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CMPS&F - Environment Australia
Appropriate technologies for the treatment of scheduled wastes
Review Report Number 4 - November 1997


21. CONCLUSIONS


 

21.1 Changes in the Scheduled Waste Industry since the Previous Review

Since the issue of the previous review on Scheduled Waste Treatment Technologies (August 1996), there have been a number of changes in the Australian waste industry which affect the ability to treat and dispose of scheduled wastes:

21.2 General Considerations

This review suggests:

21.3 Material Handling Considerations

Waste treatment companies have focused on the most easily identified and serviced segment of the waste treatment market, that of PCB liquids. In general, the treatment of liquids is a relatively easy task and can be accomplished using the currently available treatment systems.

Treatment facilities with a broader range of application, for example to capacitors, soils, and polymerised materials are only now being implemented although it will still be several years before facilities are in place which will be able to treat all types of scheduled wastes.

Mixed wastes from community chemical collections (eg powders, solutions in volatile solvents and emulsions, in small packages) are likely to result in specific materials handling issues.

21.4 Mixed Wastes

Mixed organochlorine pesticide and inorganic pesticide wastes (eg DDT/As mixtures) represent a specific concern in scheduled waste treatment. A small number of the thermal processes producing a slag are able to treat these wastes (eg molten slag, molten salt, molten metal, STARTECH, PACT). However, for other processes such as Eco Logic and BCD, the arsenic passes through the system, and requires separate management of the process residuals. There is concern regarding the treatment and disposal of arsenic containing process residuals (eg scrubber blowdown water from the Eco Logic process, or solid residue from the ADI Limited STTP process). In general, treatment of the arsenic containing residuals is possible. However, most waste treaters have not been inclined to address this issue.

To date waste treaters have had sufficient wastes to treat and hence there has been little commercial pressure for waste treaters to accept significant quantities of arsenic containing wastes (significant political pressure may however be exerted on the waste treaters to accept arsenic containing wastes). There is no technology currently established on a commercial basis in Australia that is capable of treating OCP/As wastes without subsequent treatment of the arsenic containing residues.

From a technical perspective, currently the best option for treatment of mixed OCP/As wastes may be treatment as required by the OCP content (eg BCD, Eco Logic) followed by stabilisation or other treatment of the arsenic containing residuals.

21.5 Location and Portability of Treatment Facilities

The applicability and availability of the various treatment technologies is dependent on the location of treatment systems and whether the wastes are practically able to be transported to the facility.

Currently scheduled wastes are transported interstate for treatment. Whether scheduled wastes are transported interstate is dependent on the availability of treatment systems within the State in which the waste is generated, and the quantities and economics involved. While it is desirable to minimise transport of scheduled wastes, from the perspective of those holders of waste who desire to have the waste treated and disposed of, it is important that interstate transport remains an option, as this can allow the most cost effective and appropriate treatment strategy to be adopted. Further, interstate transport is necessary for treatment of many wastes at present, given the location of treatment facilities in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

21.6 Treatment Capabilities for Various Waste Categories

The findings of this review are summarised in Table S1 and Table S2 in the Summary section of this report.

Table S1 lists the various waste categories of particular interest in the treatment of scheduled wastes and the applicability of the various treatment technologies. In most cases it is the physical form of the waste rather than the scheduled waste constituents which determine the applicability of a particular treatment technology.

For the purposes of summarising the current status and the applicability of the various technologies, the wastes have been categorised in terms of physical form and occurrence: contaminated soil; irregular larger inert solids; organic low volatility liquids free of coarse solids; wastes containing high volatility liquids; solid and semi-solid process materials; and aqueous wastes and sludges.

Table S2 allows a comparison of the various emerging treatment processes with regard to the key operating parameters.

21.7 Further Requirements for Scheduled Waste Treatment in Australia

Three commercial scheduled waste treatment facilities are currently operational (based on information supplied for this review): Eco Logic in Perth, BCD Technologies in Brisbane and Technosafe (BCD) in Melbourne. These facilities have been established for treatment of specific wastes such as PCB contaminated oils, capacitors and transformers, PCB liquids and relatively homogeneous OCP wastes (eg. DDT in toluene from buy-back schemes). Facilities to treat a wider range of wastes, including contaminated soils, are gradually evolving and processes for the treatment of PCB contaminated capacitors are being refined. Development of reliable facilities for the treatment of a range of mixed and heterogeneous wastes is expected to take some time (eg. > 2 years). 3

However, CMPS&F notes that the development of the scheduled waste treatment capability in Australia has been significantly slower than hoped by both the waste holders and waste treaters. This is reflected in comparison of the time frames for implementation of technologies in the first review report (as provided by the waste treatment companies) and the status of technologies as presented in this report. The differences may reflect both technical difficulties in scale-up of processes, and commercial and market considerations associated with the implementation of the technologies. Industry claims that it will have difficulty complying with some of the deadlines in the PCB Management Plan, in part reflecting that the development and implementation of technologies has been slower than expected at the time.

The existing scheduled waste treatment capacity in Australia at this time is insufficient to deal with the scheduled waste volumes and types which are available for treatment and are expected to require treatment. This is most marked in the south-eastern States of Australia.

While specific details of delays in treating wastes are difficult to obtain, in some cases delays of up to 12 months have been claimed by waste holders. In other cases, waste holders note that one of the three organisations invited to tender declined to do so, and this is assumed to be due to pre-existing commitments. In contrast, some waste holders have reported adequate service, with wastes treated within the agreed timeframes.

Despite a current shortfall in treatment capacity, the quantities of scheduled waste which require treatment in Australia are limited and will depend on the threshold concentrations and quantities which define scheduled wastes, and acceptance criteria for disposing of waste materials to landfills (now defined for PCBs and HCB). Expenditure on scheduled waste treatment in Australia is limited because the waste quantities are limited. It follows that the treatment facilities which are being developed and built are relatively small by world standards, and the availability of funds for new technology development and investigations leading to improved methods of operation and treatment are often limited.

This climate of limited investment means that it will be important for the relevant State regulatory authorities to critically scrutinise the ongoing operation and expansion of the scheduled waste treatment facilities. The authorities need to ensure that:

To assist the waste treatment companies to plan and undertake the necessary treatment technology systems development in an orderly way, regulators and waste holders should clarify the quantities of wastes which will require treatment and the time scale over which such treatment is to occur. Also, it will be necessary to encourage the assembly of quantities of wastes for treatment which will warrant significant investment and the establishment of well resourced facilities by the treatment companies. From the development of scheduled waste treatment facilities in Australia to date, it is evident that the process of designing and implementing new treatment facilities will necessarily involve a time scale of at least several years.

 


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3 Although it is noted that the SBV unit associated with the Eco Logic process is able to treat wastes in a wide range of physical forms.


Chapter 20 - Further Considerations