Originally published in Waste Management Review.
WHEN WYONG SHIRE COUNCIL WAS FACED WITH A GLUT OF MATTRESSES AT ITS WASTE FACILITY, IT TURNED TO GCM ENVIRO FOR AN INNOVATIVE RECYCLING EQUIPMENT SUPPLY SOLUTION.
Mattresses are regarded as a significant problem waste stream around the world. When stockpiled, they are a fire risk. As bulky items, each one can use around 0.75 cubic metres of landfill space. Their integral springs can damage or impact the lifespan of landfill equipment, and they float to the top of landfill cells. In Australia alone, as most people change their mattress every eight to 10 years, it is estimated that 1.25 million mattresses end up in landfills each year. Yet, resource recovery specialists say that in many cases over 90 percent of a mattress’s components can be recycled. With the average mattress containing 12.5 kilograms of steel, 2 kilograms of wood and 1.5 kilograms of foam, there is the potential that more than 15,000 tonnes of steel, 2,500 tonnes of wood and 1,875 tonnes of foam could be recovered and used in other products. Many of the country’s local government waste services are looking for cost-efficient and low impact ways to divert the mattresses they receive in their waste stream. Wyong Shire Council was one of them.
Tackling a mattress mini-mountain
Wyong Shire is located in the Central Coast region of New South Wales, with a population of around 150,000. Wyong Shire Council owns and operates the award-winning Buttonderry Waste Management Facility, the only landfill operating in the area. In recent years, the council had noticed a significant spike in the number of mattresses being received – around 200 a week or 10,000 annually. It needed an efficient way to dispose of them. “In the past, clean mattresses were collected by a contractor and then recycled, while contaminated mattresses were sent to landfill,” says Andrew Pearce, Wyong Shire Council’s Manager of Commercial Enterprises. “Landfilling the mattresses was proving costly, labour intensive and used up valuable landfill airspace, so we needed to find a better solution.”
The council talked to other landfill operators in the Hunter region about how they disposed of mattresses. It found they were trialing the Tana Shark shredding equipment and had been very impressed with its performance. So it decided to give it a try. GCM Enviro is the sole Australian distributor of Tana landfill compactors and shredders. “Wyong’s Operations Co-ordinator, Brian Leslie, contacted us in late 2014 because the council wanted to reduce the number of mattresses going to the landfill and recover the valuable steel in them,” says GCM Enviro Managing Director Daniel Kastowsky. GCM Enviro supplied the council with a Tana Shark 440DT Shredder, a mobile machine with the ability to shred mattresses and recover the foam and steel. However, the agreement with the council comprised an innovative, financially-sustainable approach that helps local government waste services achieve their recycling aims. Instead of Wyong Shire Council needing to buy the machine outright, GCM Enviro agreed to hire out the Tana Shark for a two-week period. Furthermore, as it is user-friendly with straightforward controls, it was council employees who operated the machinery after receiving training from the supplier.
“By using the shredder, we found a better way to dispose of the huge number of mattresses we have to deal with – saving time, money and valuable landfill space.” Andrew Pearce Wyong Shire Council’s Manager of Commercial Enterprises
Following an initial trial on shredding general inert waste in December 2014, Wyong carried out its first mattress shredding trial in July 2015. For the council, the focus of the shredder trial was to find a fast and cost-effective way to recover the steel from mattresses and reduce the volume of mattress waste being landfilled.
During the pilot, the Tana Shark was processing between 125 and 150 mattresses per hour and recovering an average of 8 kilograms of steel per unit. In one trial, 32 tonnes of steel was recovered and sold to a scrap metal recycler. “By using the shredder, we found a better way to dispose of the huge number of mattresses we have to deal with – saving time, money and valuable landfill space,” says Andrew. In optimum conditions, the Tana Shark Shredder 440DT is capable of processing and removing all steel from mattresses at a rate of 160 to180 units an hour. Engineered to be robust and reliable, they are designed to minimise dust and ensure user safety when operational.
The Tana Shark shredder range is renowned for its versatility, as they can shred a variety of waste streams, including tyres, green waste, and construction and demolition waste. They have the added ability of not only pre-shredding the product but also outputting a single end product with one pass. Other clients to have used the shredder in this way are Kimbriki and the City of Newcastle, both in New South Wales. The machines offer councils and private businesses the opportunity to recover materials that may not be recoverable otherwise. These can then be sold on to subsidise the costs of processing and recycling, while at the same time limiting the amount of non-compostable waste sent to landfill. “The income received from selling the recovered steel pays for the fuel and hire costs, while councils also realise the benefit of large air space savings in their landfills,” concludes Daniel.