The Kritic

Suez Resource Recovery

Lucas Heights Resource Recovery CentreSource Tee Kay

The Suez (formerly known as Sita) Lucas Heights Resource Recovery Centre is one of the largest landfill sites in the Sydney Basin. The facility is approximately 165 hectares and opened in 1987 with plans to increase the landfill by 8.3 million cubic metres and extend operations at the site until 2037.

According to the Suez website Community & Education section[1] they advise: “For many years we have known that disposing of waste to landfill will not be sustainable in the long-term and, as a society, we must be looking at ways to better manage how we deal with waste.
As part of the global community our ultimate aim should be to minimise waste to landfill by preventing the creation of waste and recovering reusable resources by recycling waste into a usable commodity.
Improving recycling in Australia will not only reduce our carbon footprint, but reduce the dependence we have on non renewable resources.”

The Suez Lucas Heights Resource Recovery Centre receives over 157,000 cars and trucks each year.

After a wedding reception held on a private property I was tasked with a tip run and headed off to Lucas Heights to the Resource Recovery Centre. I had a covered 8×4 trailer load of mainly glass bottles, separated into colours, and flattened cardboard boxes.

I pulled onto the weighbridge and stopped at the window where the attendant asked what I was dumping. I stated that "It’s about 80% sorted glass bottles and the rest is cardboard boxes". The attendant advised to "Put the cardboard in the paper recycling bin and take the rest to the Waste Collection Point". The Waste Collection Point is a gathering of bins available for items that are not reused or recycled. The waste in these bins is then taken around to the landfill hole for disposal. I responded with "Maybe you misheard me but 80% is sorted glass bottles". The attendant then said "We don’t recycle glass here, it just goes in the ground."
I was stunned by that statement and when I recovered I said "But you are a resource recovery centre?" to which the attendant replied "We don’t recycle glass here as we have to pay for trucks to take it away."

So approximately three cubic metres of perfectly recyclable glass bottles are now taking up space underground. No wonder they have plans to increase the landfill by 8.3 million cubic metres!

At a dinner party recently this subject was mentioned and one of the guests stated that they had also been told to put the glass in the Waste Collection Point for landfill.

On deciding to investigate this apparent Resource Recovery Farce further I went to the Suez Lucas Heights web page[2] to see what they said about their resource and recovery efforts. Under the heading “Resource Recovery Centre” I found the following information:

The Resource Recovery Centre and Waste Collection point is an area for small vehicles to drop off recyclable materials.

  • Recyclables; eg. plastic containers, paper, cardboard, cans
  • Scrap metal; eg. washing machines, stoves, bicycles
  • Hazardous items; eg. paint, vehicle batteries, engine oil, gas cylinders
  • Milk crates
  • Old clothing
  • Household rubble; eg. bricks, concrete, roof files and terracotta pies (which are all processed for reuse on site)

No mention of glass containers at all.

This information confirms what the attendant had said so I decided to go direct to Suez to obtain some clarification on how glass containers are treated at their facility. After many transfers around various departments I was finally put through to Shay Menyweather – Communications Coordinator SUEZ Australia & New Zealand. Shay listened to the details of my enquiry, took my email address and said he would get back to me as soon as possible. Soon after my call Shay sent through an email requesting a list of my questions that he would put to the "Lucas Heights Team" that afternoon.

I put the following questions to Shay Menyweather:

  1. Why do you not recycle glass at that facility?
  2. Is the response by the attendant of “We don’t recycle glass as we have to pay for trucks to take it away.” correct?
  3. If this is the case; do you not have to pay to transport other recyclables to the various recyclers, such as steel mills?
  4. Are there plans to start accepting glass for recycling and, if so, when will they come into effect?

