Australia is currently the eighth largest per-capita producer of municipal waste among all developed countries and recycles only about 41% of their waste compared with Germany’s 65%.
While the lack of recycling in the country is frustrating to many, it is an opportunity for companies like Cleanaway Waste Management Ltd., Australia’s largest garbage company, to extract enough gas from rotting garbage to power around 80,000 homes. Cleanaway will extract gas from landfill sites to power engines, and generate electricity for the nation’s grid.
“Twenty years ago, this was all going to waste,” said Cleanaway’s Chief Executive Officer Vik Bansal. The gas was getting “flared up in the environment, now it’s creating electricity,” he said.
Cleanaway is not the only company to invest in garbage as a form of energy generation. The Paris-based Suez has generated 263,000 megawatt-hours of electricity from its various Australian landfill sites, and Veolia Environnement SA says it is currently generating enough power to provide 2,500 homes in energy.
Meanwhile, Cleanaway says it has doubled its capacity as their largest landfill site in Melbourne to 8.8 megawatts, which will come online by this October. The company collects garbage from more than 90 municipal and 120,000 commercial customers. It aims to recycle between 60 percent and 95 percent of discarded material before it goes to the landfill.
Cleanway is now investing more than 100 million dollars in facilities for the recycling of both solid and liquid waste and has been investigating recycling and sustainability models used in the US and in Europe. Bansal has seen the company rocket to success, with their share price doubling since he became CEO back in 2015.
“Every company now talks about sustainability,” Bansal says. “Nobody can achieve sustainability without managing waste. You’ve got to manage your waste because that is a massive carbon footprint.”