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Waste race for blue sky

THEY say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

And the hunt is on in Perth to reap rewards from waste, with three big projects worth a combined $630 million set to be up and running within three years.

This week it was announced Australia’s biggest waste recycling facility will be fully operational by October next year.

Clough Engineering were this week given the greenlight to design and build a $30 million Bedminster plant in Canning Vale which will convert household and industrial waste into marketable compost.

The plant is the brainchild of the Southern Metropolitan Regional Council and is just one of many waste management plants springing in the pipeline.

With the State Government working towards the total elimination of waste to landfill by 2020, local governments and busi-nesses are pairing up and devising innovative schemes to reach the target.

The City of Gosnells has just called for tenders for its $40 million waste-to-energy plant and a works approval is being drawn up for the revolutionary $560 million Global Olivine waste-to-energy plant, to be located in Kwinana.

Global Olivine WA project co-ordinator Rod Kendall claims the plant has the potential to dispose of 1.2 million tonnes of waste each year, and all but eliminate the need for landfill.

Using ultra-high temperature combustion units the plant would breakdown household and industrial waste and convert it into 780 gigawatts of electricity and 29 million tonnes of distilled water.

“Multiple wastes streams go into the plant but nothing goes to landfill,” Mr Kendall said.

And while the environmental benefits of these environmentally minded projects are huge, so too is the potential for profit with early estimates indicating waste recycling plants would charge in the vicinity of $35 to $40 per tonne of waste.

City of Gosnells commercial services director Werner Corbe said the pyrolysis plant the city planned to build would certainly have cash-flow benefits.

“Waste material is heated up in temperatures of 1300 degrees and the gases produced are used to generate electricity,” Mr Corbe said.

“It is no longer acceptable to dump waste in landfill and there are definitely financial benefits for the city council along with strong employment opportunities.”

Greens MLC Jim Scott said though he welcomed the initiatives, he was concerned about how competition would affect the industry.

“There has been a big boom in the waste management industry … it is proving to be a lucrative business,” Mr Scott said.

“There is quite a lot of money to be made with the charges to recycle waste per tonne and then the selling of products they produce.

“And the problem now is if you add up all the proposed plants, what we’ve got is a situation where there is a surplus of recycling plants.”

The Perth metropolitan area produces 1.6 million tonnes of waste each year, the Global Olivine plant requires a minimum of 1.2 million tonnes a year to remain viable while the smaller plants need between 109,000 and 400,000 tonnes to justify operation.

“There could be a tendency for plants to encourage the production of waste so they can operate, and that is no sort of incentive,” Mr Scott said.

“Some of the plants go down the gurgler because they won’t be able to compete on price.”

Mr Corbe agreed there was a limited market for waste manage-ment projects, saying it was really a case of “first in, best dressed”.

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