, Rwanda, Gambia, South Sudan etc.) who were accommodated in refugee accommodation in Kössen, were engaged for sorting work.
From the beginning of the project a group of artists used items excavated for their work and will present these in an exhibition to the public in 2015.
Many delegations of universities, interested organisations and environmental consultants were given guided tours of the building site. The area will stay at its lowest level and handed over to hydraulic engineering.
In conclusion, it can be said that this is a small, but really remarkable landfill mining project with multiple benefits.
Waste to Energy Developments in Malaysia
A Report by Ho De Leong, ISWA Board Member
Malaysia’s solid waste production last year exceeded 30,000 tonnes a day, surpassing the amount initially projected for 2020, which explains why the country is now looking towards Waste-to-Energy solutions.
Malaysia is close to seeing its first Waste incinerator, to be located at the existing Taman Beringin waste transfer station in Jinjang, Kepong, Kuala Lumpur. In June 2013, the government announced that four incinerators would be built in the country, the other three sites being Tanah Merah, Seremban; Bukit Payong, Johor; and Sungai Udang, Melaka. Kepong will be the first "guinea pig," and if the project is successful, the other incinerators will be built as planned.
There are generally three types of responses to the government's plan to construct waste incinerators in the country. The government believes that these incinerators will solve the problems of overloading at existing waste transfer stations and the resultant stench, and could serve as a long-term plan to address the issue of land shortage.
Waste disposal specialists, meanwhile, feel that incinerators are not the only way to handle domestic waste. However, if land shortage is really a problem, they do not rule out the possibility of setting up waste incinerators as the existing technology has offered a certain level of safety.
Nevertheless, the public have expressed some concern. They are concerned that if the incinerators are eventually put into operation, they may have to tolerate increased waste disposal fees. Another concern is the potential health impacts if the effluents are not properly dealt with.
The director-general of the National Solid Waste Management Department of Malaysia, Datuk Dr Nadzri Yahaya, has earlier pointed out that what the authorities had planned to construct was waste-to-energy generators, not necessarily waste incinerators, in a bid to reassure the frustrated local residents.
However, during an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily, Nadzri nevertheless confirmed that bidding for the Kepong incinerator project would start this month while specialists have been commissioned to conduct a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA).
The assessment will take approximately nine months and opinions of bidders will also be sought. The final report will be submitted to the department of environment for feasibility study of the project. Once approved, the awarded contractors will commence the project and the incinerator should be online by 2017 if everything goes smoothly.
Nadzri said the Taman Beringin waste transfer station in Kepong is the ideal location for the project, as the place has always been used as a transfer station for garbage collected around Klang Valley. He said the transfer station is currently operating beyond its designed capacity and the stench around the dumpsite has irritated residents nearby.
Once the incinerator goes into operation, it will be able to incinerate 1,000 tonnes of garbage every day, with the remaining sent for landfill, thus helping solve the unbearable stench and environmental issues while extending the life of the landfill.
"As for the garbage trucks causing traffic congestion, this is no more a new issue. Be it a transfer station or an incinerator, the flow of garbage trucks in and out of the premises will be the same, and will not make things worse."
He stressed that residents would surely voice up their objection wherever the government decides to build the incinerators, especially in new locations which have never before handled garbage. This makes it very difficult to convince the public. Nadzri said the Kepong project will still go ahead despite public objection, unless the department of environment rules that the project could endanger the natural environment and public health.
"Incinerators are operating in Singapore and Japan and no statistics have shown that residents in nearby areas have contracted cancers because of that. Anyone who thinks the incinerators will harm the environment and jeopardize public health, they are welcome to produce the relevant reports."
Kuala Lumpur is a densely populated city without much land for landfill, and construction of an incinerator is seen as a feasible solution to address the perennial garbage problem. He agrees that residents will object to a proposal to construct an incinerator, wherever it is to be built. Indeed, everyone is creating waste, but no one wants a landfill or waste incinerator in their backyard. "Sure enough this is the problem the government is now facing. More importantly, the location must meet the DOE requirements."
According to the Solid Waste Incinerator Guideline published in November 2012, the incinerator site requires at least 500 meters of buffer zone from residential and ecologically sensitive areas. With increasingly sophisticated technology, the potential impact of waste incinerator will be brought down to a minimum.