What is a waste transfer station?
Transfer Stations provide logistical solutions for the movement of goods and materials. Most industries utilise a transfer station model, using a framework ideology that is not unique to logistics alone. This framework is basically a hub and spoke arrangement that mirrors nature’s solution and readily adopted as societies’ solution for connectivity.
A transfer station provides storage infrastructure which enables the transfer of materials to occur at alternative times. As a working example, at a single point large trucks like B Doubles can load or unload materials without needing to wait in transit for three or four smaller vehicles to arrive and load or unload their materials. This method works both ways, reducing delay times for the smaller trucks also.
Processing is just as important as storage
The transfer of a single material using a transfer station is simple. For example, processed petroleum in the form of petrol is transferred from a port or processing plant to a transfer station by a large B Double tanker and then transported by smaller tankers to petrol stations. Waste, however, is not a single commodity.
Waste transfer stations aim to separate waste streams to enable and streamline the direct transport of separated waste. Waste transfer stations, therefore, require processing in addition to storage to achieve the transfer functionality. When considering the processing aims of a waste transfer station, an easy explanation is to liken the processing requirements to that of a computer database or server. A database or server can apply algorithms to process data similar to how a transfer station uses man and machine power to enable the processing of waste.
ATC Williams pays careful attention to layout design to ensure ease of use by customers which increases the efficiency of processing and minimises storage.
3D Visualisation of a recent ATC Williams transfer station design which is currently under construction.
What is waste throughput?Waste transfer stations come in all shapes and sizes. They are designed based on anticipated waste stream inputs and target waste outputs, which is commonly known as the waste throughput. Waste streams can vary from domestic, industrial, and commercial waste types.
Waste transfer stations can be public or commercial facilities. The sizing of waste transfer stations is informed by waste throughput volumes and processing times, compared to transport frequency requirements.
Waste stream ecosystem and changing technologies
The waste stream ecosystem that a transfer station lies within is an important consideration for a waste transfer stations’ design and operation. A waste stream ecosystem defines the chain of sorting that occurs before a single piece of waste resource reaches its end use, whether it be recycling, reuse or landfill.
Economics drives how critical waste sorting is and therefore, the quality of processing and separation at a transfer station facility. If a separated waste stream requires direct transfer to a recycling plant rather than an additional facility for processing, the processing and operational requirements of a transfer station becomes more critical.
In Australia, our waste ecosystems are still in the early stages of development, so waste transfer stations are always changing and will continue to change over time. Because of this, the current approach by ATC Williams allows for future waste ecosystem changes and technological development. The buildings we are currently delivering will be the shell for housing new hardware and software for processing of waste.
The economics of waste
When you dispose of waste, you do so with an already formed prejudice. You wouldn’t throw rubbish on the ground, but you might throw a recyclable product in a general waste bin and think nothing of it. Similarly, this prejudice occurs for current and future waste transfer station design. It becomes a chicken and egg scenario driven by the changing waste ecosystem, which is, in turn, driven by economics.
As we look beyond exports bans, national summits and 2030 targets, one thing becomes apparent. When it comes to waste, transfer stations are more than just transfer facilities, and rather they are the hub and shell for processing the residual by-product of our lifestyles.
By Nick Brown
SUNSHINE COAST OFFICE MANAGER / SENIOR ASSOCIATE ENGINEER