Material recovery facility (MRF) for Newcastle NSW

The City of Newcastle (CN) is investigating the development of a material recovery facility (MRF) at its Summerhill Waste Management Centre to cater for waste collected from its kerbside pickup service and from construction and demolition sites.

Difference between an MRF and recycling plant

MRFs handle mixed waste streams, including both recyclable and non-recyclable materials. They focus on recovering as many valuable materials as possible from the waste stream. The goal of an MRF is to separate and recover valuable materials from mixed waste streams This may include metals, plastics, glass, paper, and cardboard. MRFs are distinct from recycling plants that primarily deal with sorted and separated recyclable materials.  Recycling plants usually get materials that have been processed at MRFs or collected through source-separated recycling programs.

An inert MRF will significantly increase the amount of waste the region can divert from landfill. The majority of bulk waste is dropped off by the public or picked up in scheduled kerbside collections. The inert commercial & industrial and construction & demolition waste streams are also able to be considered for recycling. Inert waste is waste that does not undergo significant physical, chemical, or biological transformations. They do not decompose, burn, or react chemically and typically do not pose a threat to the environment or public health. The MRF will significantly contribute to sustainability in the region.

Current waste situation

Recycling from Newcastle residents’ yellow-lid bins is currently taken to the Summerhill Waste Management Centre. After that it is transferred to iQ Renew’s processing facility on the Central Coast.

The arrangement was established following the sudden closure of the only MRF in the Hunter in 2020. It was sorting recyclables for most of the  local councils.

Testing the market for a MRF

CN Managing Director Waste Services, Michael Allaway, said CN was exploring a range of sustainable solutions for managing waste in the region. He said it was an appropriate point in time to test the market for a material recovery facility. CN is currently calling for tenders for a long-term recyclables processing contract.

“With the current recyclables processing contract due to expire towards the end of this year, we’re moving forward with a tender process,” he said. “We’re exploring all options to deliver responsible, environmentally sustainable, and commercially feasible waste and recycling operations to manage our current and future waste streams”.

“We also have the option to extend our current contract with iQ Renew for another 12 months should that prove more favourable.”

“A development application is currently being assessed by the NSW Government’s Hunter and Central Coast Regional Planning Panel, who are expected to hand down their determination mid-year.”