Standing on a pile of rubbish almost 40 metres deep, Stephen Thorpe knows the way the Werribee tip is operating can’t continue.
He points to a dump heap that grows even as he speaks, with a constant line of trucks dumping loads of household and business waste.
“I think you see it, don’t you?” says Mr Thorpe.
“If you look at what is happening here, there are birds, there is garbage, there is noise, resources are buried here that can be recovered and reused.”
Between the dirty diapers and household waste are many things that don’t need to be there, including wood, green trash and what appears to be a perfectly good bicycle.
A few seconds later, the bike is crushed by the compactor that goes around in the trash all day.
The tip on the southwestern edge of Melbourne accepts around 270,000 tonnes of landfill each year.
But Mr. Thorpe is planning a garbage revolution.
The $ 30 million plan calls for at least some of the waste collected here to be turned into electricity.
As director of city operations at Wyndham City Council, Thorpe is overseeing two major changes for the landfill: a new system to sort the landfill when it arrives and a waste-to-energy system to convert green waste and food scraps arriving at the landfill. spikes in electricity.
Sorting facility to divert 50 per cent of landfill
The Wyndham Council recently approved a new sorting shed for the tip.
That is, instead of going all the way to the top of the landfill, garbage trucks drop the trash straight into a special sorting bin, where a conveyor belt made of magnets and machines divides it into things that can be reused or recycled, and green waste.
The council estimates that when the facility, the first of its kind in Victoria, is completed by 2023, around half of the garbage the community receives as landfill will be diverted.
“The residual waste is pressed into bales and disposed of properly and without birds, rubbish, noise and odour,” said Thorpe.
Odour is no small problem for the council, which is the second fastest growing local government area in Australia. A new residential complex is proposed about 700 m from the edge of the tip.
Connie Menagazzo lives about 1 kilometre from the tip’s boundary.
“The smell was quite an issue for a few years back there,” she said.
“But credit to the council, they’re really trying to do the right thing.”
Another part of the council’s plan is to sort green and organic waste and strip it of oxygen, then convert the methane produced into electricity.
Thorpe said energy waste is an important part of the endgame’s future.
“I think it’s the only alternative at scale to landfill,” he said.
“Particularly if you want to achieve 80 per cent diversion from landfill, which is the state government’s target.”
Last year a report from Infrastructure Victoria found a third of Victoria’s household waste was food waste.
Mr Thorpe said the council was concerned about the carbon that would be emitted during the waste-to-energy process.
“So we’re looking at a compromise if you like,” he said.
Contractors at the summit are already collecting methane from the landfill and sending it to a power plant that powers some 6,000 homes.
Mr Thorpe said the amount of electricity a waste-to-energy facility will produce will depend on how much organic waste the council has collected.
Waste to energy taking off in Victoria
Trevor Thornton of Deakin University said waste to energy has “really taken off” in recent years as people have become more concerned with both waste and energy management.
“For a long time, no one has wanted to talk about it, and no one has wanted to introduce it, but I think people see it as a viable option both for waste management and for generating energy for our use,” he said.
Werribee’s proposal will be the first at a municipal-managed landfill in Victoria, but there are already organic waste-to-energy projects in Wollert in the north of Melbourne, Melton in the west, and a major project in Laverton, near Werribee, is set to continue.
Dr. Thornton said that converting waste to energy is a good way to do both waste and energy production, but concerns have been raised about how green the process is.
“People think about their backyard incinerators and the smoke and odor coming from them, but now they are working quite efficiently and the regulators have put in a number of requirements, so the emission standards are pretty strict,” he said.