Envac: Removing waste, creating value
“Waste collection and management within any development often seems to be an afterthought. People don’t think about it enough in detail and consider the opportunities which can be obtained from it,” explains Envac Business Development Manager Alex Mitchell.
By 2050, cities will house approximately 70% of the human population, creating significant challenges in the way in which we manage waste. Whilst there have been advances in a multitude of industries, waste management has remained the same, creating high levels of pollution and increased health concerns. However, this is set to change.
Founded in 1961 and with over 1,000 systems operating in 30 countries, Envac works to support the development of smart cities through embedding exceptional technologies that can be applied in large-scale developments, apartments, hospitals, commercial buildings and airports. Moving waste via a pipe network, Envac’s system connects buildings to a number of collection stations, situated away from the main development or city site, creating cleaner, more efficient spaces in which to grow and thrive.
Envac’s systems are ISO 9001 and HACPP compliant, yet the company faces an uphill battle in order for it to transform such a traditional industry. “It can be difficult to convince people of the merits of the Envac system, but we want to focus on projects where it can add value,” explains Mitchell. Envac’s waste collection solutions are able to significantly reduce labour costs long-term, reduce carbon emissions and eliminate a number of potential risks associated with increased waste levels and growing demands on this industry.
To increase market penetration and provide reliable development guidelines for the automated vacuum waste collection industry, Envac has invested in working with the British Standards Institution (BSI) to develop a specification. This will “set the bar of quality” for industry to follow and will give a level of confidence to clients when it comes to the design.
King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD)
By identifying customer requirements, the need for the system and the type of waste generated, Envac has been behind the waste strategy for the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) project. Situated in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, KAFD will become the largest mixed use financial centre in the Middle East.
Unlike traditional waste management systems, where waste is manually collected and placed into a compactor and collected via trucks, Envac’s flexible system will be connected to all areas in the district. The system will collect 145 tons of mixed waste per day via a pipe network that connects to a single collection station, where the waste is then stored in sealed containers which are removed from site once full. “If you imagine a neighbourhood within traditional waste management, a truck has to visit every single building and house and pick up the waste,” comments Mitchell. “Envac’s system reduces carbon emissions as a result of reduced waste vehicle traffic, reduced fuel emissions and idling time for trucks, contributing to a safe environment.”
To drive up resource recovery rates, the project will adopt a two-fraction system, one for dry and one for wet waste. Each waste fraction will be deposited into separate waste inlets, which will connect to multiple vertical gravity chutes. The use of inlets will eliminate the possibility of overflowing waste, seen in traditional waste collection systems.
“Many existing high-rise buildings have gravity waste chutes installed, where residents or office workers can throw waste into an inlet on each floor,” explains Mitchell. “Envac’s system connects to the bottom of that chute where we install our discharge valve.”
The waste is temporarily stored at the valve until a collection cycle is activated by a level sensor or a timed sequence controlled by Envac’s Automation platform. The vacuum exhausters, located at the collection station, are energised and create a negative pressure within the pipe network.
Once the required vacuum pressure is reached, Envac’s automation platform controls the valve openings to create a flow of air within the pipe network. The discharge valves then open to allow the waste to enter the system reaching speeds of 70kph. The air which carries the waste is consequently treated through a multistage filtering system, eliminating all potential odours.
Each waste collection station in the Envac system is situated remotely or offsite, removing the need for waste collection trucks to enter the development. “If trucks don’t come into the development, it reduces the number of trucks on the road and the risk of accidents with pedestrians or other vehicles,” comments Mitchell. “One of our biggest environmental savings is the reduction in the reliance on transport.” Previous studies have shown that Envac’s systems have consequently reduced waste traffic and associated carbon emissions by up to 90%.
Envac’s 10-year project at Gujarat International Finance and Technology City (GIFT City) in India has seen the development of its first integrated collection and segregation facility. Eliminating potential waste from landfill, the project will transform the area and ultimately attract financial and technological investment upon completion, in a bid to become one of India’s smart cities.
Envac’s waste collection systems are on the rise in both the Middle East and Asia, especially within housing developments. “In India for example, it is difficult for us to sell a system if it doesn’t include a treatment technology as well, so we sell a holistic approach, otherwise it just doesn’t stack up,” says Mitchell. “We also find in the Middle East, for substantial development projects, that with increasing population density, municipal regulation and zero waste targets, the economics of pneumatically collecting waste and treating the waste on site are becoming more viable. Globally, I think waste management has gained a higher profile over the last ten years.”
Phase one of the GIFT City project is now complete, with phase two now underway. The project will see Envac’s waste system incorporated into a new district, encompassing hospitals, schools, hotels, retail and corporate facilities, all spread over 900 acres. Similar to KAFD, the project has become one of the most ambitious and technologically advanced infrastructure projects that Envac is in the process of undertaking, where its systems will cater for up to 400 tons of waste per day.
Sustainable practices have been at the forefront of all Envac’s designs. Two chute inlets enable valuable resources to be recovered from the wet organic waste at GIFT City, whereas dry waste enters a mechanical sorting process. Bottles, cans, paper and plastic will all be segregated out of the waste stream and placed within a recycling stream at every collection station. Eventually, up to seven collection stations will be built at GIFT City, removing any need for waste collection trucks to enter the area.
“The system’s ability to revolutionise the waste collection process, from making the development cleaner and more hygienic by eliminating overfull bins, to making the area safer and more environmentally friendly by removing large trucks from the waste collection process - all whilst reducing the cost of waste collection - is extraordinary,” comments Ajay Pandey, Managing Director and Group CEO at GIFT City.
Additionally, security is a key issue within Envac’s waste management systems as the sealed system offers a secure pathway for waste to leave a site without the need for any trucks. These systems are highly desirable in a majority of Envac’s projects, especially within airports where Envac handles waste from the terminals (e.g. Hamad International Airport in Doha) and from flight catering operations (e.g. Emirates Flight Catering in Dubai). In many projects in Europe, Envac has implemented tracking technologies, providing advanced analytics and providing greater insights into the efficiency of its systems. Waste is placed in inlets, which are able to be tracked through the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFD) tags. Accessible only by authorised users, Mitchell explains that “once scanned, the inlet will open for users to deposit their waste, which falls down onto the discharge valve which have inbuilt weighing systems.”
“In future, a charging scheme could be implemented to further incentivise users to recycle more and dispose of less garbage,” creating sufficient cost controls and reduced fuel costs for businesses.
To further support this global smart city vision, traditional waste litter bins on local streets have also been modernised, making all waste management accessible, convenient and low-cost in order to encourage individuals to support Envac’s operations. Whilst outdoor inlets and high capacity litter bins resemble traditional bins, the updated designs enable the bins to connect to Envac’s systems underground so that “they are emptied automatically, ensuring that no truck has to go to the street to empty them,” adds Mitchell. “They can handle waste from pedestrians or facilities management service contractors, creating cleaner, more hygienic spaces.
“We also have systems in Singapore that operate as low as 250 to 500kg of waste per day, all the way up to systems which collect 400 tonnes of waste a day. We have a wide range so there is a lot of versatility.”
An aggressive five-year expansion plan will consequently enable Envac to drive further competition in the delivery of waste management solutions, and grow in alignment with this global demand for smart technologies. “There are other companies that offer similar technologies, but we don’t have as much competition as we would like. I think any industry thrives with a bit of competition,” concludes Mitchell.
“I think the market could do with more companies coming into it and as a result, more appreciation and understanding of the technology and as that happens, more opportunities become available as well.”