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Queensland to construct smart underground waste disposal system

An automated general waste collection system in Maroochydore, Queensland, will be operational in July 2021. Waste and recyclables from buildings and street bins in the new 53 ha Maroochydore City Centre will be pumped through a 6.5 km network of underground pipes, at speeds of up to 70 km/h, to a collection station for transfer to disposal or recycling facilities.

Each building in the CBD will include at least three waste inlets, for organic, recyclable and general waste. Waste dropped into each inlet will be stored in a sealed compartment underground until a vacuum pump is activated at the central waste facility, usually twice a day.

Once delivered to the central facility through a network of sealed vacuum pipes, each waste type will be stored in sealed compactors to await collection by a council contractor. The design of the new city centre began in 2015 to provide a mix of residential, commercial, retail, civic and community uses to complement the area’s existing business offerings.

Sunshine Coast Council’s Group Executive of Customer Engagement and Planning Services, James Ruprai, said that although COVID-19 delayed the commissioning of the system, it is expected to be operational by mid-2021.

The waste collection system was designed by a Swedish firm and manufactured in South Korea. It will be extended as the development of the Maroochydore City Centre progresses. A high-speed fibre-optic network will also be installed in the centre’s foundations to enable the council to provide smart signage, free Wi-Fi hotspots, real-time transport information, movement sensors and smart lighting.

According to a government press release, Council and the Sunshine Coast are leading Australia in efficient waste collection. Council is installing Australia’s first underground automated waste collection system (AWCS) in the new Maroochydore City Centre.

High-tech underground pipes will transport waste out of the city centre. Waste will travel at up to 70km/h through a 6.5km system of underground vacuum pipes removing waste from:

  • residential apartments
  • commercial buildings
  • public places

The AWCS is a more efficient alternative to conventional above-ground waste collection. The system will help create a cleaner, healthier and more attractive city centre. Recycling rates are also expected to improve.

The use of the AWCS will result in a significant reduction in the number of large vehicles needing to access the city centre. This will provide a safer and more pleasant urban environment. It will also reduce the carbon footprint associated with this essential service. The elimination of early morning garbage collection also creates better urban living conditions.

The AWCS flier notes that the Sunshine Coast aims to be Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative. They are taking a nation-leading position by installing this high-tech, underground AWCS in the new Maroochydore City Centre, and are committed to ensuring 21st-century technology and innovation are key characteristics of this greenfield site.

This innovative waste management system is the first of its kind in Australia with many benefits including:

  • Workers and residents in the new CBD will never have to walk past rows of waste bins or be woken early by noisy garbage collection vehicles
  • No front, rear or side lift waste collection vehicles
  • No kerbside waste and recycling collection
  • No overflowing public place bins
  • Underground collection means no impact on street traffic
  • Improved resident and visitor safety and amenity
  • Improved local air quality by eliminating conventional waste collection services.
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