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Glass crushing project makes in-roads in wheat belt region

In September 2011, the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s Packaging Stewardship Forum (PSF) successfully gained Australian Packaging Covenant (APC) funding to implement a mobile glass crushing infrastructure project in collaboration with four councils that are part of the Roe Regional Organisation of Councils (RoeROC), a regional waste management group in Western Australia.

The project aimed to provide a local solution for glass recycling in regional WA, for these four councils to divert the hundreds of tonnes of glass that were going to landfill annually. Instead, the waste glass would be reprocessed in a diesel-powered mobile glass crushing machine (the first of its kind to operate in WA) and would produce a recovered crushed glass (RCG) product that could be reused locally as a fine aggregate in civil construction applications, such as roadbase and bedding material.

RoeROC comprises the local governments of the shires of Corrigin, Kondinin, Kulin and Narembeen. These four councils service a region that covers an area of 19,046km2, with a 5685km road network and an estimated population of 4202 people. The total RoeROC area represents more than a third of the state and is located in WA’s south-eastern central wheat belt, with the main industry being broad acre agriculture.

The APC, the WA Department of Environment Regulation, the PSF and the four participating councils from RoeROC jointly funded the project. The Shire of Corrigin was the lead council for the management and delivery of the project on RoeROC’s behalf.

Each of the councils established a dedicated drop-off facility for public use as part of their commitment to the project. Glass recovered from residents and businesses was stockpiled until there was sufficient quantity to process through the shared mobile crusher.

As of October 2014, between the four participating councils, 430 tonnes of glass packaging was recovered from landfill, with 290 tonnes reprocessed into a fine aggregate. All RCG produced was used in civil applications.

Glass continues to be collected at drop-off points at each of the participating councils, with the mobile crusher shared among them to locally process glass into RCG. The aggregate produced by the mobile glass crusher has been and continues to be utilised in civil construction applications in areas where the material is collected and processed. Other councils within the region have also expressed interest in participating in the project in the future.

TYRANNY OF DISTANCE

{{image6-A:R-w:250}}Before this project, glass recycling in remote/regional areas of WA was virtually non-existent due to the distances involved in transporting material to recycling facilities. These distances made such transportation non-viable due to the obvious financial costs, combined with the environmental impact of associated greenhouse gas emissions.

At the start of this project, residents and businesses within the RoeROC were generating an estimated 800 tonnes of glass per annum, and an estimated 95 per cent of glass consumed within the region was being sent to landfill – 760 tonnes per annum.

This project arose from the desire of the four participating councils to see their recycling efforts result in good environmental outcomes. They were committed to participating in a project to recover glass previously sent to landfill, crush it into an aggregate and use the RCG in their civil construction applications. Thus, a collaboration was formed between the RoeROC Regional Waste Management Group and the Packaging Stewardship Forum of the AFGC to purchase and implement a mobile regional glass crushing machine that all four councils would share.

Corrigin Shire undertook to be the lead council for the management of project funds and future maintenance of the mobile crusher.

A diesel-powered mobile glass crusher was chosen for this project due to the remote nature of its operations where three-phase electricity was not available. Each of the participating councils constructed two storage bays, one for dropped-off or collected glass and the other to store the RCG for use in local civil construction activities, ie pipe embedment and road and pathway construction.

COLLABORATIVE PROJECT

This project sought to increase the recycling of glass bottles and jars within the RoeROC region through the:

  • Establishment of dual storage bays at drop-off facilities in each of the council areas.
  • Purchase and installation of a mobile glass crusher.
  • Development and implementation of a memorandum of understanding and supporting procedures between the participating councils, to co-ordinate the shared use, management, maintenance and insurances of the mobile glass crusher.
  • Development and implementation of data recording sheets to be used by the participating councils to collect tonnages of glass reprocessed and details of applications the RCG was used in.
  • Development and implementation of a community engagement strategy by RoeROC to encourage community participation.
  • Demonstrated use and promotion of RCG in civil or other applications by the four participating councils.
PROJECT BUDGET

The project budget (see Table 1) comprised the following:

  • An APC grant of $49,500 (joint industry/jurisdictional funding) received by the PSF and expended on the project.
  • PSF-provided funding support of $24,750 and up to $5000 in kind support for project management and reporting.
  • RoeROC funding support of $24,750 and up to $25,000 in kind support for project delivery and management.

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PROJECT ISSUES

Being the first project of its kind in WA, there were teething problems. First, the crusher suffered a major breakdown in early 2013 and was out of action for more than a month while replacement parts were sourced. This resulted in a delay in processing the stockpiled glass.

