Soilco: understanding recycling technology

According to statistics obtained from the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage, recycling 10 tonnes of food organics per week is equivalent to the same environmental benefit as removing 60 cars from the road.

Hence, recycling is an issue every Australian can contribute every day. That’s why NSW state government introduced a waste levy in 1971 to encourage recycling. Back then, around 45 per cent of waste was recycled. In 2012 this has grown to 60 per cent with the 2014 target for the recycling of commercial and industrial waste set at 63 per cent.

One expert in the field of commercial recycling is family business Soilco. Since starting off in 1974 – coming from a background in dairy farming on the NSW South Coast – the company has developed a deep and first-hand understanding of recycling technology, especially in the field of soil fertility and water management.

As early as 1985, founder Tony Emery began composting sawdust and waste recycling to improve the quality of Soilco’s soil products and to minimise the use of raw soil. Pioneers in eco-friendly gardening, the company has since worked with both the industry and government, developing and trialling soil improver products that set benchmarks in terms of creating recycled organics that are blended in an economically viable way and are free of diseases and weeds.

In recent years, Tony and his wife Maria have stepped back from the day to day operations and handed over to their sons, Charlie, an environmental scientist, and Mark, a diesel mechanic, who continue to keep Soilco at the leading edge of the recycling industry.

Tony is also involved with the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA), which was established as a result of the growth of the organics recycling and composting industry and its need for an independent industry body.

Still a privately owned family business, Soilco now recycles about 100,000 cubic metres of organic materials each year, actively helping the community reduce the 3.28 million tonne pile of food waste that still ends up in landfill every year.

The organic matter in topsoil is around 58 per cent carbon, so putting it back into the soil not only improves agriculture, but reduces the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Despite that strong sustainability focus, the logistics side of the business is just as important. The distribution of Soilco’s soil products extends across most of southern NSW and is achieved with late model trucks and innovative trailers, several of which are fitted with moving floors.

The Soilco fleet includes several Western Stars and a K200 Kenworth on B-double duty. Soilco’s mass, maintenance and fatigue management systems for its fleet are accredited under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NVHAS).

But when it comes to specialised food waste handling equipment, Soilco usually looks at the European market, where the industry is quite advanced. Soilco’s latest vehicle acquisition is a DAF LF45 equipped with a French-manufactured
tipping body. Charlie Emery concedes that, “we have probably over-invested in this vehicle, but in the long term it is worthwhile.” So far, the design has lived up to their expectations.

Dedicated to collecting waste food for recycling into nutrient rich compost for use in agriculture, the arrival of the DAF has already convinced a number of blue chip clients, such as the iconic Novatel Northbeach Hotel, WIN Stadium and the Wests-Illawarra Leagues Club to become involved in Soilco latest recucling program.

Soilco not only collects the food waste, but also provides its clients with dedicated wheelie bins and compostable bin liners that are used to hold the waste such as vegetable peelings, table scrapings and out of date food until collection by the DAF.

The DAF’s standard features make it ideal for the purpose intended by Soilco.  The tight turning circle, ninety degree opening doors and the two-pedal ZF AStronic automated manual transmission all help to reduce driver fatigue during a shift that involves multiple collections, often negotiating tight access in rear lanes and small loading docks.

The 6.7 litre engine is rated at 250HP at 1900 rpm and uses SCR AdBlue injection to meet Euro 5 exhaust emission requirements. ABS disc brakes are standard at front and rear and Soilco chose the rear leaf spring option rather than the standard airbag suspension.

As with all other trucks in Soilco’s fleet, the DAF is fitted with a Navman system that is integral with Soilco’s paperless docket procedures to maximise accuracy and minimise paperwork. A set on on-board load scales with ability to weigh each bin as it is emptied will be fitted in the near future.

The seven cubic metre alloy bin is liquid tight and even a full load of food waste doesn’t exceed 3.5 tonnes, meaning that the DAF confidently operates at all times well under its Australian GVM of 12,000kg.

A hydraulic bin lift device at the rear lifts the wheelie bins and empties the contents into the tipping body. The bins can be washed and deodorised by the operator simply pushing a button, which activates a three-nozzle sprayer that sprays water and a deodoriser directly into the emptied bin. Water is drawn from a 400-litre tank that is mounted between the cab and the tipping body. No water or waste gets onto the ground due to the design of the mechanism.

This feature is a major benefit for their waste clients – the dock area of their premises are kept clean and the incidence of insects that may be attracted to any dropped food waste is reduced. A high pressure trigger wand is also connected to the water system and is used to clean off the back of the truck after it has deposited its load back at the depot.

The introduction of the Carbon Tax as well as the existing NSW state government environmental levy provide just the type of business environment that suits Soilco’s food waste recycling program.  It is truly a “win-win” situation that will provide long term, sustainable recycling with a definite cost benefit for Soilco’s waste clients and a source of quality soil improvers for their agricultural clients.
And the planet’s environment wins at both ends of the chain as well.

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