The Asia Miner

OCT-DEC 2018

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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the asia miner • volume 15 • issue 4 22 WASTE TO ENERGY Australian waste industry is facing difficult ঞmes as it bales increasing problems with the exportaঞon of its waste out of the country. Landfill is increasing – with more material unable to find a home in the circular economy; prices for waste services are increasing; and the public is growing more incredulous in their faith that, even if they carefully select what is placed in the kerbside recycling bins, it doesn't end up in landfill. Adding to this the rising cost of energy, wages and compliance faced by the enঞre industry, Australia risks spiralling into an import economy that relies on overseas products and materials, all the while contaminaঞng the environment with waste. Cue Waste to Energy – a more sustainable and environmentally responsible disposal of our refuse. It is widely agreed on, and proven in overseas markets, that robust and efficient waste to energy faciliঞes can be integrated into the overall waste treatment process. As shown in Europe, by providing renewable sustainable base line energy producঞon and reducing energy costs, they have wider benefits than just landfill diversion. The reducঞon of energy costs could encourage both local and internaঞonal industry and manufacturing back into the country. With a resurgence in industry we could create addiঞonal jobs and domesঞc markets for our recovered recyclable material, creaঞng a true circular economy. We have seen a rapid increase in Biotreatment plants, as well as the use of organic and bio degradable material, to produce syngas which is then cleaned, treated and used as a fuel to drive turbines or generators. The technology has gained acceptance amongst the community and has a posiঞve impact on the treatment of those waste streams. Yet, waste to energy appears to hit conঞnuous obstacles. One key barrier is the lack of understanding of the process and technology. Contrary to public percepঞon, thermal treatment plants do not replace recycling but work with the recycling sector to take the large amount of residual material, divert it from landfill, extract its retained energy and reduce its volume by around 70 per cent – depending on the technology chosen. The boom ash produced from the process is then treated again to remove any remaining metals, which are recycled into useable products. Then, depending on the process type, the remaining ash can be used as road base material, reducing the requirement for virgin rock. Alternaঞvely, it can be added to concrete to again reduce the amount of virgin material used. As a last resort, it can be disposed of in a secure, well-designed landfill. Waste to energy faciliঞes also leave a far smaller footprint on the environment than generally believed. With flu gasses scrubbed and cleaned to ensure no toxins are emied into the atmosphere, in most cases, modern waste to energy faciliঞes emit less harmful gases than tradiঞonal coal fired power plants so heavily relied on in Australia for most of our energy supply. The tradiঞonal "green" energy technologies such as wind and solar, although providing very good and clean energy alternaঞves with no emissions to atmosphere during the generaঞon phase, also have problems. Wind power has faced concerns relaঞng to noise contaminaঞon of the local environment and has faced criঞcism for being an unsightly blemish on the landscape. As a result, most wind farms are located in remote areas requiring addiঞonal infrastructure in the form of high-tension wires to "transport" the power to communiঞes. Producঞon of wind power is also strictly governed by the speed of the wind. Contrary to popular belief, a turbine will not generate power in high wind condiঞons. Solar power has faced similar problems with locaঞon. Addiঞonally, power will only be generated during the day, requiring large storage capacity to provide power conঞnuously. Adding to this, the cell manufacturing process uses harmful chemicals and processes. Once they are at end of their lifecycle, approximately within 20 to 25years, the cells require special treatment to handle the toxic substances contained within. When compared to energy from waste, as progressive as they may be in greening our energy producঞon, neither solar nor wind can by themselves provide much needed base load power to the grid. Waste to energy plants, however, operate non-stop. They have strictly controlled outputs to atmosphere and most by-products have a useful secondary home, making this third player in our energy producঞon race a very strong and plausible contender. Is Australia finally ready for a shi[ towards Waste to Energy? The question of residual waste in Australia By Kurt Palmer, Business Development Manager – Environmental, STEINERT Australia

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