What to do with our waste is becoming a big problem for Tenterfield Shire Council as it is for many others, but an upcoming review of the waste disposal situation hopes to embrace new technologies which promise to turn waste into an asset.
Council’s chief executive Terry Dodds is very passionate about the potential to convert the shire’s waste into energy, thereby solving multiple problems in a single stroke.
He said council’s review of its waste system is timely given changes in the recycling industry and the advent of new technologies. At April’s meeting he encouraged councillors to ‘tread water’ on waste issues for the next five or six months until a new direction becomes clear.
“We’re undertaking a review of emergent technologies in conjunction with contemporary regulatory requirements and the economics and logistics to arrive at a strategic business plan for waste which would take us into the next 20 years,” he said.
Given changes in staff, NSW EPA (Environment Protection Authority) rules and many other aspects of the issue, he said it’s an opportune time to review waste and associated business strategies.
A strategy waste planning specialist with many years’ experience in the industry has been hired as a consultant to work closely with staff and chief operating officer Andre Kompler and Mr Dodds. Once the consultant’s report is made to council in a few months’ time Mr Dodds anticipates a huge amount of work ahead of council to implement new strategies, depending on what direction council wishes to take.
One of Mr Dodds’ pet projects is waste-to-energy conversion and he’s already been in contact with a Macquarrie University professor to ascertain the latest technologies for releasing entrapped energy. There are also state government initiatives to support microgrids to release energy back to the power grid, creating opportunities for councils like Tenterfield.
While falling feed-in tariffs are affecting the economics of domestic setups, Mr Dodds anticipates different rates for projects like this.
“If we can release entrapped energy in our waste and put it onto the grid, waste becomes a resource.”
He said he’s also speaking with two of the best brains in the industry whom he knows from a ‘past life’ who are willing to provide technical assistance.
He feels the concept is achievable, motivated by the country’s huge waste problems coupled with energy supply problems arising from the waning popularity of traditional power sources and the drive for alternative energy.
He said the initiative would be difficult but not a world-first, with larger-scale municipal-scale systems already operating in places like Malaysia and United Arab Emirates.
Part of the project will be assessing the dozens of different technical solutions, where they could be physically located, what they would do, the economics of the solution, the amount of waste requried, access to the grid…
“There’ll be a thousand different things,” he said.
“At the end of the day it’s a power generation application that – as a by-product – gets rid of waste, and I’m passionate about that sort of thing.
“The technical advice is there for the taking, if you know where to look.”