After nine days and two emails apologising for the delay in getting back to me, a response via email came through from Shay with a further apology for the extended delay followed by a quote in response to my questions for for this post:

"We do not currently accept glass bottles for recycling at our Lucas Heights facility. The closest drop off point for glass recycling is the Reverse Garbage Co-Operative LTD." – Luke Schepen, Corporate Affairs Manager, SUEZ.

After all that time this underwhelming quote completely ignored the questions posed. The problem with the quote is that Luke Schepen is not just out of touch with the environmental need to recycle glass containers brought in by residents, instead of putting them into the ground, but he is attempting to pass the responsibility onto "the Reverse Garbage Co-Operative LTD."[3] which is 40 kilometres, about an hours drive North East according to Google Maps, away from the Lucas Heights facility but more importantly DOES NOT ACCEPT GLASS CONTAINERS FOR RECYCLING!

So please do not take your glass containers there as it will only be a massive waste of your time. They do however provide an excellent "Reverse Garbage" service where suitable resource items including reusable off-cuts, over-runs, art & craft materials, stage props, knick-knacks, furniture and other items are made available to the general public for creative use or ‘reuse’. By using these resources to create new items or to give items a new purpose it ultimately prolongs the life of the resource.

The following are quotes from residents of the Shire and outside the Shire but close enough to it to use the Lucas Heights facility.

  1. "This would have to be the most ridiculous situation I have come across. I think the council or the EPA should instruct Suez that they must take glass containers for recycling and to not dump them in the ground." – A.Maltby, Miranda
  2. "How can Suez be so irresponsible? What is the point of a resource recovery centre if it doesn’t recover a resource such as glass?" – D.Preston, Sutherland
  3. "Quite simply unacceptable! Luke Schepen needs to drag himself into the 21st century. How can he hold his position at Suez?" – D.Pinson, Cronulla
  4. "I took a load of beer bottles to the tip at Lucas Heights and was told to put them in the Waste Collection Point. What a waste of a reusable resource!" – R.Nils, Liverpool

Yesterday, I had a conversation about this subject with Jamie Lepre. Jamie is a Co-founder of Environment-To-Be[3] which is an eco-minded social organisation that seeks to improve mental, physical and spiritual environments. The conversation can be summed up with the following quote from Jamie:

"Recently, Environment-To-Be started our own local clean up events and to say glass bottles are among one of the most commonly retrieved items in the bush would be an understatement.

It seems like an utter waste to spend such time and effort pulling trash out of the local environment to find that any recyclable glass found will simply be crushed into the landfill without a second thought at the Suez Resource Recovery Centre in Lucas Heights.

The use of recycled glass containers is endless and if we are to move to a plastic free environment, we need to know that it’s replacement will have more longevity in the consumer cycle than it’s predecessor.

Luke Schepen, of SUEZ, needs to act without delay to remedy the situation of the Lucas Heights facility sending glass containers to landfill instead of recycling them."

Sutherland Shire Council was contacted on the 7th June, 2017 regarding this farce and their response, after two weeks, is quite apathetic when it comes to putting glass containers into landfill. Their statement reads “As the SUEZ facility at Lucas Heights is operated by a private company, we are unable to comment on their glass recycling services.” But they do “…encourage our residents to use the (yellow lidded) bin for the recycling of glass bottles and jars so that the glass reaches the correct facility for sorting and then onto other manufacturers for recycling.”

If you feel that Sutherland Shire Council should take a more proactive stance on this matter then drop them an email at wasteinfo@ssc.nsw.gov.au and let them know.

The NSW EPA[5] was contacted with regards to the licensing of the facility and whether the licence allows the facility to not recycle glass. The reply came from Katie Ritchie, Senior Public Affairs Officer – Public Affairs, and states “The Environment Protection Licence issued by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for the SUEZ Lucas Heights Resource Recovery Centre permits the operator to accept glass for recycling or disposal in the landfill. There is a financial disincentive to dispose of waste material that can be recycled, as the waste levy will be payable on all waste materials disposed of at the landfill.”