Second, the glass storage bays were constructed in open space at the local waste transfer stations at each of the four councils. After winter rains, it was identified that wet glass was difficult to crush, as it stuck together and would stick inside the machine. The glass took about a week to dry out, which during a particularly long rainy spell further delayed the processing of glass. Nevertheless, the climate in the area is predominantly dry most of the year, which should not make this a major issue for the project in the long term.

During the course of the project there were also a number of interlinked issues that affected the collection of glass and the usage of the crusher by the member councils. For example, Narembeen Shire used the local Lions Club to collect the glass, for storage in 166-litre drums. This process was inefficient and hard to handle when it came to processing the glass through the crusher. The Shire of Kulin did not have an adequate collection program, but in May 2013 it agreed to install bins at its local recreation centre and transfer station to assist in collection. This reinforced for the councils the need to develop efficient collection and storage systems (particularly while waiting for appropriate storage bays to be built). The solution developed by RoeROC for these and other collection issues was to obtain a grant from Waste Authority WA for $81,600 to purchase self-tipping bins for each of the shires.

There was also a need to develop more efficient procedures for the use and operation of the crusher. Corrigin Council reported it had trouble sourcing enough experienced or good operators to run the crusher, and further that a huge road works program affected the availability of such staff.

The above issues of efficient collection and stockpiling of sufficient glass in some shires, and sourcing of experienced operators for the crusher, made it difficult to schedule regular processing runs for the crusher. They also had a direct effect on the total tonnes of glass processed to date.

The added tyranny of distances of more than 50km between council areas was not considered an issue until the transportation of heavy plant via a low loader occurred. This meant the machine was transported less often and that the councils would only book the use of the mobile crusher when enough glass was stockpiled to achieve a better cost-benefit for the reprocessing.

It was hard to get tonnage figures of material to be collected for reprocessing in regional areas where it was typical that there were no weighbridges at some of the waste transfer stations. This meant tonnage figures had to be estimated based on population, and the figures used in the project application were overestimated generation rates. Corrigin Council reported that 760 tonnes per year was not an achievable figure and that the aim should be for 300 tonnes per year for the first three years, moving up to 400 to 500 tonnes per year over the next five years once all shires had the infrastructure in place to collect glass from their communities.

TONNES DIVERTED FROM LANDFILL

On a council by council basis, the results were as follows:

  • Corrigin Council as the lead council conducted collections throughout the shire, with large glass bins at the Corrigin transfer station, hotel and local district high school. As of October 2014, the total glass diverted from landfill was 300 tonnes and the total glass crushed was 270 tonnes. The crushing occurred at a rate of three to 3.5 tonnes every two to three weeks from local collections.
  • Narembeen Council also conducted regular collections. The total glass diverted from landfill, as of October 2014, was 30 tonnes, with total glass crushed at 20 tonnes.
  • Kondinin Council did not (as of October 2014) process any glass but had some glass collected as part of its community recycling collection. The total glass diverted from landfill was about 50 tonnes.
  • Kulin Council also did not process any glass, as it had issues with developing an adequate collection program. It agreed to install collection bins at the local recreation centre and transfer station, and to complete new storage bays to assist in the collection and storage of the glass. The total glass diverted from landfill was about 50 tonnes.

From September 2012 to October 2014, the approximate total for the project of glass diverted from landfill was 430 tonnes, and the total glass crushed and used in civil applications was 290 tonnes, significantly short of the original estimation. However, glass continued to be stockpiled for collection and crushing and use in civil applications. The procedure followed was to crush only what would produce the required amount of RCG for immediate use.

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MARKETS, and OUTLETS

The RCG created for this project was used locally in civil construction applications as a fine aggregate replacement material within the councils where the glass packaging was generated. Corrigin Council reported that the RCG improved the performance of the concrete mix, as it was coarser than normal sand, giving a more solid finish to the end product. Mixing the two grades of fine aggregates created a stronger bind in the matrix.

On a council by council basis, the results were as follows:

  • Corrigin Council used the RCG in a number of projects, including the construction of footpaths and driveways, the pad of a small shed at the redevelopment of the local swimming pool and in the footings of extensions of the local doctor’s surgery.
  • Narembeen Council used the RCG in various projects within the Narembeen town site.
  • Kulin and Kondinin Councils intend to use the RCG on various local projects in the future.
PROJECT EVALUATION

The project ran well to budget, with a minor overspend of $890 in the purchase of the crusher – covered out of the funds supplied for registration (not required, as the machine was loaded onto a low-loader for transport). See Table 2.

DATA RECORDING

{{image7-A:R-w:250}}Data recording sheets were originally designed for use by each of the councils when using the mobile glass crusher, to assist in reporting tonnages for each council back to Corrigin. These sheets would capture tonnages of collected and crushed glass at each location, plus the tonnages of RCG used and in what applications.

