Environmentally Sound Resource Recovery

Advanced Waste Solutions

Extracting waste material and converting it into new raw material or energy generation may sound like a pipe dream to some, but companies such as Advanced Waste Solutions (AWS) prove that resource recovery is a service that is needed all over the world.

Located in Wodonga, Victoria, AWS is an equipment sales and engineering company that offers resource recovery solutions for the waste and recycling industry. Managing Director Bryan Lynch spoke on why resource recovery is so important and how AWS is a leader in the industry.

Advanced Waste Solutions develops equipment in-house and has alliances with recycling equipment manufacturers throughout the world. The company also stocks spares at its warehouse in Sydney. The company was founded in 2005 when Managing Director Bryan Lynch and his partner noticed a “need for a company in Australia that could build and supply recycling equipment for major companies locally rather than from International companies located on the other side of the globe.”

The company employs a core group of eight people consisting of a leading design engineer, project manager, lead installation technician, and administrators. AWS then hires contract labourers and engineers as projects are underway. “Our staff is also great at multitasking, so everyone has their preferred tasks they undertake, but everyone can do everyone else’s job,” explains Mr Lynch.

He says the quality of the company’s equipment sets AWS apart from its competitors. “I tell my employees that, if you’re unhappy with a piece of equipment, don’t expect our customers to be happy with it either.” He adds, “We may not be the cheapest solution, but you will get good quality and a commitment from us to make it work. We won’t walk away from a project; we’re here to build a partnership with our customers.”

AWS initially supplied sorting equipment and balers for plant builders and kerbside recycling companies. The company has since expanded by branching into supplying full systems for recovery of construction demolition waste, household waste and full resource recovery. AWS provides a number of sorting screens and other specialised products for resource recovery needs. For example, the company has a double-deck old newsprint (ONP) star screen designed to separate various paper sizes from one another. A star screen is made up of rows of star shaped pieces mounted on closely spaced shafts which rotate to convey material up the inclined screen. As the material to be sorted bounces along, fine material passes between the stars and oversized material is carried off the top end of the conveyor.

“AWS always strives to utilise local Australian companies for the supply of components that make up our Recycling Systems and have developed a strong relationship with a number of locally based manufacturing companies. Our aim is to have at least 70 per cent local content in our systems and only look to Europe to supply specialist items,” says Mr Lynch.

“We have developed a unique Octagonal Drum Screen for the size separation of material that is 100 per cent locally manufactured. We have even had interest from Europe to supply this screen into their systems which would be a first for an Australian based company.” The company also maintains a number of mobile star screens (called the ‘Neptunus’) that are dispatched on site to separate compost, earth, asphalt, peat, rubble, sand and gravel.

Inclined sorters are also used to separate mixed paper from cans and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles after the material has been over a double ONP or a single deck news screen. Broken glass and other contaminating materials fall through the inclined sorter. The angle of the screen is designed to be adjustable and is equipped with four or five frequency-controlled motors that drive spindles to distribute materials evenly on the screen to make separation easier.

Roll air separators use air to separate materials of differing bulk density such as wood from rock and stone. The team can also remove paper and plastic film from municipal solid waste as well as from commercial, industrial, construction and demolition waste streams. The separators are even used to remove paper and plastic from glass fragments to make a cleaner crushed glass mix (called cullet) that will be remelted back into glass bottles or used as a sand substitute.

AWS’s water bath separators are designed to separate floating materials from non-floating materials. The water bath separator has a process tank with a star screen that discharges floating material and a conveyor for the removal of non-floating materials. It also has a water storage tank, slurry pump and a fluid screen to ensure that the water can be reused again. The technology is useful for separating Australian hardwood that tends not to float on the surface of the water away from the rock and stone that sinks because the partially submerged star screen also ensures that material that does not sink to the bottom of the process tank is also removed along with the floating material.