So the SUEZ Lucas Heights Resource Recovery Centre is not only wasting a valuable resource by dumping recyclable glass into landfill they are actually wasting money by paying the waste levy to do so!

If you would like to let Suez know that their policy of dumping glass containers, brought in by residents, into landfill is totally unacceptable then please call them on 13 13 35 and ask to speak to Shay Menyweather or contact Shay via his email address shay.menyweather@suez.com

[1] Suez Website Community & Education section – http://www.sita.com.au/community-education/site-tours-education/recycling-tips/
[2] Lucas Heights Resource Recovery Centre Web page – https://www.sita.com.au/facilities/map-of-australia/lucas-heights/
[3] Reverse Garbage – https://reversegarbage.org.au/
[4] Environment–To–Be – https://www.facebook.com/pg/Environmenttobe
[5] The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) – https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/

Sea of Tyres

The ever mounting problem of used tyresSource Unknown

Everyone who has had a vehicle for at least a few years has had the necessity to have tyres replaced whether it is replacing one through damage or multiple through wear and tear. But do any of us give a second thought to what happens to the tyre once it leaves your vehicle?

An Australian study by Hyder Consulting Pty Ltd published 30 April 2015[1] states that approximately 51 million equivalent passenger units of tyres entered the waste stream in 2013-14 which equates to around 408,000 tonnes.

Of these, approximately 5% were recovered locally (either through recycling, energy recovery or civil engineering); 32% were exported, of this 32% figure many tyres are burnt in brick and cement kilns in countries that have quite lax air pollution laws like Bangladesh, India and Thailand; approximately 16% went to licensed landfills; and 2% were stockpiled for future recovery. Approximately 14% of end-of-life tyres were categorised as having “unknown” destination, and anecdotal evidence suggests that approximately 31% of Australian tyres (predominantly large, off the road tyres) are land-filled at mining sites. That is approximately 31 million tyres entering landfill over 2013-14.

Every year millions of used tyres are dumped, whether legally or illegally. The cost of dealing with this problem rises to the millions. The dumping of tyres can also lead to severe health hazards and environmental damage.

"Even the smallest number of dumped tyres can create a dangerous breeding ground for mosquitoes that transport disease, such as Dengue Fever and the Ross River Virus."[2]

While controlling Dengue fever is a more complex issue than simply managing our waste tyres, there is little question that Australia’s poor management of waste tyres is a significant contributor. In 2007 Dengue Fever was very much a rare disease in Australia, with just 187 cases in 2007; then by 2010 the rate of infection had increased to 1,171.

Additionally, "Tyres are combustible. Once ignited, they are difficult to extinguish – producing chemical toxins that affect humans, flora, fauna, waterways and the atmosphere. Because of their unique shape and components, once lit, a tyre fire is almost impossible to extinguish."

Undersea Wasteland

In the 1970s, a campaign was organised to dispose of 2 million used tyres into the Atlantic Ocean between two living coral reefs, about a mile off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The intent was to try to provide an aquatic habitat as well as to add to the coral reefs that were already there.

Coastal storms and hurricanes, of which there are numerous off Florida, moved a great quantity of the tyres onto the middle reef, essentially destroying it. In the main area where the tyres were dumped there has been no significant coral growth.

“You get down about 20 feet,” says Army Diver Jason Jakovenko, “and the 34 acre area starts to come into sight… It’s like the moon or something. It’s weird. It doesn’t look like anything you can imagine. It’s just tires for as far as you can see down there.”

The estimated cost for Florida state officials to hire private contractors to remove the tyres was $30 million. Coastal America, a small federal office that is responsible for bringing federal agencies together on large marine projects, brought about the idea to turn this project into a training exercise for the military with the military donating the time and expertise of its divers. This saved the state officials 28 million dollars leaving a need of just 2 million dollars for the transportation and the recycling of the tyres.

