CEO Vik Bansal on Circular Economy

CEO Vik Bansal on how the optimised Victorian Commingled Resource Recovery network extends the value chain for a circular economy


At the recent Cleanaway FY21 Investors Series, CEO and Managing Director Vik Bansal shared how our Value Creation Story drives Cleanaway’s business activities and our Footprint 2025 roadmap to ensure Australia has the right infrastructure in place to support growing waste needs.

“The foundation of our Value Creation Story is Our Mission of “Making a sustainable future possible”. By focussing on our strategic pillars of People, Earth, Markets, Assets and Financials, our inputs are transformed through our business activities, applying Our Cleanaway Way, to create outcomes for our stakeholders.” said Vik.

“The waste sector plays a critical role in enabling a circular economy by maximising recovery of resources for recycling. We are investing in collection, sorting and processing infrastructure across recycling waste streams to optimise value and environmental outcomes of these materials. This is what our Footprint 2025 is all about – strategic investments further down the waste value chain into resource recovery, energy-from-waste and treatment and disposal.” added Vik.

Vik highlighted Cleanaway’s joint venture with Pact Group and Asahi Beverages to build a new $45 million PET plastic bottle recycling facility and the Western Sydney Energy and Resource Recovery Centre energy-from-waste proposal as examples of Greenfield investments that extend Cleanaway’s value-add down the waste value chain.

Vik called out 2019’s acquisition of SKM Recycling’s assets, now collectively known as Victorian Commingled Resource Recovery network, as a significant extension of Cleanaway’s resource recovery footprint across Victoria and Tasmania.

Facilities in Coolaroo, Hallam, Geelong and the Laverton North Material Recovery Facility (MRF) were upgraded and recycling was restored to Victorian households in record time.

“The SKM acquisition also provided us with a relatively new, state-of-the-art plastic sorting facility in Laverton. This facility further sorts the materials from our MRFs and from third parties into individual polymers and provides important feedstock for our reprocessing efforts in addition to the materials from the Container Deposit Scheme in NSW. It is a clear illustration of how Cleanaway is developing infrastructure to grow the circular economy in Australia.” explained Vik.

“There are further opportunities that we are exploring for HDPE, PP and LDPE pelletising. Our Laverton site is well suited to the addition of a new purpose-built polyolefin pelletising hall that can facilitate LDPE extrusion, food-grade HDPE extrusion and non-food grade HDPE and PP extrusion.”

EGM, Solid Waste Services Mark Crawford then provided an overview of what Cleanaway has done since we acquired the SKM’s assets and what we are looking to do going forward.

“We acquired a good set of assets that have great potential and have worked hard to bring them up to standard so they can deliver the operational and financial outcomes that we are seeking. We have been operating at approximately 200 kilo tonnes per annum capacity since the start of this financial year.” said Mark.

“We continue to bed down operating procedures to ensure we are getting high quality output at the current throughput rates. We will also look to increase throughput rates once the fine tuning of operations is complete.”

Major site remediation and equipment overhaul was needed following acquisition of SKM’s assets. Work done included:

People – Signed employment contracts – On-boarded employees (including pre-employment screening) – Determined and implemented relevant organisational structure – Embedded Health and Safety culture and trained employees – Rolled out Cleanaway policies and processes

Markets – Removed stockpiles – Staged volume intake to determine contamination level – Established gate rate fees and secured volume intake from councils – Developed municipal reporting – Established purity levels for saleable commodities – Secured outlet for glass material

Assets – Undertook R&M and urgent capex works – Optimised site layout – Updated site signage and branding – Explored glass beneficiation infrastructure – Progressed sales of South Australian properties

Financials – Migrated to Cleanaway systems – Transferred IT infrastructure – Implemented reporting cadence – Delegated Authority Levels put in place – Detailed budgeting and systems mapping and secured IT platform

“We improved the processing technology at the facilities in order to deliver outputs that are of a high purity. This ensures we can meet relevant thresholds for sales into commodity markets or meet required purity levels to be further beneficiated.” said Mark.

“Contamination was a major issue for the MRFs. We are managing this issue diligently and ensuring that financial penalties are appropriately applied for unacceptable contamination levels. Not only does contamination create an unnecessary potential financial burden, it also creates significant health and safety issues for employees working at the facility that we need to carefully manage.” added Mark.

Cleanaway works closely with council customers to ensure residents have access to the right information about what can go in their kerbside bins. We recently relaunched our Recycling Hub to provide even more resources to schools, households and communities about what goes in the bin.

Looking to the future, Mark said Cleanaway will look to ramp up our throughput once operations are finely tuned.

“There is a large addressable market for kerbside commingled waste that we will target. At present we are predominantly processing municipal waste. We will look to supplement that with further council contracts and by servicing the C&I market. As a consequence of processing mostly municipal waste we end up processing around 50% of Victoria’s kerbside plastic waste.”

“We are also looking at a Victorian glass beneficiation solution for our recovery glass. The feedstock will come from out Victorian MRFs and can be supplemented with feedstock from the NSW CDS and potentially the Victorian CDS once it is established. This will provide us with a very strong circular economy solution for glass in the region that we can leverage.”

The end-to-end customer solution has created the opportunity for Cleanaway to pursue value chain extension opportunities that can add further value to the business. Having an end-to-end solution also means that as new waste policies are developed and implemented, and value shifts across or within the value chain, Cleanaway will be well positioned to respond and capture the value opportunities.