The company also uses a variety of balers and optical separators. Mr Lynch explains that the AWS team gets much of their inspiration from recycling systems being introduced in Europe. Most of Europe has a zero-landfill policy due to lack of land space so, according to Mr Lynch, they’re much further ahead of the curve compared to Australia. “It’s also more economically viable in Europe due to there being a more progressive approach to resource recovery from the community, business and government. In Australia, many companies feel it’s cheaper and easier to just throw it all in a landfill, so many people don’t see the reason to recycle or re-mine material.”

However, Mr Lynch feels that the efficiency of the company’s equipment gives AWS an advantage in the market. “Our philosophy has always been to find the very best equipment in the world that can do the job the most cost effectively. We’re all about maximum throughput for minimal manual input. We govern how successful we are by the number of touch-hands (people who have to touch the product before its final state). We strive to use the most reliable technology, using mechanical density separation to do eighty to ninety per cent of the work and optical separation to do the final ten percent. You end up with a very clean output stream with a minimal amount of manual interface from people.”

Mr Lynch says that resource recovery is an emerging and growing industry, but he feels that there needs to be greater buy-in from the Australian government. “There’s a lot of rhetoric about supporting the industry, but the government has a lot of restrictions on the types of materials that can be recycled and the contamination levels that are permissible in recyclable goods, which puts a handbrake on the development of the industry in this country.”

Another challenge AWS faces is the uncertainty of a client’s ability to get financial backing for resource recovery. “Many of our customers see the value and benefit of resource recovery, but banks prefer to finance more tangible products and don’t realize resource recovery is a risk worth taking,” he explains. “They feel resource recovery is not as clear-cut; it’s not something that can be easily pigeonholed.”

AWS, in fact, has greater leverage in New South Wales because the EPA has rules on recovering recyclable items in landfills in the Sydney area, but those rules aren’t enforced all over the country. “The mindset is slowly changing, but it will take a while. Eight or nine months ago, if I had said we were looking to design a facility to produce refuse-derived fuel or ‘RDF’ for energy generation, we would’ve been laughed at, but now it’s being considered because many major waste and construction companies are lobbying the government to allow RDF to be used.” The energy generated by using RDF has the potential to be much cleaner than burning coal and uses much less energy to produce than mining coal from the ground.

In spite of these challenges, AWS has a number of projects to keep the team busy. The company has worked with recycling specialist Adelaide Resource Recovery to install the second stage of a custom designed system that is capable of processing 250 to 300 tonnes of skip bin waste per day. AWS has been working with this company since 2006 and is installing a full sorting system that will benefit Adelaide Resource Recovery both environmentally and financially. Currently, there is a twenty per cent material recovery; adding the new machine will allow a seventy per cent recovery, enabling the customer to reduce landfill costs and sell more captured material.

In Sydney, AWS is working with a company that is planning an additional upgrade to their existing facility dealing with construction demolition waste. It will install air separation and Trisomat Screening technologies to their current dual line system. This will allow the company to process up to 1200 tonnes of construction waste a day.

Mr Lynch says future plans include implementing a project in the Sydney area that will be a first in Australia. “It will be designed to maximise recovery of recyclables from commercial and industrial and construction demolition waste and produce refuse-derived fuel available for the market.” AWS has been selected as a preferred supplier to design and build this facility from the ground up.

“We’re also at a very early stage to provide systems in Melbourne and another in the Sydney area,” shares Mr Lynch. He says that the demand for refuse derived fuel will be a trend in the future and is glad there are companies that have the vision and foresight to see that products like these will be needed.

Companies such as AWS provide a much needed service that supports businesses and industries that deal with waste and believes that resource recovery is something they should all look into. “We need the support of all industries to get on board about resource recovery,” says Mr Lynch. “Lobby the government and let them know it’s not acceptable to just put things in the ground and resource recovery is the only way forward. We shouldn’t just accept the status quo by allowing the practices of the past to come back and haunt us in the future. Full Resource Recovery is the only path we should accept.”

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December 16, 2018, 3:55 PM AEDT