The dumping of tyres in the ocean is not unique to Florida or the USA for that matter. Among other countries are Malaysia, Japan, Portugal, France, Israel, Italy, Philippines and Spain.

Queensland University of Technology’s(QUT) Professor Richard Brown says “Globally, 1.5 billion tonnes of tyres are discarded each year. Australia, alone, will generate 55 million disused tyres a year by 2020. “Getting rid of old tyres in an environment-friendly way is a universal nightmare”.

As the world struggles with what to do with end-of-life tyres from cars, trucks and earth moving equipment Australia has been developing and refining a process called destructive distillation to recycle whole tyres. This process also known as pyrolysis occurs when you super-heat tyres in a reactor vessel containing an oxygen-free atmosphere ensuring there is no combustion and therefore no burning.

Pyrolysis reduces the tyres to three main products, Oil, Steel and Carbon Black. A 10kg car tyre yields 4 litres of oil, 1.5kg of steel and 4kg of carbon black. Based on these results using car tyres alone could generate 220 million litres of oil by 2020 just in Australia. The steel remains untouched since it does not get hot enough and is returned to be recycled and used to make new tyres. The high purity carbon is released in powder form, Carbon Black, which steel mills can use as a carbon source, replacing coal or coke in steel manufacturing[3].

The most common use (70%) of carbon black is as a pigment and reinforcing phase in automobile tires. Carbon black also helps conduct heat away from the tread and belt area of the tire, reducing thermal damage and increasing tire life. Carbon black particles are also employed in some radar absorbent materials used in the reduction of the radar cross-section of aircraft and in photocopier and laser printer toner, and other inks and paints. The high tinting strength and stability of carbon black has also provided use in colouring of resins and films. About 20% of world production goes into belts, hoses, and other non-tire rubber goods. The balance is mainly used as a pigment in inks, coatings and plastics. For example, it is added to polypropylene because it absorbs ultraviolet radiation, which otherwise causes the material to degrade. Carbon black has also been used in various applications for electronics. As a good conductor of electricity, carbon black is used as a filler mixed in plastics, elastomer, films, adhesives, and paints. Application of carbon black as an anti-static agent has provided uses as an additive for fuel caps and pipes for automobiles[4].

In addition, the process is emission-free, using recycled oil recovered through the process as the heat source for the production so the only waste generated is heat.

Researcher Farhad Hossain(QUT) said tests conducted on the oil from tyres in 10% and 20% diesel blends. The experiments were performed with constant speed on four different engine loads with no loss of engine performance and a massive reduction in emissions.

QUT’s Professor Richard Brown said they found a 30% reduction in nitrogen oxide which helps to create petrochemical smog and that there was also a reduction by 33% in particle mass. “It is a fuel that is as good as or better than normal diesel… made from old rubber otherwise destined to rot as landfill.”

Green Distillation Technologies facility

Green Distillation Technologies facilitySource Green Distillation Technologies

How do we, as consumers, encourage the use of destructive distillation to recycle end-of-life tyres? Contact your local member of the House of Representatives and let them know that we need to end all practices of disposing of tyres that do not completely recycle the tyre such as with destructive distillation. You can find your local member through the Parliament of Australia website Members Search.

Alternatively you can contact your State Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) and put your concerns in writing either by email or snail mail. Find your state EPA. https://www.google.com.au/search?q=Contacting+the+EPA

[1] Stocks & Fate of End of Life Tyres – https://www.nepc.gov.au/system/files/resources/8f17c03e-1fe7-4c93-8c6d-fb4cdc1b40bd/files/stocks-and-fate-end-life-tyres-2013-14-study.pdf
[2] Why Recycle – https://tyrecycle.com.au/why-recycle
[3] Green steel from old rubber tyres produces no waste or toxic fumes – CRC Association – https://crca.asn.au/green-steel-from-old-rubber-tyres-produces-no-waste-or-toxic-fumes/
[4] Carbon Black – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_black#Common_uses