As it transpired, it was deemed more efficient for Corrigin Council to manage both the transportation and operation of the crusher within the participating councils’ LGAs. This meant Corrigin staff simply recorded data on their timesheets, which was passed through to project staff.

Unfortunately, some of the data had to be estimated, as weighbridges were not available at all collection/storage sites. The data collected was still an accurate estimation and gave good insight into the progress of the project and the issues that affected its growth. It also enabled project staff to estimate far more accurately how the project would perform in the future.

COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS

As of October 2014, none of the participating councils had performed a cost-benefit analysis (CBA), opting to absorb costs above project funding and not track these costs in a formal manner. This meant a CBA was not possible for this project.

{{image8-A:R-w:250}}However, there were clear indications, based on the estimated operational costs from a similar project in NSW, that if transportation is minimised (ie councils stockpile glass for periodic crushing) and the number of hours the machine is used/tonnes of glass processed is moderate to high, then it can be a very cost-effective solution (see Table 3).

If the machine is transported frequently and/or if the number of hours it is used/tonnes it processes is low, then the transportation and asset expenses rise dramatically and the solution becomes less cost-effective. To clarify, the $36 per hour per tonne rate estimated to cover repairs, maintenance and insurance and depreciation will have to increase dramatically, as some of these costs are fixed and must be apportioned over the hours of usage, no matter how little usage occurs.

The participating councils in future may need to continue to absorb some costs until an annual increase in tonnage can be achieved. The tonnages achieved to date are over a two-year period and involve stockpiles that may not reflect annual collection rates. Corrigin Council will need to monitor performance and operating costs to budget for future operational, repair and maintenance expenditure.

LESSONS FOR OTHER REGIONS

This project was the first of its kind in WA. It involved the shared purchase and operation of a diesel-powered glass crusher to reprocess collected glass bottles and jars into RCG, to be used as a fine aggregate replacement material.

A number of lessons were learnt that will benefit other regional groups that consider undertaking a similar project.

{{image5-A:R-w:220}}They will need to:

  1. Undertake the best possible estimation of tonnages of glass material that will be recycled at the drop-off centres. It would be a better estimate to deduct 20 per cent off the average consumption rate of glass packaging. Not all of the packaging gets back to the drop-off centres.
  2. Do a full CBA as part of the project proposal that includes realistic transportation costs between sharing councils, staff wages to run and maintain the machine and maintenance, insurance and registration costs. Combined with accurate estimations for tonnages to be processed, this will be the key indicator as to whether this type of solution will be viable.
  3. In conjunction with point 2 above, set a realistic time frame for assessing the overall viability of the project. As has been discussed, remote and regional areas have a number of unique characteristics that affect the rate and amount of glass being collected. These factors, primarily distance and low population, mean this type of project may take some years before it can achieve a true cost-benefit. This does not mean the project is unworthy or unviable – just that it will show its best results over a greater time frame than is achievable in a purely urban environment.{{image9-A:R-w:250}}
  4. Schedule sharing of the mobile plant to occur less often, to achieve a greater cost-benefit. Transport between regional local government areas is costly.
  5. Appoint a council to take responsibility for management and maintenance of the mobile crusher and other related equipment such as a trailer for transport, if required. The plant needs to be placed on an asset register for insurance and depreciation purposes.
  6. Consult with relevant stakeholders well before starting the project, to ensure that what is initially agreed is implemented.

The RoeROC mobile glass crushing project achieved many positive outcomes. It saw four councils collaborate to share plant for a common environmental outcome, with other councils in the region expressing interest in participating in the future. From September 2012 to October 2014, 290 tonnes of RCG were produced and used as a fine aggregate replacement within the four shires, saving the equivalent amount of material from being quarried for virgin aggregate.

{{image10-A:R-w:250}}Community education strategies also resulted in raised awareness within the region of both the need to recycle and reuse glass and the new capacity to do so. Further, this awareness will increase over time (it takes time to change behaviour and to entrench new messages), resulting in increased recycling rates.

Indeed, there are encouraging signs already that this is working. Since the mobile glass crushing project was established in the RoeROC region, other RoeROC councils have stockpiled glass for future reprocessing. These additional quantities will mean RoeROC should meet its revised target of 400 to 500 tonnes per year by 2017.  Mobile glass crushers have also been purchased outside the RoeROC region and are being used successfully in Albany and Kalgoorlie in WA, where they are locally producing RCG as a fine aggregate substitute for use in civil applications.


Chris Jeffreys is the principal of Projectivity Proactive Consulting. With thanks to the Australian Packaging Covenant and the Australian Food & Grocery Council for their assistance.

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