Waste Management’s Role in Making a Sustainable Future Possible

There is a lot of things to feel like we have no control over as a population, but fortunately one thing that we can control is the damage we do to the planet. Each person has varying degrees to which they can contribute to sustainability efforts, but those of us that work in waste management have greater responsibility than most in prioritizing sustainability. Cleanaway, Australia’s leading total waste management services company, takes its responsibility seriously, with over 50 years of experience in providing safe and sustainable waste management solutions for communities all across Australia. We believe that sustainable solutions can almost always be found when made a priority.

Our national network of transfer stations, engineered landfills, liquid treatment plants and refineries enable us to collect, process, treat, recycle or safely dispose of any type of waste. Our focus is to make a sustainable future possible and we do this by taking waste generated by Australians and transforming it into valuable commodities. We see all waste as a resource and when dealing with waste, we don’t just ask ourselves “where does it go now?”, we also ask “what can it be used for next?”

Sustainability and waste might seem like paradoxical terms together, however finding sustainable ways to manage waste goes hand in hand and calls for innovative, cutting edge solutions. The West Gate Tunnel Project in Melbourne is one such example that requires ingenuity and an understanding of the city’s infrastructure. The West Gate Tunnel Project is a major road infrastructure project that will deliver a vital alternative to the West Gate bridge, providing a much needed second river crossing for a quicker and safer journey.

Waste management expertise is needed to handle the tunnel spoil produced by construction of the tunnels themselves. Two tunnels will be constructed using tunnel boring machines that will operate for 16- 18 month excavating approximately 1.5 million cubic meters of soil and rock called tunnel spoil. However, tunnelling cannot begin until there is a solution in place for handling the tunnel spoil that The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) approves. Developing a solution is precarious because initial testing indicates that we can expect to find low levels of PFAS in the tunnel spoil. PFAS (per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) are a group of manufactured chemicals used in many industrial and household products. Because there is potential for PFAS in the tunnel spoil, generic landfill designs will not be used and there will be rigorous testing previous to its reuse or disposal.

When dealing with 1.5 million cubic meters of soil and rock, there’s no shortage of challenges. Fortunately, sustainability problem solving is a skill that is an essential facet of Cleanaway’s mission of finding potential in any waste. Our plan is to create a Soil Management & Reuse Facility (SMRF) where the spoil can be disposed of and held for testing and classification. The SMRF will be designed with environmental safeguards that entail expertly designed lining to the facility in order to ensure the environment’s and the local community’s safety. There, it will be managed according to its waste classification as either fill material, meaning it can be used without restriction, or prescribed industrial waste. Material classified as prescribed industrial waste will be transported offsite to an EPA licensed facility.

Water that comes in contact with the tunnel spoil also presents a uniquely challenging obstacle since the spoil can only be reused or disposed of after drying out. Because it could contain PFAS, it will be decanted from the holding pens and lined cells and put through an onsite water treatment plant. The water then must meet national standards around PFAS levels. The Department of Health, along with various sources of expertise, determine guidance levels of PFAS in water. It truly takes a village to properly design such a large form of infrastructure but is an incredible example of so many skilled experts in different fields working together with a shared intention of protecting the planet.

Waste management is an industry that arguably has the most impact in its ability to either help or hurt the environment. While waste may not be something most people think twice about, Cleanaway is able to find extraordinary potential in even the largest quantities, like 1.5 million cubic meters of soil and rock. Our hope is to raise the industry standard around sustainability efforts and as a result, lead the global community to align with values that protect our planet.

Connect with Vik Bansal on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Cleanaway

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store