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Construction waste to be turned into fuel for greener cement 

Environmental services company ResourceCo is setting up two new plants that will turn non-recyclable commercial and industrial waste into an alternative fuel product that can reduce the carbon profile of cement.

One plant is starting construction this month at Wetherill Park in Sydney’s western suburbs, while the other will be built in another state, though is yet to be announced. The projects have received $30 million in finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The process takes non-recyclable commercial and industrial waste and transforms it into a solid fuel known as Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF). This can then be used in cement kilns in place of coal and gas.

The plant is Wetherill Park is expected to turn 150,000 tonnes of waste a year into PEF, while recovering other recyclable materials such as metal, clean timber and inert materials. It is due to be fully commissioned and operational by March 2018, with the potential for 20 full-time equivalent jobs.

The CEFC’s bioenergy and energy from waste sector lead Henry Anning said the technology demonstrated the huge potential of transforming waste destined for landfill into an energy source, while also lowering emissions.

It is also increasingly becoming an attractive commercial proposition.

“Our research into the bioenergy sector has identified investment opportunities of between $2.2 billion and $3.3 billion to 2020 in the urban waste industry,” Mr Anning said.

“Commercial viability has been driven by a combination of rising landfill gate fees and falling technology costs. Waste levies in states such as NSW, the ACT, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria are improving the business case for this kind of alternative use of the waste, rather than it going into landfill.”

ResourceCo managing director Simon Brown said the project would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, avoid soil and water contamination and conserve resources.

Over the lifetime of the two projects more than eight million tonnes of CO2 is expected to be abated.

In the first instance the PEF will be used locally, though there is a plan to export it to be used in Asian cement kilns.

“Our business operates across both Australia and South East Asia, which places us in a prime position to drive this new initiative forward and make a real difference in the way in which these communities view and deal with waste,” Mr Brown said.

Mr Anning said using bioenergy and waste resources to generate heat and electricity was now cost-competitive with other new-build energy generation, and there was scope to grow the industry in Australia.

“Being a throw-away society is a luxury Australia must reconsider. As a nation, we’re producing about 23 million tonnes of landfill each year, causing a growing problem with potential air, water and land quality impacts and generating ongoing monitoring and remediation liabilities,” he said.

“Reusing waste not only makes economic sense, it makes good environmental sense, through the reduction of landfill and landfill gases and, in the case of fuel production, the ability to replace fossil fuels.”

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